Monday, October 17, 2016

Greetings From Mindoro!

I am regularly asked what I do on a day-to-day basis, and what life is like here. These are difficult questions to answer, as life is so unpredictable in this line of work. Let me see if I can give you a small sample of what my job involves, though.

As I write, the wind of the latest hurricane is whipping rain through the thin bamboo walls of our houses and plastering our nearly ripe rice crop to the ground. My clothes smell moldy after several days of straight rain. The trail up the mountain is a swath of mud. All in all, pretty normal.

Before this hurricane hit, Delpin, my native team mate, and I were just about to put in a crop of eggplant and okra at our farm which is about 45 minutes farther up toward the mountains. The rubber trees that we have planted as a long-term livelihood project are almost as big as my arm. Now it's time to start intercropping, growing vegetables in among the trees. The slash-and-burn farming that the Tawbuid practice, combined with the rice that they plant on these farms, combine to deplete the soil after a single crop. I have been trying to convince the people to farm vegetables instead. Growing vegetables, they don't need to spend 2-3 months every year clearing new land. The soil is not depleted and can be cropped year after year. Furthermore, vegetables produce much more per hectare than rice. Of course, no one wants to listen to me talk, so it's time to demonstrate.

In order to water the rubber trees as well as the vegetables, we dug a well where there was a seasonal spring at the farm. It has water all year long except for the final month and a half of dry season. God was merciful and we haven't had nearly the trouble putting in this well that we had putting in the well in the village. Last week we put on the finishing touches, and poured a concrete slab so that ground water won't contaminate the well, and we can start drinking from it when we are at the farm.

The believers here in Balangabong have recently opened a small co-operative dry-goods store. I have been trying hard to teach the church to stand on its own feet, and not constantly depend on outside help for everything it needs. To this end, when the church approached AFM asking for money, we responded that we would prefer to help them start small businesses. (The rubber trees have been part of this initiative as well.) The store struggled for the first few months, and some sparks flew. Learning to run a business, or even just manage cash without spending it immediately, presents a VERY steep learning curve to the Tawbuid. I'm very happy, though, to see that they are starting to get the hang of it, and the store is starting to turn a small profit. They have agreed to use the first profits to put in a lighting system in the church so that they can more easily worship at night.

Lately I spend a portion of each day writing. At this stage of the project the believers and leaders need materials that they can use in carrying on the work themselves. I have a long list of writing projects, but the two at the top of my list at the moment are a book which answers the most common questions of unbelievers and a protocol book for my new medical workers. One of the most frequent reasons that the believers give me for not being bold in witnessing is that unbelievers always ask difficult questions, and they can't remember the answers that they have learned. After several years of hearing this objection I decided to write a book which will answer all the most common questions and objections that unbelievers here mention. Hopefully this will help the church to teach boldly.

Every afternoon at 4:00 I go to our new clinic. The 3 healthcare workers that I have trained run the clinic all by themselves, but I still go whenever I'm in the village in order to be available to answer questions when they run into diseases they aren't familiar with. I also use the opportunity for Just In Time training. When I'm not needed in the examining room I sit in the waiting area and answer questions from the patients waiting to be seen. The protocol book that I am writing will be a reference for the medical workers. It needs to be simple enough for my workers who have a highschool education, but thorough enough that they can look up and jog their memory on any diseases which they might possibly see here.

Friday I spent the day in town with a new patient from the Alangan tribe. After being pregnant 13 months, her husband finally took her to the hospital. The hospital admitted her and kept her for a month and a half. During that time they did a CT scan and found that she has a massive tumor. The tumor grew with the baby, and eventually killed it. When the husband found out that the surgery to remove the tumor would cost $1,000, he knew that there was no way he could afford it, so he took his wife home. Two months later, in desperation, they came to me for help. I've been trying to find a hospital which has the capabilities to do the operation, and which I can afford. The local hospital has doctors' capable to performing the operation, but their ICU doesn't have the equipment needed to care for her after the operation. This week I will take her to the provincial hospital. I hope and pray that they can perform the operation, and can do so affordably, as taking her to the capital of Manila would be exorbitantly expensive.

The civil leaders of Balangabong came to me a few weeks ago and asked for help to make a map of the village. The local government is requiring maps of all the native villages to help ensure that development projects don't overlap. I used my ipad and images from Google Earth to make a simple but accurate map, with the village elders showing me what went where. Then I printed the map in town on a tarpaulin so it would last. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) saw the map at the subsequent meeting, and asked me to help them map the entire territory. Properly mapping the reservation territory is a major project, which will require continuing the formal survey which we started back in 2013. I have been working with the NCIP and the tribal leaders, though, to make a simple map which they can use until the formal survey is complete.

Because AFM does not have a branch in the Philippines, I have no way to get a long-term visa. This means that every two months I have to travel to the main island of Luzon to renew my tourist visa. This is typically at least a two day trip. As long as I'm already on Luzon I usually take the opportunity to purchase Bibles at the Philippine Bible Society, and stop in to see if any literature is available at our publishing house. Supplying the growing leaders with tagalog literature is one of my ongoing struggles. Many of Mrs. White's books are translated into Tagalog, but our publishing house does not print them anymore, assuming that everyone can read English.

This trip to Luzon every two months has become MUCH MUCH easier since we were able to purchase a truck for the project. I know that I have mentioned the truck several times, but I am so thankful for it that I want to say it again. Thank you to each of you who has contributed to this project and allowed us to purchase and maintain the truck without extra fundraising! The truck has saved lives of emergency patients, and it has dramatically improved my health. I used to have to drive my tiny motorcycle through the hurricanes with all of my supplies on my back plus a passenger or two. In the truck I can stay dry and comfortable, and can get to where I'm going and back much more quickly. Thank you!

Thank you also for your prayers! Sometimes it seems like the work is moving slowly, but God is answering your prayers, and change is coming to the Tawbuid. Lives are being saved, health is improving, families are learning to provide for themselves, and most importantly of all, churches are being planted and souls are being saved. Thank you for partnering with me in God's work!