NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 2016
GREETINGS FROM THE PHILIPPINES
We haven’t published any newsletters for quite some time as several urgent things have kept me busy, but finally here’s our latest news!
Something really exciting has happened in Mamburao in the Philippines, as an answer to our prayers. At the end of November 2016 regular flights have started between Manila and Mamburao, twice a week. This is such a big improvement because Mamburao airport was left deserted long ago when terrorists reigned in the area and it was not safe for tourists or anyone else to travel to Mamburao. When people stopped coming, the airport was closed down, with no plans whatsoever to reopen it again for flights.
But a few years ago we got rather a wild idea about building a motel next to our main school in Mindoro Island where there was a great piece of land available. The idea wouldn’t go away so we decided to pray that God would do a miracle and re-open the airport again. That would be the sign for us to go ahead with our plans. Our vision was to build a motel which would also be a training centre for young people, as well as bringing much needed funds so that our schools would become sustainable. The plot of land housing the school and motel were situated adjacent to the unused airport.
|Hotel/College building project
||10 year Anniversary of Hosea schools
So, before going ahead with our vision, I asked God for this sign, thinking that it would be a big and difficult one even for the Lord. At that time the airport had been unused for a long time and the runway was sprouting grass. Only about couple of months had passed when the owner of the airport announced that he would start a flight training school for pilots of small planes. The runway was repaired and soon there were several small planes taking off and landing with trainee pilots in them. Of course I rejoiced about this but was not completely satisfied as only half of my request was answered. At that time I felt like Peter, jumping out of the boat to walk on the water ….. but I gave the go ahead for the building work to start in any case. Today I am delighted to say that the other part of the sign I put before the Lord has come to pass, and larger airplanes will start flying into Mamburao already before the new year!
Our motel is situated at the end of the runway and we were compelled to abandon building the third storey that was in the original plan. A rather odd decision by the authorities since the airport in Manila is surrounded by tall skyscrapers. Pastor Sonio decided that the building foundations should be made strong enough to bear four storeys, just in case. When I discussed the matter with him, Pastor Sonio told me that building rules in the Philippines tend to change according to who is in power. Within a few next years they could change again. If at that time we need more room in the building, then the foundations would at least be strong enough.
Our initial goal is to get the first storey of the building into operational use. Nothing is really stopping us except the finances. So far everything else has been answered through prayer so this is not any different. I sometimes wonder why it so often seems to be the case that people who accumulate money just get richer and more powerful, while at the same time mission work, where funds go where they are really needed, suffer from lack of money. But our work is still expanding all the time, and doors are open for us everywhere.
|House of the mangya village
||Ulla and Jaana with teachers
Recently I travelled with my Finnish team to Mindoro Island again just at the right time to be able to participate in the 10 year anniversary of our Hosea Schools. How quickly the time goes! In Mamburao city the deputy governor, governor, town mayor and deputy mayor were amongst the important officials who came to join our celebrations. The work Hosea does has become well known and is held in high regard on the island. We were so happy to meet some of our first students who are now young adults. They came along to give public appreciation and thanks for the opportunity to have attended the school.
I was also really grateful for our Finnish team members Ulla Kilpiö and Jaana Jukarainen. Their contribution to the mission work has been amazing. Ulla and Jaana caught everyone’s attention wherever we went - two tall (175cm and 173cm) blonde and pale women. The local people only came up to their shoulders! They were given the new nickname of Anne’s Angels! I tried to reassure them that I have shrunk over time so I am now of a similar height to the locals…. Thank you ladies for your good evangelistic work! Ulla’s and Jaana’s testimonies really captured the attention of their audiences.
During our trip to Mindoro we visited Hosea churches around the island and also several tribal villages. Along with God’s word we brought with us food and clothes to deliver to the tribespeople, as the Bible teaches us to give aid to the poor.
Our Hosea church in Cabacunga is now gathering in its recently constructed church building. It is not completely finished as it still has a mud floor and there are no windows or doors - instead there are just empty holes. However, the situation is so much better compared to last year when there was only a tarpaulin attached to bamboo supports that shook in heavy winds. Hosea’s other own church building is nearing completion close to Santa Cruz. We also have been given a good sized piece of land for the future as well. We feel we are receiving God’s favour because the local authorities are willing to give us such land to use. We only need the funds to get buildings erected on these plots so the locals can have access to God’s word in their local area.
The Cabacunga church is doing good work with the local tribespeople. The mission work began by bringing practical help and through that we have gained their trust as they recognise we really care for them. The pastor couple visits the tribe three times a week and teaches them God’s word. School lessons have also been started with both children and adults.
Hosea already has 16 pastors on Mindoro Island. All of them travel around their local area on mission trips, reaching also to the isolated tribes who are not usually in contact with outsiders. Pastor Celsa Bulalagao who is our native tribes pastor, has began mission work with a new tribe. If only we had funds to start a school and church there, as God has opened doors in so many places. Hosea churches are growing with great speed. Perhaps we are so blessed because we do not ask anything for ourselves but just preach the word of Christ to those whom the world has forgotten. Many people in Western countries do not realise that isolated tribes still exist to this very day: there are tribespeople who don’t know whether the earth is round or flat, as their world is only the surrounding mountains. Australia or Finland - they both are somewhere there, behind seven big river crossings and a week’s walk across rough terrain.
While visiting one of the tribes, I decided to tell them stories about children’s heaven, as there were very many children around and because many of the adults were also on the level of children. The beginning of the story went well until we came to the part about animals. I told the audience that they would be able to ride a baby elephant in heaven. Silence. Nobody knew what an elephant was. How about a lion? No, they did not know that either. Whatever animal I mentioned, they answered with shaking heads: they had never ever seen any pictures about foreign animals as they did not have TV or computers or even electricity for that matter. Finally a thought occurred to me - the carabao (water buffalo) is the Filipino national animal. “In Heaven you can ride with a baby carabao!” Some joy burst out in the audience but also some confusion: “That’s not anything special because we already have a water buffalo!” My poor western brains! At least Pastor Sonio and a few others had a good laugh over this incident for the whole week!
It was so encouraging to see how once again God healed the sick. A cancer sufferer came to tell us that after she had been prayed for she went to the doctor next day for tests and examinations only to find that the cancer had totally disappeared overnight, to the medics’ great surprise. Our Lord is the miracle maker!
Our teacher Daisy was full of joy. She had wanted a child for several years but had not been able to get pregnant . During my previous visit I had prayed for her and received a prophetic word about pregnancy. After that she conceived and gave birth to a baby boy. Also another lady told me similar news: she had become pregnant after receiving prayer.
At the door of my room there is always a queue of people whenever I am in the area. I never get tired of praying for them as I feel I receive an energy recharge during prayer, and my tiredness immediately disappears. I recommend this heavenly vitamin tablet to others, too. When you minister to others, you become blessed yourself.
My heart is filled with joy when I look at our small pupils who start their first school year with the drive of a 3 year old, continuing in Hosea school until 5 or 6 years old. Unfortunately we cannot accept everyone into our schools even though mothers come crying and begging us to take their child in. I do understand their sorrow but our capacity cannot extend to all who apply. We are only able to provide school materials for a certain number of children: Hosea schooling is free to the poor and this includes school materials. And we only have room for a certain amount of students in the classroom. We already have classes separated by age and at different times of the day so that we can manage.
I have a lot more I could tell you but these are the most important news items. I will add just one more funny thing here that I came across: some random person in Mamburao for an unknown reason has taken the Hosea logo and started printing T-shirts. They have become a local fashion! Even though we have had nothing to do with it, the knowledge of our Hosea schools continues to spread.
I am so grateful for all our teachers and pastors. God has blessed us with good and skilful staff both in the Philippines and in Tonga. I am also thankful for our Finnish team and for all our supporters who have faithfully worked with us either as intercessors, donors or in the many different tasks carried out both in Finland and in Australia. A big, big thank you to all of you, even though words feel so inadequate to express my deep feeling of gratitude.
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,