Greetings from Mindoro!
The tractor's wheels sporadically spun then caught in the soil of the steep ascent. All of us workers jumped off the trailer full of gravel, hoping to give the tractor just a little more oomph as it tried to pull the load up the mountain. Slowly, slowly, the tractor lugged the gravel forward, and we were past the steepest part. Grinning, we jumped back on the trailer and started throwing gravel down on the bare clay dirt.
With rainy season coming and the Balangabong church rebuild just starting (see article in the Adventist Frontiers), we had to get some gravel on the road that we had cut up to the village of Balangabong. This was the fourth rainy season since we had made the road by hand, and each year it had washed out in the first big storm in April or May. Then we wouldn't be able to rebuild it until nearly Christmas each year. This year, with all the materials to build the church, however, we would need better access.
Due to the number of development projects that we were starting this year, we would need to rent heavy equipment at a high price, or spend weeks in manual labor. We determined that the price of rentals would be the same or more than the price of buying a second-hand mini backhoe. Thanks to your generosity, we were able to purchase a Japan surplus, Kubota brand miniature backhoe, with an included breaker/jackhammer attachment.
We first used it to demolish the old, dangerous church building. Then we leveled the lot and cut drainage to protect the new church. With the breaker/jackhammer, along with several large bonfires, we were able to break up a huge boulder that had been in the way for years. Now we were using the backhoe to fix the road up a bit and then load gravel to help keep it from washing away.
The poor tractor pulled 152 loads of gravel before we got a simple two-track laid down to the village. Now that it is in, however, the whole village has benefited. Many people ride our truck to and from the village when we make trips. Vendors often come to the village now to sell fish and other food which the people used to only get when they went to town. Several villagers have taken advantage of the better transportation to expand their tiny stores, providing better selections of food to the village. The teachers in the local elementary school show up to teach school more regularly since they can drive their motorcycles to the village. Many of the local products grown in the mountains such as sweet-potatoes and bamboo are getting to market more quickly and consistently. And, most surprisingly of all to me, a number of Tawbuid have managed to beg, borrow, or finance used motorcycles. It is not uncommon, this year, to see Tawbuid driving grossly overloaded motorbikes up and down the mountain. You can usually identify them by the look of intense concentration on the face of the first-time driver, and the 3-4 passengers who are laughing and screaming wildly as the motorcycle zigs back and forth from one ditch to the other!
Thanks to your help, Balangabong is slowly developing. The standard of living is increasing, and the people are starting to gain greater respect in the lowlands. Thank you for continuing to pray and encourage and support the work here among the Tawbuid!