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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Light in Saclit

Saclit is a couple of hours east of Bontoc and located beyond the end of the road near the top of a mountain. Alayna and I visited there this weekend along with Pastor Steve who serves the community in this remote place.
Alayna hiking to Saclit
Our Saturday evening Bible study was cancelled because a wedding was taking place. In communities like this, nearly everything else stops for such an occasion because everyone is connected to the couple getting married. Being of a much lighter skin and notably taller than anyone else in the place, I was not able to just blend in and watch what was happening. It was not long before I was invited to dance, to eat, and to stand in front of everyone and give "advices" to the newlyweds. I gave my "advices" before the next dance began. But before I could join in the dancing, we were escorted to where the food was being served. Alayna and I shared a generous serving of rice and a few chunks of boiled pig. We did not make it back to the dancing because Alayna was not feeling so well and needed to go and rest. Even though we went home, the party continued until daybreak; we could hear the gongs and the PA the MC used all through the night.

Dancing and playing the gongs
Giving "advices" to the new couple
video

Of course, the night brought other sounds too. Between the ceiling of the room below the church where Pastor Steve sleeps when he is in town and the floor of the sanctuary above, there is room for the rats to run and play. At various times, they were quite active and woke us from our slumber. Then we could listen to the gongs or the MC at the distant wedding.

In the morning, some people were already hard at work. Apparently we were not the only ones who left the wedding. The first sign of such work was when the neighbors carried off a pig - before moving to the Philippines, I never knew how noisy pigs can be. Then outside of our window I noticed a man plowing a rice field.
video

During the service Sunday morning, Alayna presented a selection of the Read Aloud Bible Stories to the children - and everyone else who came.
Alayna reading the children Bible stories
 Afterwards, I led a discussion of Jesus healing the blind man as it is recorded in John 9.
Studying God's Word
 After lunch, we had some left-overs and these children were eager to give macaroni and cheese a taste test.
Beautiful faces
Later, some of the children returned to the church to hear the stories again - and again. They especially enjoyed holding the book themselves and turning pages as they listened to the Ilocano recording.
Enjoying the story of Zaccheus

By then people began to gather to learn about rocket stoves and solar soda-bottle lights.
Ungan's house where we gathered and later installed the bottle-lights
Before we began talking about how to build stuff, we prayed for Ungan and his house. He has been fearful recently. I could not get a clear answer as to whether it was due to spiritual fear or physical fear because he is not originally from this place where tribal tensions are still higher than in most places. Regardless, we prayed for God's peace for his home and his family.

The weather could not make up its mind. When we began, it was lightly raining and we stayed under the eaves of Ungan's house. Then the sun came out so hot we had to seek shade near the church building. By the time we were installing the bottle-light, it was overcast once again.
Learning about rocket stoves
video

While water was heated for coffee on the rocket stove, we prepared solar soda-bottle lights for installation.
Thomas and Pastor Steve with the double bottle-light installed
Quite a view from up there - notice all of the rice granaries on the far hills
Thomas, Ungan, and Alayna in the newly lit room
While we were working on the roof, these young men were sitting nearby playing a homemade instrument made of bamboo and a few pebbles. The bamboo strings were plucked and had a soothing sound. They told me the name, but I forgot what it was.

Ungan sitting in his doorway
Later we visited a few people at their homes. Anabel, standing next to Alayna, invited us to have dinner with her family. Pastor Steve tried to keep us in the conversation by translating. But mostly Alayna enjoyed holding the baby while I watched and listened, until the man in the lower left of the photo below came into the house.

He is not very fluent in English, but I appreciated the effort he was making to talk with me. We talked about the number of children we both had and other simple topics in an effort to get to know one another. We did not make it too far, but we were both trying. When we were getting ready to leave, he invited us to visit his house for a while.
At his house, there was some friendly conversation and some serious encouragement in faith and discipleship as we all talked. I really enjoy talking with people and sharing time with them in their homes.
His youngest daughter was so excited to have guests she barely stopped running back and forth long enough for me to get this photo.

We were all tired when we finally made it to bed. Happily, the rats did not keep me awake too much during the night.

In the morning we hiked down to the jeepney which would take us back to Bontoc. I was happy that I did not need to hike up or down the entire mountain during this trip and was surprised to find the jeepney empty when we arrived. But there must have been quite a line of people not far behind us because before long it was crowded inside and on top with people going home from the wedding.

As Pastor Steve talked with people, they asked us to give them a teaching during the long ride to Bontoc. Unsure of how to proceed, we got out the speakers and the Read Aloud Bible Stories and went through each of the stories we have translated. This was a group made up of mostly adults and we had a great discussion about each story and what we could learn from them. Pastor Steve and I were both amazed at how God can use even a jeepney ride through the mountains with a group of sleepy people as a time to teach and to learn.

Pray for Pastor Steve as he works to revive the church in Saclit. It was established long ago by YWAM missionaries, but floundered and eventually disbanded. He has a heart for the people there and the work is challenging.

Grace,
Tom