Thursday, April 30, 2009

He's Back

Thomas arrived back to Bontoc about 10 last night. There were signs of recent slides on the mountain road but all were cleared before his bus went through. He had no problem getting the cash we needed and even managed to pick up a few items from the shopping list. We are looking forward to more homemade bread with the whole wheat flour he carried home in his backpack. There is disappointment that he did not bring home any cheese. However, when he looked, all of it was moldy so that item will just wait until the next trip.

Lisa

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No Room at the Inn

No there is not any government official forcing us to make the pilgrimage to Baguio to pay taxes or even visa fees but yet go to Baguio we must. We are still unable to access any cash here in Bontoc. We had anticipated going to Baguio as a family so we could get the needed cash plus take care of some other things such as getting haircuts, glasses for Alexie since the ones she had broke about a week ago, picking up the usual items we are unable to get here and have some family fun. It seemed like the perfect time to make the trip. If we arrived the end of April and stayed until the beginning of May we could withdraw both months cash limits. We had no ministry commitments since Friday is a holiday and the health office will be closed so we will not be able to have our health clinic. We have not officially started the school year so there would not be any conflicts with that either. Our usual accommodations were not available but we thought we would just get a hotel room. But each one we contacted said the same, "Sorry there is no room." We thought we could just go ahead and go and attempt to live in the SM mall an idea we got from a book we have read, From the Mized-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, or maybe on the streets like another book we just read. (Rather than The Family Under the Bridge we would be The Family on Session Road.) Since we were unaware of any stables available and Annalise is a bit big to sleep in a manger. Think of the blog material we could have gathered! But alas we chose to not get our names in the newspapers for any such activity preferring the publicity of this week's Mountain Province Exponent regarding our missionary activities. As we still desperately needed the cash, Thomas is on his way to Baguio and will return late tonight.

Lisa

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Who's Cooking?

Alexie has been showing an increased interest in cooking recently. She has really become an asset in the kitchen. She likes to help plan meals and cook. She is even becoming proficient enough that she can handle some meals on her own.

The other day, she sent Lisa and I on a walk to the market while she planned and prepared dinner. It was the first time she made bread on her own. She did all of the mixing, kneading, etc. When we walked in, the dough had risen in the loaf pans and was ready to go into the oven.
It turned out wonderfully. She was rightfully proud of her accomplishment. Everybody felt that her bread was even better than what I usually make. We devoured the first loaf and with a great amount of self-restraint, we put the other away for lunch the next day.
Alexie and I love bread, so it is great to have someone else who is interested in making it - and can do a great job of it.

Great job Alexie!

Daddy

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Psycho-analytic Shopping

Outside of the store where we do much of our grocery shopping, we noticed the following containers of biscuits (cookies).

We are not sure if your choice represents your mental status or not.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bad-ayan, Buguias

As you can see above, the ride was something less than a Cadillac. I rode in the back of a friend's Jeepney with some other friends to present a Moral Recovery Program seminar to the barangay officials in Bad-ayan in the neighboring province of Buguias. Talking with the owner, the drive train dates back to 1980 and the vehicle had been retired and resurrected a couple times when he bought it. Riding in the back was not so bad on the stretches of road that are paved. But the other times, it was a lot like riding in the bed of a pickup truck, on gravel roads, with bad suspension. (I suppose it was exactly like that.) It was along 3.5 hours.
The beauty of this country is simply breathtaking to me. Unfortunately, the tarps that enclose the back don't really have windows - it just looks like it. But once we were there, we dusted off and I got to enjoy the scenery around Bad-ayan.

Here are some of my new friends enjoying our meal together.

One of my companions started us off with a lively song to get the blood moving. Then we got down to business with our seminar. Throughout the day, we shared on topics such as Love of God, Selfless Love and Service to People, Wisdom of Truthfulness, Sanctity of Marriage, and Respect for Authority. Only one topic was presented in English. (I really need to learn Ilocano so I will have a clue about what is being said by people other than me.)

It was a long day. But at the end of the seminar, many of the barangay officials (think town council) commented that the seminar was an encouragement for their work. One even asked if we could stay overnight to continue the next day so others could join them. But several of my companions had commitments in Baguio the next day and I was eager to get home to Lisa and the girls. The trip home was not so uncomfortable. It was raining/drizzling, so the dust was not nearly so bad and our companions heading to Baguio caught a bus which made room in the front of the Jeepney.

Grace,
Tom

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good - Monday - Morning

Thanks to all of you who prayed for the events of this morning. Your prayers were definitely felt and appreciated. It was a rough night however. Alexie was sick and needed attention several times through the night. You may remember that the last time we had a presentation at the Municipal Flag Ceremony, she was very ill as well. She is feeling better than last night, but could still use your prayers.

This morning the Municipal Health Office was hosting the Municipal Flag Ceremony. The doctor that directs the office requested that I share about our work at the YWAM Health Clinic. Later, when I saw her at the Lang-ay Festival, she asked if I could also share a Bible teaching during the program. I was excited about the an invitation to share with all of the Municipal Government employees. (As well as the various people who happen to watch the ceremony each week at the plaza.)

For those of you who responded to our request for prayer about this opportunity, I once again thank you. I believe this opportunity would not even have been extended if not for the prayers of those who stand with us in prayer.

First, I shared about the YWAM Health Clinic. Since we began in October, we have seen over 300 different patients with a total attendance of about 450. Over 80 people have screened positive for diabetes and over 180 have screened positive for hypertension. In addition to testing, we we offer advice on healthy diet and lifestyle as they apply to the people of this region.

I then talked with them about the time Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." And Isaiah prophesying about Jesus and saying that, "by His wounds we are healed." It is interesting that we often apply these ideas to physical healing. Indeed God does care about our physical health; Jesus healed many people of real, physical ailments. But in both of these passages, the sickness had to do with sin. Jesus was responding to a question about why He hung out with sinners. And Isaiah was talking about transgressions, iniquities, and punishment.

It was so great that yesterday was Easter. So even for those who don't concern themselves with the teaching of Christianity, the story of Jesus' death and resurrection was familiar.

During the sharing we did a "screening" for the disease of sin. We all tested positive. Then I told them about the cure, Jesus. I left them with the challenge I leave with our patients: now you are aware of a problem, but awareness is not healing. Healing requires change. What will you do?

My companion who had come for the Moral Recovery Program that followed the flag ceremony was surprised at the boldness of the message.

Screening positive for sin.

Another part of the morning was passing along a gift. Friends from the plant I worked at for so many years had gathered together fire gear and training materials to donate to the Bontoc Fire Department. They also collected the sizable sum required to ship the two, heavy boxes around the world.

This is the second donation. The first came a couple months ago and was a real blessing to the men on the department who have
very little equipment. It was an honor to be able to pass this along. I am thankful for the doors of relationship that such blessings open.
Loading up the fire gear onto the trike.


Then onto another trike for the ride to the fire station.
After the flag ceremony, I met with the Philippine National Police for the Moral Recovery Program. There we discussed the topics of selfless love and service to people. Once again, the timing of Easter and these topics was great. For what better example of selfless love is there than our redeemer?

I include so much detail about what I shared only because so many of you were praying for us and I wanted to let you know how it went. My concern as I prepared was how the Gospel could be clearly presented before a group of people who had not gathered for a sermon or any "religious" presentation. I am so thankful for the prayers of those who stand with us. I believe all aspects of the morning went well, with the exception of my family's health. Please continue to pray that this illness will soon pass.

Grace,
Tom

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter in the Philippines

It is on holidays that we miss home the most. Being unable to gather with family, they can easily seem like any other day on the calendar. But last night we mixed up Easter Story Cookies (Resurrection Cookies) to help focus our thoughts on Easter. Throughout the process the different steps go along with the Scriptures read. The cookies are placed in a warm oven that we "seal" shut just like the tomb. The oven is then turned off and the cookies are left until Easter morning. We have made these in the past but this morning we learned they are not so successful using a gas oven. No hollow cookie "tombs" were found when the door was opened but cookies much the same state as we left them.

The girls and I talked about how at home we all wanted to wear spring dresses but the weather was often so cold we shivered throughout the morning. Today it was warm and sunny as we walked to church but no Easter-type dresses made it to our suitcases for the move. Rather than Easter dresses, the girls and I donned our new tapis. We received a great amount of attention as we walked to church and back in our traditional woven skirts. A bit more attention than preferred but that is another story for a different time and place.
No Easter bunny makes appearances here. No baskets, colored eggs, or jellybeans either. But that doesn't mean there is not confusion regarding Easter. The Philippines is famous for the crucifixions and floggings many voluntarily undergo as an expression of their faith and devotion. (See news.com.au and yahoo news for in-depth articles.) Although not done in the area we are living, we find it sad to hear the stories of how the participants are hoping for the forgiveness of sins and special favor from God because of these actions. It seems that they have missed that what Jesus did on the cross has already paid for our sins. We become the children of God not by mutilating ourselves, but by accepting what He has already done.

Although we miss home, we are reminded of the reason we came...
Lisa

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lang-ay Festival 2009








video


Lang-ay Festival is the biggest celebration of the year in Bontoc. Despite the frequent rain and long, recurrent brown-outs during the week-long festival, many came to Bontoc to enjoy the festivities. Not sure if there were the 30,000 in attendance of last year, but when watching the street dancing there were people crowding the streets and even on nearby balconies and roofs.

Here are a few highlights of this week-long event from our viewpoint:

FOOD
Our girls enjoyed the foot-long hotdogs and cheeseburgers. Thomas and I ate our share of shawarmas, tortillas filled with roast beef, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions and covered in a cheese sauce and some white sauce. But we were much too full to sample the delicacies a vendor was grilling on the street: chicken intestines, chicken heads, or little chicks all available on a bamboo skewer. Brings a whole new meaning to chicken nuggets.

The special "Lang-ay" wine was promoted but we supported another festival sponsor, Coca-Cola.





FUN
We watched some of the sports competitions. There were plenty to chose from: basketball, volleyball, table tennis, softball, and archery.

A huge crowd gathered for the Battle of the Bands and the Lang-ay Concert. This prompted a mixed reaction among our family. Some of the girls plugged their ears but Annalise did not let the volume keep her from falling asleep on my lap. Thomas and I enjoyed some of the groups more than others but we really liked the band from Baguio.

We laughed and laughed during the acrobat show. All the performers were excellent but the clowns were our favorites.





CULTURE
There were many opportunities to learn more about the culture of our neighbors. We went to a play, Sinauliyan, about love amidst tribal wars performed completely in some of the local dialects. Thomas did not attend the play and was impressed when the girls came home and told him the story-line even though none was in English.

The biggest cultural event was the street dancing on the final day of the festival. Groups from various communities performed dressed in the traditional clothing. Most groups included people of all ages, children to the elderly. As each group paused during the parade to perform their dance explanations were given of the occasions for the various dances. They portrayed cultural elements of the mountain people. Many followed agricultural themes: planting and harvest of rice, sugar cane, or other crops. Some portrayed tribal conflicts or even the head hunting past of the region. After performing at several places along the parade route, the teams competed at the high school grounds.





PEOPLE
Festivals are great times to gather with some friends and make some new ones. We spent time with some of the students from our church and some from our SSM ministry. Alexie met some of her friends from the Values Education class.

When our family came to the cultural competition and found the bleachers and all available viewpoints packed with people, we walked around and talked to the various groups that were waiting to perform. Many stroked Annalise's blonde hair and fair skin. Since I had taken plenty of photos of them it was only fair to agree to the many pleas for photos with the girls. It was interesting as we talked with them about their villages, traditions, costumes, and presentations.

When we went down to find out what "Lang-ay by the Chico River" was all about, Thomas and I quickly found ourselves being invited to eat with the governor and his wife. Wherever we are we are noticed. It is hard to blend in when you are so much taller and have blonde hair. But we are thankful for the many opportunities to meet people and make more friends.






The girls and I will look a bit more like our Filipino friends wearing our new tapis, the traditional woven wrap-around skirts of the Igorot women. Thomas prefers to keep his wardrobe more American and chose a t-shirt from one of the vendors. Maybe he'll learn to play the gongs....but no g-strings for him!

Lisa

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Box Day!

Yesterday when Thomas and I stopped at the post office, five boxes were waiting with my name on them. They might have looked like some ordinary brown cardboard boxes to everyone else, but not to our family. Despite the fact that some of the boxes had ripped open in the transit from the States, the treasure inside was safe and secure....books, books, glorious books and more! You would have thought it was Christmas with the excitement in the air as we lifted each item out of the cardboard disguises. Even though we are still finishing up a few items from school year 2008-2009, the girls are looking forward with great anticipation to next school year. They will not have long to wait as we plan on starting the new school year at the beginning of May so they can enjoy summer vacation showing Grandma, Grandpa, and their cousin, Jordan, around in June. We are so very thankful for the arrival of our treasure and that the company, Rainbow Resource Center, that shipped it to us not only gave us a missionary discount of 15% but charged us less than half of the actual shipping charges!


The girls have to wait until the "school bell" rings to open the new books, but we all enjoyed a few new games while the rain poured down outside. The new family favorite is Spy Alley.

Lisa

P.S. Coming soon - a post about Bontoc's biggest festival of the year, Lang-ay.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Prayers Answered

We would like to thank everyone for the prayers offered on our behalf. We are safe. The helicopters have left the area and we have not heard news about any more fighting. Still not sure about the facts surrounding the situation as it is difficult to get accurate and objective information from the sources available. According to the newspaper article I read about it, one soldier was wounded and it took a few days before he was found. There were no casualties reported among the rebels. But again, the newspaper, like any other media source is not always a "just the facts" report.

Sorry for the lapse in updates since that post but we have been without electricity for most of the last several days. We have had the opportunity for candlelight dinners, candlelight cooking, candlelight bucket/dipper showers, and candlelight card games.

Thanks again for your prayers...they are vital to us!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Big Birds

For the past three days, the military has had a couple of helicopters in the skies over Bontoc. Rumor has it there has been some rebel activity in the area on the other side of the mountain. Both graduation ceremonies of the past few days have had times where hearing the commencement speaker is difficult over the thumping of the helicopter rotors.

Today, we saw the helicopters land, exchange soldiers and take off again. We are reminded that there is unrest in this country. Please pray for peaceful resolution and the safety of all involved: whether by choice, profession, or home address.

Batch 2009 - Collegiate Version

Today we joined two of our Student Sponsorship Ministry students in their college graduation. Nora completed her degree in Secondary Education. Donna completed hers in Criminology. This is a significant accomplishment when you consider how many of these students are the first in their family to earn a college degree.

Rather than a lot of text, here are some pictures that summarize our day.

Nora waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Nora and her brother

Nora and her family

Annalise with SSM students, Fe and Donna


Donna with friends and family

Alexie and a friend from her Values Education class

SISTERS: Ruth graduated from high school yesterday, Nora from college today

Lunch with Donna and the other graduates from Talubin.
(They all gathered near the river after graduation before making the trip to the village.)


Celebrating at YWAM Mountain Province with Nora's family and other Student Sponsorship Ministry friends.