Monday, December 23, 2013


As our time nears to a close in the Philippines, I cannot minimize the heaviness in my heart. Nor can I ignore the heaviness upon the hearts of my family-both here and back in the United States. As I was thinking about our situation, what happened to the people of the Philippines, my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins...I came up with a phrase-I know it's not original, but "the plight of a people", or more specific, the "plight of a family".
We heard my folks retell the story of that dark, wet, and terrifying day-how there was no indication that this weather was going to be of any consequence, significance, or magnitude. To this day I am still amazed at the fact that they had no idea, how no one knew, what was going to hit them. We now know of the situation for many though, those who took the opportunity to get on planes or helicopters and fled their region for the safety of Manila are now stranded. This story isn't isolated to a few, it included family members as well. While many, like my folks, have relocated to other areas near Manila, as they were able, many are still trying to find ways to get back home. Some of my aunts and uncles-along with cousins, need money to return to Tacloban, Samar, or Guiuan as the Philippine Government has said there is aide money to help them rebuild. While there has been that declaration by the government, there hasn't been any specifics-on how much will be offered to each family. In spite of that news my folks are hoping that someone will purchase the land. They plan to stay in Laguna and restart their lives. There has even been discussion between my mom and her younger sister about renting the apartment behind them so that they can live together/near each other.
The plan so far, for my family here in the Philippines is to gather in Laguna for a Christmas meal at my parent's apartment. Our plan, once we are in the U.S., December 25th, is to drive to Pocahontas, IA for Christmas with her family. I have no idea how much jet-lag will factor into our plans either as I know how wiped we were when we got here to the Philippines, but I am grateful for our time here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Just a short blurb...
Today we spent our day doing a little shopping at the Mall of Asia. Most of the shopping was for family as we hope to be back in the United States on Christmas Eve-if all goes well. The jet lag will likely keep us out of commission until Christmas Day, sometime late afternoon is my guess and our hope is to leave Christmas Day, if possible, for Pocahontas, IA. 
Now, in the title of this post you notice SM and CR. Here in the Philippines SM stands for SuperMarket and it's the place to purchase everything, it's the mall, the grocery store, and so much more. I chuckled once we got here because everyone told me we had to go to the "Super Market" to get the things we needed and I agreed not knowing they were literal-in location and the name of the place had to shop. If you clicked on the link for the Mall of Asia above, you will note the SM logo-that is it, the Super Market. To be clear, that's not just in Manila, it's also in Laguna, where my folks now live. 
And CR stands for "comfort room" and yet, whenever you're in the mall or super market the signs all say restroom. It's interesting yet, you learn to ask where the CR is as no one here understands restrooms. 
I know these tidbits haven't been as often as I had hoped, but I hope to have more tomorrow. 
Thanks everyone and Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Bigay, pronounced like big-eye, means share and I definitely have something to share with you. We spent a few days in Manila and went to the Mall of Asia-which is huge by the way, and even ordered in some KFC and Papa John's Pizza. We enjoyed the air-conditioned room and transportation and missed it as we transitioned from Manila to Laguna.
On our way to Laguna, where my parents live, she found out that her apartment doors had been changed without her knowledge. As mentioned awhile back, before we left, family was living with them and it turns out that when my parents left to pick us up from the Manila Airport, management changed the door knobs and keys so my mom's sisters couldn't gain access to it. The interesting thing is, mom had informed them they would be gone for a few days as they were picking us up and had plans to bring us to stay with them-they were told it was okay, yet while they were gone, they showed otherwise.
So a wrinkle was thrown into our plans as we neared Laguna without a place to stay. Enroute, my mother was busy making phone calls to family members who could help-one of them is Lezil, who is actually an agent, and she found a nearly new unit (remodeled). Once we go there, we found a single bedroom apartment, perfect for my folks, but not so great for everyone, it was a tight fit. *I hope to show some pictures of the living arrangements later.
The only issue with the apartment was that there was no air-conditioning and that became a problem for Noah. He wouldn't nap, wouldn't eat, and became quite irritable-we have since found a hotel with air-conditioning and all is well as his appetite has returned and he slept very well last night.
A couple of things I'd like to share in addition to the update (nutshell) above:
Here in the Philippines KFC, Burger King, and McDonald's all deliver meals-what would that look like in America? We already knew most pizza joints delivered, but we're talking fast food here. It's truly interesting and they also offer different items not found in the United States-for example: chicken and rice (native meal) along with other variations. You also get rice with your meals at all the above mentioned.
Air-conditioned vehicles are something you pay a premium for. One of the modes of transportation is a jeepney jeep but that leaves you open to elements, exhaust, and on a hot day...the heat. In Manila, most vehicles for hire are taxis that advertise, painted on their vehicle, whether they have "air con". Now, in Laguna, there aren't many taxis at all, but there are a lot of motorcycles with side carts and jeepney jeeps.
A final note, Holly and I are constantly amazed at the fact that there aren't more accidents. While there are lines drawn on the roads and lights to govern traffic, they are merely guidelines and rendered useless as all drivers, public or personal drive as they wish-especially those who haver personal motorcycles (they weave in and out of traffic and in between vehicles).
So we ask for continued prayers as venture out more and more with family to see some places and do some shopping. Thanks again for all your support.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


The Nutshell: We arrived at the Manila Airport among chaos and confusion. The lines were long through customs for both visitors and natives (Filipinos and non-Filippinos). We had a 2 year old with us and he was champ throughout the process-flying and customs. He was tired and hot, but he didn't complain much at all. All of us were tired but we managed to survive the worst of it. 
Once we got our bags we spent a while trying to locate my folks. Turns out, we were on two different levels-the confusion got sorted out and we went down the ramp and found them through the crowds. There were hugs and tears in the reunion and thankfully, they had brought some help from the hotel and they helped load up the van. The welcomed relief actually came once we got into the vehicle though-as it had air conditioning. In the short time we were outside we had already broken a sweat-as it was over 90 degrees plus humidity (we had four large and heavy bags along with smaller bags and two backpacks). Once we got to the hotel, we had some munchies, chatted some, and then we all went to bed. We all slept in and then enjoyed a late breakfast (10:30am). Our first day here we went to the Mall of Asia-it is huge! We did some shopping-we purchased a transformer (to convert their 220-240 to 110 for our equipment-cellphones, laptop, camera, and leap pad). Once we got back, I decided to read the plugs and found out that we have dual voltage chargers-that can handle 110-240. So I felt silly, but soon realized that Noah's leap pad isn't able to be charged on anything over 110. So all is not lost as we still have a need for it. 
Finally, we are grateful for everyone who helped get us there-through donations, thoughts, and prayers. On behalf of my parents and my family...thank you all! So far in our reunion we have had conversations about the future and my parents have a couple of options. We hope to help them solidify their decision/next step in the coming days. We were also made aware that many people are stuck here in Manila with no way to get home-as they don't have any money to return home (whether it be Cebu, Tacloban, Samar, or Guiian). Some of those folks are actually family members and we're currently trying to  figure out and coordinate how to get them back home to rebuild (many of them are here as they took safety to escape the destruction). 
There is still a lot of work to be done here-everywhere you go, there are folks asking for money (some on behalf of organizations like the Red Cross and others as individuals). Continue to pray for the people of the Philippines as they have a long road ahead of them-some more than others, especially those who aren't from Manila or any of it's suburbs. 

Friday, December 6, 2013


I won't lie...I am frustrated. The passports we had hoped would be here on Wednesday or Thursday haven't come. I plan to make a phone call to the passport agency to ask, again, what the hold up is. Last we knew it was court documents-official documents to be specific and now that those have been sent, priority mail, to the passport agency...we haven't heard boo. Which begs the question-why did we pay the extra money to expedite our passports when we wouldn't really receive any benefit from it? 
I know the postal service has had issues, particularly in smaller, more rural areas, for whatever reason and I'm sure the nasty weather hasn't helped any, but I can't shake this ugly feeling that I'm not going to like what I hear tomorrow when I call or like what I see when I check the mail. As time passes, ticket prices jump and our chances of returning on Christmas gets slimmer and slimmer. 
As we wait and send our prayers to God, we ask that you continue to join us in prayer-prayers of strength, sanity, and patience. Thank you to everyone who has prayed and continues to pray, not just for safe travels, or for my family, but for prayers for the people of the Philippines who lost more than a home. There will be those who will be celebrating Christmas without family members this year, another painful reminder of loss and of perspective. I often hear it called "first world problems" and I think it's time that we refocus our sights on that which we are blessed with-healthy, family, and a roof over our heads-especially in light of those who go without that and so much more on a day to day and abroad. 
I am anxious to see my parents and reunite with family abroad and my hope is that as we gather, you might gather with those you hold dear and remember what's important this Christmas-the love of family and the love of God in Christ. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


We are making one last push and plea for your support as we seem to have come to a crossroad. Currently, we have raised nearly $5,000 but the cost of our plane tickets alone will cost upwards of $6,000 and that doesn't include the cost of hotel, food, and other travel expenses while we're there. It is with a heavy heart that I write this in that it seems as though we may have to postpone our reunion until we raise enough funds. To be clear this isn't just about sending Holly, Noah, and I to the Philippines for a reunion it's about bringing some relief too. We have already sent over $1,000-which has hurt our efforts to purchase plane tickets, but considering the needs over there, at the time, it was the right choice.
Currently, Holly and I are planning to use our savings to make up for the ticket prices but aren't confident about what will be left to cover bills while we are gone. So we are asking for prayers that God will provide and that folks might come through-especially those who might be considering it or maybe haven't heard.
As an update on my folks, they are doing well considering and my mom has heard from all of her siblings! Now we turn our attention to the rest of the family and the people of the Philippines. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers-it has been a stressful time for us, both emotionally, professionally, and spiritually.
Finally, please know that we are grateful for everyone who has already given and for those who have gone above and beyond and continue to contribute as they are able. We give thanks for those who have and continue to raise awareness by sharing our story and our request for funds. We are blessed and appreciate all your efforts.
If you know someone who might be willing please share the link below. And if you haven't already donated prayerfully consider it. Simply click:

Saturday, November 30, 2013


While I know that we aren't the only ones in America, let alone South Dakota that have family and friends in the Philippines. I thought I would share some links to articles that have been shared or posted in regards to my family. You will find a link from the Dakotas United Methodist Conference, Sioux Falls Seminary, and the Argus Leader-the Sioux Falls Newspaper.
I am grateful for the coverage and awareness. And while I would selfishly want folks to support my efforts concerning my family, I know that I am not the only one with family who have lost everything. Please know that any money that is sent goes directly towards sending my family (myself, Holly, and Noah) to the Philippines and that anything else above and beyond goes directly to my extended family-parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Simply click on the pictures below to be taken to the articles. Again, thank you for your support, your thoughts, and prayers. 


I have some good news! Wednesday, later afternoon, before we left for Iowa for Thanksgiving we made a stop to the Post Office to check our mail. In our mailbox was a large white document sized envelope from Lancaster County, Lincoln, NE. Upon opening the envelope we found our official documents. The sad part though is that we weren't able to send them overnight in Mitchell as we were passing through because of how late it was.
It was Friday morning that I sent those documents overnight to the Passport Agency in Minneapolis. I had to wake up early and drive to Fort Dodge, IA. While the cost was $20 I have hopes that our passports will be in our hands sometime December 5th or December 6th. Which means our goal is to depart December 7th for Minneapolis and leave early Sunday morning, December 8th, for the Philippines.
We have yet to purchase the tickets as we don't have them in our hands and that is currently our debate. While we know things can happen, as they have so far, we aren't convinced we should buy those international tickets just yet. The bad thing on the waiting though, is that ticket prices go up the longer we wait.
Friends, we pray for speedy action on behalf of the Passport Agency and the Postal Services as we anxiously await our passports and look forward to purchasing tickets and getting on our way! Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers.
We plan to keep you updated while we're in the Philippines and ask that you check the blog at least once a day as I hope to share pictures of my folks and the family members with us. Thanks again for your support.

In closing, thank you all for your support and prayers. We have been able to send over $1,000 to help family members with clothing, food, and shelter. You can still help by clicking on the picture of the passports. It will take you to a PayPal page.
*There is no need to create an account. Towards the middle of the page, there is a blue link called "continue".
If you would like to send a check, make it out to Jeff Lathrop and in the memo write: Lathrop Family Relief Fund. Send it to PO Box 6, Plankinton, SD 57368

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Just a short update:
Today I went and checked the mail at the post office in the hopes that our certified paperwork might be in our mailbox and that I could then send those documents onto the passport agency in Minneapolis, MN...but it wasn't meant to be. The sad part is that it looks as though we will be returning home, to Plankinton, SD instead of leaving Nov. 30th or Dec. 1st as we had hoped. 
I realize that not all goes as we plan sometimes but I can honestly say I was a bit sad when I left the post office today. It's the recognition that this will take even longer and that it pushes us into another holiday and may require me to do some coordinating from the Philippines. While the Christmas Eve candle-light service is one of my favorites each year, I know that family is more important. 
So as we agonize over our passport delay, we ask for prayers, not just for us and our family, but for the people of the Philippines who might not be celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas with their loved ones. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013


At this point my folks are now in an apartment. They were able to find some temporary housing just outside of Manila and have signed a six month agreement. While we would very much like them to come back to the United States, we know that this is a tough time for the family as not everyone has been found/heard from.
At this point, we have heard from half a dozen cousins, two of mom's siblings, and unconfirmed safety reports via other family members. I can only imagine the not knowing at this point. I know I look forward to seeing my parents but I also know that we won't be able to celebrate our reunion with many others in our family. My hope is that while we wait for official certified documentation from various counties here in the US for our passports, that more and more family members will emerge. It would be a blessing and a true miracle if they were all confirmed alive and well prior to our arrival.
Holly and I are currently waiting on paperwork, as mentioned-certified documentation. Our goal is to leave sometime in the first week of December and stay for a minimum of 15 days. At this point, from the research, flights currently have a 24-48 hour layover-either in the US or Japan. So we plan to budget those days in so that we have a good 15 days with my folks.
We also hope to bring our 2 year old son, Noah, with us on this journey as we no longer will be going to the various other parts of the Philippine Islands. Our plan is to stay in Manila where there is clean water, food, and a place to stay. This is not only doctor's orders but a logical choice in minimizing our exposure to the hardships still very real in those parts hardest hit.
In closing, thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. We have already sent over $1,000 to help my family, many of whom can't afford housing and are living with my folks and are in need of food and clothing. You can still help by clicking THE LATHROP FAMILY RELIEF FUND.
*There is no need to create an account. Towards the middle of the Paypal page click the "continue" link to donate with either debit or credit card.

If you would like to send a check make it out to Jeff Lathrop and in the memo write: Lathrop Family Relief Fund. Send it to PO Box 6, Plankinton, SD 57368

Monday, November 11, 2013


Thank you so much for your support. It has been an emotional rollercoaster to say the least. Know that my parents are grateful for the support and prayers. God has answered those prayers, but our work isn't done. We now turn our focus to other family members. My mom is 1 of 12 siblings and there still family members unaccounted for.
This past Sunday, Pastor Roy Caudill, District Superintendent of the Dakotas United Methodist Conference challenged the congregation of Plankinton to help send Holly and I to the Philippines. The support has been overwhelming and we are blessed. But in addition to funds to help us go, there have been questions on how to help fund my family abroad as they try to rebuild.
In response to those questions we have created a paypal account. The donations will not only help us go to the Philippines but help my family rebuild in the midst of such disaster and loss.
Again, thank you all for your support.

Simply CLICK the "Lathrop Family Relief Fund" link below and follow the instructions or send it to PO BOX 6, Plankinton, SD 57368

Lathrop Family Relief Fund

Monday, June 24, 2013


Friends, I plan to be brief as many of you know that I haven't been feeling the greatest...
Today we had three work sites and each one of them revealed God in some way to the youth-per our small group discussions the youth shared that they saw God today in how everyone was helping out each other and that when people said "thank you" to them it made them feel good. 
Tonight at campfire was an Earth-shaking, tear inducing, life transforming experience as we opened it up to the youth to share after we (Chris, Tyler, and I) finished sharing about tonight's theme and calling. The scripture we used was from Isaiah 28:16: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken.”
Continue to pray for these youth as the week goes on and that they remain open to God's convicting Spirits. And a big thank you to those who have been thinking and praying for these youth. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Today was a mixed day for the youth as an accident shook them to their very cores. While the youth were busy working on their sites (four different ones) the rest of the world was still in motion, as it should be, and lives were changed (in more ways that one). 
Without going into detail, three youth group members (back in SD) were involved in an accident which ended with one in the hospital fighting for his life. While it's never easy to get a phone call with that kind of news, I knew it was time to pull our crew from their sites to break the news. After I had finished sharing the sad news tears, gasps, and moans filled the room as shock took over. 
One might think that this would mark the end to our mission trip, but as you can see, the youth galvanized under a Spirit of Hope that only God could provide. In the midst of their pain, their brokenness, and the uncertainty, they found strength in each other. What's even more uplifting is that they were supported by the other youth group members too. They came down to support them with their presence and prayers. 
I am proud of this group. The youth leaders and I, from Plank and from Nebraska are all proud of this group as they have now become one. Yeah, we arrived in different vehicles (bus or vans) and started from different parts of the Midwest (Plank, Omaha, & Lincoln), but we have unified as the church in the Hope found in God's awesome promises through Christ. 
Friends, continue to pray for these youth along with the youth (and their families) who were involved in the accident earlier today. Pray for healing, pray for strength, and pray for patience in the midst of that which seems so uncertain. And most of all pray for hope for this kind of hope is not merely wishful thinking but a HOPE of certainty-that we can be His hands and feet. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Since I was unable to participate in the mission work today, I will simply add some pictures and some words from Tyler Foster, who is the other youth leader among us. 

Youth Trip Update:We spent today at Wind River Ranch working on multiple projects. Most projects involved clearing brush and downed trees to mitigate forest fires. Smokey the Bear would be proud.
Here is a picture of us all getting ready for camp fire. Chris and I are giving some important information concerning tomorrow and how important it is to communicate among roommates concerning keys.
Tonight we talked about not going to church anymore. We challenged the youth to no longer go to church but to be the church. We explained that "church" is not a location for Sundays at a given time and that worship should be in what we say and do for Christ. 
In our closing, we told them to be the church in all that they say and do. We used scripture from both Matthew 16:18 and I Peter 2:5
Continue to pray for these young people as they continue to wrestle with the idea of letting Christ be their foundation-in their relationships, hope, and confidence. 

Friday, June 21, 2013


Last night I was unable to sleep and ended up tossing in the bed from 11pm to 12:15am. I couldn't breathe and it turns out that I have strep and because I still have my tonsils it was worse-it was painful to speak and to swallow. As you may or may not know, I drove myself to the hospital in Estes Park, much to the disbelief of my youth leaders and the youth leaders in general. I ended up staying there until 3:30am with an IV stuck in my arm and was pumped with nearly 3 bags of fluids, given a numbing agent in order to swallow pills-Amoxicillin, Tylenol, and Ibprophen. The end result was hydration and a recharge! Yeah, it was 3:30am, but it didn't feel like it.
Once I got back, I laid down and passed out like a little baby. I did wake up at 5:25am in order to let the boys out for a run, but I went back to sleep. The nuts and bolts has been hydrate, rest, and reflect. As I give thanks for the wonderful doctors and nurses at Estes I give thanks to those who prayed and the Great I Am for all that he has provided. I am sitting at a laptop with no harsh or sore throat. While I feel great, I'm still contagious for another 12 hours. So while I do my best to stay away from close contact with the youth and the youth leaders, I am busy combing the scriptures for God's nudge and Spirit to lead me (not just for tonight's campfire, but for the rest of the week).
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I told God that if it was His will that I be laid aside and unable to speak then I was good with that. Yeah, on the inside I was bummed, as I usually feel it is my duty to step up, but I meant it as I truly feel that it isn't about me, it's about God's plan for this trip-the youth and the youth leaders. But today as we continue with our main scripture verse: Acts 4:11, we move onto a different phase for the week, a different focus: "Jesus is..."
And it got me thinking, there are a lot of ways a person could run with that. Yeah, we could all go with the Sunday School-cookie-cutter-answers and directions, but there's a depth here that could be explored...and for many, perhaps it should be explored. While the youth are unable to read this, I challenge you to re-read the scripture and ask yourself "Who Jesus is..." in your life. Is Jesus your sustainer and provider, the one you turn to in prayer and give thanks to or is he just a convenient reference on Sundays or a conversation that seems to be too deep?
If we're honest we all struggle with keeping a close relationship with Jesus. It isn't enough to merely say I'm a Christian or to do some good things, but to really be passionate about what He can do in and through you and I as His hands and feet in the world. Jesus is...usually right, we need to let go of the stuff or the trash in our lives that we let get in the way of His work in us.
Enjoy the video below called "Trash" and see if you can't relate to this as there is a difference between calling yourself a Christian and really letting Jesus in and having a close relationship.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Good News! We have safely arrived to Estes Park. I know not everyone has Facebook, but it's now safe to say that all is well. We have a few that were a bit dehydrated, but are on the mend. Right now the youth are getting read for bed. The first thing we did was eat and then we unpacked our bus (or van) and dumped our stuff in the rooms we were assigned. Many of the youth were surprised to find out that we have mixed the groups-intermixed to be technical. The room assignments and small groups were arranged with the idea of disruption-helping them to bond with their new bunk mates and small group team. Even our youth leaders are leading youth not from their church. So far it has been a slow start but there has been progress. Today the guys shared about what superpower they wish they had and why during our introductions...some of them came up with some pretty good powers and their reasons why. I cannot vouch for the girls at this point as the girls and some of the female youth leaders just went on a walk. Tonight at campfire we shared the overall theme verse for this week: Acts 4:11; which says, "Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’" And we opened up with a discussion on the importance of foundations-which led to more conversations that we hope will give way to more spirit-filled stories of change. Friends, continue to pray for the youth as they open themselves up to God's call upon their lives. I also have a personal prayer for myself, I'm in need of healing. My voice needs to return. I have a bit of a sore throat and I worry that it may hinder my participation-however, I am open, as I prayed it tonight, that perhaps I am not to speak this week, but merely be and open to the possibility that God can use others to impact these great group of kids. Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers! Here are a couple of songs you can look up as they are songs we have been and will continue to sing at campfire.