The Cozzones in the Philippines

1. Getting Away
2. Education
3. Further Reading
4. A Full House
5. Big Changes
6. For the Birds

Getting Away

                Each year, Chris and I leave the Philippines for our required exit visa trip. We take this opportunity to get away for a much-needed time to rest. We chose to return to Malaysia this year because it’s affordable and has plenty of green space that we don’t have access to here in Manila. On our third day in Malaysia, I found myself breaking down into tears. I didn’t realize how much pressure we were under until we left to a different environment and were able to decompress.
                I cried because I came face to face with the realization of my many weaknesses and human limitations. I realized how often I want to be strong for the kids we love dearly, but in doing so, I hide my anxieties and weariness. To them I want to show a brave face amidst the constant challenges we face together, but what they don’t know is that  too often, I wake up in the middle of the night to 'worry and pray'. If I were to be totally vulnerable, I do more worrying lately than I want to admit. In ‘parenting’ a home of teenage boys who have various emotional and practical needs, I want to try to fix it all. I wish I could simply wipe away their pain, feelings of abandonment, past hurt and worries they carry, but I admit that I can’t. During our time of respite, the words in 2 Corinthians 12:19 were pouring out into my weary soul.
                “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The many weaknesses and inadequacies that I so diligently try to conceal from the world are things that God doesn’t tell me to hide. This place of vulnerability is where my inadequacies meet his sufficiency, my weaknesses encounter His grace, and my lack meets His miraculous provisions. Perhaps this place of weakness is not such a bad place after all. We can't do this on our own strength and the good news is, we are not supposed to. 
               On February 24, the boys took their national exam with others in our division. If they pass, it will mean that they will be able to advance to the grade level that is more closely appropriate for their age. This year the Department of Education has changed their rules, that those who are home schooled with the alternative learning system can no longer go straight to college. They can either advance to 11th grade or they can take an additional year of college preparatory classes before applying to college.
               The boys are all excited for the possibility to experience going to a regular school and, while we wait for the results, we are researching the requirements for schools in our area, trying to find scholarships, and preparing them for the next possible steps.
Further Reading
               For a long time, Chris has been trying to find local literature in Tagalog, to try and expose the boys to the world of books and awaken in some of them a love for reading. Unfortunately, finding literary books in Tagalog is no easy task, and it seems that because most schools teach English and in English, most books are also in English. This is a big hurdle when trying to expose Tagalog speaking youths to reading. But in the beginning of March there was a giant book sale that was established for young people who wouldn’t normally have access to reading material due to poverty or educational restrictions. It was a perfect match (though still in English).
               Each boy was allowed to spend up to $6 on books that he chose, and we as a staff chose another book that everyone would read, and we’d go over that book together as a class. We chose a book for elementary students called Good Old Secret Seven, and we’ll go through it week by week. They have to learn the basics of Microsoft Office, so we’ll try to weave their reading, English classes, and computer classes together to maximize the endeavor.
               Some of the boys bought math books, another a comic book, two picked up books that teach them how to improve their drawing. One day when I went to the Center, I found the two with the drawing books already putting them to use, and another was copying words out of his book to look up in a dictionary. The last week of March we’ll start the classroom reading program.
A Full House
               At least twice a week, our team holds classes on the streets for those who are unable to come to our residential center. During one of my outdoor English classes, one 11-year-old boy couldn’t concentrate because he said his foot was painful and itchy. We ended our class early to go to the clinic, and it turns out that his foot was severely infected. He told the doctor that he had a blister on his foot which he popped using a dirty needle and, because he had no shoes, he was walking around barefoot on the open wound. Because this boy hasn’t seen his mom in a very long time, a woman in the area who lets him sleep in her shanty gave him antibiotics she had without a prescription. (We have no idea where she got them). These antibiotics made him sick, and he threw up because he took them without eating breakfast.
               The doctor drained the abscess and prescribed him stronger antibiotics. In order to ensure he took his medication regularly, we brought him to the Nehemiah home to care for him while he heals. Our pastor then searched the area for his mother and reported to the village police that her son is in our care, but no one in our area could give us any information on her whereabouts. Finally, we were able to locate her on social media, and we learned that she had moved a couple hours away from her son. In short, she told us that she could no longer take care of her son because of his behavioral issues. At first, I felt angry; but then anger turned to compassion, sadness for her son, and gratitude that we can provide a safe home for him. The 11-year-old boy on the other hand seems very happy and content. I smiled as I watched him giggle to himself and play on the makeshift hammock that the boys made in the yard. It’s the first time I saw him freely play and giggle like an ordinary kid should be doing.  
Homemade hammock
               As I look around our home, I am filled with gratitude. The boys that God has given us were all once considered the "throw away kids" with behavioral issues. These are the children that a policeman told me to stop teaching and “wasting my time” with, because he said, “They will never change.” But through our journey, I have learned that it is these kids who have “behavioral issues” that are the ones who need more love, more time and attention. They don’t need another person telling them how bad and naughty they are. They already think that about themselves. They need those with mother and father hearts who will restore them and love them intensely without giving up. As we look around the Nehemiah home, I see 8 boys whose lives have been changed by God’s relentless love. Aside from the occasional boxing match that occurs among some of them about doing the dishes, they have all really come a long way. And now we welcome our 9th boy into our home. The current lease we have only allows us to shelter 9 children so we are thankful we are able to take him in as part of the Nehemiah Home.
Psalm 27:10             
"Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will take me in." 
Big Changes
Change 1:
               The first change involves our staff pastor, who has filled many roles, including keeping things running smoothly while we were in the US for almost 6 months last year. He’s been with us since the beginning of 2017, but his time with us is now drawing to a close. He feels God is calling him into missions and is in the beginning stages of preparing to go overseas. This is a major adjustment for us, and also for him. He’s given us plenty of notice, so we have already begun our search for a new house parent, but we may need to hire a second person as well to help fill his shoes.
               Pastor has also served as our primary connection to his church, which played a significant role in our reaching out to the community and helping guide the boys in their maturation. Finally, this is a very difficult time for the boys in the home. Most of them have either been abandoned by their fathers or felt their absence through imprisonment or death. Pastor has in a very tangible sense become a father to them, and there were many tears shed by all when he told them he would be leaving. Please keep this transition in your prayers.
Change 2:
               This second change is about online donations and is very urgent (for us) if you are a monthly supporter, but also relevant if you send an online donation only from time to time.
               HarvestNet (HNI) has changed their donation database, and if you support us monthly, you will be, or likely have already been, contacted about the change and updates you need to make to continue your support. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us or HNI, at your earliest convenience. Here is the new link to update your support information, or you can click on the Donate Now button below.
               This change was effective March 1, and if you don't update your information, your monthly support will end. As of this weekend, by our estimate, almost 50% of our monthly supporters had yet to update their information. Please take a few minutes to update your information, as losing that much of our monthly support would have drastic consequences for our ongoing work here (and immediate repercussions as well). 
               For those of you who give from time to time, or plan to make a future donation online, the website has changed (link above). When using the new site, just be sure the correct names are selected in the drop-down menu (Chris & Ana Cozzone, if meant for us or the Nehemiah Center).
               As before, your donations to us and Nehemiah made through HarvestNet remain eligible for a year end tax-deduction if you itemize. Also, the donation link on our organization Facebook page, Nehemiah Philippines, has already been updated as well. 
               Thank you so much for your ongoing support. Without you, we wouldn't be able to do the work we do in the lives of these boys. Blessings and regards.
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A brief respite with some tropical birds in kuala Lumpur
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