Some places are so far off the beaten track that I have a hard time remembering where exactly I was geographically in that moment. This is one of those places. I was on a mission trip in the Philippines and my team stopped for lunch at a rather unusual restaurant located down a long single lane, to say dirt would be generous, road. It was more like a driveway that had been driven down often enough to kill the farm grasses and create a path only where the wheels passed.
I remember the food being really good, but odd in that the restaurant also had a crocodile enclosure just outside the seating area. After lunch we went for a walk on a short trail around the swampy bank to explore the area when I came across several of these beautifully carved logs. The way that this one protruded from the swampy water really caught my eye. The detail was very unexpected for the location.
The mission trip’s objective was to deliver Samaritan Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. A program which I can’t endorse enough. The grateful look on a child’s face when they receive one of these shoeboxes is priceless. Most of these kids live in abject poverty and may have never received a Christmas gift before. In most cases they have never left their village before. The idea that someone on the other side of the planet cares enough to send them a gift is an unimaginable gift of sheer generosity to them.
I remember watching as one kid opened a present and pulled out a few trinkets and then a warm winter beanie. This child’s face lit up in a way that you would have thought he lived in Siberia and had been freezing every winter, longing for a day that he would one day be able to afford a hat that would keep his head warm. This is the Philippines of course and their climate ranges from hot to very hot to scorching hot, but it didn’t matter to that child. He wore his sweltering gift proudly. I wish I had a picture of that, but I was floored by the mixed emotions of “why would you send that as a gift” to “wow! that is gratitude like I have never seen before.”