Day 3: 10 Days of Thankfulness

For Day 3 of my 10 Days of Thankfulness, can I just say that I’m thankful that I feel at home in Africa? Because I do. How does one Filipino American find herself feeling at home in a foreign country she has never been to? I look different. I talk differently. I stand out like a sore thumb. I’ve only ever lived in big cities prior to moving to Africa, and although Francistown is the second largest city in Botswana, it ain’t San Diego or Denver (where I used to live). I packed my bags and moved to a foreign country. Foreign! – by definition, something that should feel strange and unfamiliar to me. In certain respects, at certain times, on certain days, things have felt strange or unfamiliar. But, for the most part, I surprisingly and pleasantly feel very comfortable and at home in Africa.

I’m not really sure what led to this “instant” feeling of “at-home-ness”, but I feel like I’ve had a pretty smooth and easy transition acclimating to life in Botswana. I would like to think that I’m just that awesome of a missionary, but I think the truth is that I am simply where God wants me to be and I am doing what He made me to do. Because if I were to look at the facts, I should be feeling completely out of place. But I don’t. I feel like I fit here, like I belong. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

There are so many things I really appreciate about life/culture in Botswana.

For starters, I like the way people greet each other here. Dumela is the Setswana (main dialect) word used for pretty much any type of general greeting (e.g. Hi, Hello, Good Morning, etc.). Basically, you should greet everyone you come into contact with – whether you know them or not – when you’re walking, when you’re riding a taxi, when you sit down next to someone, etc. I also enjoy the custom of greeting elders – you do a small curtsey when you shake their hand. And when you shake hands with someone, you always shake with your right hand while your left hand rests on your right forearm. Greeting people in this way has become second nature to me and I just feel so African when I do it!

I love singing songs in Setswana! Setswana ain’t an easy language to learn. It’s a tonal language, meaning you can say the same word (with the same spelling) a different way to mean something else completely different. It’s also a language that utilizes a lot of consonant clustering. For example the word for miss (as in, I miss you) is tlhwaafaletse (not even sure if I spelled that right). Try saying that five times fast – or just try saying it! My Setswana is coming along slowly but surely, but I have discovered, however, that it’s a bit easier and way more fun to sing in Setswana! Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m singing, but I. love. it! If I was feeling brave enough, I would have recorded a video of myself singing my favorite Setswana song. Maybe for another blog post…

I also love the food! Below is a picture of a typical meal in Botswana – beef stew, cabbage, and pap. Let me just talk about the pap, or paletshe (probably spelled that wrong, too). It’s the white stuff that looks like mashed potatoes, but it’s actually ground up maize (corn) boiled in water. It’s dense and thick in texture and bland in taste. Maybe I could compare it to grits except it’s thicker and harder. Might not sound very appetizing to some palettes, but I stinkin’ love. this. stuff! When I am served a plate of food with pap on it, I am one very happy missionary :)


Typical meal in Botswana – beef stew, cabbage and glorious paletshe!

I am grateful to be an American. I love where I got to grow up and it will always be home. But I am also thankful that today, I get to call Botswana home.

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Day 2: 10 Days of Thankfulness

For Day 2 of my 10 Days of Thankfulness, I want to share about how thankful I am for the people I get to work with, particularly the youth in my church. Most of my missionary work resolves around working with these youth. I plan and facilitate weekly youth services. I organize youth events. I am constantly thinking of creative and innovative ways I can invest in them and give them opportunities to grow and better themselves. I have always loved working with youth, and I gotta say, that the youth I work with are the most amazing youth ever! I LOVE that I get to be a part of their lives, that I get to share a part of investing in them.

This past year, I’ve gotten to do a lot of fun/cool events with them:

Etiquette Party: We organized a formal party for our youth where they were served a 3-course meal and were taught about social etiquette and table manners. It was fun to see them get all gussied up – I had never seen some of the girls ever wear a dress before or some of the boys ever look so sharp!
etiquette-party Girls Retreat: This was fun! Taught our girls about self-worth and how valuable and beautiful God made each of them. Highlights from this event were shopping (girls got to “shop” clothes, makeup and accessories that ladies from our church donated – this got a little crazy!), a Self-Esteem fashion show (each girl shared about 4 things they liked about themselves and then got to strut down a “runway”) and a stiletto race (exactly what it sounds like – racing each other in stilettos!).
Girls RetreatPurity Ceremony: This was my favorite event with our youth this year. Twenty five of our youth made a public commitment in front of our church family to live a life of purity, and each of them were presented with a “love waits” bracelet which serves as a symbol and reminder of their commitment. This commitment was not only a commitment to abstinence, but a commitment to leave a better legacy for their future family, their city, their country and the next generation. I’m really proud of our youth who made this commitment and I hope to repeat this event again in the future for many other youth in Botswana. (You can read more about my plans here.)
Purity CeremonyFor any missionary, it’s definitely a challenge at first to connect with people in a different culture, but I’m grateful to have made strides in pressing past that point, and I’ve developed a really great relationship with our youth. These youth have become a big part of my life, and being a part of their lives makes my life feel very FULL. And I am very thankful for that.

The youth threw me a surprise party for my birthday this year. If I look happy in this picture, it's because I am!

The youth threw me a surprise party for my birthday this year. If I look happy in this picture, it’s because I am!

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Day 1: 10 Days of Thankfulness

We are 10 days away from Thanksgiving and I thought I’d share about 10 things I’m thankful for – in particular, about my life so far as a missionary. I think that everyone possesses the ability to live a rich and full life, but it’s a choice. Someone being “rich” doesn’t necessarily mean being financially rich, but being aware and appreciative of every type of blessing that God brings into your life. Many of the things that make our lives truly “rich” are intangible and carry priceless meaning for us. That’s the kind of “richness” I’ve learned to be thankful for and the kind of richness I would like to share with you over the next 10 days. I hope the things I share will help bring to mind the many rich things God has also blessed you with.

For Day 1 of my 10 Days of Thankfulness, I want to say that I’m thankful that I get to be a missionary in Africa. Sounds kind of obvious and expected, I know. But I really love what I do! I’ve lived in Africa for almost 2 years now, and there have been very few mornings when I wake up in bed and my first thoughts haven’t been, “Lord, thank You that I get to wake up in Africa today. Thank You that I get to live here. Thank You for choosing me. Thank You that I get to do this. Thank You that I get to be a missionary in Africa!” Oh man, I can’t help but get a little teary-eyed even as I share this. It’s an incredibly wonderful, precious and fulfilling thing when your job is something you love to do. I am immensely thankful for that.

Sitting on my bed having happy thoughts about being a missionary in Africa. (That's a mosquito net above my head - I'm thankful for that too!)

Sitting on my bed having happy thoughts about being a missionary in Africa. (That’s a mosquito net above my head – I’m thankful for that too!)

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October-December 2013 Newsletter

Click here to view my October-December 2013 Newsletter. If you’d like to sign-up to receive my quarterly newsletter, please click here.

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Girl Scout Cookies

A Glorious Thin Mint

A Glorious Thin Mint

An epiphany came to me the other day: It is Girl Scout cookie season.

Random? I think not.

Timely? Absolutely.

I simply had to scroll through my Facebook news feed to confirm the validity of my revelation – a divine revelation, might I add.

Amazing to think that even continents away I just know.

I was a former Girl Scout myself, or perhaps it is just my long-time and passionate love for these cookies that has created this innate and acute sense for knowing the rare and bless-ed time of year when pig-tailed girls in badge-laden sashes sell us treasures known as Thin Mints and Samoas. God bless America.

I actually remember snacking on Girl Scout cookies (okay, maybe consuming an entire box of cookies as a “meal replacement”) in between jobs when I was raising money to come to Africa.

Samoas are the BOMB!

Samoas are the BOMB!

So, I guess you could say that Girl Scout cookies, in a way, helped me get to Africa.

Okay, maybe that’s a little far fetched, but suffice it to say, I think I’ve more than adequately expressed my eternal love for Girl Scout cookies.

If any of my dear friends and family back home in the States want to send me a box(es) of some magical Girl Scout cookies, I would be immensely blessed and eternally grateful :)

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July-September 2013 Newsletter

I apologize for not updating everyone in a while! Between the busyness of returning to Botswana and internet issues, I struggled to find the time to keep everyone updated. Please know that I am alive, I’m back in Botswana, and I’m excited as ever about what God has called me to do here :)

Click here to view my July-September 2013 Newsletter. If you’d like to sign-up to receive my quarterly newsletter, please click here.

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Spreading A Message of Hope

Before returning to Botswana in October, a friend helped me put together this short video to help me promote our abstinence project to youth groups in the States. I thought it would be a good idea to offer youth in America an opportunity to partner with me in spreading this message of hope to the youth of Botswana.

I would like to especially recognize Pastors AJ and AdriElle Hupp with GROW Jr. High at Orchard Road Christian Center in Denver, CO and Pastor Marlon Mendoza with LOL (Love Out Loud) youth at Cornerstone Christian Baptist Church in Temecula, CA for their enthusiastic support of this project. Pastor AJ agreed to bleach his beard if his kids could raise $100 in one month for the project – they raised over $300! Pastor Marlon and LOL youth actually designed t-shirts that they sold to help fund the project – and they sold every t-shirt! I am blessed beyond words with the amount of support I’ve received from these two youth groups!

Please click here if you’ve like to find out more about this project and how you can get involved.


Pastor AJ’s Bleached Beard!


T-shirt Designed by LOL Youth

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So You Want to Go on a Mission Trip? (Part 7)

If I had the money, I would send everyone that wanted to go, on a missions trip. It can be such a phenomenal, life-changing experience, but it’s not the only way that someone can become involved in missions.

People tell me all the time how they’re glad that God called me to Africa – not them. I really enjoy traveling. I quickly adapt to new environments. I’m not afraid of trying new things. I have a natural bend towards a life in missions work because that’s how God wired me. But not everyone is like me and that’s totally okay. God has given each of us different gifts and we’re the most effective when we serve in the capacity God has called and enabled us to walk in.

Besides going on a missions trip, here are some other ways that you can still be involved in missions:

1) Pray for missionaries. Missionaries really appreciate your prayers and we feel them. I love hearing from people that they are praying for me. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that everything I do on the mission field is covered in prayer. I know that every need I’ve had as a missionary has been met because of the many people praying for me. The way I see it, I can’t ever have too many people praying for me!

2) Bless & encourage missionaries. I’ve learned very quickly that the biggest thing I appreciate the most as a missionary is connecting with people who are genuinely interested and excited about what I do – you are the kind of people we as missionaries LOVE to partner with!

The work we do is hard and at times can be very exhausting. The encouragement and excitement of our supporters in the States can help fuel us to press on in our work. Letters, emails, Facebook messages, cards, care packages – it’s those small, but genuine acts of love and encouragement that can bless us so much.

3) Financial Support. I supported missionaries consistently for years prior to going into the field myself. If you can’t go or don’t want to go, then send. When the basic needs of a missionary are met, it allows them to fully focus on what God has called them to do. You can also help grow their sphere of influence by contributing towards a specific focus or project they’re working on. Pray about how much God wants you to give, who to give to and how often to give. God will bless you for it. Read about how God blessed me in a big way when I supported missions long ago here.

Missions is so close to my heart, and I know that missions is close to God’s heart. Go on a missions trip. Support or send a missionary. No matter how you choose to be involved in missions, you will be blessed for it.

Related Posts:
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 1)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 2)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 3)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 4)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 5)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 6)

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So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 6)

I think that mentally and spiritually preparing to go on missions trip is just as important as the obvious aspects of planning and fundraising. It’s easy to get really excited about a missions trip for the wrong reasons. As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, you want to make sure that you’re going for the right reasons and you have the right expectations. I’ve been on missions trips with people who completely wasted their time and money by spending all their time and energy whining and complaining and having a terrible attitude. If you’re going to go through all the effort to go on a missions trip, have the right attitude and be prepared to be flexible, gracious and stretched in some ways that may be uncomfortable for you.

1) Know & respect the culture

One thing I’ve always done when I’ve prepared to go on a missions trip is research the country and the culture. I look into the history of the country, its major religion(s), its currency, government, etc. I even try to learn a little of the language before I go. A lot of people may not go this far for a short term trip, and I probably only did this because I now know I’ve always had that special bend towards missionary life, but it always gave me a great perspective and helped me better connect with the people I served. When you aim to influence people, whether it’s teaching in a classroom, delivering an inspiring speech, creating a television commercial, or in our case, serving on the mission field, the biggest thing to consider is your audience. If you make an effort to “speak their language”, they may be more responsive to what you have to share with them.

On the same note, being ignorant about the culture of the people you are serving could actually hinder you in effectively ministering to those you came a long way to serve. Learn about their cultural norms, and even if they’re strange to you, make an effort to respect them. Find out what’s offensive in their culture. I’m really going out of my way to cover all the bases on this point, but if you go with a genuine heart to connect and serve people, it will show. The ministry you partner with will also more than likely provide you with all the basic cultural info to be aware of prior to your arrival. Things may be different, strange and even uncomfortable to you, but think of it as an adventure as you get to see and experience new things!

2) Respect the missionaries/ministry you work with

This is kind of a given, but I’ve definitely been on trips in which more than one person needed a reminder about this. Give honor to whom honor is due – these are people who have dedicated their lives to serving on the mission field. There is a lot more work and planning involved for a missionary receiving a group from the States, than for someone preparing to go on said trip. Be grateful for their willingness to host you. Clean up after yourself. Be respectful of any rules/guidelines they ask you to abide by (i.e. dresscode, curfew). Be ready and on time for scheduled ministry events. Offer to help in any way you can. Be a blessing, not a burden. In fact, try to “out bless” them during your time there. Do this and you will become the kind of person that missionaries love to partner with, and a greater blessing will be added to the experiences on your trip.

3) Have a good attitude

Be prepared for the unexpected. Things will run late. Cars will break down. Weather will affect plans. Eat whatever is put before you (unless the missionaries advise you not to) – I’ve eaten a lot of interesting things overseas, but I’ve never gotten sick on a missions trip. Challenge yourself to not complain about anything, and be willing to serve and be flexible no matter what. Don’t miss out on what God wants to do in and through you by having a bad attitude.

On my second missions trip to Africa, I arrived at the airport only to find out that my bags had been lost. I had to buy all the necessities I had lost. Other Americans I met on my trip gave me clothes to wear that didn’t fit. I had to hand wash my clothes everyday. We didn’t always have electricity. We didn’t always have water, and when we did have water, it was ice cold. It was ridiculously hot and humid and I slept under a mosquito net at night. But you know what else? It was the best missions trip I had ever been on and it was that trip that made me immediately know I wanted to go back to Africa when I decided to become a missionary – all because I decided that I wasn’t going to have a bad attitude.

4) Spend time in prayer

Things are just always better when you pray. Pray about your trip and the people you’re going to serve. If you’re going with a church group, they may schedule group prayer times, but even then, spend some personal time in prayer about your trip. You can pray for safety in your travels and the ability to have a good attitude, but prayer can also prepare your heart to love people you have never even met. Pray for divine connections with people. Pray for favor. Pray about what you have to offer. Don’t wish for it to a life-changing experience – pray and expect for it to be. I’ve found that on every single trip I’ve been on, even though I’m the one who is there to minister, God uses the people I minister to to be a blessing to me. Give and it will be given back to you. That’s what happens on a missions trip. Expect God to do big things and He will. I would also recommend bringing a journal on the trip so you can record all of your experiences.

Next week I’ll be closing out this series with some last thoughts about missions, including how you can be involved in missions outside of going on a missions trip.

Related Posts:
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 1)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 2)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 3)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 4)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 5)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 7)

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So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 5)

How do I raise the money to go on a missions trip?

I think that money (or the lack thereof) is probably the biggest thing that turns people away from seriously considering going on a missions trip. The cost can vary depending on where you go, how long you stay, your travel and lodging accommodations, etc. The least expensive trip I’ve been on was $300 and the most I’ve paid is $4000. A missions trip can be a pretty steep financial investment for most people, but I want to encourage you that the cost aspect of going on a missions trip doesn’t ever have to be a deal breaker.

Here are some tips I can offer you on how to raise money for a missions trip:

1) For starters, plan ahead.

The old adage of “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” definitely holds true for raising money to go on a missions trip. Once you hear about a missions trip you want to go on, begin to plan on how you are going to raise the money, and the sooner the better. Almost every type of fundraiser I’ve done for a missions trip required thorough and advance planning. If you’re going with your church, the nice thing is they may probably already organize group fundraising opportunities you can be a part of (another great reason to partner with your church on a missions trip).

Also, I’m a big advocate of setting goals. It will help keep you focused and motivated. Set weekly or monthly goals for yourself, determining to raise a certain amount of money by certain dates leading up to your departure (i.e. raise $300 every month leading up to your trip). Again if you are going through your church, they will more than likely already have payment deadlines set in place that you have to meet. I find that when I break up the cost of a trip into smaller, realistic goals, it feels much more achievable and possible for me. Plus, it’s super rewarding to reach those smaller, frequent mile markers because it’s motivating to know that you’re only that many steps closer to reaching your total goal.

2) Fundraising Ideas

I think I’ve done almost every type of typical fundraiser idea out there and then some. Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve done:

  • Saving: See if there’s something you can cut out from your everyday budget so you can save a certain amount every week/month to go towards your trip (i.e. sacrifice your morning Starbucks or eating out).
  • Get an extra or part-time job: I’ve delivered pizzas & newspapers. I’ve babysat, pet sat & house sat. Offer to clean someone’s house or wash their car. You’d be surprised at how quickly you can raise a few thousand dollars by working a part-time or odd job(s) for a few months. A lot of times people will pay you way more than you expected to receive for a job because they know you’re working to go on a missions trip. I once received $100 for a 2-hour babysitting job – not too shabby!
  • Silent auction: This takes a lot of planning and hard work, but a lot of businesses do donate free stuff and I raised $1500 at my first silent auction. Don’t know where to start? Google “how to have a successful silent auction”. That’s what I did…and I did [have a successful silent auction] :-)
  • Support letters/emails: Don’t be afraid to ask your family and close friends to support you. These are the #1 people in your life who love you and will want to support you. Even when my family or friends haven’t been able to support me financially, they did pray for me, talk about my trip with people who did end up supporting me, or they gave me new ideas on how to raise money.
  • Social media: Make a general announcement to everyone you know through Facebook, Twitter, etc. & give some brief info on what you’ll be doing and how they can donate. I think most of my social media friends probably got sick of hearing about my trip before I moved to Africa, so maybe make sure not to overdo it, but it is a quick and easy way to get the word out. There was one time I raised $700 between two Facebook posts! I think you’d be surprised at who is ready and willing to support you.
  • Google “how to raise money for a missions trip”: I’ve done this many times. The internet has a plethora of ideas! Side note: I love the word plethora and relish any chance I get to use it in a sentence. :-)
  • Pray for ideas: God is super creative and He can inspire you with the best ideas that even the most experienced missions-trip-goer couldn’t ever give you.

3) Make it a priority.

Just like our time, we spend our money on what we really want. I think most of us have all spent a good amount of money on things that we don’t need, which isn’t wrong at all. But a big reason why we always seem to have the money for certain luxuries is simply because we want them. Do you really want to go on a missions trip? If you do, then you will find the money to go. And when you find the money, come visit me in Africa :-)

4) Trust God.

Proverbs 16:3 (NIV) says this: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” This was a promise I confessed over and over to myself anytime I felt discouraged about raising the money to go to Botswana. Don’t just believe that God can and will provide the money – live and act like you do. Align your attitude, speech and actions in a way that doesn’t say you think God can’t afford it or it’s too expensive for Him. I remember being determined to do what I’ve just described when I was preparing to go on my first missions trip to Africa. Anytime I began to feel the slightest bit doubtful about raising all the money, I would pray and tell God that I refused to believe that He couldn’t provide for me. I was allowed to go on that trip, still owing my church $1000, but a week after I got back, the church called me and told me that someone anonymously paid the remaining balance for my trip! He’s provided for me over and over again, and He can do it for you too. I have another cool story about God’s provision here.

I really could just sum up all this info by simply saying trust God and step out in faith. God can and will bless your efforts – just believe that He will AND make the effort! Anytime I decided to go on a missions trip and when I decided to move to Botswana, I didn’t have the money to go and it wasn’t something I could afford. The decision to go was my step of faith, and it was only when I took that step of faith that the money began to pour in. Take that to heart and you’ll discover that it’s really not that hard to raise the money to go on a missions trip after all :-)

Next week, I’m going to talk about how to spiritually and mentally prepare yourself to go on a missions trip. Remember, folks, a missions trip isn’t a vacation, it’s a time of service so have the right attitude going into it or it will be a very unenjoyable experience for you, which means you will more than likely make it unenjoyable for everyone else, so I’ll share some tips on how you can be prepared!

Related Posts:
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 1)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 2)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 3)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 4)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 6)
So You Want to Go on a Missions Trip? (Part 7)

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