From the Philippines to Philippi, 'God is good to us'

Story by John Iwasaki / Photos by Jim Mendenhall/Genesis

The difference between the Philippines and Philippi seems much more than a few letters, but Nancy Rubinoff sees a clear link.

Nancy and Scott Rubinoff stand on the deck built by a mission team at their home in Philippi, West Virginia. Below them are sons Andrei (left) and Sam.

Nancy and Scott Rubinoff stand on the deck built by a mission team at their home in Philippi, West Virginia. Below them are sons Andrei (left) and Sam.

One is her birthplace, a country where she grew up with little and where even finishing high school was uncertain. The other is a town in West Virginia where she is raising a family and sensing God's presence in her life.

World Vision, Nancy says, has played a key role on both sides of the globe.

As a child in the island province of Cebu, she remembers World Vision helping to provide school uniforms, shoes, and classroom supplies that her parents couldn't afford. Her father worked as a carpenter; her mother's hand were raw from washing the neighbors' clothes.

As a wife and mom in an Appalachian town, Nancy witnessed a mission team organized by World Vision's U.S. Programs come to her home last summer to build a deck, landscape the front yard, and paint part of the exterior.

Perhaps more crucially, the volunteers gave Nancy and her New York-born husband, Scott, insights on how to become better parents to their two young sons: Sam, 9, and Andrei, 8.

"People you don't even know, and they're helping you," Nancy says about the mission team members, some of whom remain in touch with her family. "God is good to us."

Scott says he was encouraged by "the fellowship they gave me. [These are] people whose faith is so strong that they're willing to travel a long distance to help someone else—and once they start helping, they go beyond what the agreed job was, and spend their own vacation money on complete strangers."

Nancy Rubinoff says World Vision helped her both as a child in the Philippines and in her new life in Philippi.

Nancy Rubinoff says World Vision helped her both as a child in the Philippines and in her new life in Philippi.

Nancy and Scott met in the Philippines, where Scott fixed and sold computers. "There were times we didn't have money to buy food," he says. "There would always be a little job that would come up where I could make some money."

After Scott suffered a heart attack, the family moved to Philippi, where Scott has a sister, for his recovery. They live on a fixed income up the road from World Vision's Appalachian field site in Philippi.

Scott admits he has a bad temper and tends to "yell at my kids real loud." That drew the attention of several fathers in the mission team, one of whom took a particular interest in engaging with Scott on dealing with his frustrations in a more positive way.

"I'’m right in the trenches with you, brother," Chris Heaton, a father of five boys in Manassas, Virginia, told Scott. "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. We're all together in this as parents."

The moms, meanwhile, spoke with Nancy about parenting boys, covering such topics as setting clear expectations with enforceable consequences for disobedience.

"I told them to take a shower, and they're [still] playing," Nancy says. "I told them, 'I'll give you five minutes. If you're not in the shower, tomorrow you're punished.' It's working."

One of several couples who helped the Rubinoffs — Dan and Amy Barber of Perry, Michigan — say the mission experience changed their own lives as well.

Scott Rubinoff learned parenting tips from the men who worked on his home.

Scott Rubinoff learned parenting tips from the men who worked on his home.

In the past, she and her husband were "very selfish, very self-absorbed, very much into good times," Amy says. "Five years ago, I would have never seen us here. Every night, World Vision gave you a devotional to do. We're listening to our 9-year-old answer these questions with such depth and sensitivity, it was unreal.

"We came together as a family...We knew we were blessed being there."

The mission team — other participants included Chris Heaton's wife, Meghan, and Craig and Miranda Ashley of Louisville, Kentucky — spent their own money to buy the Rubinoffs chairs and a table for their new deck.

Sam and Andrei headed to Vacation Bible School that week, where other mission team members "taught us all about Jesus," Sam says. "Even though you're different, Jesus always loves you."

Andrei learned that "whenever someone's feeling bad, help them cheer up."

Nancy felt so grateful to those helping her, she spent more than half a day preparing a Filipino specialty — more than 50 chicken and pork skewers.

"She thrived cooking for us," Amy says. "We were humbled. It was so amazing."

Nancy says that in conversing with Amy and other moms, "I felt a peace about them, especially talking about God." It made her miss her childhood days in Cebu, when she went to church every Sunday and was part of a youth group.

"It kind of opened my heart and mind a little bit that I needed to go back to church," Nancy says. "God wants us to know that he's just there for us, every time."

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