Hosea Newsletter August 2021
Mindoro island in the Philippines has again suffered catastrophic natural events at the same time as covid-19 quarantines. A typhoon was followed by flooding, and then came an earthquake of 6.7 magnitude which caused substantial damage. Thankfully the floods at our slum school in Aroma village only just washed the floors.
Such catastrophes together with lockdown restrictions bring food shortages. Being unable to work in lockdown, people cannot afford to buy food. Hosea has been delivering food to the poorest areas but now limitations on travel and other lockdown measures made this impossible: we could not bring food to the needy areas and the needy people could not travel to us. Such situations bring us to our knees in prayer.
Tribe of Hope got food
Prayers were answered in a wonderful way - the police department informed us that they were coming to help distribute food supplies. So the distribution was carried out very quickly and other government officials had no cause for complaints. Members of the police force even came to the school to help pack the food and this meant that everything was done swiftly and efficiently. It was also very good publicity for the police in these poor areas where previously they had only been seen as law enforcers.
Army and police force help
After the next catastrophe we received even more help, this time from twenty members of the military together with three transport vehicles. These soldiers really knew how to organise things! We also went to several other villages that were lacking food, and we had no fear for our safety, being accompanied by several heavily armed soldiers. We were very grateful for such help from the military.
In our Mamburao church congregation there are several members of the police and the army. Pastor Sonio and Pastor Billy Balsamo continue to run weekly Bible studies with these members that President Duterte ordered to take place. The President stated that the best way of rooting out corruption from these official forces was cleaning from the inside with the help of the Bible.
Landslides prevented us from reaching the mountain tribes for a whole week, but when the rain stopped the Hosea team commenced the arduous journey with plenty of food supplies. Several tribespeople were already waiting for our rescue team in the valley at the foot of their mountain,together with their children whom they had carried down. They told the team that they had not eaten for a week because of the dreadful weather conditions that prevented them from finding food. The children were so hungry and exhausted that they could not speak. So our team served food to these people in the valley and then accompanied them up the mountain with supplies for the rest of their village. Another successful mission!
Mangya tribe got their food
Dorothy, the headteacher of our school in Tonga, told us that it has been a very challenging year there. Most of the people on the islands get their livelihood from tourism, particularly through visitors from the large cruise ships which dock in Vava'u. But of course cruises have been severely restricted during the covid-19 crisis, and Tonga itself has been cut off from the rest of the world during lockdown. Businesses on the island have been told that they will not be able to operate again until the year 2023.
But we also have some good news. The Hosea school has been able to be a blessing in many ways. Every year the school receives an intake of older students from state schools who have learning difficulties. For example this year we welcomed a 16-year old student who was unable to progress to high school classes within the state system in spite of trying hard to do so. And with our school’s support he was able to improve so much that he was able to start high school. And there are several other similar success stories.
Of course every child is unique and many children require tuition to be tailored specifically to their individual needs, in order to progress to higher levels within the educational system. In spite of all the economic challenges the people of Tonga are very pleased that there is no coronavirus on the islands.
Our Hosea school staff send their heartfelt thanks and blessings to everyone who has made the ministry possible. We were particularly encouraged by a message of thanks from a member of the military who said how grateful he was to be able to play a part in our work. The past couple of years have been full of challenges but the gospel has made progress in spite of them. Soon we'll be holding more baptisms for those who have recently come to faith. A big thank you to all of you who have been praying for our ministry. Please keep praying because the typhoon season isn't over yet.
I was amused to hear the response of some of the local people to the calamitous events that they face: "Terrorists, viruses, volcanic ash, landslides, typhoons, floods, earthquakes and lack of food are just annual unwanted visitors that we are able to evict now and again"!
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ Matthew. 9:37-38
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,