Hosea Newsletter July 2020
Greetings dear friends
Warm greetings, in the middle of the coronavirus quarantine! Life is continuing, albeit in rather different circumstances than before, which we have to learn to accept as the 'new normal'.
On our Tonga mission field, schools opened at the beginning of the year as usual, and there have been no coronavirus cases on Vava'u Island. Even so, there is still a travel ban on the Tongan islands. Please pray for our headteacher Dorothy who fell ill with cancer and has not been able to go for treatment on the main island. On Tonga, as on many of the Pacific islands, people don't like going to hospital and in fact they have a saying that you only go to hospital to die. I do understand this because most of the hospitals lack vital life saving equipment. Visiting doctors from Australia or New Zealand carry out the more important operations and their visits are rare. As a result the islanders have to put their trust in traditional treatments with various herbs as medicines. Such treatments can in several cases be effective.
Tonga class lesson
Students keen to learn
Class for the younger children
In the Philippines quarantine conditions continue and that has caused many problems in trying to start our schools. It is the month of June when new pupils are accepted and when the school year normally starts.
Because of the quarantine, schools can currently only offer distance learning which may work well in western countries but not in the Philippine islands. How do you offer distance teaching for children from the slums when they don't have any IT equipment and are even short of food? Imaginative solutions are needed to overcome these challenges.
Many private schools that are used to to get their income from fee-paying pupils have been forced to close through lack of funding, and as a result Hosea schools have been overwhelmed with applications. By God's grace we have managed to keep going even though our schools are free for everyone.
But new challenges are just around the corner when pupils return to their classrooms in September and all the facilities are required to be covid-19 secure. Class sizes which previously were limited to 30 must now be reduced to a maximum of 15. We really don't know how this will happen since we already struggle with lack of space and we have already had to phase classes right through the day in order to cope with pupil numbers. It is very difficult to find more slots in the daytime that we can use and of course this affects both existing pupils as well as the new ones.
Food distribution for those not so well off
Our teachers have been busy delivering food throughout the pandemic in order to help the many people that have lost their jobs because of the virus. The government provides food supplies to families that are meant to last them a month, but in reality the amount given only lasts a few days. Hosea has delivered ample food packages in a variety of localities and when children see our delivery coming they run to us calling out that they are so hungry. So our teams quickly get the huge soup pans out of their vehicles and start serving the many hungry children.
At the same time we are preaching the gospel. Our food deliveries have been met with deep gratitude from the recipients and many have been brought to faith. For example at our Aroma slum school five families that have come to faith through receiving food packages and listening to the gospel, have subsequently joined the bible study run by our teacher Daisy. Around 50 people regularly attend the weekly prayer meeting there. People have come to Christ as they have seen the love that we have expressed through Him to our neighbours.
Preparations for distance education at the main school
Hosea's pastor Billy found a new tribe in the Sablayan area and our staff have brought both the gospel and food to this tribe. We are accompanied in such trips by police and military personnel because terrorists still rule in these outlying areas. Pastor Billy also holds weekly Bible studies for police officers.
The pandemic has brought considerable economic difficulties to our ministry because of increased costs but it has also restricted the preaching of the gospel because of the limitations on travel. But we have continued to be fruitful in our ministry there, and even in Papua New Guinea. The main thing is that people have come to faith and that our staff and pupils have stayed healthy, with not one of them catching the virus. Our work during the pandemic has been recognised and greatly appreciated by the island's government.
A huge thank you to all our supporters! Because of your help we will come through this. And another big thank you to Nathan from Norway who has worked so diligently to collect funds for these vital feeding programs.
With my 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,