Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Greetings from Mindoro!

Though the highland Batangan have officially declared themselves to be
closed to further evangelism, I have been promised by the tribal and
national governments that if I receive an invitation, I am free to accept
it. To that end, while learning the language here in Balangabong, I take
every opportunity to develop any relationship that I can with highlanders
who pass through.

I was washing a pot inside my house that hot, dry season day a couple of
months ago, when I heard a voice outside asking in Taubuid (which is what
the Batangan call themselves), "Who lives in this house?"

"A siganon lives there," answered my next door neighbor, using the local
word for outsider.

"Yes," I replied teasingly in Taubuid as I walked toward the door. "A white

What I saw when I stepped down onto the porch made me sit down in a hurry.
There, peering through the railing, stood a highland woman! If a highlander
ever comes down, it is only the men and teenage boys. The women and
children are terrified of outsiders, and in my entire contact with the
Taubuid, I've only seen three highland women. The lady seemed a little
surprised to see me, and I could tell that she was ready to run, but she
stayed put. I began speaking to her in Taubuid, and she answered me. I
don't remember much of what we said, except that she exclaimed how clean my
porch was, and I replied that it made for good sleeping. After a few
minutes she wandered off upriver, and I continued sitting on the porch
praising God. I had just had my first conversation with a highland woman,
and my first conversation entirely in Taubuid! I was elated!

That was a couple of months ago, and my language ability has increased quite
a bit since then, but the encounter still stands out in my mind as one of
the highlights of my time with the Taubuid.

Another morning I walked out onto my front porch to see a highlander
sitting under the eaves of my neighbor's house watching me. "Good morning!"
I said cheerily in Taubuid.

"Good morning also," he answered in Alangan.

"Hmm," I thought. "He must be one of the highlanders who has spent some
time on the border and can understand a few words of Alangan. Nevertheless,
I'll humor him and answer back in Alangan."

"Where are you from?" I asked in Alangan.

To my surprise he continued to speak fairly understandable Alangan. He
explained that his name was Marcos, and that though he lived near the center
of their territory, he had worked for a few years in an Alangan border
village and had thus learned Alangan. Now that his wife had been killed
through witchcraft by a jealous relative, he frequently came to the lowlands
to work for lowland Taubuid or lowlanders.
Marcos has been a frequent visitor since that day, often bringing his
brother along to ask for medicine or just to sit and chat for a while. The
first time that he returned to the mountains, as we parted ways I spoke to
him. "Friend, I want to tell you something before you leave. Please
remember wherever you are, that when the time comes and you need it, I have
the medicine to cure fear."

I doubt that he understood, and he probably doesn't even remember, but I
hope and pray that someday God can use that seed. Because it's true, I
carry the only cure to the disease that is killing the highland Taubuid and
slowly bringing their tribe to extinction.

There have been many more similar little encounters with the highlanders,
more than I have time to share here. As I had hoped and prayed, the
medicine that I carry has been the key to contacting them. News of my
medicine has reached beyond the middle line of their territory, and a number
have come for treatment. When they come, they are blown away that an
outsider, let alone a white man, can speak their language, even if it is
limited and halting. No one has yet accepted my gentle offer to come and
treat their relatives, but I know that it isn't yet time to push.

I pray that these little encounters will continue to spread the word, and
build a desire for what I have to offer. I know that it is not yet time.
God has very clearly put me here and told me to learn what I can while I
wait. Yet the time will come, the time will come. May God prepare me for
that day.

Thank you again for making this ministry possible through your prayerful
support! Already many have been blessed, and this is just the beginning!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Greetings from Mindoro!

Thank you so much for all of your prayers in regard to the expedition to the
highland Batangan! The short and simple is that the expedition didn't go

I'm certain that this was actually an answer to your and my prayers. I had
privately worried that it was not the right time for this expedition.
Since it was their own initiative, however, and was proposed by a very Godly
man whom I highly respect, I went along with it not wanting to quench the
Spirit if it was Him. I prayed, though, that God would prevent any harm
from being done. The expedition was postponed because of a simple
misunderstanding, and I think Gods had was in it.

Thank you for your prayers in this, and in all aspects of this project. I
want you to know that I pray daily for you also.

Sabbath our first hurricane of the season hit. I was supposed to travel up
to the Conference office for Workers' Meetings Sabbath night, but I couldn't
safely get out. The rivers between us and the nearest road were so high
that anything but emergency travel was too dangerous. This area is known
for bad flash floods and just Friday evening one of the church elders nearly
died crossing the river on the way home. It's an interesting place I live
in at the moment, usually not all that isolated, but in minutes I can be
completely cut off from the world.

Most of the force of the hurricane has passed now, but it has left its
signature. Though I usually don't notice the humidity anymore, almost
everything in my house is covered in several millimeters of mold and the
rechargeable silica packs I use to keep my laptop and satellite phone dry go
bad in a single day. And this is just the beginning! I look forward to the
peculiar mold that grows on the type of bamboo used for walls. By the end
of rainy season my walls should be glowing a beautiful bio-luminescent green
at night!

Thank you again for your continued support of the Batangan project! May God
richly bless you!

John Holbrook