Finally on our last flight!!

Finally on our last flight!!

We just boarded and are making our way to Chicago soon! We’re ready to be done with travel for a while 🙂 We can’t wait to see family and friends, and to start telling you all of our stories!

Back in the US with changed plans

Back in the US with changed plans

We landed in San Francisco and found out our flight to Chicago was cancelled. The next earliest flight available is at 7:15 am out of the San Jose airport. We just arrived at that airport and are waiting it out for the next few hours until we can check in for our flight. We’ll have one stop in LA and will arrive in Chicago at 3:25 pm. It’s frustrating to have our plans change and to be getting back much later than expected, but we’re grateful that we made it here safely!

Made it to Hong Kong!

Made it to Hong Kong!

Our flight just landed in Hong Kong. We have about two hours until our long flight to San Francisco.

We made it to the airport!

We made it to the airport!

We have arrived at the airport in Manila. We have about three hours before our next flight. Ready to start the long journey home!

Our last full day!

Our last full day!

We had an amazing day at 100 Islands! We woke up early to head there with a group of 26 of us - our team, Encounter staff, and friends from the Baguio, La Trinidad, and Dagupan ministries. It rained on and off while we were there, but it cleared up for us to still be able to do and see awesome things!

We took two boats out to the islands and stopped at several different places through the day. On one island, we climbed up top for beautiful views. Some of us climbed 1,400 steps to the top of another island, while others waited in the boat. We ate a delicious lunch and got to try some crab - it was a lot of work to get the meat out, but so worth it! At another spot, we went snorkeling and saw so many fish and coral. On another island, we had so much fun cliff jumping in a cave! It sounds scary, parents, but don’t worry, we all came out just fine 🙂 We went to one last spot to jump into the water before heading back to shore - exhausted, but so full of joy from the day!

We rode back to Dagupan and had to say our first round of goodbyes to our friends from Baguio who had to travel back. We were able to give gifts to the staff and take turns sharing encouragement with them. The tears that came with saying goodbye are evidence of the bonds that were formed so quickly these past two weeks. We are truly grateful for the time we’ve been able to spend with all of the staff and students of Encounter throughout the trip. It will be hard to leave tomorrow!

After dinner tonight, our team was finally able to try balut (even if somewhat reluctantly) - and if you don’t know what it is, go ahead and look up what we ate tonight. A few of the Dagupan students coached us on the process of eating it. Josh was the winner and ate the whole thing in one bite! He might not consider himself a winner after that… We ended the night with our last team meeting, sharing what we are taking away from the trip and praying over Arnold. We will be sad to leave tomorrow, but we are ready to head back home to share stories with you all of what God did and how he is continuing to work here in the Philippines!

Tomorrow begins the long travel day home. We’ll take the bus to Manila in the morning to head to the airport. We’ll update along the way when we have access to WiFi! Thanks so much for following along with our trip these past two weeks! And shout out to our new friend Sherwin who told us he’s been reading all of our posts. We love our number one fan 🙂

From Madison

From Madison

“Today was a pretty relaxing day as we got to spend all of it by continuing to build relationships with Encounter students, staff, and their families.

Our day started with going to the mall in Dagupan with Pastor Grant and some of the students from the ministry in Dagupan. We got to go bowling with them which was fun because we not only love spending time with them, but for some of them they have either been bowling only a few times or never so we got to show them new experiences. We all bonded over how we are not great bowlers and we accepted that with lots of laughs. We then got to wander around the mall. Some of us went shopping while others played billiards.

A few days ago we were invited by the president of the University of Luzon to use his beach house for an afternoon so after the mall, our team, Arnold, Gigi, Pastor Grant, and our friends Alfred and Shalem were able to go and enjoy some time there. I am blown away by the generosity and hospitality we have been shown while we have been in the Philippines. I hope that I remember this throughout life and that I am able to show the same character in each part of my life and to everyone.

This evening we got to spend more time with friends that we met last week in Baguio. They came down tonight for two reasons: early tomorrow morning we will be leaving for 100 Islands and they are going to come with and today was our friend Jared’s birthday. So we got to have a wonderful family reunion and birthday party with some sweet friends that are truly family.

Today was a great day and while we are coming towards the end of our time in the Philippines, I am excited about everything that we have gotten to do, all we have been shown, and the time that we still have here.”

Photos from our last few days

Photos from our last few days

Photos from our last few days

Photos from our last few days

Day Ten: last day at University of Luzon

Day Ten: last day at University of Luzon

We had three more classroom visits at UL today. In the morning, Madison and Molly B. gave a presentation on the Enneagram to Psychology students. They seemed to really enjoy the information and had great discussions on what type they think they are. We also shared with them that Jesus is the only one who can fulfill the core longings and desires inside of us - and invited them to come to the Encounter gathering later that night.

In the afternoon, Molly M. and Maggie gave a presentation to a room full of junior high students and a few student teachers about the importance of education. The students were able to respond with why they thought education was important for their future and each student to share gave a really beautiful answer! Maggie also wowed them with math magic tricks.

Sara also gave a presentation on Digital Media. She even had a banner with her name on it in her classroom! She talked to the students about photography and graphic design. She was maybe the most nervous out of all of us to teach a lesson, but she did a great job! We’re all a little relieved to be done with our lessons and presentations at the university 🙂

We had a little time to rest before heading to the Encounter gathering down the street from our hotel. We had such a great time at the gathering! We were able to see some familiar faces from the past few days as well as meet some new friends - and even a few who were coming to Encounter for the time. We started the night by playing a few games, one which tested how well we knew each other’s names and had us bonding quickly. Alissa played keys in the band again. Molly B. and Sara shared their testimonies, and Josh shared another wonderful message. Afterwards, we enjoyed some delicious food and played several riddle games all together. It was another night of lots of laughter! We’re going to miss our friends when it’s time to leave.

Sorry for the lack of pictures the past few days! We’ve had full days and long nights with getting prepped for our presentations, but we have a slower morning tomorrow and hope to get more pictures posted from our past few days!

Thanks for reading along and praying for our team!

Day Nine: University of Luzon

Day Nine: University of Luzon

What an exciting day we had! We headed back to the University of Luzon this morning for another full day of activities. In the morning, we attended a Leadership Forum with students from the high school. We were asked to sign the US National Anthem and introduce our team. Arnold gave the main message of the forum on Value-Laden Leadership. He talked about the qualities a leader needs to possess such as Leadership, Equipping, Attitude, Dreamer, Excellence, and Relationship (were you just as mind blown as us when you realized he spelled out leader?! The man is a genius).

After Arnold spoke, we broke the students into groups and each of us led discussions. The students were shy and nervous to speak English, but a few of them had great take-always from Arnold’s talk. It was clear that they each felt they have what it takes to be a leader someday and to make a difference in their communities.

We took a break for lunch, then came back to the University for a Socio-Cultural Exchange. It was a wonderful show filled with all sorts of amazing performances. Several dance teams performed different dances - a few traditional dances and some more modern ones. There were even a few that they had us get up and try with them (unfortunately, there are plenty of videos to prove it!). A few UL students sang songs as well. All of their students are so talented and it was so fun to watch their performances! We also had a chance to showcase our talents. Molly M. and Sara sang a song while Molly played the guitar. Alissa and Molly M. showcased a swing dance. And the whole group sang three worship songs. We don’t think our talents quite equaled theirs…but we had so much fun participating! We also had a chance to try some Filipino snacks and brought some candy for the US for their students to try. And we took a lot of pictures and selfies with all of the students 🙂

After our long day at the University, we had some time to relax at our hotel. Josh went to a life group Grant and a few other guys from Encounter in Dagupan. He had a great time leading them through a devotion and sharing some of this story with them. Tomorrow, we head back to UL for our last day of classroom visits. Molly B. and Madison will teach a lesson to Liberal Arts students, Sara will teach to Information Technologies students, and Molly M. and Maggie will teach a large group of Junior High Students. We’ve spent the evening preparing for our lessons - be praying as we continue to prepare and for the opportunities we’ll have with the students to share our knowledge as well as about Encounter and God.

Pictures to come in the morning (or later tonight for you all) of our exciting day at UL! For now, we’re off to sleep. We can’t believe it’s day nine already! Only a few days left to soak it all in.

Day Eight: University of Luzon

Day Eight: University of Luzon

From Alissa

From Alissa

“Today was our first full day of activities in Dagupan. I think most of our team can safely say that we have never felt more honored or welcomed than we did today at the school. Teams from Encounter U.S. to Encounter Philippines have been visiting the University of Luzon since 2006, and the university takes great pride and joy in this relationship. This morning we arrived at the university and were immediately escorted to the university president’s office, where we met for about an hour with officials, faculty, and staff of the university. We signed Renewal of Ties documents indicating that the U.S. Encounter team and the university agree to continue their relationship. After this ceremony, student volunteers gave us a tour of the university, and then we were fed lunch in a beautiful restaurant.

Later in the afternoon came the part of the day that I had been a bit anxious about. Based on some information about us, the university requested in advance that Josh and I give presentations on our respective majors to some college classes in the university. Since my degrees are in accounting and since I work in corporate taxation, I was asked to present on the U.S. tax system. It was great to connect with students who are studying what I studied in school, learn from them, and share some of what I know. I was grateful to have Molly B. and Molly M. in the classroom with me to conduct an ice breaker game and provide moral support! We got to sit in on Josh’s presentation as well. He, Sara, Madison, and Maggie did an excellent job presenting on entrepreneurship to two separate classes of business students!

This evening we got to spend time with some of the students at the Encounter ministry in Dagupan. One of the main themes in our trip has been sharing jokes, riddles, and games back and forth with our new friends, and tonight was no exception!

We are so grateful for your prayers as we continue this trip!”

Day Seven: travel to Dagupan

Day Seven: travel to Dagupan

We left Baguio this morning to head to Dagupan. We had fun on the ride telling jokes and riddles to pass the time. The heat difference between here and Baguio was evident as soon as we stepped out of the van. It’s going to be a hot week here, but we’re ready for it!

The team settled into the hotel while Molly B. and Maggie went with Arnold and Grant to the University of Luzon where we will be spending time the next few days. We met with a few University officials to go over the schedule they’ve laid out for us this week. It will be a full three days of activities, ceremonies, and time in their classrooms! We’re excited for the opportunities to come.

We were able to hop in a jeepney with some Encounter students from Dagupan to head to the beach for a bit this evening! The sun had already set by the time we got there and it was raining off and on, but that didn’t stop our team from enjoying the water. Our Filipino friends also taught us a game called Chinese Garter that involves jumping over a string that gets progressively higher up as the game goes on! It was fun to start to get to know this new group of students we’ll be spending time with this week.

We head to the University of Luzon tomorrow morning to start our activities! Josh and Alissa are first up for teaching in the classrooms in the afternoon, so be praying for those to tonight as they prepare and tomorrow as they get ready to teach!

Off to bed for us! 🙂

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A few photos from Day Six (more to come in the morning!)

“Today we got to sleep in a little bit and then prepare for Sunday encounter at the campus house. Molly 1 (that’s what we’ve...

From Josh

“Today we got to sleep in a little bit and then prepare for Sunday encounter at the campus house. Molly 1 (that’s what we’ve been calling Molly B.), Alissa, and Madison practiced with the worship team while the rest of us hung out with the Filipinos.

Sunday encounter was full with worship, testimonies from Madison and Alissa, communion, offering meditation done by Molly 2 (Molly M.) and a short sermon by me. It was great to worship and listen what God has been doing in the people’s lives around us.

After the service we stayed at the campus house and we were wildly surprised by what the Filipino team planned for us. They showed their appreciation towards us by singing us songs, telling stories, and saying what they liked about our team. We were all humbled and amazed just how pleasant their culture is to their visitors. We then exchanged gifts with them and it was very apparent just how much this trip is meaning to all of us.

Finally, we spent the night playing games like ping pong and “spicy” uno. We closed our night by having a late dinner together and sharing many laughs. We head for Dagupan tomorrow. Though we have already gotten so close to this team and we will miss everyone we met in Baguio City a ton, we look forward to meeting the other team in Dagupan.”

A few more photos from our day

A few more photos from our day

Photos from Day Five!

Photos from Day Five!

We got to explore more of the beautiful Philippines mountains today! We left early this morning to head to the Atok trail,...

Day Five: beautiful views and even better company!

We got to explore more of the beautiful Philippines mountains today! We left early this morning to head to the Atok trail, traveling a very windy road all the way up the mountain. It was about a two hour ride, so we had plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company and continue getting to know each other on the way! It was a little foggy at times, but we were still able to see breathtaking views - especially for those of us who are used to a very flat Illinois. We stopped to see the view at the highest point - which was mostly covered by clouds at that point, before heading back down a ways to a flower garden. We went on a tour of the garden and saw beautiful flowers while getting to look out at the mountains as well.

After our tour, we drove further along the mountainside to a spot where we could take a little hike up to the top. The clouds parted just enough for us to have amazing views from on top of the rock. It was so much fun to enjoy those moments alongside our new friends. On our way back down, we stopped at a graduation party for an Encounter student and enjoyed some delicious homemade food with her friends and family. Our Filipino friends were teaching us about the common pronunciation errors that tend to happen when they speak English and we spent most of lunch laughing together!

After we made our way all the way back down the mountain, we spent time at the Campus House for the rest of the night. We shared with each other some reflections from the day, what we took away from our time together. The overall consensus in the room was so much joy and happiness just being in each other’s company. Each person shared something a little bit different, but they all centered around the company we were with rather than the things we saw or experienced. Pastor Paul reminded us that all throughout the day, we were worshiping the Lord. By admiring his creation, by thanking him for the things he is doing in our lives, and even more so by laughing and enjoying our time together.

We already have to say some goodbyes soon to friends we’ve just met as tomorrow is our last day in Baguio. It’s amazing how quickly the Lord allows us to form bonds and relationships with people who were strangers mere days ago! Our team is so grateful for the people we have been able to meet and spend time with and we trust that these relationships formed will continue even after we head back home.

We have another slow morning coming our way with extra time to rest before church. Be praying for Josh, who will be preaching a short message tomorrow, and for Alissa and Madison, who will be sharing their testimonies during the service as well.

From Sara

From Sara

“What. A. Beautiful. Day! Today was the first day I really felt at home here and that feeling is an absolute blessing. Each day has been packed full of adventures and experiencing this new world and today was no different until evening rolled around and we were all standing in the campus house praising the same Jesus together.

We started our day in the market with the US team and Paul and Harvey, the best tour guides in the world. The market was so fun and exciting, endless options for everything. You need bowls? Got them. You need shoes? Right here. Need to be scarred by a dead rat that actually wasn’t dead!?… yup… you can do that at the market.

Our lunchtime was spent at an absolutely beautiful place with Gigi and some Encounter ladies. We shared about our lives and weeks and had lots of new foods that I had no idea even existed. And we drank SO much pineapple juice! Amazing.

Encounter was such a beautiful experience. I was able to meet students and hear their stories and get to know them and I felt like I was back home at US Encounter. For a girl that loves being home and is scared of getting out of her comfort zone, it’s an incredible thing to know a God that gives us family and a home anywhere we travel.

This trip is forever challenging me and teaching me truth about God’s strength in my weaknesses (they keep asking me to talk in front of people as if I’m not the most awkward tiny lady in the world) and I’m so grateful for all the stretching of my soul and character that is happening.”

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Photos from Day Four