Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

On February 1st, I sat in our little house in a mountain village in Northern Luzon, Philippines, and opened my Bible for my quiet time with the Lord. We had been living there for seven months and the continual noise right outside my window, no matter the time, was beginning to become familiar to me. The neighbour’s boys squabbled, the roosters crowed and the local school girls shouted in to see if Izzy and Judah were awake on their way past. I tried to tune it all out as I opened to my daily reading; Exodus 13. I smiled and nodded, this portion of scripture, a favourite of mine. 

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This was a chapter that the Lord has used at many pivotal times in my life and I had soaked up the words that particular morning, challenged by the thoughts the Lord brought to my mind, and shared them later with Danny. “I wonder what the Lord has for us in the weeks ahead?” I had asked him.

The next evening, Danny found a large, tennis ball size tumour on his hip. We emailed back and forth with a missionary doctor in Manila and as we answered his questions, he suggested that we go right away to Manila to get it checked out. 

At 10pm, on a Friday night, I packed a bag in the dark (so as not to wake the Izzy and Judah) and we prepared to leave on an emergency helicopter trip the next morning at 7am. We thought we would probably all be back home in a week. 

We woke the kiddos early the next morning, told them to take two favourite toys and we closed our door to our home and ran to catch the helicopter. We said goodbye to nobody in the village that morning since we thought we would be back in a week. 

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The following Friday, after a week of tests and doctor appointments, Danny had surgery in a hospital in Manila to remove the tumour. A few weeks later it was diagnosed to be a high-grade stage 3 myxoid liposarcoma cancer and we were suddenly on a very different journey than we had ever expected. We still thought we may be back in the Philippines after a few months and we were hopeful that this was just a “bump in the road.” 

We returned to the States a week later and, after visits with local oncologists and sarcoma specialists in LA, it was decided Danny would need extensive treatment; months of chemotherapy, followed by a few months of radiation and then, of course, there would need to be a time of recovery and lots of followup scans. As we listened to this news, sitting in a doctor’s office, my stomach turned, the year ahead blurred and our home in the jungle felt further away than ever before. The noises that were once loud and intense, fell silent. This was more than a bump in the road, the Lord was leading us on a roundabout way and we had no idea where it was going. 

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They started Danny’s chemotherapy right away and he has finished his third of six cycles of treatment. It takes 6-7 hours a day to receive the treatment with blood tests every morning. He has been tired, weary, nauseous and had a terrible bout of the hiccups for 6 days, which caused him to get no rest. He then has 2 weeks off between the cycles and it continues on that schedule as long as his blood work is ok, showing his body can handle another round. It is much more difficult than I thought and yet we have been carried along by the Lord’s grace and the answers to so many prayers from the precious family of God around the world. God’s Word has led us through the many emotions of the past months, giving us a path of peace and confidence to walk through some of the most difficult circumstances of our lives. We have been uprooted from a life and a ministry that we love and are passionate about. We are in a country where I cannot live (as yet) permanently. We have nothing to our name here, no house, no job, few possessions and a diagnosis that is obviously serious enough to cause great concern among the doctors to choose this course of treatment. And in the midst of it all, we are trying to give as much security to two little loves who have been dealing with their own fears and losses and missing the home they know and love very much.

And yet, friends, if we were sitting having coffee together, I’d let you know that, yes, it has been hard. We have cried, wondering when we will ever be “home” in the Philippines again and I hate to see Danny suffer, BUT GOD has been to us everything we have needed, moment by moment. We do not fear the road ahead, because we believe with all our hearts that He will go with us and He goes before us. 

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I have thought back to those verses I read in Exodus that morning and I see the Lord’s hand of mercy in them more than ever before. The children of Israel had just been uprooted in the most miraculous of ways as God has set them free from Egypt. They were beginning a new journey and through these chapters we get to see the story from the perspective of the children of Israel and, also, from the Lord.

In verse 17, we see that God did not lead them along the main road, even though it was the shortest way, but He took them on a roundabout way because He knew that they would not be able to handle a battle along the way. In His mercy and wisdom, He took them the longer way, the roundabout way. Then He placed Himself before them and behind them, so they would never forget He was right there with them. 

At the beginning of chapter 14 and further along in the chapter again, He lets us see His reasoning for the things that He is doing – to display His glory, so that they would know that He is the Lord. 

When we read the story with this in mind, it all makes so much sense. The Lord was their deliverer, their Saviour, their leader and no one else was to have the honour and glory for their salvation. He wanted the glory for the works of His hands and that meant taking it out of everybody else’s hands, so there was no doubt that God was God and He was the only One who could deliver them. Their trust was to be totally in Him because He was the only one who was worthy of it. He was going to display His power to the nations around them. 

And yet, as the story progresses and things become more difficult we can see it from the perspective of the children of Israel. They have been taken on this roundabout way, they have camped day after day on an unknown journey with no home in sight, being chased behind by the Egyptians and with the impossible situation of the Red Sea before them. So much upheaval, changing plans, confusion, unknowns and fear. It was not their ideal plan, it wasn’t what deliverance from slavery was to look like. 

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Can you relate a little to some of those feelings of the Israelites? Have you found your plans laying broken on the floor as the Lord has taken you on your own roundabout way? Sometimes, we find ourselves in places we never thought we would be. Hard places. Hopeless places. Fearful places. 

What was the response of the Children of Israel?

They panicked. 

As the Egyptians gained on them and, feeling no control over their situation, they turned to Moses in fear, and confusion, they questioned the Lord and what He was doing. “What have you done to us?” This isn’t how it was meant to be!

And then Moses tells them to just stay calm because the Lord Himself will fight for them. 

And God did just what He said He would do. 

In verse 22, the Children of Israel walked through the middle of the Red Sea with walls of water on each side. How must that have felt? What must that have done within their hearts to see God, Almighty God, their deliverer, make a way for them? And as each one of them safely arrived on the other side, the water came back down on their enemy and God, who had promised to rescue and deliver them, delivers and rescues them, again. He is always who He says He is! 

I love the last verse of chapter 14, after all that God had brought them through, what did they do?

Their response was that they were in awe of Him and they put their faith in Him. 

This was what the Lord deserved all along! Not because of all He had done for them, but simply because of who He is. He was always worthy of their awe, devotion, faith and trust and He had their very best, as His will, all along. His roundabout ways and leading them to impossible situations was not to make everything harder for them, but so that they would know that HE is the Lord. He was the only One worthy of their faith and trust and He was to be worshipped and adored for who His is. 

And friends, I have thought back to these verses so much in the past few months as God has led us on our own roundabout journey. We have had moments of fear as everything we have known to be “ours” has been taken away. We are on an unknown journey and we have no idea, as yet, where the Lord is leading us. But, He is the same God as the God of this story, and in His MERCY, He sometimes chooses to lead us on these roundabout ways. He knows us and He knows what we need so that we may know who He is – our Great God. 

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I am asking God to help me to live with the final response to who He is and not in reaction to the circumstances that we find ourselves in. I want to have that final response of the Children of Israel, not because the outcome is good and I have seen God split the Red Sea, but because I believe who God says He is in His Word. He deserves my awe, my love and devotion as we travel each step on this new journey. He goes with us, He goes before us and He will make a way for us through the seemingly impossible situations. I believe it with all my heart and soul.

He holds Heaven and Earth in His Hands and He owes us nothing. He owes us no reason for what He does, no explanation for the circumstances in our lives, no good outcome because we are following Him, and yet, He gives us something so much better – He gives us Himself. 

He will fight for us and we need only be still in the knowledge that He is God. 

If you find yourself on a roundabout way, let’s remember this together; God has a purpose. Instead of reacting, in fear, to the circumstances around us, let’s ask Him to help us respond in faith to who He is as we journey these unknown paths He has set before us.

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With love and thanks to each of you for your prayers, especially for Danny, during this time. We are so very grateful and we know God is answering those prayers according to His will.

Love, Philippa.

Judah says: “It has been hard that our Dad has cancer. Please pray for him. God made the earth the seas and the sky. There is nobody like Him. He is perfect.”

Izzy says; “We have a had a hard time traveling around the world again, but it is good that Dad has some good weeks. Judah and our family are praying for him and so we hope that you will, too. God  has taught me what it is like to live all over the world, to live in a new village and to now live here again in America – He is always with me wherever I go.”

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29 thoughts on “The Roundabout Way.

  1. Janine Kramer says:

    Oh, Philippa, that last picture brought me to tears. So much love. So much faith. As I was reading your now familiar story, I was struck with a new thought. If God had parted the sea and the Egyptians were NOT pressing in on the Israelites, would they have walked that path? Can’t you just hear the fear? “What if the water doesn’t stay back? We’ll drown!” It was the threat of destruction by the Egyptians that pushed aside the fear that could have overwhelmed them and gave them the ability to walk where God lead them. I had never considered that before. To mix metaphors, we are such sheep! I pray I will always love and trust the Shepherd more than fear the wolves! But I’m grateful He will use the wolves if He needs to, to get me where I need to be.
    With much love and prayers,
    Janine

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Margaret Forbes says:

    Dearest Phillippa,
    It has been such a privilege to read your blog, to follow your journey on that roundabout way and to feel the assurance you have in the Lord’s leading in all the trauma. He is a wonderful God ! It has been so helpful to me as Ronnie had a heart attack in March, leaving him with a lot of damage and he is struggling NOT to be doing things that would be harmful ( anything really!) We are both looking to the Lord and His leading on this ’roundabout way’ every new day He gives us.We are praying that we may be granted ‘the desires of our hearts’ to have the family holiday we had planned for early July To Him be the glory.
    We are so pleased that Danny has reached the half-way mark in his chemo treatment. Such a hard road for him , for you and the children, and this letter has given us a clearer insight to your situation. WE have prayed morning and evening (and other times as well) and thank God that He is answering ALL the prayer that is upholding you four and your families. That is a very beautiful and touching photo at the end,.It brought tears to my eyes.To God be the Glory.
    Love and Blessings,
    Margaret

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, Janine! Thank you for all your prayers and words of encouragement – and for allowing me to join your Bible Study group every time I am back. Grateful for all you ladies there.

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    2. Mrs Forbes,
      Thank you for your words here and for all your prayers for Danny and our little family. We are so very grateful to the Lord for answers to prayer. I trust the Lord will continue to give you and Ronnie the strength you need for each day. With much love,
      Philippa.

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  3. All the amens! Hugs and love and continual prayers.

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    1. Thank you so much dear. Hugs back to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Our hearts love and prayers are sent to you may the Lord Bless you all He will carry you through this journey xx

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    1. Thank you Elizabeth. The Lord is certainly answering prayers and carrying us through one day at a time.

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  5. Gail Sowin says:

    Praying for you.

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    1. Hi Gail! It is so nice to hear from you. I didn’t even know you were following along here on my blog. So much time has passed since our Aritao days. I hope your family is all well. Love to you today, Philippa

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  6. Julie Drummond says:

    Many thoughts and prayers with you all. xxx

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    1. Hi Julie,

      It is so nice to hear from you. Thank you for all your prayers for us during these months. I hope your wee family is doing well. God Bless,
      Philippa

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  7. Shirley & Jerry Bonnifield says:

    We pray for you every day!

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    1. Dear Shirley,
      That means more to us than words can say and we KNOW God is answering those prayers as He has given us His peace during this time as we wait to see what His will is for our lives in the months ahead. We are so grateful to you. Thank you.

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  8. Ron Roeder says:

    What a blessing to my heart as I read your beautiful post. Your faith and trust in our Almighty God gives a refreshing to my soul & spirit. Our prayers are with you all as you travel this journey with Jesus by your side and our prayers covering you in His Love. Ron & Julie Roeder, Idaho

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    1. Dear Ron and Julie,
      It is so lovely to see you on here and thank you for your words of encouragement and most of all your prayers. We are so grateful to our Heavenly Father for His daily care and His many answers to our prayers. We send you our love,
      Danny and Philippa.

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  9. joyce tate says:

    DEAR PHILIPPA AND DANNY,READING YOUR BLOG,AND THE JOURNEY GOD IT TAKING YOU AND THE CHILDREN ON,JUST KNOW GOD KNEW ALL ABOUT THIS EVEN BEFORE THE DOCTORS;GOD’S PLAN FOR OUR LIVES OS WAY BEYOND OURS,BUT UNDERSTAND HE IS IN COMPLETE OF THIS SITUATION AND ALL OF YOU.GOD’S PROMISE TO NEVER LEAVE OR FORSAKE US;TO BT THE GREAT PHYSICIAN IN TIMES LIKE THIS,TO BE WITH US AND PROTECT US AND PROVIDE OUR EVERY NEED,IS WHEN WE SEE HOW GREAT HE IS,THAT HEI S A GOD OF HIS WORD. I DO NOT KNOW YOU,BUT I KNOW PEGGY AS A DEAR SISTER IN CHRIST FROM OUR CHURCH,AND THROUGH HER,I NOW KNOW YOU. I AM PRAYING FOR YOU,DANNY AND THE CHILDREN,THAT GOD WILL EVER BE WITH YOU,HE WILL BRING YOU THROUGH THIS DESERT OF YOUR LIFE,AND PART THE RED SEA AND LEAD YOU TO LAND OF HEALING AND PEACE. I LOVE YOU,AND I KNOW THAT GOD HAS A PLAN FOR YOU,DANNY AND FAMILY. JUST HOLD TO THIS UNCHANGING HAND,AND TRUST HIM COMPLETELY,AND NEVER FORGET TO SAY,THANK YOU,FATHER,FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING FOR US AT THIS MOMENT. LOVE AND GOD BLESS,joyce tate

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    1. Dear Joyce,
      Any friend of Peggy’s is a friend of ours. We love Peggy dearly. Thank you so much for your words of truth and wisdom – and yes always to be grateful for what the Lord is doing right now. We can get our minds so set on the unknown future and miss His grace and presence today. I appreciate your reminder. Sending love, Philippa.

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    2. peggycastagna says:

      Thank you Joyce for that. It made me cry to see how people care, pray and love them like we do who don’t even know them. Thank you for lifting them up with us. I can’t even put into words how much they mean to us. Love you Joyce.

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      1. Love you Ate Peggy. You have been such encouragers to us from the very beginning. Sending a hug. xx

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  10. jennyriches says:

    I don’t know you, but stumbled across your blog via #velvetashes . Thank you so much for sharing this wisdom with us… I found your insight really valuable. Thanks.

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    1. Nice to “meet” you Jenny. I have met many like-minded sisters within the velvet ashes community. I am glad that these words here could be of some encouragement to you. Sending love,
      Philippa.

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  11. Alison says:

    Your deep dependence on and faith in God through this is indeed glorifying God. I thank him for the trust and blessed assurance you describe having and am encouraged by it greatly as I pray for your family.

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    1. Those prayers are being answered Alison. I know the Lord is giving us peace, strength and faith as we daily depend on Him. It is a wonderful thing to know His presence and His comfort through some very hard days. Thank you for thinking of our family and for all your prayers.

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  12. Mildred Tannahill says:

    Thank you for your update & for what you have shared from the word I always enjoy your posts they are very encouraging. Be assured of our prayers for Danny at this difficult time & indeed for you all as a family it isn’t easy watching your loved one suffer & we may not know why at this present time Why God has asked you to go through this but He wants you just to be able to rest in in Him. I pray that even through this difficult time you will be able to have some special times as a family. I pray also for you as you will probably have to go back home for a while because of residency & I know that won’t be easy. Love & Prayers, Mildred, for Mervyn too. X

    Sent from my iPad

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    1. Thank you Mildred for your thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement. We have good news and an answer to prayer – I heard from the lawyer who is handling my case, pro bono, and she said that everything is now ok. My papers for permanent residency being filed means I no longer have to depart. Very thankful to the Lord for that. So grateful for your prayers.

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  13. peggycastagna says:

    We are so excited to hear the good news about your visa just 4 days before you would have needed to leave. Praise God. We continue to pray the Lord works on your behalf.

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  14. Ollie says:

    Hi Philippa, so thankful for ur blog. Not only does it encourage me every time u post, but I love the insights into life in the jungle, and this particular blog, allows us to keep Danny in our prayers. Thank u for taking time out to blog in these hard days. Praying for healing, strength & increased faith for u all xxx

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    1. It is so good to hear from you Ollie. Thank you for all your prayers for us over the years. God is so good.

      Like

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