Hello my dear friends,
|The children have cleaned the beach.
I would like to take a bit of time to tell you about the new challenges we are facing with our school in Vava'u Island in Tonga. We have received very alarming news from our head teacher Dorothy: we are under the threat of having to close down because we are about to lose our rented premises at the end of this year. I have often written about this school in my previous newsletters, but just to refresh our memory, here is what has happened there during the last few years.
The starting point was in the year 2007 when we miraculously received permission to establish a Christian preschool in Neiafu, the capital town on Vavaʻ´u Island. Since then we have had to keep fighting for our existence, which has felt rather like pushing against several brick walls. Tonga's education system had collapsed years ago and the Mormons had recognised this as a great opportunity for them. They built several beautiful and well-equipped schools on many of the islands in Tonga, with classes from primary school up to the end of high school. But they totally forgot pre-school, which gave us opportunity to apply for a Christian pre-school. Since then we have been quite a pain in the neck for the Mormons!
Our tiny Christian preschool has been very successful, achieving high standards and academically brilliant results. In fact we have been told that our preschool is academically the best in Vavaʻ´u! We give all the glory and praise to God for that. Over the last few years we have also had a first and second class of primary school in our premises, with the number of students varying between 90 and 100 each year.
|Hosea children on a school trip.
Our school has faced a lot of opposition and disappointments along the way, but we have also seen outstanding miracles. When the last massive typhoon "Ian" was ravaging Tonga in Jan 2014, its centre hit Ha'apai islands next to Vava'u with winds of up 250km/h. The typhoon was category 4 on the scale 1 – 5 and the destruction on Vavaʻ´u was phenomenal.
I watched the TV and read the newspapers at my home in Australia, trying to understand what was going to happen with the typhoon as it headed towards Tonga. What I saw and heard made me feel so scared and distressed. The first satellite pictures didn't give much hope at all as the scenery looked like a war zone. Our school is operating in a rundown building which used to be a bank many years ago. Throughout these years we have been in the same building because there has not been anything else available. It is in such poor condition that I could not believe it could withstand this typhoon's horrendous power. Any of those Tongan guys who are the size of sumo wrestlers could have pushed over the school building just by leaning on it.
Gradually news about the typhoon damage started to come through. About 90 % of the electricity grid on Ha'apai was cut out, which meant that internet connections weren't working either. I had no means to contact Dorothy, so I had to just wait and wait to see if there was any way she could contact me. A week later Dorothy managed to send a text message to me via her Fijian friends. Her message said: "School is still standing. We are surprised." It was totally unbelievable, I stood there stunned, looking at the words displayed on my mobile. There must have been heavenly forces around the building to hold back the winds and keep it standing -- there is no other explanation for it. Wind tore holes in the roof though, and water gushed in like Niagara, but the locals patched it up, as best as they could.
During the past years Tonga has gradually slipped into Mormon control. Each year their schools produce more missionaries who effectively convert islanders to be members of the Mormon church. But they had not thought about the preschools and then they started to hear about our small school having outstanding results. So about two years after we had started our school, we got unexpected visitors: a Mormon delegation came to ask if they could buy our school! Well, the Hosea school is not for sale at any price.
Our school is still the only Christian preschool on Vava'u Island. Because our teaching is of such a high standard and because our reputation has spread through the Island, even Mormon parents have started to come to us, wanting to enrol their kids into our school. We have welcomed them with the same requirements that we give to all other parents: they have to attend our weekly Bible study. This system has worked well.
Now we are facing a new challenge, just as the new school year has started. The Ministry of Education has just informed us that our building is considered unsafe and dangerous for kids. We can only enrol 40 pupils altogether (instead of about 100 which we used to have earlier, including primary 1 and 2) and we will have to build immediately two new toilets for the kids.
These restrictions hit our students terribly, but we have no other options. There are no vacant blocks to build upon or other buildings to rent. The Ministry of Education had also ordered the roof to be repaired but Dorothy has informed me that they had found some old sail cloth to make the roof waterproof.
In addition to these new demands from the Ministry of Education, we received another even bigger challenge. The owner of the building has just informed us that he will reclaim the building back for his own use at the end of this year. That means we are now in danger of having to close our school permanently. We don't know what the owner is planning to do but we need to find another building to rent. It would need to have a big yard for the kidsʻ´ playground. Finding such a building would be relatively easy in the Western countries but in Tonga it is very difficult. Noisy school kids are not considered to be the most desirable neighbours either, so opposition might come if something was found. But there has not been anything available in the whole town. We have kept looking for another place for many years now but have found nothing. We are desperate for a miracle from God here! We don't have finances to buy a building, so a place to rent is our only option. We need prayer more than ever, so all the years of good work that have been invested won't come to nothing. Dear beloved friends, would you join to fight with us in prayer for this so important mission for Godʻ´s Kingdom?
I keep praying for a miracle from God and am not going to give up. I believe that somewhere, somehow God's grace will allow this work to continue. Miracles have happened before and that's what I am praying for now.
In the Philippines our Hosea team has again been busy, distributing food to the Mangyan tribe. It has been nothing very exotic, only rice, noodles and sardines - but for those with empty stomachs it has been a nourishing feast of priceless value. That has been the case especially with the malnourished children who often go for days without food. Jesus himself gave us the command to clothe and feed the poor. ‘I tell all of youwith certainty, since you did it for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.' (Matt. 25: 40)
|Prepraing food for the Mangyan tribe.
Practical help combined with the preaching of the Gospel is a powerful mix. When there is the power of God's Holy Spirit added to it, then we have a rapidly expanding ministry. In these poor and remote areas where Hosea Mission is operating, you won't find other westerners going around. The absence of other ‘albinos' is almost guaranteed! Western people are usually more interested in nicer places or where there is publicity for what you are doing. Sometimes I too have found myself wondering whether continuing such work really makes sense at all. But the results we have seen over many years have proven to us beyond doubt that God is backing us up. The harvest field is enormous and doors are wide open to even the most difficult areas. In fact the work has grown so big and wide that my head is spinning if I think about it. But I am not working on my own: this is teamwork where intercessors and all of you are equally involved.
|Clothing donations to the Mangyan tribe
Trevor Majoinen from Hosea Ministry in Australia is going to the Philippines on 8th April for three weeks with two brothers Veijo Hukka and Pertti Kamppi who are doing their first tour. Their aim is to visit the areas where our ministry has been working and to visit some new islands to expand the work. I myself will have a little rest before my European tour starts in May. My purpose has been to get my new book printed (only in Finnish, sorry!) before the summer but I am a bit short of time, so I am not sure about it yet. Somehow there are not enough hours in a day. This time my tour in Finland will last just over one month and I will also visit Estonia and France, where I expect to see powerful moves of the Holy Spirit
Yours with abundant 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,