(This is from a letter sent out after Mother’s Day about some exciting missions experiences with our team on a trip to Polillio Islands)
Come Walk With Me on Mother’s Day, May 8, ’11 / Polillio Islands
This is an opportunity to experience what it is really like on the mission field at times… This is not for those who may not be interested in a detail report, but rather for those who are asking and eager for one. That should make everyone happy, hehe 🙂 If you don’t have time or interest to read this, don’t stress it – no worries – this is written for those who may be interested. For those who may just want a one-line, bottom line type report… “All is well, PTL!” You can stop here 🙂 For those who want more of the details of how we arrive at that bottom line conclusion, read on… 🙂
This is especially written for the adventuresome type, who might enjoy a more practical, down-to-earth type report of what some days are really like… There’s no time or energy for camera’s or pictures today – the only thing that I can offer you is some word pictures of our adventurous day together, and the rest is up to you and your imagination.
Let’s go for a walk together
Today is Mother’s Day, and we anticipate a busy and exciting day of ministry here on Patnanungan, in the Polillio Islands. I am with a church planting team of 3 Intern graduates from our LFH Training Center, and 1 of our 2nd-year students (5 on the team). It is stormy weather today (Typhoon signal #2 predicted). But, we are not just a fair-weather team! We’re going for it! The day starts before 6:00 a.m. with preps for the day, as we anticipate leaving around 7:30 for a 2 hr. hike over the jungle trails, through rice fields, and over the mountain to the other side of the island where we will hold a service this morning at their community hall. I grab a bowl of Corn Flakes brought along just for such an occasion, but most of the team head out with just coffee and some crackers… When I found out that the ladies headed out without breakfast, I shared my precious one and only “Trail-Mix” bar, which was nice for them, anyway… (if you were here, look what you could have had, hehe 🙂 If you want to know what is in my pack, protected by a black garbage bag (garbage bags are worth their weight in gold around here) I have dry clothes and suitable shoes to change into when we arrive at our destination, snacks for the team, several Bibles, toothpaste gifts for the mother’s, water, etc..
Of course, we need to pack in a guitar for the trip, and we are also carrying flowers to give to the mothers and some bundles of cookies for them and their families. Here we go…we’re off (even before our target time). We’re heading out in the pouring down rain. You hear no complaint from the team (that is not our habit), but what you do hear is singing, plenty of laughter, lots of playful fun along the way, along with appropriate Scriptures being quoted (like, “in season and out of season” from Timothy). It is pouring down rain most of the hike, but we kinda prepared for it with “raincoats” we made out of garbage bags this morning, with a hole cut for the head in the bottom of the bag, and holes for the arms in the sides, put on upside down over our bodies. Maybe we might look like walking trash to some people, but we feel richly blessed to be on the go for Jesus! We need to stop along the way several times to brush off big, aggressive, stinging red jungle ants that brush off on us sometimes in fiery clusters that have a vicious and fast bite – but no big deal – that just comes along with the territory. The jungle trail is slippery and muddy in the pouring rain, so a walking stick is very helpful to provide stability so you don’t fall. Through the jungle and across rice fields, and now we need to climb the mountain. The pathway up is a running stream of water over clay, slippery slopes. There are plenty of big muddy puddles of water to splash through before we finally make it to our destination – Busdak at last! We stop at a well as we approach the village to wash our muddy feet, where we draw the water up in a bucket by hand, and have a foot-washing service, hehe! We have arrived looking a little like drowned rats, but we made it…
As we get to our meeting hall (their community building) approximately 1/2 hour before the service is supposed to start, we grab a quick snack. We’re only there for a few minutes when several of the men from the fellowship group join us with huge grins and smiles of welcome on their faces 🙂 That is a very encouraging sign, because today Manny Pacqiuo (the famous boxing champion from the Philippines) is fighting, and people are glued to their T.V. and radio sets – so not sure what the attendance for the service will be, but we’re going for it.
We set up for the service by getting our chairs from the nearby house of the head H.S. teacher where they are stored, and still have time to go through the streets, inviting people to come to our service. Shortly before the service is to start, I find a back room in the building, that is stinky and dirty, and the door refuses to want to shut – where I hide out for a few minutes and change into some dry clothes and at least more dressy shoes than the T-shoes I hiked in. We are not having a dress-up parade today, that’s for sure – just thankful to have some dry clothes. We’re not very fussy today about how we look.. in fact my shaver doesn’t work well without electricity, and is more of a ‘shave by feel’ than ‘shave by what you see’ deal, so who knows what things were really like, since my help-mates not along to keep everything in proper order… Definitely not so concerned about the appearance and condition of clothes around here. Soiled clothes seem to be more acceptable and understandable in this kind of environment.
Gift For The Mothers
We have a very special service, focused on the love of mother’s, and of course God’s great love! The mothers are SO-O happy with their flowers that we brought for them on the hike over the hill, cards, cookies, and tubes of toothpaste for their families. Several of the mothers did not make it to the service due to the heavy rains, so after the service, we took their gifts and flower to them at their homes.
We rush back to the meeting hall, I change back into soggy, wet clothes, and head on back the trail, trying to really move along, so as to make it back to our mission base for the next service.
Only Part Way Through The Day
Hold on – we are only part way through the day… Along the way, we find beautiful jungle flowers growing wild, along with ferns, that we pick and carry along for the mother’s in the next service. We barely get back in time to clean up, grab a quick bite to eat, and then rush out to try to pick up an elderly 86 year old mother/grandma who said she wanted to come (her one and only daughter just passed away last month). We go to her house with a chair, 4 men, and a borrowed umbrella, to assist her – intending to put her in the chair, and have the men carry her, protected from the rain by an umbrella on a living wheel chair 🙂 Nice try! However, to our dismay, she is gone to a wedding and not made it back yet, so we return to our mission base with our empty chair. The service has already started. I am kinda weary, so I go to my room and stretch out on my bed for a few minutes, to just let the world go by for a little while without me. I get up with a start around 5 minutes later, because I almost fell fast asleep. I go to the service and share another mother’s day message, and honor the mother’s. After the service is finished, we once again bless the mothers with special gifts, flowers, a personal mother’s day card, and bag of cookies. We also gave them to others attending to share with mother’s who were not able to be at the service. The flower arrangements made from the wild jungle flowers were gorgeous! They were tied to a fern, and very colorful and beautiful tropical flowers. The women were so pleased! Now it is time to rush to our third service location, which was scheduled tightly to try to arrive there in time to have the service before dark – in a village on the other side of the island that does not have electricity, and then we plan to stay in a house that we have rented there, so we don’t have to travel back in the dark.. However, we have not had a chance to repair the roof at the house yet, which has major leaks. Also, because of the stormy weather, we are running into complications with the boat. That brings us to the next part of this story…
Literally Picking Up Your Bed And Walk
Boat trouble-Getting ready for the next trip, it was called “picking up your bed and walk’ literally, as I grabbed my bedding off the floor, stuffed it into another garbage bag, along with other preps needed, and packed out. However, it was questionable what to do, because it was still raining a lot, and the waters were rough. Talking with our boat captain, he thought it would be fine to use out boat to go to a village half-way to our destination, called Poblacion, and anchor there. The waves generally are not so big, with calmer waters in that area. We might use motorcycles to proceed on to Tapol (that’s our destination), or hike, or depending on the time we manage to make it there. It is definitely not advisable to take the boat all the way, due to dangerous winds, big waves, and rough seas. However, he is native to the area, and I went along with his counsel that we could at least make it to Poblacion safely. However, I needed to go by motorcycle to Poblacion in advance to make some preps. I plan to join the team when they arrive at Poblacion by boat, and we will figure out what to do from there. However, after making preparations, and waiting at the dock for a long time with no sign of the boat, I am alarmed. I send a motorcycle back to our mission base along the coast line to check on the boat, and find out what the problem is. I am comforted with knowing at least that they should have life-jackets. I had specifically given directions for them to take life-jackets along, as a safety precaution.
Boat Had Trouble
It had been raining so hard that our boat had trouble. The waves came into the boat, the rain poured water into the boat, and the wind was so turbulent that they needed to take the tarp roof off so it didn’t act like a sail, and pull them around or capsize them. The water kept filling up the boat until the water engulfed part of the engine and it shut down. Because of the intense rain, it also may have gotten some water into the carb through the exhaust system. So there our team was, out on the ocean, in the approaching darkness, in a boat whose engine had failed in the storm! And, I was not with them to help! Now they really were in trouble, because the boat was getting thrown around with the angry waves that wanted to catch and toss it, with no engine to help control the boat to more safely ride the waves. They almost capsized 3 times! Bailing water! The 2 ladies that are part of our team were crying (they cannot swim)! It was kind of a nightmare type problem! To top it off, they had forgotten to take the life-jackets! Wow, what a ride… They had one oar, and even though quite a ways from our mission base, finally managed to make it back there safely. Of course, as I waited and waited at Poblacion, I was very concerned. I finally got in phone contact with them, found out what was happening, and was able to return the approximately half hour to the mission base in the dark, rain, mud puddles, and over the slippery road that is in very poor condition, by motorcycle. By the time I finally managed to make it back, I kinda felt like it had been a lo-ong day for some reason – but an exciting one, nonetheless! All of us were very thankful for our mission base, for shelter, for safety, and the opportunity to get some well-deserved and much needed rest. We saw mothers blessed, Jesus exalted, and experienced the Lord’s faithful help in them midst of weather challenges, physical exhaustion, ministry opportunities, and schedule limitations… One of our team summed it up well, when we were chatting before going to sleep. He excitedly exclaimed, “It was an adventure!” with a delighted, chuckling smile! 🙂 And, that it was my friends, an adventuresome day, indeed – anyway you wanta look at it! I’m glad we all lived to tell about it – hehe! 🙂
It’s Not Yet Over
But the day’s not over… I finally got to sleep, but getting up in the night for a nature call (in the dark), I stepped into a big mud puddle right outside our bedroom door with my leather shoes on. Going back to sleep, I was awakened with something crawling across my face, I reached up and grabbed it (felt like a spider) I threw it off, and went back to sleep… no electricity for a light available anyway, and not a whole lot to do about it.
That’s just 1 day in the life of a missionary… Uh, you still wanta come and visit us? : It’s better “felt” then “telt”, I must say… 🙂
Additional side notes of interest…
1) This is not a “signs and wonders and miracles” type of report, of the Lord calming the seas, etc., like most people may be looking for. This one is of a boat in trouble, in rough waters, tough “sail’n and bail’n in the gale’n”, but the Lord was with us the midst of it all! Hallelujah!
2) Not being with the beautiful bride of my youth today, to celebrate her as the mother of our 9 wonderful sons and daughters (2 sons-in-law and 1 daughter-in-law)) and 4 precious grand-children is part of the day, and definately part of the cross to bear…
3) Our native boat captain thought that he could make it to Poblacion ok. We didn’t expect the waves being so big and choppy in that area. We certainly were not trying to be reckless, overly daring, or put people in danger… just persistent and diligent in pursuing ministry as to the Lord.
4) We had a native, specially hand-written “Happy Mother’s Day!” banner displayed for our service at the mission base in Norte. It was beautifully and artistically done, and was very professional looking. It was done by a young man not even regularly attending services. The Filipino people are extremely gifted is so many ways! It was very honoring to the mothers – and a glory to the Lord!
5) The joy and delight on the faces of the mothers, as well as others attending the services today was well worth any effort extended! The sacrifices were nothing compared to the joy of ministering to them as to the Lord!
6) As I was waiting here on the dock in Poblacion at the half-way point for the team to meet up with me in the boat, I was so comforted to know that at least they had the life-jackets with them in case they ran into trouble! I had given such specific instructions for them to make sure to take the life-jackets! Only to find out later, as I enquired about it, that they had “forgot”?!!” to take them! I needed to “box some of their ears” for that when I got back (just like I have coming when my loving help-mate finds out we pushed ahead with ministry goals under these circumstances, no doubt! :()! It would not have been funny at all out there in the approaching darkness with several ladies who cannot swim, if they had capsized! Anyway, it was a valiant attempt, and we all lived to tell about it! Some of us learn important lessons the hard way…
7) Obviously food was not a “major” for us this Mother’s Day… All of us on the team were “full-time” active in ministry, and we had no special, motherly cook today… Sorry about that!
8) We had no umbrella’s with the team today – somehow they all got left behind!
9) A little more about the Manny Pacquiao fight… he actually was able to win another huge boxing victory without our help, isn’t that awesome?! 🙂 There were so many glued to their T.V. and radio sets like he needed them to win or something, when it makes no difference – he still won without us – and we were still able to faithfully attend church and celebrate without distraction, how about that?! Even if he lost, it’s really that big a deal… Maybe he needs to lose sometime so people aren’t quite so distracted with him and hero worship him around here – he can’t win all the time!
10) The boat motor needed overhaul – (oil changed and carefully cleaned) but PTL not a major one… it still works! Whew!
11) As I traveled to Poblacion on our motorcycle, to write and send this report, my heart was thankful remembering my dirt-bike riding days with Elijah our oldest son, many years ago in the States. I didn’t know at the time that was missionary training! 🙂 The muddy, dirt trails and big mud puddles and rough road would be even more challenging without that past trail riding experience! It’s interesting to see the big respectful smiles and attention that I receive from by-standers, and other cyclers as I ride past on our motorcycle.
12) I came to Poblacion (main village on this island) looking for internet access and a computer to borrow to send this report. I do not have a computer here, and I have never sent a report from these islands like this before, but thought I would at least try… Fresh news is the best! It’s amazing! I came to the Mayor’s office, and the secretary here is a Christian 🙂 She immediately turned over her precious computer to me, and here I am in the Mayor’s office sitting at her desk pounding it out! If you only knew what a miraculous provision this seems to be! Here in the islands there is not public internet cafe access. There is no electricity today (I’m using her laptop that is battery powered part of the time). Internet access here is a rare find, and generally quite expensive, but this is on the government, hehe 🙂 She is so helpful, and says – “anytime” 🙂 Hehe… The Lord is good!