HOSEA NEWSLETTER MAY 2023
Greetings from the mission field!
Our outreach in prisons is enjoying great success: a total of 291 convicts in three different prisons have come to faith. Conditions in these jails are really miserable with tiny cramped cells. The prison colony in the mountains is particularly bad, where the inmates suffer from the cold through lack of blankets, footwear and warm clothing. There is even not enough food for them. In addition many prisoners are incarcerated in locations long distances away from their homes, friends and family. And in the Philippines a life sentence means literally that -- one's whole life. I am not allowed to publish any photos of our prison outreach, but we are so grateful that God was moving in power to heal several of the prisoners we visited.
Our work in these men's prisons was led by Nathan who was accompanied by Ole who had been commissioned by his church back in Norway to be trained within Hosea's mission. I was understandably concerned about young Ole because of the dangers surrounding our mission work, with the ongoing conflict between the military and NPA terrorists. Given the threats that we had personally encountered I was reluctant for a new young entrant to join us.
Children are praying
I cannot reveal all the details but let me describe a particular incident when the Hosea team was preparing to visit a dangerous area, to illustrate the situation. It was the team's second visit to that area, having previously provided food supplies and carried out gospel outreach there. Ladies from our church had prepared the food to be delivered but the military transport that was due to take the team and material failed to arrive. We didn't manage to contact either the military drivers or the people whom we were due to visit, so a big delay ensued. Thankfully one of our congregation lent us a car to use, so the team crammed into the vehicle and were about to set off when suddenly Pastor Sonio spoke up. He felt that there should be a radical change of plan: rather than the original destination he said that we should travel to a different place in a totally new area!
This caused quite some consternation amongst the rest of the team since agreements had already been made with the people at the original location. But the pastor said that he had remembered that government agencies had visited the original place a few days earlier to deliver plastic sandals to the people there, so they had already received some recent help, in contrast to the new destination where locals had got no such support. So the delivery of plastic sandals seemed to have confounded our outreach!
But Pastor Sonio's mind was made up and the radical alteration of itinerary was agreed. The visit turned out to be a great success with the gospel being preached effectively. On the return journey communication with both the military and the original destination was mysteriously re-established. We were told that the last minute change of plan had actually saved the lives of all our outreach team. Terrorists had planned to ambush the military vehicle that would have transported them and the supplies. Local people there received intelligence of this planned attack and warned the military but no such message came through to our team. The NPA plan was for one of their number to dress as a Catholic nun under whose robe would be hidden weapons and whose presence in the area should not have aroused any suspicion. Thankfully the alertness of the local people foiled this plan, as they were surprised by the unusual arrival of a 'nun' in their area. And by God's grace we were warned through Pastor Sonio's last minute change of itinerary.
This reversal combined with the sudden loss of communication with the military and the original locality certainly doesn't feel like a coincidence any more! The Lord used the memory of a delivery of plastic sandals that came back to the pastor's mind and the absence of the military transport to protect our team. As we reflect on this and similar situations we are reminded of the importance of seeking the Lord's guidance and listening to even the smallest hints from the Holy Spirit.
Thank you again for your prayer support. A particular answer to prayer has been the restoration of a reliable electricity supply to Mindoro Island after the inhabitants had suffered electricity blackouts for a half a year until President Marcos intervened and brought a solution. "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways"
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,