Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mountain-Top Experience

Continuing the journey of working together with our Crossroads Discipleship Training School staff, Pastor Marvin (one of our CDTS coworkers) invited Alexie and Alayna to join him in a ministry of his church. Every Wednesday they have Bible studies at Pinsao National High School. Alexie and Alayna were asked to present an interpretive dance during a crusade planned after school.

When they went in front, everyone pressed forward to see. Even students who had been in the back talking with each other came forward and watched intently.
Pinsao National High School courtyard under a canopy of feed bags. There are no mountains in the background because we are on the peak of the mountain.
Alexie and Alayna presenting interpretive dance to the song, "This Man" by Jeremy Camp
Besides Alexie and Alayna, the CDTS director gave a challenging Gospel message, and members of the church presented dance, song, and worship.
Singers, dancers, speakers, and stage-hands with Pastor Marvin in center front.
The neighborhood in which the school and Pastor Marvin's church is located is called Dreamland;  perhaps because it is so high that it is often shrouded by clouds.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How to Bind a Team Together Without Ropes

As a way to keep us focused on our purpose of knowing God and making Him known and getting to know each other better as staff, the staff and families of the Crossroads Discipleship Training School went on a short-term outreach to the Rizal Province of the Philippines.

First we took a 7 hour bus trip to Manila. From there we had a 2.5 hour trip in the back of a jeepney to the small town of Jala-jala. It was my first opportunity to  spend much time with Tom and Soonim's children. Andrew, their 4 year old, and I quickly established the boundary of the "Boy Zone" and enjoyed thumb wrestling, counting anything, and checking our status as our jeepney "raced" the vehicles around us. The trip went well and the adults kids kept the kids adults entertained so they did not get too grumpy as kids adults often do on long trips.
From upper left corner:  Soonim, Tom, Amie, Marvin, Merly, Alayna, Adriana, Lisa, Annalise, Andrew, Alexie, Andrew, me
Sunday morning the team divided into 3 parts so that we could preach in 3 different churches. Our family stayed in Jala-jala and I preached at the church in the area our team's ministry was focused for the first few days.

In the afternoon, the church held a youth gathering and our team was united once again. Merly taught about the heart of worship. Lisa then taught about leadership, using Jesus as the perfect model. After Lisa's teaching we divided the 40 or so teens into groups to further discuss the topic. It was great talking with the students in the small groups.
God's Heart Mission in Jala-jala.
Monday we returned to the church to meet with others who would lead us on house-to-house visitation. For several hours we went throughout the area neighborhoods inviting people to come the next day to a seminar about the rocket stoves in the afternoon and a showing of the Jesus movie in the evening.
Jala-jala is a small fishing town on Laguna de Bay, one of the few large lakes in the Philippines. Talim Island is the land in the background.
Monday night, the men from the team went to the nearby town of Tanay. There, we encouraged those attending a prayer meeting of community pastors.

Tuesday afternoon we returned to the church in Jala-jala for the rocket stove and solar bottle-light seminar. The kids in the photos are students at the school the church has. They participated in the seminar also. They were really interested in the rocket stove but with so many hands eagerly trying to help, it took a while to get the fire going.
One of the highlights of the trip was the film showings. Our first, was Tuesday night in Jala-jala. We had obtained permission from the barangay officials to show the movie at an intersection. (Although we still had to allow traffic to pass along 3 of the 4 spurs of the intersection.) The intersection was full of people watching the movie throughout the entire 2 hours - no chairs, no popcorn, no soda provided.

At the end, our hostess, Margie, talked with the people. She spoke in Tagalog so I could not understand the words. But her heart and the effect it had on the people was clear as many responded to her sharing.
Jesus movie on the streets of Jala-jala, Rizal.
The rest of the week our focus was on Tanay.
New Hope Christian Church in Tanay, Rizal.
Pastor Eric from New Hope was excited to have us help him establish an outreach into the relocation area  being built not far from Tanay. Southville is a government housing project where people displaced due to flooding and other disasters can go. The units are small and numerous in the project. Our first task was to go house-to-house talking with people and inviting them to a rocket stove seminar and a showing of the Jesus movie later in the day. While we talked with people, we had them fill out cards for follow-up later from Pastor Eric and his church.

We met in a clearing under a spreading mango tree. There we taught the many who came how to make a rocket stove. This was excitedly received as most of these people moved here with few possessions, little money, and almost no livelihood prospects. This simple and reproducible technology will certainly be beneficial in that place.
In the center: Pastor Eric telling the people about the love of God and inviting them to the Jesus movie, while holding the completed rocket stove up for all to see.
After a busy morning at the relocation area, we had a relaxing lunch at the beautiful Daranak Falls.
Adriana at Daranak Falls
Back at the church, we held another rocket stove seminar for people from the neighborhood there. This time, I still did all of the talking, but I had Tom and Marvin do the cutting and fitting of the parts. As you can see in the picture below, they did a great job.
Marvin showing off a hot rocket stove with everyone from the seminar.
Then it was back to the mango tree at the relocation area. Again we were amazed at how many people showed up and stood or sat on the ground for the duration of the movie. (I was so excited about how God was using the equipment that as the movie was playing, I sent a text to one of those who provided it asking her to share our thanks with the rest.)
Jesus movie in Southville relocation area.
Thursday morning we had a surprise visit. The mayor, vice-mayor, and barangay captain, hearing of our ministry in the community decided to pay us a visit. The mayor was especially interested in the solar bottle-light and rocket stove. We had a nice visit then prayed for them in their work before they left.
Praying with local government officials
Pilgrims and Indians don't mean much in the Philippines, but food and celebrations do. Our family and Tom were the only Americans but Thanksgiving did not go unobserved, thanks to Margie, our hostess. But instead of turkey, football, and parades, it was more "outreach style". We had grilled pork chops (not traditional, but delicious), mashed potatoes, carrots, beans, and...rice.
Thanksgiving pork chops, potatoes, veggies, and rice

After lunch we returned to Tanay, this time to a garment factory behind the church where the owner allows all of the employees to participate in a Bible study (with pay) once a week. Alayna and Alexie performed an interpretive dance before Marvin shared a message with the employees. Many stayed right at their sewing machines while others crowded into the open areas on either side of the main room.
Garment factory in Tanay
Our final film showing was later that night at the church. We decided to continue with the outdoor set-up as that seemed to be more inviting to people just passing by. We had to get a little adventurous to hang up the screen, but after both Tom and Marvin had climbed the tree to make adjustments, the screen was taut and at a good height to be seen from the street. This time, we had chairs but not as many people. But we trust that God brought those He wanted to hear the Gospel that evening.
Jesus movie at New Hope Christian Church in Tanay
Our team with Pastor Eric's family and our hosts
Finally, the week was over and it was time to return to Baguio. It was a great week of ministering together. God really opened doors and we are confident that there will be follow-up by the local believers to the work we were able to do. We also got to know each other better and draw closer as a team, something that will be helpful as we work together for the Crossroads Discipleship Training School.
Andrew, "See ya later!"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Illegal Immigrants

As of today, we no longer hold valid visas for our stay in the Philippines. Does that makes us illegal immigrants? Illegal immigration is a matter of great argument in my home country. I will skirt around all of that for now and just say that our situation is a matter of prayer and not contention.

Technically, we are not illegal. We have submitted our applications for extension and are awaiting a response from the Bureau of Immigration. This makes us legal, on a technicality.

So what do you call someone in a foreign country that does not have a current visa? Invalid immigrants? Overdue immigrants? Naughty nomads? I don't know.

For now, I will refer to our situation as interim immigrants. By God's grace, we have never had any problems having our visas approved or extended, aside from the joys of bureaucracy and the confusion that it mandates. But as we wait, we pray, and ask you to pray with us, that we will soon hear that our visas are approved so that we can continue to minister in the Philippines.

Grace,
Tom

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dance to the Lord

It is such a blessing that we are a family of missionaries rather than a missionary family.  Not only do our girls participate in ministry with us, they often have ministry of their own.  The following two videos are interpretive dances that Alexie and Alayna did at our church.

video


video


This second dance was completely choreographed by them.  What a joy to see our girls using their giftings to bring glory to God!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What About the Philippines

This summer at the World Pulse Festival, we asked a few people what they knew about the Philippines.  Here is the result.  Based on the laughs we heard when we showed it to our friends here in Bontoc, they certainly enjoyed it.

video
What About the Philippines?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Traveling Show

While we were on furlough in the US, friends answered a prayer of ours by providing the equipment we need to be able to take Gospel movies to the people to whom we minister.  The equipment is lightweight, portable, and battery powered.

This weekend I had the first opportunity to put it to use.  I traveled with Pastor Rudy to the village of Chapyosen to show the Jesus film.  In the picture below you can see the equipment that is lying at the turn-around in Can-eo which will bring electricity to Chapyosen in the months to come.  But as for now, it is a place without electricity.
Utility poles and cables staged to take electricity to Chapyosen
We drove from Bontoc to Can-eo which takes about 45 minutes when the road is good.  From Can-eo, the only way to Chapyosen is to hike down the valley along a narrow path.  (You can see more images or Chapyosen from other trips by clicking here.)  This time the trip was unique because it is the first time I made the hike after dark.  Thankfully, it did not rain as it has nearly everyday since our arrival in the country and we were able to make the trip in about an hour.

It was a moonless night, almost.  When we arrived in the village, several of the children were saying, "Look at the moon," or "See the moon."  It took me a minute to realize that there was no moon in the sky and that I was the only white thing out in the night.
Watching the movie; the projector and speakers are in the foreground.
We pushed aside the loom (the wooden frame in to the left of the screen), quickly set up the projector, and were soon watching the movie in the space below someone's house.  I counted more than 40 faces sitting in the darkness.  What was amazing was how quiet and still everyone was throughout the movie, especially the children.

Afterwards, Pastor Rudy and I shared how the events of the movie are true and give us hope of God's love and forgiveness.  Then it was time to hike back.  We were prepared to spend the night, but our guides wanted to get back to their families in Can-eo.

The next afternoon, Pastor Rudy had a meeting with the leadership of Can-eo Station Church.  He has been teaching the leadership about commitment and the purpose of the church.  By coincidence, I had a short video about the purpose of the church with me.  We showed that video in segments, translating and discussing the various ideas as we went along.  That was not a presentation we had planned on, but it was good to be able to help.
Church leadership meeting - there were more than shown in the picture
During the time for the Saturday night Bible study in Can-eo, we presented the Jesus movie to a group of 30 or so.

Just for fun, Sunday morning after service, we showed a video I had made about ice fishing and another about our ministry here which includes several scenes of Can-eo.  It was fun to hear people's excitement as they saw photos and video of them and their friends.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to bring the Gospel to people through various methods:  Bibles, Proclaimers, video, and teaching.  God's Word does not go out without effect.  Thank you to all who partner with us and make this possible.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Friends at the RHU

Friday we resumed the YWAM Mountain Province Health Clinic at the Bontoc Regional Health Unit.  Even though it was only a few days since arrangements were made, many of our regular patients were eagerly waiting for us when we entered the room.

It was good to talk again with the patients who have become our friends.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Journey Home

We were off to a great start. When we moved to the Philippines back in 2008, we were still frantically packing until the very last moment. This time, we had all of our bags packed and were ready except for shutting down the utilities. The van showed up early and we were packed and on the road before he was even scheduled to arrive. The blue sky was perfectly clear and the temperature was pleasant as we drove through Bontoc to begin the journey to Baguio and, ultimately, our family and friends in the USA.

But within 2 kilometers of Bontoc we ran into a problem, a problem that did not exist 45 minutes earlier when the van passed that way going to our apartment. A landslide blocked the road, holding up traffic going both ways for nearly 5 hours. We could almost see our apartment looking across the river from where we waited with so many others. Due to the mountainous terrain, there are few roads so when a landslide occurs detours are rarely available. So we waited and watched the loader move bucket after bucket of rocks. We did need to move when they cleared the area so they could use dynamite to blast some of the rocks which were too large for the loader.
The hero of the day
Waiting for the slide to be cleared
While we waited we thought we would get a picture of the 4A's in front of some of the terraced rice fields that are iconic for this part of the world. Whenever you visit us in Bontoc, you will see these fields on your right and then you will know you are driving through the place where many landslides have taken place.

Back: Alayna, Alexie, Adriana  Front:  Annalise
We arrived at YWAM Baguio without any more problems, just in time for dinner. The next morning, we hit the road early. Along Kennon Road just outside of Baguio on our way to Manila, we stopped to snap a few photos at Lion's Head.

At 2 a.m. Wednesday, we awoke to go to the airport in Manila.
Entering the Manila airport for the beginning of a long journey
At the Manila airport we were caught off-guard by an unexpected fee by Immigration. We did not have enough cash on us, but I was able to get to an ATM and resolve the issue without making us miss our flight. Stressed and a bit irritated, but still on time.
Chillin' in Japan
Even though our flight from Japan to Detroit was delayed by an hour causing the next leg of the journey to need to be rescheduled by an hour, everything went smoothly and many were there to greet us when we arrived.
Yay! We're Home!
Alayna with a little, "That's right, we're here!"
April 11 will stand as one of the longest days in history; due to the many time zones we crossed, from midnight in the Philippines to midnight in Michigan, April 11 was a 36 hour day.

We are glad to be home and look forward to enjoying time with family and friends as well as the bountiful blessings of our homeland.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kevin and Charity

Our friends, Kevin and Charity got married April 3. Lisa and I were asked to be sponsors and Alexie was asked to be a bridesmaid. The role of sponsor may not be familiar to most of those reading this blog.  It is an honorary position which serves as a mentor to the couple through the journey of life. 
Alexie was beautiful in her lovely dress

Several children were involved in the wedding as ring bearers, Bible bearers, coin bearers, and of course, flower girls. I have several pictures of them all dressed up, but I thought this one of Thea was especially cute as she converted the basket into a bonnet.

Alexie with Kevin and Charity
Instead of throwing the bouquet, it was given to the lucky young lady through a hot-potato/musical chairs type of elimination.  When it was all over, Alayna was the young lady with the bouquet. Perhaps because the tradition is different, the implications of catching the bouquet are as well, so we don't need to start making wedding plans any time soon - she is only 12 after all.
Alayna and Charity with the bride's bouquet.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Last Health Clinic for a While

March 30 was our last YWAM Mountain Province Health clinic before we return to the USA for a time. We look forward to resuming the clinic upon our return to the Philippines later this year. Many of the patients come regularly and have become our friends.

In fact, they honored us with gifts as we celebrated the good that has come from the ministry of the Health Clinic. We received a bag and backpacks made of the hand-woven fabrics this area is known for.  They also blessed us with a song and words of appreciation.
Receiving gifts from some of our patients
During this celebration we had a drawing for prizes. The grand prize drawing included an Ilocano Bible, a bottle of water, powdered milk, and all of the ingredients for a healthy meal of Taco Soup, complete with mangoes for dessert. This prize and the meal it represented were chosen to emphasize the healthy choices we have been teaching:  trust in God, low salt, low fat, low sugar, and more vegetables.  

Since we began offering free blood pressure and blood sugar testing, we have served 1,040 patients with a total attendance of 3,601.


Grace,
Tom

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rememberances

Recently I have been meeting with friends we made through our weekly Health Clinic.  Manong (big brother) Dunstan and Manang (big sister) Esther have been regular patients for about 3 years now. They have been helping me understand the language and culture here. Esther is a patient teacher and Dunstan has a lifetime of stories to share. We have a lot of fun together. When I record Esther's pronunciation of an Ilocano word or phrase, the recording usually ends with her giggling.

This week, I was surprised by gifts of Dunstan's handiwork. He does rattan weaving on bottles, knives, machetes, canes, and whatever else he can get his hands on. It is very interesting to watch him as we share stories and I learn Ilocano. As I was talking with Esther, he started bringing out bottles covered with his work. A couple of them even have woven geckos forming a handle.  On top of all of that, he presented me with a handmade knife and sheath. I was torn between encouraging him to sell his work at a local souvenir shop and being overwhelmed at his gifts. They would have nothing to do with any option but my taking them as "rememberances".



Manong Dunstan and Manang Esther, I would never forget you, gifts or no gifts!

Grace,
Thomas

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Last MRP - Well, Almost

Monday was the last day I was scheduled to meet with the local police before we return to the US for a visit. I took the opportunity to pour my heart out for them. One of the scheduled topics for the Moral Recovery Program is Love of God - how convenient! I assure you it is no coincidence that the topic for the day matched the most important message on my heart for the officers of the Bontoc Philippine National Police.
Having coffee with some of the officers of the Philippine National Police and Pastor Steve 

The next scheduled MRP session is April 2, which is the same time as the Lang-ay Festival (think State Fair, Igorot style). Usually during such events, the MRP session is rescheduled because the police are very busy. In spite of that, the officers which serve as liasons assured me they would have time for our gathering and asked me to come again before I leave.

This will give me the opportunity to re-introduce Pastor Steve to the police force. He and I partnered in the MRP before, but for the past couple of years he has been focusing his efforts in Saclit. In my absence, he will resume meeting with the Bontoc PNP for the Moral Recovery Program.

Grace,
Tom

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Method: Media - Message: Unchanged

I was blessed with an opportunity to minister to a couple of villages when our friend, Greg, offered to pass through Bontoc on his way north. He and a friend have a film showing ministry with churches north of us. He graciously offered to take a few days in Bontoc to show gospel films in our area before continuing on his way.

We started by showing a film about commitment to Christ to our Student Sponsorship Ministry students the evening Greg and Arnold arrived.
The freshly planted Maligcong rice terraces
Our first trip was to Maligcong. A wedding was taking place the same weekend, so we were not sure how many people would leave the wedding festivities and hike through the fields to watch a movie. We were thankful when the church was full during the showing and Pastor Frederick was able to share with the people afterwards.
Pastor Frederick, Arnold, Greg, Jordan, Jay-ar, and Pastora Cynthia in Maligcong

The next morning, we left Maligcong and headed straight to Saclit, our next destination.

We arrived in Saclit in mid-morning and had to wait for evening to show the film. In the meantime, I showed Jay-ar and Jordan how to make a rocket stove. They are both connected with our YWAM Student Sponsorship Ministry and wanted to join us in ministering in the villages for the weekend. At dinner, they were eager to use the rocket stoves to cook our meal - and did a great job.
Jay-ar and Jordan cooking dinner on the rocket stoves
Just before dark we set up the projection equipment in an open area in the middle of the village. We showed the Jesus film which tells the story of Jesus based on the book of Luke. There were people sitting on benches, stones, stairs, walls, and hanging out of windows as the movie played. Because there was no moon it was too dark to attempt counting how many people were there, but when flashlights and torches shone in different places you could see people gathered in every direction from which you could view the screen.
After the movie Pastor Steve talked with the people
I was excited about the opportunities these days provided.  First, it was great to share using media to help people in both villages understand the gospel. It also provided an opportunity to include Jay-ar and Jordan in ministry.

Grace,
Thomas