October Newsletter 2015
Montalban-Ritzal Hosea school
First of all I would like to thank you for your prayers for this ministry. Our new school in the Manila Ritzal area is doing well. The students have been divided into three groups, with the oldest students coming to school in the afternoon. That helps us manage with just one teacher and also teaching and learning is more effective in smaller groups.
All of our students come from the poorest slum areas. It was not easy to get these children to come to school as the parents did not trust us. People who live in the slums sometimes have suspicions - perhaps their children might be brainwashed if they came to the school, perhaps it might be a recruiting ground for the terrorists and so on. Of course all we really want for their children is to give them an opportunity to get an education. But the parents' fears are grounded in the fact that terrorism has been and still is a stark reality in many areas of the Philippines.
Parents also often think that if you give something away for free - in this case education - that there could be something sinister behind it. They question whether it really is free. Or will they perhaps get billed later on and then be in debt. On this issue alone they can take a great amount of convincing, getting the slum people to believe that our intentions are good and that we really do want to give their children the chance to get a proper education.
||The Hosea school slippery slide
I have explained in my earlier newsletters about the Philippines' school system where compulsory pre-school is just not viable for quite a number of children, especially for those living in slums. To cut a long story short this pre-school attendance is needed to qualify for entrance to public school. The government nowadays does offer a short pre-school course but this is not sufficient for many children to learn what is needed. In order to enter the school system the students must pass a test in order to qualify to attend school.
When we finally managed to get some parents to believe that our intentions were good, we were able to start the school. It has quickly become very popular and what is most important, the parents are also eagerly helping their children in their studies.
The parents have also keenly participated in our bible studies once a week. To our surprise they have even brought their neighbours with them to hear the gospel which means that we are reaching out to some outsiders as well which is a miracle. Very soon we had to found a new church, the Ritzal Hosea Church, for all these people who came to know Jesus through the school.
Our Ritzal school also has one disabled student, a seven year old girl, whose mother had dearly wanted her to attend. As she cannot walk, her mother carries her every day to school from quite a distance away. Because of the long journey involved, her mum does not have time to go home, so she stays with her daughter at school during lessons. The girl enjoys attending school and is keen to answer the questions from various classroom quizzes and even likes to write the answer on the board. Her mum carries her in front to the blackboard and back to her seat so she can really participate in the class activities.
This girl had initially started her education at a government pre-school but was teased there and found herself unable to continue but stayed at home instead. Then her mum heard that the Hosea school treats students well and that we had already earlier had special needs students in our schools. We have had some students who were overactive and were teased in their previous school but who changed remarkably after attending our schools. Many thanks to the Hosea teachers for this, for they are the ones who have made it possible. Also, a big thank you to the Lord and to all of you who have kept praying for these poorest of the poor people.
|Manila Ritzal school
||Hosea children eating a meal
In the beginning the Ritzal school was in the same large building as our Hosea church, in the upper floor, and we did not have to pay any rent for the premises. However, the department of education decided that we could not use the premises as a school because of the commercial use of the area below. They also considered the stairs to be dangerous for children. We could not understand this because the building was quite new. It is however useless to argue with the Filipino authorities because bureaucracy is what it is and often the whole permission to operate depends on just one official's decision. We just have to find new premises quickly. Unfortunately we will have to pay rent for the new place which of course increases the costs. When I was asked to start this school in Manila I was told I would only have to pay for the teachers' salary. Even though this surprise news really stretches our budget we are not going to give up. Such things are only small hurdles when it comes to ministry work.
We try to offer school meals to the children in Ritzal school as often as possible, according to how much money we have available. That is our goal in the poorest schools because slum children do not often have much to eat at home.
Our main school on Mindoro Island in Mamburao city has received some simple playground equipment to satisfy the authorities' requirements. The children are very happy with it as they had never seen anything like this before. Now the teachers tell us that children want to come to school early in the morning so they can play before school starts.
We have now established a special class for those students that are weaker and need more support in their studies. Because we did not have a spare classroom to use for this, we decided to move this class to a little storage building outside the main premises. Our male teacher Danillo teaches this special class in addition to his own classes because he is best suited for this task, and has had previous experience on a voluntary basis. Some students have found it difficult to keep up with other children and Danillo has done a great job helping them learn. Perhaps his own difficult childhood has enabled him to understand these children and to help them to learn effectively.
|Tonga school meal time
||The children eating a meal
News from Tonga
In my previous newsletter I wrote about Dorothy's nine year old son who was diagnosed with a heart condition. On the Tongan islands they do not have facilities to treat such a condition. But through a set of circumstances that I do not believe is coincidence, an Australian medical team with a heart specialist happened to be in the area and Dorothy's son was accepted as their patient. The heart operation has now been carried out. Unfortunately the doctors could not completely repair the heart because it was in such bad condition. Sadly one of his lungs is also not functioning properly but the medical team did all they could to help him. He was kept in the hospital for a week after his surgery for observation. The doctor told Dorothy that the real solution would be a heart transplant, but of course this is so challenging since a suitable heart is very difficult to find. Our thanks to those of you that remembered this dear young man in your prayers.
|Tonga Hosea school
||The Tonga school has its own hammock swing
Dorothy's family lives on the island of Vavau and they were unable to stay at the hospital by the boy's side because they could not afford the costs. So he had to be at the hospital alone without his close family. But while he was waiting for surgery he was treated to a trip on a yacht and was even allowed to take the helm, which cheered him up considerably. His grandparents were also able to spend a few days with him.
He has been very brave throughout the difficult surgery and time away from home and family. By now he will be back home in Vavau where our Hosea school is also located. The Australian doctor will visit once again next year and see how the young man's heart is doing and if he will need a heart transplant. God is a God of miracles so please continue to pray over this issue. Dorothy is doing real pioneering work on the island, and mothers everywhere will understand how she must feel. God has already answered many of our prayer requests for him with amazing turnarounds. I really do believe that God is going to bless him and his family as they continue to carry out their valued ministry work in that part of the world.
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,