Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Sometimes my work can be very discouraging. Over and over again, I'll start
to see Doors opening only to find them closing up again.
I wrote you a while ago about Eddie. Eddie and his wife are both shamans.
Eddie became sick, though, and he finally admitted that neither he nor his
wife could heal his sickness, so he came to me for treatment. I have been
treating him for 5 months now, and he hasn't recovered.
I have found in my medical work here that if a person changes their life and
turns to God, they get better. I know that this wouldn't fly in the
scientific community, and even some Christians would be skeptical. I just
report what I see. I started treating Benson (the spinal Tuberculosis
patient who was nearly paralyzed) at the same time that I started treating
Eddie. Benson had been sick with spinal Tuberculosis for over 4 years. He
was also nearly paralyzed. Eddie, on the other hand, had a simple Urinary
Tract Infection with a Kidney Stone, and had been sick for a couple of
weeks. When Benson came to me he decided to leave the old ways and give
himself completely to God. Eddie promised up and down to change his life,
leave the old ways, and most importantly to not practice witchcraft while
under my care.
Benson kept his commitment, Eddie didn't. Now, 5 months later Benson, with
a nearly hopeless prognosis, has made an almost complete recovery and is
walking around stronger than I am. Eddie, on the other hand, with a simple
problem, is still suffering.
Very soon we are going to have to give Eddie an ultimatum. Jesus told his
disciples that if a person or town didn't receive them, they should tell
them that the Kingdom of God had come near, and then shake the dust off
their feet and leave. I still want to help Eddie, and I can find ways to do
so, but he persistently refuses to follow the rules of spiritual and
physical health, and soon I will have to leave him to his own decisions.
Eddie had so much potential. He had so many contacts in the highlands.
Highlanders come through his home almost daily asking for his help. And
even as a shaman, he came to me for help. But like the rich young ruler,
the allurements of his power and the enjoyable things of the world proved to
be more tantalizing than life and health. I am going to have to let him go.
And yet, not all is lost. Benson had been trying to come to me for
treatment for 2 years, and Eddie was the first shaman to allow him. Now,
after living with us for 5 months, learning about God regularly, and
receiving several dreams from God, Benson has declared his faith. He is our
very first highland convert! Praise God! May God guide us and give us
wisdom to disciple him into a mature disciple and disciple maker!
Our missionary, Abel, who has been working with Eddie, has also had
opportunity to witness to several other highlanders who have been living
with Eddie too. Raquel and his wife and son were on the edge of death from
Measles when I was called. After their complete recovery, Raquel and Abel
have become close friends. Abel has shared stories from the Bible every
morning and evening with them and whoever else would listen. They tell Abel
that they are not yet ready to switch allegiances, but they believe the
stories that Abel has been telling them. May that seed germinate, too, in
A small boy, named Dadi, also was living with Eddie when I started working
with them. It turned out that Dadi had been left there by his father who is
an elder in the highlands. He came to visit, and agreed to let me treat his
son, who had Lymph Tuberculosis. Dadi and Abel have become inseparable, and
I pray that the seeds planted early will bear fruit in time too. I also
pray that Dadi's father will soften his heart as a result of our help, and
allow us to begin working in his village in the highlands. Already Abel has
visited several times, and has been welcomed gladly. They have staunchly
refused to allow us to move in, however.
As I began writing this, I was discouraged about the doors that have been
slamming in my face. In the Psalms, David often started writing a
complaint, but before he got very far he couldn't help but start praising
God and seeing His deliverance. Similarly, as I have written, the doors
that have been closed on me recently seem to have dimmed, and the doors that
God is still using, or could use in the near future have appeared to me.
May God continue throwing doors open faster than Satan can close them, until
the Tawbuid are reached for Christ!
Monday, November 17, 2014
Greetings from Mindoro!
A group of men came slowly down the path, a long bamboo pole slung over the shoulders of the middle two. An ingenious ridged platform of bamboo was suspended from the pole. As the men walked by, I caught glimpses of an ancient, filth encrusted body lying inert on the platform.
My entire youth Sabbath School/New Believers class immediately ceased listening and stared gawking at the strange spectacle. The seven newly baptized youth, whom most needed to understand what I was teaching, seemed to be the most fascinated. I decided it would be futile to try to draw their attention back to the topic at hand, so I stopped to watch too.
After a nervous consultation, the men set the body on the porch of our training center, right next to my house. Then with furtive glances at us, they melted away.
It wasnât until after church that I found out what was going on. One of the men came over and asked if we would be willing to help them. And old grandma from the highlands had been sick for many years. She had been taken to two hospitals, neither of them treated her. Herself a ruthless and feared shaman, she had been treated by countless other shamans as well. None had been able to help her. She was so demanding that no one wanted to deal with her anymore. They were ready to just drop her and run. The manâs final words were, âPlease treat her gently, but your religion can have her if you can help her.â All eyes turned on me.
One of the foundational goals of AFM is sustainability, and Iâm one of their number one champions on this point. Over and over again, in the years that I have lived and worked around missions, I have seen projects flourish and then die out when the missionary left. In our fervor to help people, we rarely take the time to think about what will happen when we leave. Will our help be for the better, or will it make their life worse?
This is often true of medical work. Many times I have seen missionaries treat people with western medicines, with wonderful results. Sometimes the missionaries even make clinics so complete that they are almost hospitals. The people learn to become dependent on the medication and treatment from the missionaries. Then when the missionary leaves, they are left without any practicable way of getting treatment. No one knows how to treat their sicknesses, or if some do they donât have access to the advanced medicines and equipment that the missionary used. Many get sick and die, and many become disillusioned.
Another area where not preparing for sustainability quickly cripples missions is evangelism. Even more often than in the medical field, Iâve seen missionaries pour funds into indigenous evangelism. They will provide food for mission expeditions. They will buy generators and projectors to show the Jesus film and colorful slides in order to woo the people into the faith. Lay evangelists and Bible workers are salaried and sent out to reach others. Then the missionary leaves, and the funding stops. The lay evangelists and Bible workers, no longer receiving funding, go back to their farms. Churches stop evangelizing because they feel they canât win people without the generators and projectors and computers that the missionary used. Often, the church leaders themselves begin fighting among themselves or apostatize over funding or the lack of it.
Iâm not perfect. Whew, I said it, now everyone knows! I mess up all the time in my attempts to lead the Tawbuid to Christ. But as my good friend and mentor, Dale Goodson, told me to do, I try to make my own mistakes and not repeat the mistakes of others. So Iâve striven from the very beginning of the Tawbuid project to build sustainability into the very foundation of the church.
One of the first ways that I put the principle of sustainability into practice was how I related to the small body of believers that was in Balangabong when I arrived. Previous Adventists who had worked here had taken control of the church and run every aspect of it the way they saw best. To the members surprise, I refused to do so. I insisted that they continue running the church. My leadership consisted mainly in teaching and working with the men and women who were already running the church. The only times I preached from the front was when THEY asked me to. So far the technique has been successful. Though growth has been painfully slow, the changes that have taken place continue to stick even when my work takes me away for long periods of time. Praise God!
I have tried to apply the same principle in the realm of evangelism. Here Iâve received a lot more push back. My members have tried to evangelize their people many times. Always in the past someone has come and given a bunch of money to buy them food for quick expeditions into the interior. Or else they will bring a Share Him type evangelism team to the lowland areas, complete with generators, projectors, bells, and whistles. Evangelism, in my membersâ minds, is defined as a short-term and outside funded evangelistic series.
I see a different pattern in the Bible. Paul, my missionary hero, often spent years in one place, planting the church deep and growing the members to a minimum level of maturity. Then he continued discipling them by letter and visit. Almost always, even when he moved on, Paul would leave behind one of his companions to continue the long term work among that people.
Further, Paul was mostly self-supporting. The modern missiological term, âTent Making,â comes from Paulâs practice of settling down in a city and getting a job as a tent maker to support himself and his companions in their work. Jewish custom required all young men, including church leaders such as the Pharisees of the Sanhedrin, to learn a trade that they could use to earn a living. Paul learned to make tents, and he used this trade many places that he went, to support his mission work.
Paulâs methods of evangelism were immensely effective. I have tried from the beginning to establish the same practices here in the work of reaching the Tawbuid. In order to do that I have attempted to set an example to emulate. I have made it clear that I plan to stay here until a church-planting movement has started. The two and a half years that I have spent here so far testify to my commitment to take the time to do the work right, even in a difficult area.
I have also attempted to set the example of tent making. Just as Paul sometimes received support from the churches, many of you generously and sacrificially support the Tawbuid project financially. Thank you so much! May God repay you beyond anything I ever could! I have set aside a portion of your support each month to buy seeds and plant a small farm. The rubber trees that we planted will, in about eight years, provide a steady if small source of cash. The seeds will allow any Tawbuid who wants to, to also plant rubber. Finally, the rice and vegetables we grow between the saplings help supplement our food and our gifts to those who donât have enough. I canât say that the work among the Tawbuid has matched Paulâs example of being fully self-sustaining yet, but with your help Iâm doing my best to ensure that it will be.
The medical work is where I am admittedly the weakest in practicing sustainability. In my attempts to make my medical work sustainable I have kept my treatments as simple as possible. My entire pharmacy consists of a single 5 foot board stocked with the most common and least expensive drugs available. In every case possible, I use naturally occurring medicines: charcoal, water, sunshine, certain plant-based medicines, etc. Some tropical diseases simply cannot be treated with these means, and can kill within hours. In these cases I treat aggressively with whatever I have available. However whenever naturally occurring medicines will, or might work, I refuse to treat otherwise until they have been attempted.
I am currently working on writing a curriculum and reference book in order to start training Tawbuid health care providers. We plan to start in December, and if all goes according to plan, I will turn over my medical work to them. At first I will mentor them directly, and as they learn I will simply be available for questions or difficult cases. To fund the medical work we are working to start several small, Tawbuid-run businesses whose proceeds will fund the medical work and other development work. One of these is a village for-profit pharmacy, another is a dedicated rubber plantation/farm, a third is a deep-well drill (which we will also be able to use to put in our own well). Each of these are still in their infancy, however. It has yet to be seen if we can make the medical work completely self-sustainable.
Anyway, Iâve gotten away from my original story. When the grandmaâs companions asked if we would help, every eye riveted itself on me. Thankfully I had realized what was going on when the group had first walked in, and had spent most of church praying and thinking about what to do.
âI am willing and happy to treat grandma,â I replied carefully. âBut remember that because of my work I have to travel quite a bit. I canât take care of grandma every day like she needs. I am willing and happy to treat her, but I need you to do you part and take care of her daily needs. Will you commit to this?â
It took more than an hour and a half to come to a consensus. The Balangabong church has often made similar agreements, but rarely keeps them. Because the entire group agrees to do something, when it comes time to do it every individual says something along the lines of, âI just HAVE to get some water to my field today. The whole church will be there, so they wonât miss just one person not being coming.â Unfortunately, when all but one or two people say the same thing, no one shows up. (That never happens in America does it?) We had a very candid, and rather heated discussion of this problem, with the result that they made a renewed commitment to really work together this time.
That night I started treating her. She had spinal tuberculosis, was paralyzed from the waist down, and had three huge abscesses/bed sores. The end of her femur was poking out of one bedsore on her left hip, and the abscess on her lower back was so deep that her vertebra were showing through. The smell, even after she had been bathed for the first time in months, was so bad most of my helpers fled the room the first time I cleaned and dressed the wounds.
I wonât bore you (or gross you out) with all the details. Suffice it to say that we immediately ran into two problems. Number one, the grandma didnât want to take the medicines the way that they needed to be taken. She wanted to take them in her time and in her way. Further she refused to eat anything but meat. We had told her upfront before we accepted her that we had no meat to serve to her, and she had agreed. But when it came to the 3rd and 4th meal of vegetables she started to refuse to eat. On top of that, she wouldnât drink water. When we gave her cold water she wanted warm. When we gave her warm she demanded cold.
Problem number two was that, again, the members care petered off after a few days. I finally figured out that the only way to guarantee care was to entrust her to ONE person. That one person could be held accountable. Even though it was unfair, it was simply the only way to make sure that she was cared for.
The one ray of sunshine in the whole matter was that when we talked to her about Jesus and His power to save, and asked her if she would leave her old ways and accept Jesus, she accepted! Other Christians in the area had been working with her before she got to us, but as the Bible says, one sows and another reaps. All I care about is that she accepted Jesus. She clearly understood very little, but she continually insisted that she had left the old ways and believed in God now. When we prayed she insisted that we pray loud enough for her to hear, and that we talk to God about her using her real name.
To keep an already long story from getting longer, the grandma lived for two weeks. Between her refusal of the medications and her refusal of food and water, it was only a matter of time. Early one morning, after asking for prayer, she went comatose. By late afternoon she had died.
Was it all a loss? I probably wonât know for years to come, but I donât think so. We learned a lot as a church about how we really work together. I learned how to make sure something actually gets done in our situation. I hope that the start of an example for self-sufficiency and sustainability was set in the church. I know that during the process several members expressed interest in the program that I am planning to start in December to train local health-care workers.
But ultimately, I hope that Christ gained a soul through our united efforts. And I pray that God will use the incident to continue cracking the door into the highlands open. Please, please pray for us. Please pray that God will start a church-planting movement among the Tawbuid that will sweep through the entire tribe, and beyond. Please pray that God will show us how to live and work in order to enable Him to start such a movement. And please pray that God will keep me faithful to His love.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I have great news! We have just sent out our first missionary family!
We're making progress. But more on that later.
In the last update I talked mostly about the infrastructure developments
over the last year. Today I want to tell you about the church-planting
developments. After all, that's the heart of why we're here.
About a year after arriving here, you may recall that I was asked to provide
medical support for a trip to survey the Tawbuid territory's borders as the
Tawbuid applied to the government for a title to their ancestral lands,
similar to our reservations in the States. While on that trip, I met an old
man from the highlands. His wiry hair all stuck straight out as if he had
just been electrocuted, and the perpetual surprised look on his face seemed
to confirm the fact. Like most highlanders, he was dressed only in a
loincloth so small that his pubic hair showed around it, and his body was
black with years of dirt and soot.
What made this highland elder different, though, was that after his initial
jitters at seeing me, he didn't seem to be afraid of me. He tentatively
talked with me, and begged for medicine for his wife who was sick up in the
I normally never treat patients unless I personally assess them. I told the
old man this and asked if he would like me to come to his home and treat his
wife. "Oh no, no, no, no!" the old man replied. "The people in the
highlands are still much too afraid. You cannot come yet, just give me
medicine and I'll give it to my wife."
I was about to respectfully apologize and say no, like I normally would, but
somebody seemed to be whispering in the back of my mind. I paused to
listen. The whisper seemed to say, "If you don't help this man now, you'll
never be able to work with him or influence him again."
I didn't know if the whisper was God or just an over eager me wanting to
grasp at any hope of getting a foothold in the highlands. I remembered,
though, what a Baptist preacher friend once told me, though. He said,
"Son, when you hear that voice speaking to you, do what He says. Don't be
afraid or double minded. Trust Him."
So I asked as many questions as I could, picked the safest drug I could, and
gave explicit directions as how to take it. Then I prayed and left the
matter in God's hands.
I never heard back from the man. After a while I just wrote it off as yet
another of the hundreds of false leads I've chased since arriving here, and
went on my way.
Then last year one of my church officers got the idea in his head to take
teams and go wander around in the highlands once a month. I have been
trying to help my members see the need to develop relationships with people
while leading them to Christ, and be committed to the long-term discipleship
of the converts. My members learned from former lowland Adventists,
however, to just walk into a village, preach hellfire and brimstone, take
anyone interested down out of the highlands and transplant them in
When I heard this young man's plan I tried my best to guide and mold his
initiative to the highlands, but without stopping him or discouraging him.
The compromise ended up being that he and his team wouldn't preach hellfire
and brimstone, but they wouldn't stay long term in any one place either.
They would basically scout out the highlands looking for people and villages
that were receptive.
On the team's very last trip they ran across an old man who seemed different
from the other highlanders they had come across. Most of the highlanders
wouldn't even talk to them, or if they did they simply gave them false
directions that would take them out of the highlands and angrily told them
to leave. Even though my members are Tawbuid, living near the lowland
Filipinos and wearing clothes as they do, the highlanders reject them just
like me. This highland elder, though, seemed glad to talk to them.
Later that evening, as they camped by a nearby river, the old man came to
visit. He talked to the team for a while, made them welcome in his
territory, and then turned to leave. Pausing momentarily, he turned back to
one of the older members of the team and said, "You should keep coming back
here. If you do, before you know it, we'll be wearing shoes just like you."
And with that enigmatic statement, the man was gone.
The man knew that we were Christians, and that the team was in the highlands
looking for people interested in hearing the gospel. We took his words to
mean that he was willing to let us come, and interested in hearing about
God. As soon as we could, we started sending groups of three and four to
visit each week.
After a while the old man invited me to come up one time with my members to
treat his sick family members. As I was coming, though, the old man's
village got wind of my arrival and the whole village, along with all the
people in the surrounding region moved away higher up in the mountains.
Only the old man remained.
He accepted my medicines, and then regaled us with stories for the next
several hours while we cooked lunch and ate. In the course of the
conversation he mentioned that he always had wanted a shirt, but no one had
ever given him one. I had taken mine off to dry the sweat out of it, and
before we left I offered it to him. I can now say that I literally gave the
old man the shirt off my back.
The old man only let me come into the highlands twice, but for several
months my church members visited every Sunday. The few people that we met
from the region were also friendly and open, unlike the majority of
highlanders we have encountered.
About this time I had to leave on a trip for several weeks. The old man was
starting to help us get into the village that he was associated with, and we
had high hopes that this would be our foothold into the interior. I left
with instructions to continue visiting every Sunday and build relationships.
When I returned, everything was lost. In their infinite wisdom the church
decided to that they should let things cool down and not visit the old man
or the village for the next three weeks. Just as I came back they went to
visit again, expecting the same warm reception. All they found was coldness
and anger. The old man met them and told them that the people in the
village had had enough of our visits, and we were not to come back again.
If we had business higher in the mountains we could pass through and say hi,
but otherwise we were to stop visiting him and his people immediately. With
sadness in our hearts we turned back towards home. Jesus never forced
Himself on anyone, and if the people in this area didn't want us there we
would respect their wishes.
I still wonder what happened. I wish with my whole heart that my members
hadn't gotten the bright idea to let things cool down. In truth, though, I
don't know if that was what precipitated the village's change of heart. The
Devil is real, and every time we get close to making a breakthrough he seems
to manage to cut us off. I don't know when the Lord will stand up and open
the doors. But I fully believe that He will in His time and way. I hope
and pray that this is not the last time I have reason to write about the
friendly old man with the electrocuted hair. Something tells me that this
is not the end of His story.
Well, about this same time I got a call from a couple who are both shamans.
The husband, Eddie, had been sick for quite some time and wanted to try my
medicine. He also had a patient, a man who had asked me to treat him long
ago, just after I arrived in Balangabong. You may recall my article about
him in the Adventist Frontiers magazine. Back in the day, Robinson had
spinal TB and wanted me to treat him, but the shaman he was living with at
the time became livid and threatened to kill him through witchcraft if he
left. He was too afraid, and stayed. It turns out that after a while, he
still hadn't recovered so his shaman sent him to this other shaman couple.
They were willing to admit that they couldn't cure him, and asked me to
Robinson (who changed his name on arrival the Benson) moved to Balangabong
with me to receive his medicines daily, along with a dose of Bible stories
to lay a Biblical foundation for conversion. He is in a lot of pain and
quite uncomfortable because his spine was so far weakened by the TB that it
started to collapse and compress the cord. He is still able to feel and
move his legs, though, and I have high hopes that he will at least maintain
that functionality. Will you please pray with me for Benson's complete
healing and conversion. I know that God's power is not limited, and even if
the injury to his spine is serious, God can restore. Even more importantly,
Benson is open to the Lord, and I pray earnestly that he will come to love
Back to the shaman couple, Eddie and his wife, along with our church elders
and I had several long talks. We let them know in no uncertain terms that
God and Satan do not mix. If they were to ask for our help, they must not
practice witchcraft simultaneously. I would not force them to become
Christians in order to receive my help, Jesus helped all whether or not they
accepted Him. But I would not treat them in God's name while they were
asking Satan to treat them too.
They agreed and I began treating Eddie as well as a highland family who had
come to them for treatment for measles. The family has recovered
completely, and they are now happy and healthy. Eddie turned out to have a
kidney stone. As far as we can tell it has come out, but he continues to
have a lot of pain. I have taken him to several doctors, all of whom agree
that he has another stone which has yet to come out.
Please also join me in praying for Eddie's healing. This man is very
influential in the highlands. He has single-handedly brought whole villages
down from the highlands and influenced them to become Christians (before he
knew of the Seventh-day Adventists). He has indicated his intention to
leave the old ways for good, become a Christian, and help us bring the
gospel to the highlands. I have trouble putting a lot of faith in the
promises of a sick man who is possibly bargaining for healing.
Nevertheless, leaving all of that aside, he is a child of God who is in a
lot of pain, and is asking God for help. God hasn't chosen to heal him yet,
I'm not sure why, but please join me in praying for God's will to be done in
Eddie, in His time. And please pray that Eddie will keep his promises and
will become a bridge to the highlands.
Since Eddie has been sick, as well as everyone in his house, he has begged
the Adventists to send two or three people to live with them, give them
their medicines at the proper time, and help them. This is the busiest
season of the year for my people, and they have had a hard time finding
anyone who could afford to leave their family for any length of time. One
of our church elders, Abel, and his family volunteered to move to Eddie's
little village and become our first missionaries. They have been there just
over a week now.
Abel and his wife are both very intelligent, medically minded, and best of
all deeply spiritual and committed Christians. Abel has a good
understanding of the highland ways, and a bit broader view of life and
religion than many of my members, as he converted to Adventism as a young
man. I couldn't have chosen a better missionary family if I had done the
Abel and his wife have already become close friends with the highland family
who was sick with measles. Abel and the husband have already visited his
highland village and received a friendly welcome. The family has been
having simple worships morning and evening with both this family and Eddie's
family, telling the stories of the Bible from Genesis onward to lay a solid
foundation for faith. The highland man has accepted a number of the stories
enthusiastically as he has heard equivalents in his own people's legends.
Sometimes it seems that the Tawbuid are impenetrably resistant to the
outside and to Christ. Often it has felt like progress has been at a crawl,
or non-existent. But God is moving, in His own time and in His own way. I
have never expected or anticipated the moves that God has made, He ALWAYS
surprises me. And that's just the way I like it. May God make me a
faithful agent, ready to move wherever He moves. And may His power be
poured out mightily and visibly for the salvation of His prized children.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
I'm sorry! I'm really, really sorry! It has been over a year since you
have received an e-mail update from me. The reason is mostly technological,
my old e-mail server stopped working and getting it back up again on the new
one from overseas without internet, as well as getting everything working on
my contact's computer in the States, has proven to be rather difficult.
Sheer business has been part of the reason as well.
My reason is poor, and my lack of communication with you is inexcusable. As
Robert Louis Stevenson once pointed out, the only thing left that I can do
is admit my fault and fall on your mercy. I'm sorry, and I will try
earnestly both to catch you up to date, and to keep you updated henceforth.
So in my last update, in May of 2013, God had just resolved my visa problem
when the corrupt official had given me fake visas, and I was getting ready
to head to the States for furlough. I met many of you, spoke at many of
your churches, and thoroughly enjoyed visiting and reporting on the progress
of the Tawbuid project. I also had some funds to raise, and thanks to your
generous financial support I was able to launch back on schedule in
September. Just a note on finances, you have been so faithful to the
Tawbuid and I that I did not have to raise any additional monthly pledges
last furlough. Thank you so much! May God bless you for your faithfulness!
I arrived back to find that a lowland former missionary had come while I was
gone and had preached terror and brimstone and 666 while I was away. My
poor members were practically trembling in their flip-flops. I hadn't
planned on going into the intricacies of 666 quite yet when we weren't yet
thoroughly grounded on salvation, but I found it necessary to explain the
true meaning and help them to understand that we should look forward to, and
prepare for, the end time events with quiet faith in the only God who can
bring us through them.
While on furlough a dear family friend taught me to pull teeth. Not long
after I got back a lady decided that her tooth hurt so bad she would be
willing to be my guinea pig and my first patient. Now, 20 + teeth later, I
feel like I'm starting to get the hang of it, and there are a lot of very
happy people in the village who would still be living with that terrible
pain otherwise. Thank you so much, to my friend who taught me!
If you've been reading the magazine you may have notice that two of my
recent articles were written by my cousin, Lisa Jester. Lisa came to visit
in November, and stayed through March. Lisa came for a number of reasons,
to visit, to get some perspective, and also to volunteer her help. She was
a tremendous help to me personally navigating some complicated decisions,
and the Tawbuid remember her best for the English seminars she taught. Most
of the public schools here teach much of their curriculum in English, and
the native students have a really hard time. They greatly appreciated
Which reminds me, Lisa also helped me set up our new training center. A
former Filipino volunteer to this area built a concrete building right next
to where my house is now, but left before completing it. With the church's
permission we commandeered it, put in a solar lighting system and chalk
board, and have been using it for health, English, and simple business
classes. It has also become the church's multi-purpose building for
meetings, social nights, etc.
One of those major decisions that Lisa helped me navigate was the purchase
of a vehicle. While on furlough, I talked with my supervisor and the AFM
staff about the possibility of purchasing a truck. I had been operating for
2 years on a Honda 125 glorified scooter, and it was getting to be pretty
miserable. I regularly had to carry loads of 100 + pounds as well as a
companion, for 2 hours or more. For nearly half of the year here it rains
every day, and driving a motorcycle in the rain, even in the tropics, is one
of the coldest things I can imagine. My health suffered as a result.
Besides my own health, many times I had emergency patients that I needed to
get to the hospital, but there was simply no way on my little bike.
By God's grace, and as a result of your generous financial help, our fund
balance was healthy enough to purchase a small Toyota pickup with a van
style bed. It official seats 15, though we have already proven that it can
carry much, much more. It has already saved the lives of several emergency
patients that we were able to get to the hospital in time, and it has saved
my health countless blows as we can now haul supplies and people in comfort
as far as the little barrio where I park the truck. There still is no road
to Balangabong, so from the barrio to home it is a ½ hour to 45 minute hike.
My faithful little water buffalo (which Lisa named Kirk Patrick) helps with
hauling the heavier supplies. All in all, life is significantly easier than
it was for the first two years. Thank you so much for your help which has
made this all possible!
One of the most difficult parts of life in Balangabong has been the lack of
water. There is an old water system which brings water down from about a
mile upriver. The source is simply a pipe stuck into a river, and not a
very clean one at that. Many highlanders live in the area and whenever
there is too much killing by witchcraft, they move to our water source and
use it for bathing. Furthermore, fish and eels regularly get into the pipe,
get stuck, and rot in the water.
Balangabong, being a lowland Tawbuid village, and mostly Christianized, has
left much of the old culture behind, including its witchcraft-based
discipline systems. However it has not adopted the Filipino/Western systems
for discipline either. The result is a people almost completely devoid of
discipline or any motivation to follow any order or authority. I like to
think of it as the Wild West, except no one has six shooters to enforce the
law for themselves, and there are no marshals either. In my nearly three
years here, the only crime I've seen punished was a man who finally was put
in jail after years of raping his daughter. No one wants to plant much of
anything because it is simply stolen before they can eat or sell it, so
everyone ends up always hungry.
When it comes to the water system, this lawlessness means that the people
simply slash the pipe along that one mile of line, and use the water
whenever and wherever they feel the desire. Nothing the village has done
has been able to control how the people abuse the system. The nearby
Filipino village came in and fixed the whole line last year, and reburied
it. Within two days the people broke the pipe and again. As a result,
there is rarely water in the village, and what water does come often has mud
and water buffalo feces in it from where the people have slashed the pipe,
besides whatever comes down from the dirty source. Even filtering my
drinking water, I've had almost chronic diarrhea for over a year. Many
times I haven't had water for a few week to a month. We simply take our
jugs and start walking till we find water, sometimes half a mile away.
I feel like a sissy complaining about a half mile hike to find water, when
many people in Africa walk miles to get muddy fouled water. Nevertheless,
if there is something I can do about it I think I should do it. I rejected
the idea of putting in a new water system as I know that there is simply no
way to control the people, and it will be back to the old way in a couple of
weeks. The next best thing is a well, and to that end I began working last
There's something you should know about Balangabong. We have rocks. I
mean, we have REAL rocks. Our rocks here are massive white quartz/granite
rocks that laugh at shovels, digging bars, and even ordinary drill bits. My
first step in putting in a well was to find a driller. After several false
starts, I found a man who guaranteed water, and promised that no type of
rock would stop him. He came well recommended, and I had personally used
several of the wells that he had put in over the years. Two weeks later,
after having only worked cumulative of about 3 days, the guy gave up and
said it was impossible. Maybe we should try digging.
It took about two more weeks to find a crew who was willing to dig. They
got down 20 feet and then they gave up. I found another crew, they dug down
five more feet, started getting into slushy mud, and then they gave up for
fear of a big rock in the wall.
I hired another crew to remove the rock and keep digging. We didn't realize
how big this rock was, though. By the time they had dug it out of the wall
of the pit they had filled the pit in and we had a granite rock the size of
a Smart Car, 10 feet down in the pit.
I rented two chain blocks, hooked up the electric winch from my truck, and
set up four additional rope blocks with most of the men in the village on
them. We used over 60 meters of rope (around 180 feet) making a harness for
the rock, but we still couldn't get the rock out.
Next I tried pounding a pipe with a point welded on the end, thinking that
if water was near the end of bottom of the pit originally dug we might be
able to pound it deep enough to break through. We tried three sites, each
time getting about a foot of water in the pipe, but we were still in the
hard-packed clay and the water seeped in too slowly to be able to pump out.
Next we dug out part of the old pit, levered the rock into it, and started
digging a new pit uphill of the rock. This time we got down to about 25
feet, again hitting the slushy black sand that everyone here says comes
about 10 feet above the water table. Then one night we had a sudden rain
storm and the pit collapsed. Now it is rainy season, and there is no chance
of being able to work on the well, so we are out of business until next dry
season comes 'round again.
The final building project that we did this year was rebuilding both my
house and my partner Delpin's. You might have read in article, "Cary On
Soldier," in the Adventist Frontiers Magazine, about how my house was
falling apart. Actually I didn't have space to fully describe just how bad
the house was. It was difficult to get into the house without falling
through the floor, the walls were paper thin where the bokbok beetles had
eaten the bamboo, the roof leaked badly, and one good hurricane would have
toppled the whole thing despite the poles propping it up. I had only
originally planned on being in Balangabong a year or so until I could move
up to the highlands. It was becoming apparent, though, that my mission was
going to look quite a bit different from what I had originally envisioned,
and I might as well build a quality house that would last for a few years.
Houses built out of native materials typically last don't more than a couple
of years here. But by chain sawing dimensional lumber and searching out the
best quality posts and materials, as well as building in the right season,
you can push the life span of the main structure to nearly ten years, only
having to replace the roof, floor, and walls every two or three years.
When my supervisor, Laurence Burn, came to visit in November he fully agreed
that both of our houses had to be rebuilt.
One major improvement in the new house is that I have built a small
outhouse. I haven't had a bathroom for the last few years. I won't be able
to use it during dry season when there's no water to flush it with, but now
during rainy season I have hung a few pieces of tin under my eaves to catch
water in 55 gallon drums which I can use for bathing, washing clothes, and
flushing the toilet. Talk about luxury!
Well, I'm four pages in and only described the developments in our
day-to-day survival. I think I'll sign off for now, and try to get this out
to you. Next week, Lord willing, I'll catch you up on what has been
happening in the church planting side of things. Until then, may God bless
you, and thank you again for your help, support, and especially your