If you missed Timpys in Asia Part 1, click here to read the blog post about our time in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia and to see more pictures like these…
Picking up where we left off on our last blog post, we departed the hot and humid jungle town of Sanggau on the island of Borneo in Indonesia and 36 travel hours later [via car, plane, and train], we arrived in the chilly city of Busan, South Korea. All our projects for this overseas mission were in Southeast Asia where summer is in full force year round with the exception of this project in South Korea. Busan city is about the same latitude as North Carolina and since it was now November, we got to experience the beautiful colors of autumn but had to pack a whole different wardrobe for this one project. Our down jackets and close-toed shoes were definitely necessary, since temperatures were between 30 and 50 degrees! On the three-hour train ride from Seoul to Busan we traversed the entire length of the country from the northern border to the southern tip, and got to see the changing landscapes from bustling city to beautiful mountainous farmland. South Korea appeared to be a very well off country, far more advanced and Westernized than all the other countries we’d visited on our tour of Asia so far, and that’s precisely the reason why we were there!
The organization we were working with, World Villages for Children, wanted us to document “mission accomplished”. South Korea was actually the birthplace of their organization, which started when one missionary priest traveled to Busan after the end of the civil war and saw the extreme poverty among refugees, especially children. He began taking steps to start an orphanage, and organized the Sisters of Mary to care for the children. The small home quickly grew into an all-inclusive boarding school providing impoverished orphans with one of the best educations in the country, beginning with newborns all the way up to high school graduates who live in modern 6-person family units as they do on-the-job training. For graduates, they offer many reunion events so the orphans who grew up together, can reunite with their Mother Sisters and their thousands of brothers and sisters. One of the annual events is an orchestral performance by the graduates themselves, and just so happened to be happening while we were there! We attended and never would have thought these musicians were just hobbyists and not professional musicians. The growth and success of the school paralleled that of the entire country, and now South Korea has become a modern, first world country. Recently, the government has assumed responsibility for orphan care and education, eliminating the need for World Villages to continue working there, and allowing them to look to other areas of the world where they can help the poorest of the poor.
One country where World Villages is still very much needed is the Philippines, which was the next and final stop on our Asian tour. We arrived in Manila late at night and were immediately introduced to the infamous traffic of the city. Our driver told us it would take an hour to get to our destination…after we got out of the parking lot, which took almost an hour in itself! Let’s just say we spent a lot of time in the car for our projects in Manila, especially because our first mission was to document the recruitment process for the World Villages boarding schools. We tagged along with the sisters as they sought out the poorest of the poor children to bring to their schools. We travelled to the poorest communities around metro Manila, and saw some of the most extreme urban poverty we have ever witnessed. We balanced on a maze of bamboo bridges connecting shacks on bamboo stilts over the garbage-covered water of Manila Bay to get a glimpse of the homes of prospective students. We were chased away from a garbage dump for taking footage where people live and scavenge to survive. We squeezed through a series of dark and dingy one-foot-wide alleys to get to the one-room home of a current student.
In the midst of all this poverty, we saw much hope. We saw hope in the children’s eyes as they saw the sisters walking through their community, and even more as they sat down to take the entrance exam for the boarding school. We saw hope as we visited the Girlstown and Boystown schools and saw a portion of the 11,000 boys and girls laughing, playing, and receiving a high-quality education that will set them up for succeeding in life and lifting their entire family out of poverty.
Our second project in Manila was similar in that the organization strives to help the poorest of the poor, but our filming for them focused on their ministry to help street dwellers. We first heard about the Center for Community Transformation (CCT) from a friend who used to have a job assessing the impact of NGOs all over the world. He told us CCT was one of the best, and we’ve been talking to them about a project ever since. We were so happy it finally came together, and their Kaibigan Ministry for street dwellers blew us away. Kaibigan means “friend” in Tagalog, and it represents the strategy behind this ministry, which is to befriend street dwellers and guide them on a path towards success. As we documented the process, we met people from all steps on the “Journey of Change” – from those currently living on the streets, to those living in the CCT halfway house, all the way to those who have been relocated to “The Promised Land,” a huge piece of property far outside Manila that is a refuge for former street dwellers and their families. One of the central features of the Kaibigan Ministry is savings and loans. From the beginning of the journey, Kaibigans are taught the importance of saving, and they form groups to provide each other with microloans to start businesses that will help lift themselves out of poverty. One unfortunate story we kept hearing was about the extreme “street cleaning” policies of President Duterte, and how many Kaibigans had been rounded up by police and “disappeared,” leaving behind their entire savings. It was then that we truly realized the urgency and importance of this ministry, not only to break the cycle of poverty and to save people’s souls, but to literally save lives.
We left the Philippines and arrived in North Carolina hours before Thanksgiving day, just in time to celebrate with Cassie’s family. We were on the road again the very next day, headed to upstate New York to attend a funeral for Jordan’s grandfather. While it was a sad time, it was also a time of closure and hope in eternal life for all those who believe in Jesus Christ. Since then, we have enjoyed celebrating Christmas (twice) with both of our families in North Carolina and are still busily working to edit a few more videos from our two months on assignment in Asia before our next international projects begin later this month.
Now that 2017 is over and 2018 has begun, it’s amazing to look back on all that we’ve accomplished through our service to God and organizations around the world.
And now, a look back on 2017 with our annual year in numbers:
118 videos completed!
51 different beds slept in
38 flights flown
36 buses taken
36 trains ridden
34 hot springs soaked in
23 nights spent in a hotel
15 boats ridden
15 countries visited
9 nights spent in a campervan
9 U.S. states driven through
6 nights spent in a tent
5 nights slept on a cot
5 kayaks and SUPs paddled
4 flights cancelled
3 nights spent in a shipping container
2 volcanoes summited
2 motos rented
2 cars rented
1 police car pullover (Icelandic policeman are thankfully very forgiving)
1 night spent in a tiny house on wheels
1 total solar eclipse seen
As you can see from our annual year in numbers, 2017 was a big year for us, but I guess every year since we’ve been husband and wife has been a big year for us. In 2013, we got married (by a surprise wedding, of course, because there’s no other way to get married) and we moved to D.C. for jobs. In 2014, we took our delayed honeymoon to Hawaii, finished our second year at our jobs and received the Lord’s call for doing a missional year. In 2015, we took a leap of faith and quit our D.C. jobs to embark on what we thought would be a one-year mission to serve ministries and nonprofits with our cameras. In 2016, we joined forces with another nonprofit to continue our ministry in Central and South America. In 2017, we created a sustainable model for our work and ventured out on our own again to continue to serve nonprofits with professional photography and video productions. Each year has looked a little bit different, but one thing is always constant: our love for what we do.
We can’t even begin to describe how blessed we feel to be doing what we love with the one we love for a calling so much greater than ourselves. These three years have been a wild journey, taking us to far away places, expanding our circle of friends with incredible people all over the world doing even more incredible things, but always bringing us back “home” to our families for special stints of time together. The joy of serving others and honoring the Lord with our gifts outweighs the struggles of living out of our suitcases and not having a space of our own to work and rest.
Two Full-Time Travelers’ Random Reflections on Life
Our perspective on life has expanded so much from what we’ve experienced overseas. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned and would like to share with you.
- A rich life does not come from possessions or a salary but from having an eternal perspective, playing a role in a cause greater than yourself and by doing things that you love and challenge you.
- Possessions (and the excess of possessions) weigh you down and hold you back from doing the things you love.
- If we don’t diminish our consumption of plastic and creating waste, we will soon run out of space to hide our trash. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and most of all, avoid plastic.
- There are plenty of places with way worse traffic than you’ve ever experienced.
- The United States is a wonderful country, but it definitely doesn’t do everything the best.
And finally, here’s a video to share with you from our time serving with World Outreach International’s boarding home for impoverished children in Borneo, Indonesia.