That aha! Moment

School has been back in session in the  Philippines for a few weeks now. I am sad that I am not there for my students but I have gotten a few “Ms? are you there? messages on Facebook. What I  love most is when I  learn from those teaching moments. “Ms. can you help me write a speech?”

Of course I said yes and asked her what her for the topic. She told me she was running for student government. I asked for her platform. “platform?” she asked. As I explained that when someone runs for office it is called standing for office all of a sudden it hit me, why it is called a platform. Because all the stuff you plan to do when you are in office is the platform you stand for election on duh!

While it is cool to realize something new, what is even cooler is knowing my students really do believe they can reach out to me and ask for help. I hope as they progress into their teenage years they will reach out with to me with more than homework help but with the difficult things in life.

Carolina on my mind

My recent trip to North Carolina had it’s ups and downs. I mean that literally one of my tires kept going down and I had to fill it back up! Thankfully the rental place swapped the car for one without a leaky tire!

North Carolina is a beautiful state. I drove though a lot of it visiting churches and I met some of the nicest people along the way. Particularly Pastor Kent from Grace Fellowship and Pastor Andy from Nags Head, who have come on board as prayer partners and encouraged me on my journey.

My time in North Carolina was mostly work with a little fun tucked in for good measure. One of my dearest friends celebrated a milestone birthday. It was such fun to celebrate her and to meet her friends. It was also fun to share some Filipino food and culture with her as we indulged my craving for Filipino food at Asian BBQ & Grill. The food was amazing and the conversation with the staff was even better. If you are ever in Winston Salem look them up!

My friend participates in a art program that re-purposes old cigarette machines to sell art. They are called Art-O-Mat. We stopped at a machine at an arts center and surprise her items were in the machine!

With Love From China

Ok, maybe not all of China, but from one Mandarin teacher for certain! Candy taught Mandarin for 2 years at Bethel and we were housemates during her first year. Candy expressed that she wanted to share why she thinks it is important for me to return to Bethel and asked if she could write a letter. Please pray for Candy and Viola as they settle back into life in China. Pray they are able to find fellowship. Enjoy Candy’s letter!

To whom it may concern,


I am Candy and I am the Chinese teacher of Bethel International School. I lived with Chris for one year. We became very good friends in that year. She is a very good and patient friend. Here she taught me and my colleague Viola who is the other Chinese teacher in Bethel about Jesus. She encouraged us to attend Encounter God Retreat organized by Tacloban Bible Community. And during that retreat, I made my decision to accept Jesus Christ of my personal savior. I remembered when I bowed in front of the cross to confess I am a sinner and I am not perfect, and to ask Jesus to forgive me, she was there with me and gave me comfort.

She introduced me the book of purpose driven life and we watched the video materials of that book together. She also organized the life group of young teachers in our school and we learnt and discussed about bible together. I really enjoyed and gratitude that life group, because not only I learnt more about Jesus Christ, but also I enjoyed the fellowship with my Filipino friends. Yet since she left, that life group never happened again. I miss it so much. And I feel that if she can be here, she must be a very good leader who organizes life group for us and I can enjoy the fellowship and the knowledge of Jesus again.

Besides, I taught 6th grade last year, and I had a very difficult time with them, because most of that class students are ADHD kids who have a hard time to focus in class and some of them are from very special family background that makes them think and act very negatively. Chris was the homeroom teacher then, and she really helped me a lot to deal with those kids who had a difficulties in class. There is a kid who names Ken, and he is very negative sometimes. When Chris was here, they had an agreement that when he acted negatively, he needed to sing a song named My name is a Child of one true king. And last year I really can see Ken’s progress when Chris was here. However, this year when Ken has the same negative behavior like he keeps saying that I am stupid and I want to give up myself, I will wonder how helpful will it be if Chris can be here, because I am sure she knows how to deal with him. As a teacher, I feel that the school needs her definitely. Our teachers who are mostly in our 20s and like a green hand in education in a Christian School, so we really need someone who can teach us how to be a good teacher with fully heart of Jesus Christ. And also those ADHD students need her too, because we really lacked of someone who has knowledge of special education. And the mission we do this is we want to cultivate the future leaders in Tacloban which is a poor and undeveloped area in Philippines. And if all those special education kids can grow up with strongly believe of Jesus Christ, when they graduate and after ten years they can become a very good contribution to the development of this area. I am really gratitude and thankful for what Chris did last year.

And what’s more, as a missionary, she not only introduced me to know Jesus, and also she is just like a mother to me here. She took care of me and she always drove me around Tacloban and even in Leyte. She taught me how to swim, which later became the other way I can appreciate the beauty of God’s creation. She was also influenced me by her holy spirit which is given by God. Here she helped a kid named Lyka, and she always shared with me how to really help people. From my personal experience before, I was used to accept helping instead of giving a hand to others, but from her, I started to learn how to be a hospitable person.

If next school year she can be here in Bethel with all teachers and students, we will be very happy and blessing for that. I will continue praying for her and her missionary life in Philippines.

Thank you so much for reading it. God bless you!

Candy Chen

Chinese teacher in Bethel International School

April 24, 2019

Not an April Fool, More Like April Joy!

Today is April 1 so a day for pranks and jokes but also the first day of the month. Typical of the beginning of any month my inbox has several newsletters one of which was from Converge. The newsletter included the April prayer calendar, and as I do every month, I scroll through it and think about where to put it so I will do a better job remembering to pray for the people on the list. Then I spotted a familiar name, my name, on April 4th I am listed among the missionaries to be prayed for. I smiled because it is a timely reminder that while I have a lot more hoops to jump through as a Converge missionary, I also have a lot more support.

I have prayer support not just from the staff but from all of the Converge churches and people who support the work we do. I also have the team at Converge, many of whom raise their support, who use their gifts, talents, and experience to help people like me get where we are going. I also have the ability through Converge to plan for my future once I leave the missions field in 20 some odd years. I know it seemed easier they way I went before, but easier does not always translate to better. Today’s email was a great reminder that sometimes the long road is the better road. 

Merry Christmas!

What a difference a year makes! This time last year I was preparing to celebrate Christmas in the Philippines with Candy and Viola, Bethel’s Chinese teachers. They wanted to experience a real American Christmas, just like on TV. Well, it wasn’t just like on TV. It was better!

This year I am home, in Connecticut, celebrating with my family and friends but, something is missing. I realized today what that something is. Last year, I saw the magic of Christmas through the eyes of two young women who had recently decided to follow Jesus. They spent our holiday sharing their faith with their Chinese friend and on Christmas night, she decided to follow Jesus too. For them, everything was new and exciting. The story of Jesus’ life, the decorations, the presents, it was all so magical. 

This year I am home, I have my traditions and the people I love, and I am happy. I am doing a  reading at our Christmas Eve service and I sang in our concert; I am participating in all the things I missed last year. But I realized I am missing the magic of last Christmas. The magic that came from sharing their first Christmas. I plan to spend the rest of this Advent season focusing on the wonder of the first Christmas and on the baby in the manger. My wish for you this Christmas is that you are having a wonder-filled Christmas!   

Last Christmas Morning. Sharing my families tradition of pancakes with Jasmyne, Candy, and Viola.

I Obey God Shows Up

My church here has a retreat of sorts for new believers called Encounter God Retreat. To lead a life group, you have to have attended an EGR. Several reasons, 1 so the rules are the same for everyone 2, so every new believer learns some import things and has a deep encounter with God. I me not exactly a new believer so why did I need to attend? Because it is good for me to see how the church works and to see how God uses these retreats.

Confession: I didn’t want to go. I was feeling a bit grumpy about it, but I also felt God clearly telling me to so I went.

I invited 3 people to join me, and they said yes. Typically as a youth worker, I plant a lot of seeds, but I don’t often get to be there when the person makes a decision to follow Jesus but this time God blessed me by letting me be there and a part of that particular moment.  Right there, it was worth going, before the retreat even began. I obeyed, and God showed up in a big way!

The retreat was intense for an introvert like me, but I survived and grew closer to God through the experience. I also made a new friend and bonded with the 3 who attended with me.


The following weekend I was about to pray for someone at the Waray Waray retreat. The very end of the retreat I watched as bemused husband moved chairs as their middle-aged wives pulled all of the participants into what amounted to a mosh pit for God. It was amazing to stand back and watch all that was going around on around me. I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying, but I got the message. These people were connecting and rejoicing of their love for God in a big big way!

Our teacher’s life group has restarted after a false start, but we are all committed to being a group and growing in our faith together.

Some have asked me what is different this year from last year. I would have to say it is the friendships. This year I am not trying to make friends, I have them. The Chinese teachers and I are really growing close, and this week when I was unwell, one of the teachers brought me chicken soup. I miss home, but at the same time, I am home. I see God at work and see how he uses me, and I am blown away by how blessed I am.

Candy and I are both under the weather today, and so the three of us decided to do church at home tonight. I think we will sing some and watch a video about the Passion and the Prophecy then have a good talk. It is still strange to live so closely to others and yet it has also become more comfortable.

The three of us along with 2 Filipino friends went on an adventure our first road trip without any Varberg’s along for protection or guidance. I was responsible for getting us there, and I was responsible for getting us home. We went to the place where you can take the put-put boat around the little islands. (Yes Dad, I wore the life jacket you gave me. Surprised  the guy trying to get me to put on one of their life jackets anyway. Someone had to explain my fancy one to him.)

The week before break was Spiritual emphasis week; with a day of suspended classes for both the elementary and the high school. Instead, we had activities, VBS style, with a theme of Identity. Our theme song was, Hello my Name is… The kids really enjoyedit and my homeroom really connected with the song because I have used it with them for weeks. Making them sing it or write it when they say negative things about themselves. During the high school day I shared my testimony about identity and how God changed my name from stupid to smart. Several kids come up to me later to talk more about it.

Will add a photo slide show with pictures from some of the events I mentioned.

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Nearly Missed That Frog Fish as I swam on by

Often in life, we are so busy worrying about the details we miss the majesty of God’s beautiful creation. I realized this fact once again as I was worried about adjusting my respirator and didn’t notice the frogfish sitting right in front of me. Thankfully Klaus my dive instructor made sure I noticed all of the wonders of the deep that were swimming all around me. It is the same way in life when we are hyper-focused on the details we think are important we need someone to point out when we are missing the wonders around us.

After the stress of getting mid-quarter grades submitted before the deadline, a quick trip south for the weekend was just what I needed. I was able to teach one of the Chinese teachers how to float well enough for her to be pulled over the reef for her first peek at what lies beneath. I also made my second dive and saw some pretty amazing things like sea turtles, lionfish, and a sea cucumber. The Chinese teachers and I made our reservations for a week-long trip in December. We are excited about our future adventure but we have our work cut out for us because they don’t know how to swim yet…

The past three weeks have been short weeks due to holidays which has been great from the student’s point of view and from mine as well, I really enjoyed our Friday away, but from a progress in class point of view. Well, all that missed class time is not so great. We returned to a full week of school this week but it is also the fun run week and foundation day for Bethel. More missed classes for the Elementary Run yesterday and for the program honoring the founding fathers today. Tomorrow is another day of missed classes because of the high school run. In essence what I have learned is God is still helping me learn how to be more flexible. 😛

Little Rainbow Joy made it to school this week and helped out with the run yesterday. She insisted on having her picture taken with some of the students. I have also included a couple of pictures from the weekend and the kids racing their hearts out! I hope you enjoy!

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Exam Week

We have entered into our first exams of SY 2017-2018. One day of exams are done and the students are beginning their second day as I am typing this. Exams have allowed me a quiet morning of contemplation and headache recovery. I decided to take a few minutes of that time and say hello to you.

A few weeks ago I learned a new word, solane, Bebing had asked me for money so she could order more of it for the house I live in. I asked, ” what is solane?” After all, I do want to become fluent in the language! She struggles for a moment and ends up saying, “you know gas, solane.”  “OH!” I said, “for the stove?” she tells me, yes and I learned that the word gasoline has been morphed into the Waray language as solane. 🙂 I love finding these words where I can clearly see how they came to be!

I feel like a broken record because every time someone asks how I am doing my answer is the same, ” I am tired and overwhelmed”. I am often tempted to say fine but I know that my friends and family back home love me and are not looking to hear, “fine” they are looking to hear how I really am. I am loving being here but I am basically trying to work 2 full-time jobs and it is exhausting.

I have talked things over with Margie and she is helping me get my keel righted in the water. If I can get it right, or should I say once it is righted, I will be fine. There are just some beginning of the year things that overwhelmed me. Added into that a huge pile of late work from my kids and you have a capsized Ms. Camarro.

I started off this school year learning that a friend back home lost her battle with Cancer. It isn’t that I wasn’t expecting the news, I was, it is I just wasn’t expecting it so soon. I am thankful she is with her husband again and my prayers are for her family to find comfort in the arms of the Lord. I will miss our little chats and can’t wait until our next one.

I am blessed by the support system I have here and the friends that have lovingly encouraged me through this season. I so often see how God uses others in my lift and through seasons like this, it is so clearly visible to me.

On a completely different note

Due to the changes in admin fees and the differences in the way things work less money than expected ends up coming to me. I do suspect that some of that will come to me in the form of a tax refund. I also suspect that I needed to line item items out that are not strictly for “salary”. Right now everything is listed as salary and I have nearly the same amount of money per month as I did last year.

My friend Melissa has asked me if I want her to have a Trades of Hope facebook party to help raise money. I said yes because I would like to have funds to draw on to help people and right now the amount over and above what I need is small and leaves little for things I might want. Like, taking someone out to eat, buying a book, or providing lunch for a student that would go without.   Melissa will be raising funds for other worthy organizations besides helping me. Please consider visiting her page for your Christmas shopping needs 🙂

Melissa Brown’s Trades Of Hope

Chris Camarro’s Converge Profile




Can you believe it is almost time for Mid-Quarter Grades? This means I am half way through the first semester already! I feel like I am still getting my feet under me and it is time for progress reports.

The Learning Lab is getting up and running and my 5 classes are also well underway. The juggling has begun! I feel a bit like I have two full time jobs but I am juggling it all. My goal is to be able to document correctly this year for The Lab and I have been busy setting up the necessary forms. It is kind of nice to be the one that decides what hoops I have to jump through instead of being obliged to fill out stacks of paperwork. I can put the needs of the kids above the paperwork.


Little Rainbow Joy has decided that she wants to work in The Lab with me. This week she was helping the students learn about the part of speech

I have started a Social Skills Club for the upper elementary and my goal is to do the same with the lower elementary. I am also in the process of doing reading assessments on the elementary school. I have identified a few students that need some support. I am also excited that I have started helping a student that has working memory damage learn how to retrain his brain.

These school related things are all good but the things that I am really excited about are the things I see God doing in me and through me. I am doing a Bible study with one of the 12th grade students and she is so eager to learn how to keep God at the center of her life even after she leaves Bethel. Over the summer, she learned how hard it is to stay connected to God when you are not connected to people who share your faith.

Some of the teachers and I have started a Purpose Driven Life group. I am the Grandma Moses of the group but that is intentional. The Chinese teachers are eager to learn about God as are some of the new young teachers. I intentional invited people in their age range. Tacloban Bible Community has started a PDL campaign and Paul Varberg is making videos to aide understanding and facilitate discussion. Our first meeting was a lot of fun. We learned a little more about each other and about why we need to know our purpose.


One of the first things I did when I arrived was to plan a teacher fellowship night. We played games and music. We laughed together and enjoyed each other’s company! I also have taken some time to show Candy and Viola around the area. Buko by the beach is a must as is a trip to see the MacArthur memorial.

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Because my supports have been generous with me I have been able to be generous with others. I helped someone cover part of a hospital bill after an accident. I was also able to help someone who lost his job over the summer. His daughters needed a few things for school and I purchased them. I learned today that he has found a new job and our prayers for him have been answered! I have also set up and lunch tab for a student that was not eating lunch due to lack of money. I also met up with a former student that left Bethel last year. She agreed to come visit me when Paul was visiting her father. I took her out for a meal and a long talk.



Bethel is growing! While I was in the States Paul purchased some additional land adjacent to the school. The new land will eventually be more classrooms so we can have more than one of each grade level.  It will also have a larger cafeteria. The parents are happy to hear that more parking is also in the plans.

My class took a few minutes to wish my dad a happy birthday!



Ding Ding class please take your seats school is now in session.

I have arrived, recovered from jet lag and set up my classroom all in the span of less than 3 weeks. I have also sort of unpacked my room so that it is livable. Everything is away and off the floor if not unpacked from its bag or box. I’ll take it at this point. 🙂 The important places are unpacked and ready, my classroom and The Lab.

I have also resumed attending my life group and was able to celebrate my birthday with them. I also celebrated with my co-workers. The custom here is for the celebrant to provide a treat for their friends. I asked my friend Adette to cater a simple lunch for the teachers and staff of Bethel on my actual birthday. It was actually very welcome because we all worked very late due to parent orientation that night.

I am getting to know my housemates. We are from very different cultures and we have had fun exploring together and learning about each other. They have shared an interest in learning about God and we have had several good conversations about Him. We are going to read Mere Christianity together once things calm down and settle into a routine. We did have fun watching War Room together too.

August is the month of language and so in these pictures you will see the students wearing traditional costumes. I am wearing a shirt made out of pineapple tree.

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