August 2014 Update

       In this TOTALLY awesome and LONG update:

  • Rainy season is weird this year. No really, it's weird. Trust us on this one.
  • School has started up and both kids are HIGH SCHOOLERS...pass another coffee...time's going way too fast!
  • busy autumn approaches as well as a huge celebration in October.
  • Photogs for a Cause, Magtayo ng Buhay and other awesome shenanigans
  • What did we do this summer? Well, where should we begin?
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Every August we brace ourselves for two things: the kids getting back to school routines and rainy season.

Both bring all sorts of 'disturbances':

School: early mornings up before 6am, back to uniforms and early nights to bed
Rain: clothes taking days to dry, cool mornings wearing sweatshirts and the like

School: fixing schedules so that enough credits are taken without being overworked completely
Rain: flooding, flooding and more flooding..oh did we mention flooding? :)

School has started without a glitch; the kids have good schedules, both are involved in volleyball for the first semester - Caleb made the Varsity Boys team and is their "libero". They will travel within SE Asia for a tournament at the end.

Rainy season has pretty much been non-existant. As in. We have had a few days of pouring rain, but the constant rain for days that makes our streets impassable - nothing. It's really weird. Sure we have had a few typhoons, but the rain is just not there as usual. It's really weird. And it is missed - it keeps the temperatures cool (25-28*C), it makes for good weekend afternoon "sit on the couch and watch a movie with a blanket" modes. 


Back to the kids...Caleb is a Junior, or Grade 11. How did THAT happen. He can't even believe it: "I'm in 11th Grade, Mom...wow!". And Miss Rosie is in 8th grade in Middle School and was elected by her peers to be the School Senate President. She has taken this role very seriously. It's quite cute. :) 
So we have 2 teenagers in the house now - 16 (17 in November!) and 13. Speaking of birthdays...

In October, Jonathan turns the big 4-0! Be sure to greet him on the 16th and welcome him to the 40s - little does he  know that the 40s are better than the 20s and 30s combined. :)

Jonathan will be in Canada doing some speaking and fundraising for our ministries here. He'll be away form Sept 17 until Oct 9. He will be doing some meetings in Brooks, AB, Saskatoon, SK and Morden, MB. Contact him to find out details to meet up with him in those areas!
Photogs for a Cause & beyond!

It's been a full couple of months in the world of photography for Tracey. Aside from the growing projects that Photogs for a Cause (PFAC) continues to get, she is also involved in other areas of "giving back" with her photography.















A fellow missionary friend asked her to do a FIESTA COMMUNICATIONS workshop for Missionaries and NGOs on how to take better photos for their organizations in Manila and throughout the Philippines and Asia.

In June and at the beginning of August, she has helped out her fellow photog friend, Pilar, with her organization, PORTRAITS OF LOVE, in several events at the Philippine Children's Medical Center.

At the end of June, Tracey's Summer Photocamp for teenagers of missionaries (including Rosie!) made its debut. Monday to Friday from 8am til 5pm, Tracey taught them about basic photography, as well as a few tips on portraits, food, travel and street photography. They had field trips and learned how to edit and post their works of art online. It was an awesome time with the 7 of them!

Just last week she was asked by KLM OnAssignment & Digital Photographer Philippines Magazine to do a talk at one of the local bookstore chains on "Travel Photography".


It's been cool to see where some of this is all leading and where it will go. She is letting it grow organically as opposed to trying to figure it all out and have a solid "plan of attack", which is a lot less stressful and let's it develop how it's intended to develop. :)

You can follow all the going on's at several of the blogs and Facebook pages she has made online:

Photogs for a Cause -
www.photogsforacause.org www.facebook.com/photogsforacause

Tracey L Heppner Photography - www.facebook.com/traceylheppnerphotography www.traceylheppner.com
The Mabuhay Life (seminars for new expats and missionaries to the Philippines) -www.themabuhaylife.com
This girl turned 13 this year. 13!!!! We gave her a purity ring which used to be a ring Jonathan gave me loooong ago.  Heirlooms rock :)
Those earrings? Those were Tracey's 13th birthday present from her mom. 
Caleb spent the better part of 7 weeks in Manitoba. Not only did he work at Prairie Barnwood, he also got to spend some time with these 2!
The manchild "fishing" in Northern Manitoba this summer. Nice, son. :)
Somewhere between leaving us  & coming back,  our "manchild"  turned all hipster on us!
Tracey always makes sure to get in a selfie with any of the kids she gets the opportunity to photograph. These cuties are from Grow Redemptio School!
Pilar and Tracey at PORTRAITS OF LOVE's first event which included family portraits with terminally ill children, as well as crafts, live entertainment and lunch.
After the workshop for Missionaries and NGOs, Tracey has had some potential opportunities to teach these in other Asian countries. We will see if this pushes through or what!
Some of the awesome young photographers from University of the Philippines who came to listen to Tracey's 'Travel Photography' talk put on by KLM & DPP last week.
The 7 awesome teens who made up this years Tracey's Summer Photocamp! Can't wait for next year..maybe we will hold another basic and an advanced camp!
The renovations in India of the Children's home  was on hold for over a month because of some people "claiming" to own the property. (You can read more HERE)

The project is back on track and work has resumed.

Jonathan's dad will be in India in September and will be spending some time there making sure things are continuing to go as planned.

Jonathan may be going over in November.
Please continue to keep this project in your prayers. There is always resistance when it comes to fighting for the rights of children. This is one instance where it is also the case. We look forward to the day when we can finally open the doors to the children who need a place of refuge and love!
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Our last news update we touched on our latest adventure - Magtayo ng Buhay (MnB). Since then, much has continued to move forward:
  • We have reserved the name with SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) to be a recognized livelihood program.
  • Have formed a Board of Trustees who will not only oversee the organization and its by-laws but some of the members will have active roles in the operation and execution of MnB.
  • Even thought we are not yet "officially" doing anything, we have a few projects for our one carpenter lined up!
What is Magtayo ng Buhay?
 
Simply, Magtayo ng Buhay is a livelihood project for the urban poor with little or no education but with gifts and talents that they currently use to try and make a living. 
 
Who is Magtayo ng Buhay aimed towards?
 
Men and women who have little or no education, nor do they have the means to get education formally due to their lack of documents and/or financial position.
 
They can be carpenters, gardeners/farmers, sewers/dressmakers, wood workers, artists (painting, drawing or other creative arts) and not limited to this. 
 
Why Magtayo ng Buhay?
 
Two years the thought of how to empower and enrich and release Filipinos in this demographic through a program dropped into Tracey's head.
 
What if we had a program that could help improve the lives of many, using the skills they already have?
 
We did not feel the timing was to push forward as Jonathan's health was very fragile. We "shelved" the idea and decided to wait for it to come to fruition in its time.
 
After a personal project helping to build a small provincial house for our kasambahay this last April, the thought popped into Tracey's head once again that the time is now to begin as one of the workers on the project was an excellent carpenter and was looking for more work and wanted to improve and do what he needed to support his family's needs.
 
Thus prompted us to look at this thought from 2 years ago and see where it would take us to.
 
What will Magtayo ng Buhay potentially look like?
 
The Project has various aspects:
 
Teaching/Training - specialized training seminars to enhance current skills and give a new niche to their already existing abilities through intensive training by local and foreign skilled workers in their field.
 
Mentoring - partnered up with a mentor in the said field to look to and to encourage as they go through the entire program.
 
Business - Workshops and Seminars on how to run a small business pertaining to their specified industry. What they need to do to get their business known, how to acquire jobs, how to make a profit as well as making a simple business plan.
 
Micro loan - Some may need certain tools and such to improve their existing skills. These microloans will be on an application basis.
 
Why that name?
 
When looking on the SEC website for name reservations, initially Tracey thought of "The Wood Shop", as my initial thought was that we were going to do this for woodworkers. No names were available.
 
"What if we broadened the people who could be a part of this project? Like gardeners and farmers and artists and sewers?"
 
We knew we had to think bigger. Like Building Lives Project or something. 
 
After many different English names failing for availability, another thought popped into her head - "Why don't you try something in Tagalog?"
 
And on the first try Magtayo ng Buhay was available. 
 
Translated in English it means "build a life". And this is exactly what we hope to help many do. Build a successful life with their skills and gifts and god-given talents.
 
Where is Magtayo ng Buhay at now?
 
We have reserved the name - Magtayo ng Buhay, Inc - with the Securities and Exchange Committee or SEC in the Philippines.
 
We felt we needed to make this a bonafied non-profit for several reasons, as opposed to just a project we do informally.
 
1. It gives credibility to itself.
2. The goal is to one day have local Filipinos taking full responsibility for the program
3. We want to be open to what the future has for the organization and the potential to branch out in different areas of the country.
4. It is helpful when people give, whether donations in kind or cash, that we are able to give them receipts and legitimate things that go along with that.
 
We are almost finished the paperwork and will have our first board meeting and see where this will go!

The diversity of our board members is really awesome: a businessman and manager in an international company, a culinary graduate who has a heart to develop a feeding program foundation, an administrative pastor, an advertising company manager and a graphic designer and artist as well as Tracey.

What an exciting time ahead! Please visit our facebook page to keep up-to-date:

https://www.facebook.com/magtayongbuhayfoundation

 


August 1-3 we had the pleasure of having Bob Sorge with us. Bob Sorge is an author and speaker. In 1992, he suffered a vocal injury that caused his voice to be reduced to nothing more than a faint whisper.  As a result of the injury, he is only able to whisper for an hour each day before the pain forces him to be silent.  Before the injury occurred, Bob was a senior pastor and worship leader.  
His messages he shared with us were so awesome and so timely.

Jonathan continues to lead THE TRIBE, a group of 50 young leaders, from our church. He is on the 2nd module; each module last 3 months and they meet 3-4 times a months. The topics they cover are different every module: this module they have been learning how to interpret history, developing a worldview based on scripture. Jonathan's brother-in-law, Evan, helped teach that module as Evan is a history major. It goes til September then resumes after Christmas.

Jonathan and a few of the guys from THE TRIBE. Maybe they are starting a "calbo" or bald club. 
 

Podcasts of the the messages at Church of God Makati are available. Jonathan has spoken for the last while every Sunday for both the gatherings while his dad has been away on a sabbatical.

You can browse around and have a listen...Jonathan's a very good communicator.

 


 

On a personal note...

The two year mark has come and go since Jonathan was in the hospital in Canada back in June 2012 and was diagnosed with a "our best answer is it is a SUSPECTED case of ADEM or Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis.

ADEM is is characterized by a brief but widespread attack of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that damages myelin – the protective covering of nerve fibers. ADEMoften follows viral or bacterial infections, or less often, vaccination for measles, mumps, or rubella.

There has been improvements - he is leaps and bounds from where he was when he got discharged. However he still is not "back to himself" in many ways. He has went to Canada several times a year for fundraising and speaking purposes and always checks in with his doctor in Vancouver who keeps saying, "It's a nerve thing - we don't know how long it will take for the nerves to regenerate."

This has been quite a journey...to not know when, or if, the nerves will regenerate. 

We have had speculations and have wondered many things as to is there anything more we can do, etc. With these, we go in contact with a urologist. After a plethora of intrusive testing, it all came back as we had suspected, affirming what we had thought: it indeed is all nerves. The doctor said that a neurologist will now give options as to experimental drugs, etc.

As of now, this is NOT a road we are willing to take. To live with this "disability" seems a much better option than being an experiment, that could potentially cause other issues.

So here we are. At this road of "living in the now, as fully as we can, with hope that it will get better...whether in the future or 'on the other side'". It has not been an easy road in the least, but the peace that GOD is in control has been very real and has helped on the "dark" days.

Thank you for all of your continued thoughts and prayers over the last months, and even years. We truly could not survived as a couple, or family without them.
From Jonathan's Instagram feed the other day.

Want to be involved in some of these cool things?


There are several ways for you to be involved in the many things we have going on here in Manila and beyond.

1. Come visit us. That's right. Do a short vacation/missions trip here with your friends or family. Not only can you see someof the most beautiful places on the planet, but you can volunteer in any of our organizations, as well, we have connections all over to tailor-make your volunteering experience amazing!

2. Pray for us. Really...we covet your prayers. For strength, for wisdom, for direction. We could NOT do any of what we do if we didn't have your prayers. PRAYER WORKS!

3. Donate. Your time, your money, your resources, your knowledge. Whether it's a one-time donation towards things like our kids school costs, our immigration visas costs or projects within our missions, or if you would like to donate on a regular basis, these donations help us do what we do here. As well, if you have talents and gifts and donations in-kind that would help us with all we are doing, that's awesome!

4. Consider working with us. Maybe for a month, 3 months, 6 months. Volunteering overseas is life-changing and a great way to not only expand your world, but to grow in ways you may never thought! And in so many different areas and capacities!

5. Keep in touch with us. We are all over the internet - Facebook, Instagram, Blog, Email. You may never fully understand the power of a "Hey, I was thinking of you this week and thought I'd drop a line" is on us here. There are definitely lonely days. But knowing and hearing from you via any of the means provided makes those lonely days few and far between!

That about sums up the most of what we are up to here! Again, thank you for your continual love, prayer and support.

We truly appreciate it.

Love you all,
Jonathan, Tracey, Caleb & Rosie xoxo

SOME MORE PHOTOS...

Caleb (in the blue at the left) and his role as "libero" in Varsity Boys Volleyball. 
Goodtimes with our family and our long-time friend, Bob Sorge, who was the speaker at our church's conference at the beginning of August.
It's true - the teenagers are that tall!
We were blessed with an expense paid trip to Boracay for our 19th anniversary and our friends and fellow missionaries, Mike & Nat, came along! Even though it typhooned, it was sooo great to be away on a beach.
Of course Jonathan's pants don't rip normal rips. :) The Church office staff are never sure what craziness is in store when he's around.
One of the manchild's catches during the summer in Manitoba.
Rosie and some of her friends from church. We all are a little dramatic, no? :)
This is apparently what Trace look like when I speak about something she's so very passionate about...in this case, Travel Photography. :)
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