Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Weekend in Saclit

In the jeepney awaiting our departure
This weekend, Adriana and I accompanied our friend Pastor Steve to the village of Saclit.  Although a tropical storm had brought a lot of rain over the previous days, we were fortunate that the road was not blocked by landslides.

But travel is always an adventure.  Not long after leaving Bontoc, we had our first tire change - both front tires.  One tire was flat.  The tread was peeling off of the other.  But honestly, I was not so sure its replacement was much better.
The first tire
The replacement
Ooops
Tire change in the mountains
It was not long before we had to stop again and put the first tire back on.

You may have noticed the rocks on the right of the picture.  That is from a landslide.  All along the way, the road varies from 1 to 2 lanes due to interferences from rocks above or collapse of the road below.
Adriana of the Cordillera Mountains
The rest of the way, there was the additional noise from the tire as the tread peeled off.  But we made it - well mostly.  Bald tires work okay on flat, paved roads.  But the rain had made the road up the mountain to Saclit muddy.  Bald tires and a full load of people made it impossible for the jeepney to complete the trip to the top of the mountain.
She go no mo'
Adriana and I were both glad to walk the rest of the way.  The driver tried hard to make it, but a few times we slipped and slid to the edge of the road.  It's very steep and a long way down.  Besides, we had been riding for a couple of hours already.

Enough about travel.  Our purpose for the weekend was not to write about getting there, but about being there.
Entering the "City Gate"
Saclit is at the top of a mountain.  Once the road ends you still need to hike up the trail.  Some of it has stairs like you see above.  I found out this weekend that its location was chosen in large part due to the history of tribal wars.  The latest incident related to these wars was as recent as 2004.  The location of Saclit provides clear view of anyone who might be trying to attack.  This provided a very defensible location to farm and raise your family.

We stayed at the home of Alex and Megela and their family.  In the evening, people gathered at at their home for a Bible study.  Together we talked about what we can learn about people, about God, and about the relationship between the two from the story of Bartimaeus.  The discussion was good, but once again I was wishing I knew enough Ilocano to understand the conversation without a translator.  About 10:00 pm the conversation died down and we went to bed.

In the morning, as we prepared for church, the family went about their chores.  One of which is feeding the pigs.  In the picture below, 8 year old Amy is pounding the pig food in the corner of the house.  Behind her you can see the banana tree stalks which are chopped and added to the food garbage before being pounded in the wooden mortar and pestle.

Preparing pig food
After the pigs were fed, I had the opportunity to sit with the many children who had gathered at the house.  We listened to the recordings of the Read Aloud Bible Stories as we sat on the back porch.  Many people of all ages stopped to listen to a story or two as they were either on their way somewhere or came out of curiosity to see what was happening.  You can see in the picture that the houses are very close together, so all of the neighbors could hear what was going on.

When we finished the stories that were recorded in Ilocano, I read the remaining stories in English.  Some understood more than others, but we had to go through all of the stories a couple of times before they would let me leave to go to the church building.
Read Aloud Bible Stories
While Saturday was a hike UP, Sunday was a hike DOWN.  The home we stayed in is near the top of the village and the church is further down.  As we walked, Adriana and I drew a lot of attention since not many foreigners make it to Saclit.
Walking to church
The church service in Saclit does not have a specific starting time.  As people gather, Pastor Steve leads worship.  As people hear the the singing, they come to the church.  Eventually, it is decided that it is time to study God's Word.  Pastor Steve had some things on his heart that he wanted to share before inviting me to share.

Much like the Bible study the evening before, we read from the Bible and talked about what we can learn from the story.  This time we talked about Zaccheus.  In both settings, we also listened to the Read Aloud Bible Stories.  This was helpful to more than just the children who were there.  Many of the people in Saclit are illiterate and as such are oral learners.  Hearing the story as it is written in the Bible and hearing it repeated with the illustrations from the book makes it easier for them to retain.  When Pastor Steve and I were talking about it later, he expressed how much he appreciated the teachings and felt the way we presented these Bible stories will make it so that people will think about them when they are alone - working in the fields or lying in their beds at night.  Isn't that what we should all be doing with God's Word?

After the service ended, many people stayed at the church to talk.  Adriana and I were warmly welcomed and asked to come again.  The people emphasized how much they appreciated our coming and would like very much for our whole family to come.  People brought food for us to eat for lunch, although they were too shy to sit and eat with us.

We enjoyed their company so much that we were too late to catch the bus.  Since there is no vehicle that leaves from the top of the mountain in the afternoon, we needed to hike down to the highway to catch a ride.  Adriana was not feeling well much of the weekend and the rain made the shortcut too slippery and dangerous - it is shorter, but much steeper than the road.  Together, these made our trip down take longer - besides the fact that we left late.

We were able to catch a ride with an overloaded jeepney for part of the trip.  It was full of people from a nearby village who had been at the river all night.  A person from that place had drown when he was crossing the river and the storm surge swept him away.  All along the river there were people taking turns watching to recover the body.  We crowded in with them until they turned off the main road to return to their village.

After waiting a while along the road, another vehicle came along.  If you have never ridden in the mountains in the bed of a dump truck, the picture below gives you an idea of what it looks like.  It was a blessing that there was room for Adriana to ride in the front and that he took us all the way to Bontoc.
Hitchin' a ride
Pastor Steve and I rode in the back and were glad it was just a light rain.
Pastor Steve
Grace,
Tom

Lovely Lady

To the woman who stands by me as we walk this journey together, Happy Birthday!

I am blessed to have you at my side wherever in the world that may be. You are a blessing to me and all who have the opportunity to know you.

May God grant you a year of blessings and joy.

I love you,
Thomas

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Answered Prayer

Our desire is to share the truth
of the Gospel with people of all ages.  One challenge is that many children do not learn English until they attend school and their English skills are not strong until they are in their upper grades.  One project we have undertaken to resolve this is working with high school and college students to translate the Read Aloud Bible Stories by Ella Lindvall into Ilocano.

As a family we have enjoyed the Read Aloud Bible Stories series since our girls were very young.  The rhythm of the text and the simplicity of the illustrations make an inviting combination.  We brought two copies of the entire set of four volumes so that we could use them in our work here.  Good books are not readily available and quality children's books are even more difficult to obtain.


So far, we have three of the twenty stories completed.  The students, including Adriana and Alexie, have worked hard to translate the meaning and maintain the essence and rhythm of the stories.

As we have completed the stories, we have recorded a native speaker reading the stories.  Now we have the means to read the stories personally or play a recording - complete with chimes to signal
when to turn the page.

The final step in the process is to combine the illustrations with the audio to make a video that can be presented to larger groups than holding up the book would allow.  I am no expert, but this seems to fall into copyright territory.  So yesterday I emailed Moody Publishing asking for permission to use the images.

As I was journaling my prayer this morning, I had just finished asking God to grant me favor with Moody Press.  Without exaggeration - I was writing the first word of the next sentence when Lisa said there was an email from Moody.  They granted copyright permission.  God is so good!

Now we just need to complete the project.  Please pray with us that we can get these stories translated and that they will help people to better know the truths of God's Word and His love for us.

Grace,
Tom

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Balut DTS

One of the responsibilities Lisa and I enjoy is facilitating the ministry of outreach teams that visit YWAM Mountain Province.  For the past several weeks we have been doing just that; a YWAM DTS team has been here joining us in our ministry to the people of Mountain Province.

They served as helping hands to the church as congregations throughout the region met for a multi-day seminar.
Jane and Kolja - Camp Cooks
Taking a few hours off from their duties at the seminar, several team members joined us at our weekly health clinic.  They practiced taking blood pressure readings and blood glucose measurements as we served the 29 patients who attended that day.

I also taught them to twist animal balloons - a useful skill to help our younger patients while they wait.

While we were enjoying our short summer vacation, the team went to Can-eo and Chapyosen with Pastor Rudy and Bridget.
Bible study in Chapyosen
Interpretive dance at Can-eo Station Church
The YWAM Balut DTS team with Pastor Rudy, Bridget, two of their sons.
 One morning, they joined me at the Bontoc Municipal Government flag ceremony where they performed a light-hearted but meaningful skit and presented the teaching for the Moral Recovery Program.

Afterwards, we joined Mayor Sacgaca in his office.  Before leaving, we prayed for him and his leadership for the community.
Mayor Pascual Sacgaca
 Our family was blessed to enjoy several potlucks with the team while they were in town.  There was plenty of silliness when all of those ladies gathered!
A sala full of silliness!

 We weren't able to travel with the team to all of the villages, but I did manage to spend a weekend in Maligcong with them.  I enjoyed visiting a sitio of the village I had never been to before.  I also made a new friend - no balloon-bribery involved.

They left yesterday to get some rest in Baguio before continuing on to another YWAM location for 8 more days of ministry.
Worn out after several weeks of ministry!

It is difficult to say, "See you later," sometimes.  Yet we are blessed to have made new friends and to have been encouraged as others come along side of us in our work here in Mountain Province.

Grace,
Tom

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bamboo Saxophone

While we were in Baguio, we met a fellow YWAMer with an amazing talent for music.  He does not read music yet has been able to create a number of musical instruments which look and sound beautiful.  His various wind instruments are made of bamboo.  Sometimes he is looking for specific pieces of bamboo, other times something draws him to a unique piece of bamboo and is able to transform it into an instrument.

He was traveling with his family when we met at the YWAM Baguio Training Center.  In his bag he carried a selection of instruments which he uses to present the Gospel and to sell in order to fund his ministry further south in the Philippines, YWAM Batangas.

As he was showing me some of his creations, he gave us a treat by playing Amazing Grace on the bamboo saxophone he made.

video

By the way, if you are interested in finding out more, you can check him out on Facebook - Eryk Gumarang.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Break

Garden of Grace Girls Academy ended the school year on May 26.  We were all looking forward to a break after the intense weeks of work finishing the term.  We did not have a long time to relax though, as we began again on June 6.  That means that summer vacation for our girls was a total of 10 days!

Before we sound like mean and despicable homeschooling parents, allow me to explain.  We began the school year after we returned from furlough in September.  That is why we are just completing.  In the Philippines, school begins in June.  (The students here began June 6, also.)  June is also the beginning of the rainy season so it's not the best time for playing outside anyway.  We also want to finish school before our furlough which will begin in April, 2012 due to the girls' passports expiring.  So they are trading a short summer now for an extended one when we visit the US next year.

In order to make the most of our time, we took a trip to Baguio for a change of place and some indulgences such as McDonald's and Starbucks.  We also took a mini-vacation at Riverview Water Park while in the area.

It is a beautiful place,


In a beautiful setting,

With beautiful people,

The weather cooperated and we spent 2 days in the water and sun.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Will Be Here

Sweethearts - June 1, 1991


I Will Be Here 
by Steven Curtis Chapman 

Tomorrow morning if you wake up 
and the sun does not appear
I will be here
If in the dark, we lose sight of love
Hold my hand, and have no fear
'Cause I will be here

I will be here
When you feel like being quiet
When you need to speak your mind
I will listen
And I will be here
When the laughter turns to cryin
'Through the winning, losing and trying
We'll be together
I will be here

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up
And the future is unclear
I will be here
Just as sure as seasons were made for change
Our lifetimes were made for these years
So I will be here

I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder
When the mirror tells us we're older
I will hold you
And I will be here
To watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here

I will be true to the promise I have made
To you and to the One who gave you to me

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up
And the sun does not appear
I will be here
Oh, I will be here.

Sweethearts still...
I love you, Lisa!  
What a blessing to know that "here" is always right by my side.