August 2010 Archives

Count the little things

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Man working in a ricefield.

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Reading Kailyn's Blog has motivated me to start writing again. Forgive me for not writing for a while. I was writing the previous post on the tribes and I must admit I got bored - I found myself focussing on the parts I didn't like rather than the parts I enjoyed and I just stopped writing.

Right now I'm on my bed in Tugeugarao. My side is still a bit sore but it doesn't hurt to laugh anymore and you never realise how much you laugh until it hurts to do so. We've been blessed again with our accommodation and food. Pastor Sampson has a lovely house and his wife is a great cook! Tugeugarao is very warm - 30 degrees celsius isn't surprising. It's more rural than the other cities we've been in and there's lots of beauty in the rice fields that are around. I have lots of pictures but our only Internet is down the road at the house of a member of the Pastors church and the upload rate isn't very fast. I may just have to bring the photos back with me.

We've been spending our time visiting lots of churches and sharing our testimonies, songs, a drama and a dance. I confess however that I've only been giving my testimony, the girls have been the main strength behind the dancing, singing and acting. I have shared a couple of messages in church services, drawing on my DTS and other teaching and compressing it down into 20 or so minutes. There have been times where I've wondered why we're spending our time using our talents to just share our testimonies but at other times we've met some extraordinary people and when they thank us for sharing it does give us a boost.

The Philippines continues to provide the occasional "what the" moment - from 100 or so people on the back of an articulated lorry to a man running through the rain in his underwear carrying wood (we named him Philip), this place still can't be described as boring. We even got to see a cock fighting arena and a practice fight - fighting is legal here and the locals like it. I've also had lots of practice riding passenger on a scooter - we have had some wonderful guys driving us around, particularly Joel and Mark. In the Philippines you can ride without a helmet it seems, it's fun to have the wind whipping through your hair. Speaking of hair, mine has had a bit of a cut. The girls were adamant I should keep the length so just the mullet at the back has gone (much to the disappointment of Bethany).

Looking through my photos reminds me how cute all the kids are that we've seen. They're so full of hope and joy, it's always nice to end a church service and get to spend a bit of time with them. It's a shame they can be so shy - I ask them their name in Tagalog and they'll usually hide their faces or look at me blankly. The older ones are happy to play though.

We've also been doing house to house evangelism, which usually amounts to praying for people and offering encouragement - language barriers make it a bit hard to have a proper theological discussion, which (as you probably know) I would enjoy. We're always guided by a leader in the local church and we're usually only there a short time, but it's nice to be able to encourage others.

We've also been filling the 1 hour slot Pastor Sampson has on a local radio station in a Sunday with teaching, songs and testimonies. We also visited a prison briefly but didn't get permission to meet the inmates. Last week we also visited the mayor of Solana and got permission to share at the local high schools, which we have been doing. The students seem to love us interrupting their class, I can't think why...

In my bible readings I've been diving into the New Testament teachings of Paul, Peter and James. Sarah H convinced me to start underlining passages in my Bible and I must say it makes them a lot easier to find. I say my Bible... it's really Dad's old Bible, but since he let me have it I'm hoping he won't mind.

I'm also going to put in another plug for the book. We have some funds raised but we need more to get it printed. I really hope I can bring some back with me when I return and show everyone what we've been doing. If not you'll have to settle for images on my laptop and it's not the same feeling.

So right now I'm counting the little things I'm thankful for. A roof over our heads, the rain pouring down that's cooling the air, my friends, both near and far, my family and the opportunities that lie before us. We have 2 more weeks here, then we fly to Hawaii.

The Tribes

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Water buffalo.

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This post is 2 weeks old, I only just finished it, sorry.

Hello everyone, we have made it safely to Bambang and have been based here for about a week and a half. We had to catch two busses to get here from Olongapo - one air conditioned and the other window conditioned (when it wasn't raining that is). We were so blessed that Virge came with us on the first bus to help us get on the second, because unlike before, there was no depot for the second bus, they just drive by on a small main road and you have to hail it to stop.

After our trip we were given the night to sleep then the next morning we were teaching at Aurora Bible College for the next two days. I must admit, the book had dug into the time I had hoped to spend on my teaching, but my notes from Christian teaching Character and Nature of God were immensely helpful. The teaching went well over the two days and we got to pray for the students too - all of whom are incredibly busy with their own schedules.

We also have a new team member - Tim. Tim was born in Manila and is part of the Film Making School at YWAM Kona. He's fitting in really well with the team and is a lovely addition.

We have been so blessed here. All our meals are cooked for us and students take turns staying up at night to guard us! Despite this precaution I don't feel in any danger, the area here is safe and I've walked around with my camera here without feeling nervous.

After our two days of teaching we packed our essentials and travelled to Banaue, Ifugao, where we would spend time with the local tribespeople, which are not as tribal as I was expecting, but more on that later. Banaue is very hilly and it's on these hills you see the magnificent rice fields, which the locals call the 8th Wonder of the World. They have all been cut out of the hills by hand and planted with rice. I'm trying to get my best photos uploaded but the view was gorgeous.

Our first evening we went to a 'crusade', which is how they describe an evangelistic meeting. We have been doing a lot of testimony sharing and words of encouragement, not many sermons. I've been trying to write some but I always seem to hit a wall early on. The crusade was held in a run down school room, the road to which was blocked by a landslide. This meant we had to walk through some rice fields to get there, which was fine by me! We walked along the stone dividers between the fields - it was a bit slippy in places and at night we wer navigating with torches but that just made it more fun.

The next day we went to a small church in the morning. When I say small I mean it seated maybe 15-20 people and it was the house of the pastor. Oh, and to get to it we did a similar (but much shorter) walk along a rice field. It's certainly been great to see little churches like this just meeting because they want to, not because there's a program to be kept. Sunday afternoon we had as time to rest, so naturally we napped then went out shopping and taking photos.

On Monday we went to Noah's Ark, an orphanage run by a Canadian group. One of the main staff members is a former YWAMer and we got to spend time with the kids and look around the place. This unfortunately was the sight of the first real outreach injury (and I got it). In my wanderings I saw a cool slingshot sitting on the top bunk of one of the beds. I climbed the ladder to take a photo and a rung gave way beneath me, dropping me about 30cm. My fall was broken by my stomach on my right hand side, leaving me in a lot of pain and without my photo (which I never got). I was treated by the nurse at the orphanage but she couldn't do much for me so I took some pain killers and we went on to do more sightseeing. We went to a lookout point over the fields and to a fake tribal village which had examples of how tribal house design has changed over time.

After this we packed up, bid Banaue goodbye and got on the road to Alfonso Lista, Ifugao. Unfortunately road works made our 4 hour journey a 6-7 hour trip, making us rather late to the church service we were supposed to be attending. However, despite this, the service waited for us. We again shared our testimonies which was half focussing on what to say and half focussing on staying awake, it was 11pm or so and we had been up + travelling all day, plus I had a very painful side to contend with. Thankfully nobody fell asleep and my sharing time was about persevering in times of suffering.

After this, we were put up for the night in two houses - the guys all crammed into one room and my night was spent curled up because I didn't have the space to extend my legs. Not the best nights sleep I've had, but I'm blessed if that's as bad as it gets. That morning we packed up and after breakfast and a spot of water buffalo 'riding' by some of the team (sadly not me) we headed to our location for the next two days - a beautiful house with an inside toilet!

Our first engagement was a bit of a distance away and the path was a bit rough, so we went by tractor. I shouldn't have gone because of my side, but I wasn't missing out on the chance to ride, so off we went. At this church we really didn't do much - we were actually allowed to eat and sleep before offering words of encouragement and praying for the church. It's here that I realised we are very much on show - churches seem to want to see the (mostly) white American missionaries. The good and bad of it is that it brings in crowds - a good thing, but for the wrong reason - we are nothing special on this earth.

Anyway, since I got derailed in writing this post I'll leave it here. The rest of the tribes was mostly traveling to churches and meeting the local people, sharing our testimonies, taking as many pictures as we could and moving on to the next location. I think my pictures are coming out okay, I do wish I had a Canon 7D body.

Trip to Angeles and Farewell Olongapo

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Neon Massage Sauna

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What can I say about last week? Rather, what should I talk about first. Most of the team has shifted into a new gear with the book - it's incredible to see the effort being put into it and the motivation that's appeared. We have got a lot of the writing and layout done and we're about a day away from a rough draft of all the pages - that's content, layout, colours, pictures, the works.

I feel alright now but the book has been very draining. There have been times where all I've wanted to do is sleep and I perhaps pushed a bit far when I started getting a tiredness headache. Thankfully I've been able to get to bed earlier this week.

It has also been really nice having Sharee and Megan here this week on a pastoral visit. Sharee is one of the DTS leaders and Megan is her friend. They are here just to hang out, see how we are doing and be an encouragement, which they have been. Megan also works for a magazine and has been giving input into the book and rewriting bits of our work, which I'm thankful for too.

We also went back and did street kids ministry again. I played basketball and my t-shirt was soaked afterwards. Sarah dropped the news on us at the last minute that not only were we attending, but we were teaching the bible studies they have after the games, split up by ages. Sarah and I got the oldest guys and we tag teamed. Sarah had maybe 10-15 minutes prepared and she would cover a bit, then I got something to share then it went back and forth - we actually went longer than we needed and hopefully spoke to these guys hearts about walking in the Holy Spirit.

We also went back to the orphanage I spent time with the kids again. This time I didn't see April - I hope she's gone back to her parents. Instead I tried to get close to a girl who cried whenever she saw a white person looking at her. I had a little success, but not much - I got to pray for her though.

And if all that wasn't enough to keep us busy, last night we took a 1 hour Jeepney ride to Angeles - the prostitution capital of the Philippines to do bar ministry. We arrived in Angeles and once we rounded the corner of the street we were on we got to see how prostitution looks here. Neon signs illuminate young girls wearing too much makeup and not enough clothes. They stand outside the bars shouting into the street for customers to go in and enjoy the sights and company.

Our group went into one of the bars and sat down to what can only be described as a meat market. The girls were standing in the middle of the room "dancing" to the music. Some of the girls were enjoying it but most of them were just moving with the music, not wanting to make eye contact, looking like they'd rather be anywhere else but here. The guys were just sitting and watching, usually with a drink or smoke in their hand. Most of the guys also had a 'girlfriend' with them, who also didn't look like she wanted to be there - one was more interested in her phone than her 'boyfriend' and who could blame her, this man was 30 years older than her.

I still remember one of the girls serving a drink to a guy who gestured that he wanted a kiss too - after she has kissed his cheek and walked behind him (where I was) she made a gesture to me that left me in no doubt that she was not happy having to serve him. I laughed a little and agreed. That may have been the only honest thing I saw from the girls there all evening, the rest is just show.

While the girls are on show a customer can talk to mama-san and choose the one he likes the look of and she will come over and sit with him. Once he's happy with his choice he pays for her for the night. One bar charged between 1500 and 3000 pesos, which is about US$33-66 or NZ$50-100 and the girl only gets half of the cost, the other half goes to the bar.

Most of the customers were older, 30's and up guys, some were even pushing 60 and these (supposedly) 18 year old and up girls are put on show for them each night. Kayla shared one story in our debrief that really hit me. She saw a girl who was trying to get away from a customer dragged up the stairs to the rooms by her hair while she was screaming. If that wasn't enough the other girls in the bar helped the customer get the girl into the stairwell and closed the door behind them like everything was fine.

This place is also impacting the next generation. I talked to a 13 year old girl who is selling plastic roses for 100 pesos each to pay for her schooling. What's to stop this girl starting in the industry when she's 18?

Our time in Angeles has given us a better idea about prostitution here and we've used that in the book - which is now a rough draft, awaiting review. We will need financial support to get it printed but once that happens we can be putting it in the hands of people with power to change the situation. If you want to help then once we have a channel for donations I'll post it here.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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