Angel in Disguise or Missionary in the Making?
If you don’t know who Reymark is, read this blog FIRST about his amazing story! Then come back and meet Lilay!
I first met Lilay and Jerome when our family visited Camiguin Island in July. Lilay was working for the missionary family that was hosting our “Welcome to Camiguin” dinner that first night. Our first impressions of each other are pretty funny.
I had been traveling for days on planes, in taxis, on motorellas (motorcycle carts) and had been staying in a convent’s bunk room. And had just gotten off an hour long ferry ride. All with a three month old, four teenagers, and a pre-teen! As an added bonus, I had just returned to the Philippines after being in the U.S. for 7 months where I had become re-accustomed to the air conditioning. I was HOT, tired, hungry, HOT, and had a massive migraine. I also had an infant who was tired, HOT, and hungry. Did I mention HOT?
I was not in the best mood and wasn’t really expecting to meet new people. Having dinner with other missionaries that knew the stresses of traveling to the other side of the world with kids is one thing, but having dinner with new people under these conditions is another thing. I tried my best to put on my smiling missionary face, and I thought that I had done a fairly good job until Lilay and I became friends and talked about that first night! Lilay told me that she thought I was “very strict” which translates to “mean, not nice, serious, not a good person.” I thought she was obnoxiously loud and a little overbearing. My head was pounding that night, and she made it pound even more as she seemed to yell over all the noise of the kids to people at the other end of the table.
We eventually got a chance to bury those first impressions when the Bolle family came to visit us in Malaybalay and Lilay came with them. You can imagine each of our thoughts when we realized we’d be spending a week together under the same roof. But it was great! She got to see the real me—the rested, happy to be back in missions me; the laughing, playing with the neighborhood kids me, the semi-adjusted to the heat me. And without a migraine, she wasn’t that loud. 😉 We had a great time laughing and getting to know one another.
Shortly after that week in Malaybalay, we moved to Camiguin. Lilay was there waiting to help me get the house cleaned that first night. She helped get our things put away and organized the next day. She has been right there beside me as I suffered through the heat and tried to learn the ins and outs of life in a very, very small town. I knew that she was an angel sent from Heaven not only to be my “helper” but to become my friend just as He had sent Irene to me last year.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that God had big plans for Lilay and her husband Jerome. They quickly became our ministry partners. They began helping us with the kids’ ministry and the men’s group—gathering the people, setting up, and translating. They are also so very eager to learn about the faith. They constantly seek to grow closer to the Lord. They want to do what is right and don’t mind being corrected about something that is not becoming of a “Christian.”
It was Lilay who first told us about Reymark and brought us to him. It was Lilay who helped us convince Reymark’s mother to let us take him to the hospital. It was Lilay who volunteered to stay at the hospital with Reymark when his mother refused to stay. It was Lilay who became the angel sent from God to Reymark and the missionary sent to help others during that week long stay at the hospital.
I will never forget that look of pure exhaustion and joy on her face when I arrived at the hospital the morning after Reymark’s first night there. She had not slept at all because of the constant “watch” that Reymark needed in his delicate condition and all of the unexpected happenings that came about throughout the night. But she was so full of joy as she told me about all that happened during the night.
A mother whose baby had died earlier that evening came back to the pediatric ward in the middle of the night screaming and crying and searching for her baby. Lilay was there to help the nurses with her. She then returned to the room to find several of the other mothers upset by this and led them in prayer for this grieving mother. Later in the night, some of the moms were crying about their own children’s illness. Again, she led them in prayer and taught them how to pray for and over their children.
The other mothers were impressed with her prayers and her faith and told her that they wished they had what she had. She then shared her testimony with them. She told them about her past sins and how she is a changed person now. She told them about the missionaries that came into her life and taught her about Jesus, how to pray, and how to be a better Christian. She told them that they “could do the same.” As she described the evening to me, I knew without a doubt that she was “the one” that was meant to be Reymark’s watcher that night. God had put her there not only to take care of Reymark, but to be the angel/missionary the others needed that night.
The next morning, I arrived to find that one of the families in the ward had lost their house and all of their belongings in a fire the previous night. Lilay once again prayed with them after they received a call from their neighbor. By the time I arrived, the mother was thanking God that no one was home at the time of the fire and that they were all safe. We offered more prayers and asked to help the family buy food, clothes, or any other necessity that they needed, but the mother said that they had lots of family and friends already taking care of them.
As the week went on, Lilay became the fulltime pediatric ward angel/missionary. She gave me the full report each time I arrived: whose baby was getting sicker and needed to be prayed over again, whose baby was getting better and would be discharged, whose baby needed medicine that the parents couldn’t afford, which mother had not eaten all day or all night, etc. We were able to take care of most of the needs of the families in the ward each day. She also told us about the Muslim mothers who shared a husband and both had babies with serious pneumonia. We silently prayed extra hard for these women and their babies. By the end of their stay, their children were coloring in the “I love Jesus” coloring books we had passed out earlier in the week. 🙂
When it came time for Reymark to be discharged, Lilay offered to become Reymark’s caretaker. She had talked to her grandmother who she lived with and her husband Jerome about Reymark moving into their house. I had been praying for God to show us what to do with Reymark after his discharge. I knew that he could not go back into the environment we had found him. I knew that Lilay would make sure that Reymark got the love and care he needed, but I also knew that she and Jerome could barely support their own five kids. I did not want to ask her to take own this “burden.” But God had already moved in her heart to trust Him to provide. And He has in a mighty way.
The night we brought Reymark home for the hospital, Lilay had all of her family and all Reymark’s family including his parents gather around Reymark’s new bed in her grandma’s living room to pray in thanksgiving for Reymark, the missionaries, the sponsors from the U.S. who had helped to buy all of the things Reymark needed. It was then that Reymark’s parents broke down and cried because they didn’t know how to pray. Once again Lilay, the angel/missionary, began to teach and pray just as she had learned.
In the weeks and month following Reymark’s discharge, he has made tremendous progress because of Lilay’s care and love. She prepares his food in the blender each day. She bathes him. She talks to him. She sings to him. She reads to him. She takes him out for walks in the stroller. She takes him to church. She goes with him to physical therapy and does the exercises with him at home. And best of all, she teaches his family to do all of this, and now they have begun to help with his care! Lilay does all of this for Reymark and still continues to be my right hand. She helps hand wash the laundry a few times during the week. She helps prepare meals for us when we are too busy with ministries and/or aren’t home to cook (there is no fast food or grab a sandwich here). She takes care of our kids when we have to travel to the mainland (too expensive and time consuming sometimes to take everyone). She massages my head and neck when she sees that I have a migraine. And she tells me how beautiful I am and what a good mom I am just at those moments when I feel ugliest. She always knows when and how to cheer me up. (Everyone needs a Lilay!)
Jerome, who goes by Siapo (“Sha poe”), has shown up with a weedwacker when we mentioned that we needed to cut the grass and trim the bushes around our driveway that scratch the car. He shows up with his clippers to give haircuts when the boys start to look shabby. He came to my rescue when a water pipe busted and Travis was on the mainland. He gives the kids free rides on his motorcycle when they need to go to town. He plays basketball with the boys. He helps Travis gather all the men for the Tuesday night men’s bible study at our house.
If we have a problem of any kind that we can’t figure out (and there are plenty when you live in a foreign country), we can call Lilay and Jerome. They are always just a phone call or text away. And will always drop what they are doing to lend us a hand whether is for our own personal needs or to help us with ministry. They are both truly Heaven sent to us and many others here on Camiguin.
We found out that it was Jerome and Lilay’s 9th anniversary last month. Travis and I wanted to bless them with a date for all that they have done, not only for Reymark, but also for the blessing they have been to our family. We offered them money to go on a date alone, but they wanted us to tag along because they had NEVER been on a date. They had NEVER been to a restaurant before. They didn’t know what to do. We had such a great time and shared many laughs. They were so giddy the entire time. Thank you to the benefactor that sent in a donation specifically to bless this beautiful couple!