NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2017
Hello dear readers, I am writing with some more news for you
It has been a colourful September, to say the least - I don’t know how else to describe it! Amongst the blessings, I am thankful that our students did well in a recent inter-school competition, where once again our Mamburao school students were victorious. We have been overwhelming winners every year, which says a lot about the school’s quality of education, and we give the biggest thanks to our heavenly Father.
Now onto sadder news. The Sablayan Hosea school has experienced one catastrophe after another. An old Finnish expression says, “Not two without a third”. But we stopped counting after three. The Sablayan school is halfway up the map of Mindoro Island. Who knows why, but now this town has been struck by disaster. Always earlier it has been protected as if it was hidden inside our heavenly Father’s arms: typhoons have not struck it, the surrounding islands have protected it from storms which were approaching from the sea and the mountains have sheltered it from typhoons from the Chinese Sea. Even when the island suffered from terrorism, Sablayan was mostly safe and lost only a few buildings while the fighting continued around and about the area. The main goal of the terrorists was to conquer and control Mamburao city, which is the governing area of the whole island.
|Building gathering area roof progress
The first catastrophe came when torrential rains fell on Sablayan city like a waterfall, almost as if all the island’s water resources would have been thrown upon the city in one fell swoop. This resulted in a tremendous flood. Our school is down at street level so the water quickly came in, and rose to about a meter deep covering everything in the classrooms. Our teacher Jane who lives in a small room on the premises lost all her possessions. All the teaching materials were destroyed, including the new school books as well as the student records. The supplies of rice that were meant for the children’s parents were also spoiled: flood waters are by no means clean - they contains washed up mud from the roads, garbage and other junk. The cities do not always have decent waste disposal systems so rubbish is often just thrown by the roadsides and later when the piles get too big, they are disposed of by burning. But the floods brought the garbage inside the buildings.
|Reading material damaged by floods
I was saddened by the loss of school books, teachers were mourning over the destroyed teaching materials, and parents were distraught for the lost rice …. Then one of the students pointed at his soaked painting and said: “My drawing is ruined!”. That caused us to burst out laughing, realising how we look at situations in such different ways.
What else can you do after all of this, other than to start shovelling the mud and debris out and to try and wash the rooms clean again? Unfortunately it was not that simple because just when the smelly waters were receding, another disaster fell. On 23rd September an earthquake hit the area, split the floor and did even more damage to the building. We thought the situation could not get any worse than that -- but it did! Mosquito swarms started infesting the buildings, and these were not ordinary small European mosquitoes, but big ones which carry dengue fever and other tropical diseases with them.
|The floor after the earthquake
||Cleaning up after the flood at the school
I thought that now we were now only lacking a plague of locusts! Well they didn't appear but rats and their friends came instead and found their way into the houses, along with plenty of other crawling or jumping creatures, and even snakes. That alone was enough to cause hysteria among everyone. We thought that the snakes were the last straw, but still more problems were coming.
The moisture caused mould, and our teacher Jane got sick, as she suffers from asthma. Whether the biggest problem is stress, flu, asthma or even allergy, this young teacher who is usually really efficient in everything, certainly needs our prayers now. Our second teacher May also needs our prayer support and encouragement, and so do all those who volunteered in scooping out the flood debris and washing the floors and walls.
Of course we are not the only ones, who have been hit by these disasters. As I said, the whole town got its share, as well as the nearby countryside, and the flood and earthquake also damaged the main road which goes through the entire island. We have been searching for a new location for the school but haven’t found a suitable one yet. The space we have now is starting to become too small with 123 students. Would you please join in praying with me for new premises? That would be really great. In the meantime we will have to renovate the schoolrooms back to decent conditions and we will have to build new tables, buy a new blackboard and school books, together with other materials and countless other things too.
A big thank you to my Facebook friends, who have donated for this purpose! With your help we can at least purchase the essentials for this new beginning. The children have been so grateful and kept thanking God for your generosity.
These natural disasters have brought back to my mind a vision I had some years ago. I saw a big cliff on a mountainside, with many people standing up there. Everyone in this vision was holding onto something valuable. One had a crystal chandelier in their lap, another had a photo album, one man was leaning against his car. Everyone had something that they were treasuring as most valuable to them. Suddenly there was a sound like a thunder and the mountain began to shake and split. A mudslide came and people began to fall and roll down the mountain slope. The earth swallowed their possessions. The man who had lost his car tried to dig up the wreck. Everyone was in a panic wondering where their jewels and possessions had gone. They didn’t even notice that some people were just sliding under the mud. The survivors were only interested in their possessions even though some of them were worthless junk. I have often wondered about this vision. Perhaps we are living in times where people only look after their own good. There are two bible verses that come to mind: “Earthly possessions do not bring happiness” ( Prov 20:21) and “God’s own have their treasure in heaven, but those into earthly things have nothing.” ( Prov 15:6)
Over the past month my patience has been tested. Happily, I have still found some humour even though I thought I had none left. I have also marvelled at the patience that my Filipino colleagues have demonstrated as they yet again have started afresh, rather like ants whose home was destroyed. I have come to the conclusion that no matter what disaster comes to this world these people will always press on just as before.
Possibly the forces of darkness have tried to target Hosea because it is bringing many souls to Christ. People have come to faith in entire family groups. Our Hosea students have been successful in all our schools. Our efforts with people from tribal groups have been successful and are growing. And our Motel / Learning Centre is coming together piece by piece despite our limited money. Our work has gone forward in faith. Despite a few sleepless nights, some headaches and sore knees, we will not give up..
|Water baptism event
||Prayers and Blessing for a family that has become Christians
I do not want to forget our Tongan school either. Our head teacher Dorothy has always had to come up with fresh and creative fundraising ideas to help with the school's finances so it can get by. In the previous newsletter I mentioned the cruise ships that stop by and how our pupils perform national dances for the tourists. That is how we have got some income. Once however, the children were not able to do the performance because there was a severe outbreak of influenza on the island and several of our students came down with it. When the next cruise ship arrives in Tonga, we will give it another try as now our students are healthy again.
Dorothy had another idea to arrange a culture day at the school. Altogether 65 New Zealand sailors came to watch the programme performed by our students all clothed in their national dress. The programme included Tongan national dances and songs that the students had been practising. In Vava’u the town held a regatta week and the Hosea school was invited to take part in this event. Not only did our school participate but we were also allowed to prepare and serve a buffet lunch to the sailors. Dorothy’s husband is a professional cook at a hotel, so the lunch was easy for him to prepare. We believe that God will use even this to open new doors and sources of revenue for the school. We have not asked for any money from the visitors for the performance but they have taken the initiative and passed around a hat and collected donations for the school. This is how the school has been a blessing to others but has also been blessed by the gifts.
With my love and blessings,
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,