NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2020
Hello again dear readers
Our work is continuing in the Philippines and the Pacific Islands despite coronavirus. I have been very encouraged by the way our pastors have been working so diligently and wholeheartedly, and how our teachers have also been tirelessly travelling to proclaim the good news of Jesus in remote tribal areas.
Hosea has received special permission from the education authorities to restart our Mindoro Island schools, despite the fact that state schools and even other private schools are not allowed to open their doors until next year. I believe it is Hosea's charitable work on the island that has made this possible. Of course the authorities are closely monitoring our schools’ operations but they recognise that online teaching is not feasible with slum children. Their families do not have the technology to enable the children to follow distance learning, as very often they do not even have electricity in their homes. The poorest of the poor cannot afford IT equipment as often they are lacking money for even food. We have been regularly distributing food to slum families in the areas of our schools since February and that has been a key factor in their survival: when there is no work, there is no income and therefore no way of buying food.
Feeding the tribe people
There is great excitement amongst our new pupils as they join classes for the first time. Our teachers too have been very relieved that they no longer have to prepare paper-based worksheets for pupils, then hand-deliver them to slum homes, and follow up with collection, marking and checking. Postal distribution has not been practical so the teachers have had to walk around the slum city trying to find the homes of their students. But in tribal areas our teachers have to continue distributing teaching material on paper from hut to hut, and in Manila our slum school is still in quarantine so the same system has to be followed.
Mindoro island has no coronavirus cases whatsoever at the moment - thank you for your prayers! This is really an amazing victory given the size of the island and the number of people there!
Our teachers have been enthusiastically undertaking evangelistic trips in remote parts of the island to previously unreached tribespeople. This has involved them in challenging four hour hikes through thick undergrowth to the mountains, come rain or shine. Even river crossings and mud have not prevented them from getting through. Not easy when these intrepid teachers are heavily loaded down with food, bulk cooking equipment, drinking water, clothing donations and other provisions.
Corona distance teaching
We have been given a piece of land for use in our Mangyan ministry and it has been named ‘Hope Village’. At present it isn't a real village as it is just bare land with no real buildings but our purpose is to construct a simple bamboo church. Our work is progressing speedily in Hope Village and although no tribespeople dwelled on the land at first, now fifty families have constructed simple huts and live there. In just the past week another tribe has moved into the village, as they had heard that something really strange was happening on the mountain. They had never encountered the good news of Jesus before. Pastor Sonio has worked hard to explain the gospel message to this tribe in very basic steps and simple language, just as you would explain to children. The message was received warmly and as a result there are several new citizens of heaven there!
We seek to care for these tribespeople in several different ways, including cooking and distribution of food and provision of clothing. Many local townspeople outside the church have been so impressed by what we are doing that they have volunteered their time to help. This is the key that the Lord gave us at the beginning of our ministry and that we have diligently followed: we go to those who have nothing, we provide for their material needs, we preach the gospel and we teach the children. Because of such work we have received official permission to continue the outreach around the island, in spite of the fact that quarantine is still in force.
Our Village of Hope
As soon as the lockdown is lifted we are planning to travel to a very remote area of Mindoro Island where there is a school with 300 tribal pupils, far away from any roads and towns. We will start off from San Jose and then have to walk 10 km through the jungle to reach the school. It was founded by the state some time ago but then left with no ongoing support. The teachers have received no teaching materials or equipment whatsoever from the state and in spite of many requests for help, no answer has been received. Pupils study under a very basic bamboo roof to shade them from the sun, and the teaching staff are really despairing. One of our Hosea teachers, who had met a teacher from this school, is very keen for us to help. Indeed my heart goes out to these poor children. The school is still under quarantine but we have already collected finance for the purchase of teaching materials and we are ready to to bring these to the school as soon as we are allowed.
A big thank you to everyone who has financially supported us -- with your help our work has continued and grown amongst the slum children. We really appreciate your participation with us.
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,