Monday, April 16, 2012

Greetings from Mindoro!
First some business.  This is the first of many update on the progress of the Batangan project, on the island of Mindoro, in the Philippines!  If for any reason you would rather not receive these e-mails, please write back to this address.  I won’t be in the least hurt or offended, I promise!
Second, I sincerely apologize for taking so long to start writing!  Life has been crazy as I have been making final preparations and traveling.  Though I plan to be as consistent in writing as possible, I also cannot promise that there won’t be times that I’ll miss in the future as well.  I live in a jungle and things happen.
And now, the story . . .
As I write this, a monstrous tokay gecko is making a deafening croaking sound from its hiding place in the bamboo wall behind me, and a humid breeze is trying in vain to dry the laundry hanging over my head.  This journey began many, many years ago.  It’s a story which must someday be told, but for now I will try to start by simply chronicling the events of the last couple of weeks.
Despite my best efforts to not procrastinate and to get everything done on time, my last few days at home were a mad rush to get everything done.  I stayed up packing till 3:30 a.m. the morning of September 4, and then after one hour of sleep, I piled my bags in my parents’ car and we took off for the airport.
My parents and I said goodbye in the lobby.  I remembered back to that day, so many years ago when my parents had said goodbye to their parents on our way to serve as missionaries in the Philippines.  We never saw my grandmother again, and a lot of things happened in the family while we were gone.  These kinds of thoughts are always in your mind when you say a goodbye like that.  It did make it a little easier knowing that we both knew the area where I was going, and unlike seventeen years ago, I would be able to e-mail through satellite phone.  That didn’t stop a few tears from falling, though, as I walked through the hall way and toward the security check.
God was merciful and the plane was nearly empty.  I was exhausted and almost dizzy from lack of sleep, but I had three seats to myself so that I was able to sleep most of the way to San Francisco.  I was feeling a lot better when I got there, but apparently my wits were not all there yet.  I took a train half way across the airport to the car rental area where I was going to rent a car to go visit my grandparents.  As I was standing in line, I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t picked up any of my check-on luggage.  Rushing back across the airport, I prayed fervently that all of the equipment in those bags would be ok.  The agent was just checking my bags into the unclaimed luggage office when I ran up, and I was able to get them out right away.  God looks out for absent-minded missionaries!
Seven hours of driving later, I arrived in Crescent City, CA to visit with my grandfather and step grandmother one last time.  I had a great time exploring the redwood forests and walking the beaches with my grandparents.  It was painfully cold (for me) but I tried to soak up as much as I could as I knew that I wouldn’t get any weather like that for a long while.
On Thursday, September 8, 2011 I stood in the international terminal of the San Francisco airport.  Seventeen years ago, in the fall of 1994, my parents and I had stood in this same airport to board the plane that would take us to our new work among the Alangan in the Philippines.  Now, I was leaving from the same airport to begin my own life work.  God is good, I never could have asked for more!
The flight to Manila, the capital of the Philippines was uneventful.  I arrived in the hotel about 11:30 p.m. after traveling for 27 hours, and crashed for a day.  God has a way of timing things just perfectly.  Unbeknownst to me, I had scheduled my flight to arrive in Manila just in time to attend a major meeting between the Union headquarters and all of the supporting ministries in the Philippines.  I learned about the meeting on my way out of the US, and so after recovering a bit from the trip, and buying a few supplies, I headed to the Union offices.  I was able to meet all of the Union officers, and discuss plans for working together in this new project.  They are excited for the help, and I look forward to working with them.
Finally, after packing up all of the supplies that I had bought in Manila, I caught a taxi outside of the hotel at 2:45 yesterday morning.  It took me to Jam Bus Lines where I caught the 3:00 bus for the port of Batangas.  I hoped to catch the 6:00 a.m. ferry to Mindoro, but when I arrived in Batangas at I found that the six o’clock ferry was carrying a shipment of propane, and wouldn’t be taking any passengers for safety reasons.  I’d just as soon have taken my chances, but I remembered back to the ferry that blew up and sunk a few years back after a huge propane tank blew up on its deck.  Oh well, I’d wait.
By 8:00 another ferry line decided that it would run a ferry to take all of the passengers and vehicles that were waiting, and we were off again.  The ferry was a rust bucket and was extraordinarily slow.  I sat in the hold with my stuff to guard it, and got a nice coating of salt from spray flying over the bow as we crashed through the waves.  We’re in the tail end of rainy season here, and the ocean was pretty churned up as we pulled up to the unprotected jetty at Abra de Ilog on the north end of Mindoro.  A huge ferry had apparently not been careful enough in the high seas and had gotten washed up onto the edge of the concrete break water.  It was sitting there, waiting for a bigger wave to wash it off again, as we carefully maneuvered around it and successfully docked.
Catching a bus at the head of the jetty, we headed down the coast of Mindoro, and then up into the mountains.  Exactly twelve hours after I left the hotel, I arrived at the road outside Pandarukan, the village that I grew up in.  Several people were waiting for me, and helped me carry my stuff into the village.  I had arrived.
It was a long, long, long trip, but I’m finally here!  I will be using Pandarukan as the staging area for the Batangan project.  My parents left a few pieces of furniture in a room of the clinic when we left, and I’ll use this room as my base.
There have been two new developments with the Batangan since I was here last.  One is a new leader.  The man who used to manage the foreign affairs of the northern end of the tribe, the one who wouldn’t let me in when I tried last time, has reportedly fallen out of favor, and a new man is making the calls.  There is a chance that he will be more open to me coming in than the previous man was.
More promising, and more in keeping with Ramon’s dream, a call has come from a Batangan village on the southern end of the territory, asking for someone to come to them.  While I had a general invitation to come to them, that was several years ago and we weren’t sure if they would remember.  This is a specific call that has come in the last few months, so it may be our ticket to getting in.  Please pray that God would guide as to whether this is the area where we should start.
Thank you so much for all of your prayers, support, and thoughts!  This is a team effort, and I could not do it without you.  Thank you so much for answering the call and participating in this work.  There will be Batangan in the kingdom because of it.

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