Thursday, November 23, 2017

Greetings From Mindoro!

It's been a long time! Since I wrote last I went to the US for furlough. Immediately after arriving in America I went to the AFM home office for debriefings with the home office staff. I also helped out in the training department, teaching the Missionary Medical course and Second Language Acquisition. I really enjoyed teaching, and it looks like I probably will be helping out each year, now in the summer training!

After teaching and meetings at the office, I drove around the country for a while, visiting friends and donors, and speaking at churches. This furlough I tried to schedule all of my appointments for the beginning of the summer, to give me some uninterrupted time with my parents at the end.

I have a small fifth-wheel trailer from back when I was in college, and my parents let me keep in parked on their property. After more than a month of traveling, it was great to get "home." I spent the rest of furlough speaking in the surrounding churches on weekends, and helping my parents prepare to build a house. It was great to be able to rest by means of comfortable work and plenty of good food. It always feels good to be able to work hard, when I'm in the States. If I push myself very hard here in the Philippines I quickly get sick. The climate in the States, as hot and humid as it is in the South, nevertheless is still more conducive to my health.

At the end of October I flew back to the Philippines, arriving at the beginning of November. There are always many small problems to take care of when I am gone for a while. This trip was no exception. However, it has been a pretty easy transition this time around. My house, especially, was in exceptionally good condition as a dear widow in the church practically lived here while I was gone, and took care of it. The only major disaster was that termites got into my library. Almost all of my paper books are ruined, and the termites still have a huge nest on my ridgepole. I guess as long as I'm in Balangabong I'll have to stick to electronic books.

The best news is that I found the churches and missionaries still going strong. All of the missionaries who were working in various villages when I left are still there. Several groups in the Balangabong church are also making regular trips to the highlands looking for interested villages.

We are still dealing with the disciplinary problem with Aida's husband (who abused their daughters) which I have mentioned and which Conrad Vine wrote about in the Adventist Frontiers. Many of the church members are still angry that Aida pressed charges against her husband in order to protect her daughters from continued abuse. They claim that she is sinning by putting him in jail, and they are trying to remove her from mission work. It is ironic that while they are sitting at home accusing her and defending a rapist, she is busy supporting six children and teaching the gospel to new villages.

While I was in the States I put together a short video from one of our trips to a highland village. Have a look at it when you have a few minutes. Here's the link: v=zQM3tl4eNvg

Thank you always for your faithful prayers and support! John Holbrook

John H

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Greetings From Mindoro!

When I wrote last October, I mentioned a lady with a massive tumor in her abdomen. I was having trouble finding a Dr. who would treat her, and I was short of funds to take her to a hospital off the island.

After I wrote, a friend voluntarily donated enough for us to go ahead with the operation. Just as I as about to take her off the island to look for a Dr. to operate on her, I found a former surgeon who had moved to a little rural hospital near us. He felt sure that he could do the operation, and asked that we admit her to the hospital to increase her weight before operating.

Well, the hospital in Sablayan kept her admitted for a full month. They claimed they were feeding her carefully to help her gain wait. Her husband, who stayed with her, though, reported that they were giving her the spoiled leftovers from the day before. They lived on the food that I was providing for them. We held on, however, as the Dr. promised that he could and would do the operation.

After a month, though, the Dr. stopped showing up. We never were able to find him again. One of the other staff doctors discharged her with an order to get another ct scan. I tried to follow orders, but one of her lab values was too high and the tech wouldn't do the scan.

I knew that it was time to go off the island to one of the large hospitals on Luzon, but I was about to leave for a series of trips, and I knew that it would likely take a month or more of red tape and hospital jumping to get anything done, so I put off the operation.

Well, at New Years, I visited the village where she is from and saw her. She was pretty bad off, skin and bones and hardly able to sit. I knew that if I delayed until February, when I would get back from my travels, she would be dead. So I took her immediately to Batangas on the island of Luzon. (It was quite an ordeal to get them to agree to go there, and find companions to accompany them).

The hospital seemed quite efficient and competent. They admitted her. The first night they did as many labs, x-rays, etc. as would have taken a week on the island. Getting her in to get a CT scan was a little more difficult. The lab value that had prevented the scan before had gone down, but the waiting line for the machine was 3 days long. They wouldn't let her eat or drink for that whole time.

I had to go back to Mindoro at this point, so I got the findings through the eyes of my native team mate, Delpin. What I pieced together is that they concluded that the tumor was malignant, and that it had already metastasized. They could operate and remove the tumor, but in her condition she would almost certainly die on the table, and excising the tumor would just cause the cancer to spread more rapidly. They recommended taking her home and making her as comfortable as possible.

I explained to the family what all of this meant, and asked them if they wanted to try at the nation's top hospital in Manila. They said they had had enough, and she would rather die in peace at home. They were ready to go back to the village.

When we got to their home, I helped them pay off some debt they had incurred through this whole process, and get good food. I generally try to make life as easy as possible for her those last few weeks. Then I left on my trip.

AFM has asked me to start helping the training department, teaching the language acquisition portion of training for new missionaries. At the end of January I taught my first language acquisition class to our new missionaries coming from our newest branch, AFM Brazil!

I very much liked Brazil. My assessment was that it has the infrastructure of the States, with the laid-back feel of the Philippines. Even more, though, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting and sharing with our new missionaries from Brazil. They are a great group, and I have high hopes that God will soon do a great work through AFM Brazil. Please remember the brand new office there in your prayers. They are just getting going, and are already serving well.

I arrived back in the Philippines at the beginning of February. My patient was getting weaker. She was no longer able to sit up. But her courage was still strong. I went on to Balangabong to carry on my work here, and just last week I received word that she had died.

During this whole process I and the church members (and my university students who were visiting over Christmas break) all visited her and witnessed to her and her husband. Even before she got sick she and her husband were starting to come to church. They were very glad and accepting of our visits, and our teaching. Neither of them could read, but they heard that I have a Tagalog audio Bible, and they asked me for a copy. God alone is judge, but I hope that we will see her again in the kingdom.

Even if we weren't able to save her life, we extended it and made it more comfortable. Several times her husband told me that it was clear to her and her relatives that we had done everything possible to save her, and they appreciated it. Most of all, we were able to witness to her, and we have hope that she accepted and believed. Thank you for making that possible!