The Story of the Porcupines

Once upon a time there was a harrowing season in Porcupine land. The winter season was severe, and the porcupines had a hard time surviving the harsh change of climate. All the porcupines decided to come together to come up with a plan for their survival. Their survival strategy was to stay close to one another to protect and keep each other warm. As they huddled closely together, their sharp quills often poked the ones closest to them. Feeling the discomfort and pain of being in proximity with each other, some porcupines decided to leave and move far away. Unfortunately, those porcupines found out they could not survive the bitter winter all alone. Wisely, the porcupines decided to come back together. They learned to live with the little wounds and occasional discomfort that comes along with close relationships so that they could receive the warmth they needed to weather the storm.

On March 13, Chris and I arrived back in Manila from our much-needed time away to recoup in Malaysia for our yearly visa trip. We returned to Manila just before the borders closed to international travel, in or out of the Philippines. To our surprise, we also returned to a house of prickly, angry porcupines.
The day after we arrived, two of the eldest boys came to us to talk about their frustrations and complaints about other porcupines in the house while we were out of the country. We listened to their hearts for several hours and then purchased supplies needed to prepare the Nehemiah home for quarantine. Our first month of lockdown was full of online individual counseling, group counseling, and lots of zoom meetings with our mentors and prayer supporters. Although it was a very chaotic season, to say the least, in hindsight the lockdown helped us work out things coming to the surface that otherwise would remain hidden amidst our daily life.
After our first month of addressing our core heart issues, our team spent the remaining time of lockdown remotely working on government paperwork. One of our greatest quarantine masterpieces was being able to complete our 50-page manual of operations, required by social services in the Philippines. This is a novel size document that explains in detail our entire program from intake to reintegration, all our worksheets, policies, protocols, rules, employee benefits, even down to our process of filing records. This manual is the main reason we had no energy or time lately to write a newsletter. After months of technical writing, it was hard to write anything creative or interesting.
The Nehemiah boys who were doing much better internally and relationally also helped our team so much during lockdown. One of my favorite moments is seeing them have a meeting and creating lists of names in the community of people who needed food. They came up with a distribution plan that respected the quarantine law in the Philippines and contacted recipients to come to the gate to pick up groceries.
As part of our financial literacy program, the boys have been saving little by little ever since they were homeless—they had to save 20% of their income from our livelihood program all this time. Some boys decided that they’d give some of their personal savings to help relatives with food. Here’s one boys’ story of how he helped:
“Because of the coronavirus, many people have lost their jobs and many are experiencing sickness and hunger. I thought about what people will do if they don’t have money for their family to eat because they lost their job. I thought maybe they will resort to doing something bad so that they can find food to eat. I thought of my sisters and my father and I didn’t want them to do wrong things for food. I am thankful that I have my own emergency savings and I wanted to send them some of it so that they can have some food to eat so that they don’t have to do those things. I learned that it is important to save money while you are strong and you can still work and to also prepare ourselves not only in this life, but also for when we see God face to face. “
Our amazing missionary support team in the US started a fundraiser selling plants, as well as started Coins for a Cause, collecting jars of coins to donate to help those who need food during lockdown. No amount is too small. Several families were helped through this initiative.
One girl in her twenties, pregnant for the first time, was down to eating only one meal a day of mostly rice. She received food, money to buy cooking gas, and money for her medical checkup and prenatal vitamins. Another mother who was down to foraging for leaves in an abandoned lot for food for her and her kids was helped with the sale of plants and gifts of coins. Another organization, Beautiful Powerful Women gave us permission to give their donation as cash aid to the boys’ families for groceries. We thank you for your support and we thank God who multiplies the coins enough to feed the multitude.
 Various restrictions remain in place. Our staff teacher worked hard when lockdown was loosened to enroll the boys into online public school since physical schools remain closed. Our local dentist, her friends, and  a church in Lancaster helped us replace our broken computers to prepare for school. The boys who have not been allowed outside since March have been helping us create a garden and organize the Nehemiah home. We have a routine to help give us a sense of daily normalcy, and I am pleased to announce they are less prickly these days despite all that’s happening around us.
Because the boys aren’t allowed outside due to the quarantine, they’re creatively bringing the outside in.
As I reflect and relive the last few months, one truth is evident. In good days and bad, God is present. We learn that each day is truly a gift and chance to give our best with that gift. We thank you for your love, support, and continued partnership. We at the Nehemiah home pray for our partners regularly. We pray for your health, your family members, your well-being and for God’s peace to be present in your hearts. May we all grow to be more kind and considerate porcupines in this shared world. 
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Timmy joined our family at the end of 2016 when we rescued him off our rooftop. He was in such bad shape that the vet didn’t expect him to survive, but he did. And he was always happy and playful. But at the end of the first week of quarantine, he began panting heavily and collapsed. So began numerous 5 km walks to and from the vet due to the transportation shutdown. Two months and two lifesaving surgeries later, Timmy is back to his pleasant and chipper self. This certainly added an extra layer of adjustment during lockdown, but he makes us happy.