NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2019
Greetings again from the Philippines, dear friends.
Just a few days ago I returned from a three-week mission trip to the Philippines and this time I was accompanied by Dr Markus Lastikka whose field of specialism is children's orthopaedic problems. My colleague Nathan Osnes, with whom regular readers of this newsletter will be familiar, was also on the trip. Markus was particularly keen on joining this medical mission in order to find out for himself the challenges of orthopaedic work in a developing country where available facilities are far fewer than in the west. In fact virtually all the equipment with which our western hospitals are equipped were totally lacking there. He was very keen on learning what bone illnesses and problems are common in such developing countries and therefore how an orthopaedic medical specialist can best be of help.
Because much of Hosea's work is with children, Markus was ideally suited to be a key member of our medical mission as children's orthopaedic issues are his speciality. Of course he was able to provide treatment to many adults as well. In addition to Markus and Nathan, we were accompanied by the pharmacist from Mamburao city hospital who has been on all our earlier medical missions and is therefore very familiar with the approach to take.
Dr. Markus Lastikka's appointment room
On his first visit to Mamburao School, Markus was given a special nickname by the children... When he entered the school hall full of our pupils, they stared at him in astonishment. Such a man over 191 cm tall! One of the boys spoke out in amazement, “Look! King David has come to visit us! The teacher explained that the children had been learning about King David's exploits from the Old Testament just before our arrival and this is why Markus’ appearance had sparked such an imaginative epithet!
For many of the patients this was the first time that they had met a medical specialist who not only treated them but also prayed for them. The combination of medical professionalism and sincere prayer had powerful effects and resulted in many healthy patients. I was absolutely delighted to hear that Markus has agreed to visit the Philippines again with us in the future.
Gospel at Government school
One of the school classrooms was set aside as a treatment room for the medical mission. I myself had plenty of ‘patients’ at my room too, as there was usually a queue of both children and adults behind my door asking for prayer. The children were so cute and charming in their requests - such as “my head hurts” or “I just feel bad”. Simply getting some adult attention can often make all the difference to them.
As a team we also visited Mamburao City Hospital where there were many people suffering from dengue fever, ranging from babies to the elderly. Sadly dengue fever is very prevalent in the area and already 800 people have died in the Philippines of this horrible disease. But it still amazes me how freely we are allowed to come and pray for the patients at the hospital. We were able to visit every room and pray for every single patient and if we inadvertently missed someone the other patients were quick to remind us who else needed prayer.
The weather was typical for the monsoon season - rain poured from the skies like Niagara and this restricted our movements considerably. The edges of typhoons swept over us with very heavy winds. We were not able to visit our own tribespeople as we normally would because they live on the mountains and there were serious mudslides. Some other tribespeople lived closer to the city and we were able to visit them along with some city schools where we both preached the gospel and offered food to the people.
Prayer room for mothers and the kids
There was a lot of mud over the whole area where we visited the tribespeople and we only were provided with rubber boots so we got a bit muddy. On mission work you can't pay much attention to whether your hair is matted with the heavy rain and the dirt or whether the sun is burning your skin. You preach the gospel whether the conditions are pleasant or not.
Nathan has been very effective in his mission outreach to schools. The leader of the education department is a believer and has shown us real favour. In this way the schools have opened up to Hosea and our outreach has been very fruitful. Evangelism in schools is now a regular aspect of Hosea's work.
Responsibility for the work in prisons has also fallen onto Nathan's shoulders. He is really loved and accepted by the prisoners and the whole atmosphere in the jails changes when he is there, with a real sense of peace and harmony. The convicts have been jailed for a wide variety of offences - there are murderers, terrorists, paedophiles and all sorts. In the Philippines a life sentence is literally that - prison for the rest of your life, and the conditions in the prisons are horrible. They are not designed to be rest homes or places of entertainment. In fact we often bring food for the prisoners as they are just not provided with enough by the jail system.
This time it wasn't just the floods and mudslides that restricted our movements around the Island. Nathan has previously visited a tribe located 13 kilometres from the city but this time it was too dangerous to attempt a visit. Just a short time beforehand, the army had finally captured two wanted terrorists from that exact area. On his earlier visit Nathan had been accompanied and protected by armed soldiers but this time we were prevented from going at all as the risks were too high in that area. Because of the situation the military were landing helicopters during the night at the airport next to our school and we encountered several military checkpoints on the roads in the area.
Terrorists have been seeking to capture high-level government officials to use for bargaining with the government to get their fellow terrorists out of prison. Thankfully we missionaries are not considered to be sufficiently valuable negotiation material as we are not important enough pieces on the political chess board. So for a long time we have been left alone and allowed to travel in peace. Maybe this time the evil one got concerned about revival on the island and therefore wanted to stir up trouble to prevent our movements.
Nathan in an unsafe area, Gospel there in dangerous
The gospel of Jesus has really had an impact upon the young people of the Island and most have grown up to be law abiding citizens because the word of God has changed their attitudes and beliefs. Now many of the older terrorists have either given up on their violent cause or have been imprisoned. But sadly some younger terrorists have infiltrated from Manila and it is they who are causing the present troubles.
During our visit, the annual celebrations of the Tagalog language were being held in the city hall. It is compulsory for school pupils to learn Tagalog there as it is really important to the Filipino people to give due respect and honour to their own language. We made special arrangements for the celebrations including national local dances, and the city mayor together with several other important local officials honoured us with their attendance. I am really encouraged to see the way that the Filipino people celebrate their language as I believe that God has given a language to each different nationality and people group: therefore it should be a cause for celebration. In this way even small children learn from an early age to value their home country and its language. I've also been delighted at the diligence of Nathan and of our school teachers, exemplified by the excellent teamwork.
We also had some other very encouraging news: President Duterte has ordered "a clean up of the police force" and this initiative will include teaching from the Bible. The objective is that the attitudes and behaviours of policemen would start to conform to biblical principles. We were delighted to hear that Hosea has been chosen to carry out this biblical teaching. Amongst the parents of our school pupils there are three police officers who have attended our our weekly Bible studies on a regular basis. The mayor has also asked Hosea to preach the gospel to city officials and policemen in the city square on several occasions and we believe these are the reasons why the task of teaching the policeman was given to us. How wonderful it would be if such "a clean up program" was introduced to police forces in the western world!
My thanks to all our intercessors and donors - your work has made all this possible. Our mission work is not a solo job but it requires a much wider team than just those on the ground!
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,