NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2022
Greetings from Asia to you, dear friends!
Our mission in the Philippines continues to make progress far beyond what I could have imagined in the early days of our work. The new Hosea church in the Malpalo terrorist area is growing. When the church started the local people were scared and were suspicious that we would not remain there for long, as many others had not stayed and taken care of them. Once again children played a key part in the founding of the church, as they were drawn through natural curiosity to find out what was going on. Adults came along too and we found a pastor couple who were courageous and willing to work in the area. We also took care of children's basic needs so that no one was left hungry.
Malpalao new church group.
The cooperation with both military and police forces has brought me much joy as it has enabled us to preach in previously unevangelised areas. The weekly Bible studies for police staff are continuing. The police department chose the premises of our main school to host their training courses, and there are similar areas of cooperation with parts of the military. Pastor Billy is about to start Bible studies in the prison of Sablayan town so even this door has now opened to us. All of Hosea's ongoing building projects have now been completed, although of course there are always new challenges ahead on God's mission field.
New School Opened
The school building in Cabacunga for the tribespeople has now been opened. Children from the tribes have kept our teachers busy in several challenging ways, for example The children find it hard to grasp that they have to attend school on each and every weekday Similarly their timekeeping is very poor so school timetables are not adhered to. Most of the tribespeople and especially the children have little concept of time, so they may turn up at school at quite random hours of the day Every pupil needs to have a birth certificate and since none of them have such documents, these need to be applied for at the office of Philippines Statistics Authority. This enables them to be enrolled into the official school roll, guaranteeing them places in the educational system and our Hosea school. This should be straightforward enough…but the tribe usually doesn't know the date on which their children were born. Perhaps they will recall a child being born "at the time of the typhoon" or perhaps "when bananas were being harvested" or "during the rainy season". So trying to estimate the age in years of a wide range of children coming to the school is a real challenge, let alone fixing a precise birthdate. A creative imagination is quite an asset in such circumstances! Not only dates of birth for the children but even names have to be invented quite often. I am reminded of the task that Adam had in the garden of Eden of naming all the birds and beasts that God created! Our teachers on Hope Mountain had to teach the tribespeople the names of colors and so on but that was a much simpler problem.
Schools have officially started again with face-to-face teaching and the pupils are really enjoying being back in a normal environment after the restrictions of lockdown when they could not attend the school. No longer do our teachers have to walk from hut to hut to teach the children. Online teaching is of course impossible with the lack of electricity and IT equipment in the slums: a fact that seems to be ignored by the central education authorities. One good thing that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic is a greater interest in the gospel. Parents of the pupils have keenly attended the weekly Bible studies and these meetings are at full capacity. We see the same phenomenon in all of our Hosea schools and our churches too have seen many new converts.
New Hosea school
Hosea has gained an excellent reputation on the island as we have looked after those whom the state system missed. By God's grace we managed this almost impossible task and now we are reaping the harvest: people saw that our faith had practical outworkings and was not empty words. When I look back on the coronavirus years I am amazed to see how few infections afflicted the island. Medical support for those with the virus is extremely limited on the island because hospitals are very low on facilities and medication. Coronavirus has had very little inroads into our pupils, schoolteachers or congregations, and our church meetings have been allowed to continue normally. Ours was the only church allowed to remain open with no restrictions and we were permitted to continue to move around for both relief work and evangelism. As well as surviving the virus we have made it through floods, typhoons and earthquakes. We also suffered termite invasions and many other smaller nuisances too numerous to mention here -- life is certainly not boring!
Please remember to pray for us and also for the schools on Tonga Island. There they have had to endure seemingly impossible situations -- volcanic eruption, ashes, tsunami, coronavirus, swine flu, measles and now a mystery epidemic affecting many children. Also food shortages and lack of basic facilities. Hospitals are so short of medicine and equipment that they can offer no help to the sick, only basic painkillers. But schools remain open for those who are able to come. One of our teachers has cancer but the only available treatment is herbal mixtures and prayer.
We bless all our intercessors and everyone who supports us in various ways. Our school children and church congregations also pray for you all regularly, asking that you will be abundantly blessed in every way.
Mangyans had bravely formed a choir and even composed a song. We have now more than 40 adult students in the school, their ages varying from young to old. They told us that they were now able to vote for the first time in the elections. Earlier they had had to give their voting slip to others to fill in, without knowing what they wrote in them, because they could not read or write.
When the Mangyan students were singing their song, I was standing in the back of the church. Suddenly I noticed four small children hiding between benches. Our teacher said that they were our students, and she then went and asked why they were not among the other children. One of them explained with tears, that they were so hungry that they could not go to sing. I was so surprised to learn that they were already 6 year olds, even though they looked more like 2 year olds, skinny and bony small children. Nheng commented that this is due to malnutrition, which is the reason why all these tribespeople are so small: their continuous lack of food stunts their growth. We brought a 40 kg bag rice with us and also other foodstuff and fed them all after the meeting, thanks again to the donors! We made so much food that there was enough for evening meal as well.
Last spring Hosea organized a medical mission for the Mangyan tribe. We also left some medicines with the local Pastor, so the tribespeople could be given help later as well. The Pastor said that some Mangyans come even at night begging for help in their desperation. Also some people from other tribes turned up for medicine and were given some, for it is hard to turn desperate people away without help. Now we are in the process again of collecting funds for another medical mission, which should happen sometime next year.
While we were in the Mangyan village, I recognised that most of them were walking bare foot again. I wondered what had happened to all those sandals which had been donated for them a year earlier. The Pastor laughed and explained that the Mangyans have a peculiar walking style, they step heavily on their heels and that wears out the heels of the shoes very quickly. That means that they will need a new pair of sandals every year. One man had a good pair of sandals slung over his shoulders, so I went and asked him why he didn't use them. The man replied: “I don't want to use them as they would wear out. When they hang on my shoulders everyone can see that I have shoes.” So this man had still good shoes, while others had worn theirs out”¦ Now, who is the wise and where is the wisdom here?
We also distributed a bag full of clothes. Birgit and Ulla went to buy some more and as always the Mangyans put the new clothes on top of their old rags. They can't see any reason why the old clothes should be taken off, so they carry their whole wardrobe with them all the time. The same clothes are worn day and night and the extra clothing keeps them warm at night on the mountains. The price tags are also left on, so everyone can see they are new clothes.
Hosea's second fishing boat is now operating on the eastern side of Mindoro Island (Oriental Mindoro) where it is manned by our Mangyan pastor, thus serving the Mangyans also. There are more fish now on the Oriental side of the island because big Indonesian fishing trawlers have appeared close to the Occidental Mindoro shores (the western side of the island). Occidental Mindoro is facing the open ocean, so Indonesian factory ships come close to the shore and take in all fish, big and small, diminishing the fish population. Locals usually fish with spears, sparing spawning fish for reproduction. They understand the laws of the nature and know that spawn fish are needed to keep fish stocks -- you cannot empty the ocean of fish. Local small fishing boats can't drive away large foreign fishing vessels, so locals are deprived of their fishing livelihood.
The Hosea Filipino team want to send their heartfelt thanks to all the supporters and prayer warriors. They and also our students keep praying for you. They understand that it is because of you, your prayers and your donations, that they have this wonderful opportunity to get an education and thus a good start to their lives. It was really great to meet some of our very first students, the ones with whom we started this ministry in the Philippines. It was so wonderful to see the fruit of this work. Many parents are also saved as they attend our weekly Bible studies.
Great blessings from the islands,