Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Busy Weeks!

We are still here in the Philippines…sorry it’s been awhile since we have written! We have had a busy couple weeks!

We finished our week of VBS and had so much fun getting to know the kids! We were all sad to see it end, although we were all rather tired as well. We ended up with about 50 kids each day and had great times of singing, Bible memorization, Bible stories, games, crafts, snacks, and more singing!

This last week has been full as we have been tagging along with the Youth Group team from our church in Alaska and Steve’s parents are co-leading the team. On Sunday we went to a cultural show, Monday we helped on a work project at the Children’s Home and went swimming and played kickball with the Children’s Home kids in the afternoon. As a side note, Monday we said our good-byes to most of the kids at the Children’s Home as 11 of the older kids plus several leaders were headed out to go to Malaybalay for 3 weeks. They won’t be back until after we leave. Most of the kids were so excited to be going on such an adventure on an airplane to Malaybalay, but several were quite sad to realize that we would still be here. Some would have rather stayed so they could still play with our kids. The kids made some great friends!

Tuesday we just stayed “home” and got some school work done as well as ventured out to find the grocery store. Steve did a great job of driving us there and back without getting lost in the crazy traffic of Manila! Wednesday started early as we needed to be up and ready to go by 6am! The Weisser’s van showed up at 6am to pick us up to go back to their house for breakfast and then on the road for an hour long ride to an outlying area where Food for the Hungry serves kids. Food for the Hungry partners with churches to feed children ages 5 and under from poor families; they provide the food while the churches provide the workers. A local church signs a 3 month contract to prepare and feed the children lunch daily as well as lead a Sunday School type program. The volunteers are not paid and commit to about 5 hours of work each day. Once the 3 month commitment is up some of the churches have signed up for another 3 months and others have decided to go ahead on their own. It was great to see the program in action and get to meet some of the people who help out each day!

Thursday morning we once again got up early to be ready to go by 6:30 except this time with our bags packed for a couple days and breakfast eaten! Everyone (Youth Group, Steve’s parents, Weissers, and our family) were all headed up the road about a 3 hours drive to Rizal Re-Creation to do a work project. We took the scenic route as the roads can be bumper to bumper during Holy Week when many are taking advantage of the long weekend to go on a vacation. We enjoyed the scenery as we drove around a large lake and up over a mountain, through small towns each selling their own wares! We stopped halfway at Exotic for delicious Mango shakes, and then hit the road again. We arrived at Rizal with enough time before lunch to be able to get settled in our room and the guys in their tent. Because of the busy holiday weekend Rizal was booked and had to put many in tents. On Friday they fed about 400 people at each meal. The daily cost at Rizal includes room, 3 meals a day, use of the pool, basketball courts, and much more…and the cost is so minimal! The meals are served cafeteria style, but are excellent food!

After lunch the team got started on their work project of mixing and pouring cement for two sidewalks. The plan was to do one sidewalk a day…but they got two sidewalks done the first day in two hours! Then everyone got to go for a refreshing dip in the pool. All the kids…big and small…spent many hours at the pool with the main attraction being the waterslide! Since the original work project didn’t take near as long as expected they found more work for our crew to do…one more sidewalk and stump removal. Sidewalk was easy, but the stump removal was another story!! After several hours of digging and chopping to break the roots then there was more time spent trying to move the massive coconut tree root ball from its hole. Snakes and huge spiders only made the job that much more interesting! With the help of some other guests at Rizal the stump was finally persuaded from its home, and then “rolled” into the woods! Yeah!!!

We stayed at Rizal until Saturday afternoon spending the rest of our time relaxing in the sun or the shade, whichever felt better, and cooling off in the pool. It was very relaxing time for everyone and we all had so much fun playing as well as getting some jobs accomplished!

We have enjoyed our time here it the Philippines so much…can’t believe we are in our last week before we head home on Friday. We have continued staying at the guest house by the Children’s Home until today when we moved to Paula Haunschilds to stay with her until Thursday. We are looking forward to our time with her and her family for the next few days!

Thanks for continuing to pray for us. Please pray for our travels back to Alaska, and that we would all continue to stay healthy especially for our journey home. This has been an amazing adventure…God has shown and taught us so much, and we have felt the prayers of many…thank you!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

In Manila

We arrived in Manila on Wednesday morning and spent the rest of the week with Uncle Randy, Aunt Marla and cousins. We had a fun week of connecting with everyone and the kids getting to know their cousins! Hide and seek outside after dark was the game to play each evening...the kids all decided that Ann Marie and Adams were the most difficult to find in the dark!

During our days together we visited the RBI office and got a tour, then Steve stayed for the afternoon and took pictures for Randy of preschool kids. He got some great pictures! The kids and I took a jeepney back to the house and rested for the afternoon. Steve also got to go to an eye screening up in Antipolo. He took pictures at the eye screening as well. I think the pictures will speak for themselves. Steve really enjoyed being able to see first hand what RBI is doing and how God is using them.

On Saturday we all kind of went our own ways as Steve went to the eye screening, Ann Marie and I got to go with Paula and Liz to the beading shops, and Marla took the rest of the kids to Omega's basketball game and then swimming afterwards. We all had a fun day and came back to the house in the afternoon for a little rest!

Sunday afternoon Steve and I spent some time repacking our suitcases so that we could go to the guest house by the Children's Home for our week of VBS. The guest house is not too far from Faith Academy and where the Haunschilds live. We arrived and got a tour of the Children's Home and surrounding area. The area is called Quatro and is filled with squatter homes. The Children's Home, guest house(that has 70 beds), and the community center are some of the main buildings in the area. The Children's Home has quite an impact on this small community of people as they help with supplying clean water to all the people, free dental clinic, a school for some of the children, and much more as well. We are thoroughly enjoying the area and living among the people although we live in the "big green house"!

We started VBS on Monday with 35 kids, but today we had almost 50 kids! We do the VBS in the community center and use the 2nd floor which is the church and the top floor which is a basketball court. The kids and the adults love the music and motions to go with the songs. We have also been doing Bible stories, crafts, and game time. We are having fun teaching all the kids!

Today we went to have lunch with Paula and her kids at Faith Academy and then got the grand tour. What an amazing facility! It was alot of fun to be able to see where Paula spends her days and the people that she has met through working at Faith. We have been given a van for our family to use while we are staying at the guest house, so it makes it much easier to be able to drive to Faith and to Paula's house. We will see if we get brave enough to venture out onto the highway! We had dinner at Paula's tonight...what a special treat to be able to be at her house in the Philippines!

And last, but certainly not least...yesterday was Ann Marie's birthday...she is sweet 16!! We had already celebrated in Davao with the Germains so we didn't really have a party for her. But just wanted to say Happy Birthday Ann Marie!!! I think this trip to the Philippines has been the best birthday present ever for her...she loves being here...it reminds her so much of her home in Sierra Leone.

We are enjoying our time so far in Manila, getting to catch up with family and friends, and also seeing first hand more missions and ministry. We love learning from what others are doing and being able to see it first hand. What an amazing opportunity this has been and we are so thankful!!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Saying good-bye

...is so hard to do! Wednesday was a sad day as we said good-bye to our friends, Joe and Jennifer and their kids, Tonia, Joziah, Samking, Brian, Tyler, Meghan, and Levi. We had such a great time together and none of us were really ready for it to end. Our 7 weeks in Davao was amazing, we learned so much, had a great time reconnecting with our friends, got to see their life in the Philippines, and through it all our relationships grew even stronger! Which really made it even harder to say good-bye. There was not a dry eye in the jeepney as we drove to the airport and unloaded the luggage. Hugs to everyone and then on into the airport we went.

Proverbs 18:24 "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

Friday, March 7, 2008

What is a Life Worth?

Tim, Joe and I took off after lunch on Wednesday to meet with Beth in the mountains. We met Beth at the area above her house at three, and drove for a couple of kilometers till we reached the trail head for Upian. We parked the truck at her brother’s place. We took the battery out of the truck so it would not be stolen, gave it to Beth’s sister in law and headed down the trail to Upion. The trail is a steep decent for five kilometers. Upian is in the valley below. It took us about an hour to make it to Upian. By the time we reached Upian I was drenched with sweat!

We went through the village and stopped at the other end of the village common area. Tim, Joe and I sat down on the grass to recover. Later we met the Pastor of the area, Cirilo (aka Tatai) Tapil and his wife Morita. He is a Seventh Day Adventist Pastor and started up Voice of the Jungle. They are working to get the Gospel to the mountain people. They have a horse ministry- they make their horses available to get the gospel and medicines to the people. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday he goes to the surrounding villages to teach and preach. On Sundays he goes to Beth and Murly’s to be with them. He and his wife have been married for 47 years.

We had dinner with them and then had family devotions with them and their two grandsons. We sang a couple of hymns in English with them. Each of them said a memorized Bible verse then Beth read some scripture in English. He then spoke for a few moments in Visayan, and asked me to pray. After prayer I got out our family photo and told him it was a blessing to do family devotions with him like we do as a family back home.

We slept upstairs in their two room house. The kitchen eating area is a lean to with a dirt floor. The house is a couple feet off the ground on stilts. It is a 12’ x12’ room, with an upstairs sleeping area. Joe, Tim and I slept on the floor while Beth, the Tapil’s and their two grandsons slept down stairs.

We got up at five in the am, ate a breakfast of spam, rice and something made of cassava wrapped in banana leaves. We started walking at 6. We hiked up to the next village Mundo Hill, waited for our guide, and then hiked up and around a mountain, across a ridge and then down to near the river bottom for about 15 km. This is the toughest hike I have ever hiked! Of course I am getting older and sit behind a desk most of the day now. They had to wait for us to catch our breath and slow down our heart rates to under180 many times! What does it mean when your heart feels like it is pounding in your head, you start to have tunnel vision and get quite dizzy? It means I need desperately to get into shape!

Along the hike we greeted an elderly gentleman with his family. After we exchanged greetings our guide told us the man was a great warrior. He used to be a head hunter and collected the heads of his enemies.

On our way we found out that the village had just buried two, a baby and an elderly man because of diarrhea. After four hours of hiking the jungle opened up and we were in the village of Newtawas. As we rested in the shade of the public pavilion, we heard a call sound out through out the valley that we had arrived. There were about ten homes in the village, the rest were scattered farther out. To spread the news one person shouted with a voice that carried over the jungle.

Tatai and Morita had come on horses and arrived before we did. She had a lunch ready for us. Even though it was only ten am, we ate before the people came because there would be no time later. Within fifteen minutes people started showing up. Most of the ladies had been down at the river doing laundry. Those who lived farther out showed up within an hour of our arrival.

Morita and Beth both taught about basic hygene as well as herbal remedies for diarrhea and how to make a re-hydrating drink. We started with the families, and took blood pressure, listened to lungs, and looked into ears. I learned how to take blood pressure, and listen to the lungs. We usually think this is to be left to the professionals, but when there are none. . .you learn quick. Blood pressure was not too hard to learn. After listening to lungs of several healthy kids, I wasn’t sure if I knew what I was doing until one of the kids lungs crackled as he breathed. Several of the kids had that kind of breathing. We then sent them to Beth to be rechecked. One boy you could hear breath on the top of his lungs but nothing on the lower lungs!

Joe looked in all the kid’s ears, and only found nine eardrums that were ok. The rest were inflamed, had holes, torn or almost non-existent. One child had bloody stools, but we had no medicine for it. We encouraged the mother to take her girl to the German hospital up the road in Buda. But here it became complicated. The mother had never been to the road in her life (Remember it took us five hours, with our supplies carried on a horse.) Think about it-never seeing a bus before, never seen a hospital. She had no money for the bus ride (60 Pesos or $1.50US) -very few of the people have any money- they just don’t use it. We told her to get to Upian and meet up with Tatai.

Tim, Joe and I pitched in to buy her trip into town and pay for food. We would pay for the bus ride for her, her baby, and another person to help her go into town. We left the money with Tatai. The German Hospital is a mission hospital and does not charge those from the mountains.

Beth prescribed medicines for the people, and gave extra to the datu(the tribe leader) with instructions how to use. This medicine is the medicine our family bought here in Davao, and hiked down to Beth and Murly’s at the beginning of our time here. Medicine that will stop diarrhea costs about 20 Pesos or about 50 US cents. What is a life worth? Fifty cents? Five dollars?

Much of this sickness and death can be prevented by safe drinking water. Tim so wants to get the water filters that he is starting to build out to the villages. Tatai has agreed to help get the filters out to the people, and teach the people to use them. A water filter cost about $20 US to build. What is a life worth? One water filter could save a household of 12 or more! Check out Tim’s blog at http://theadventuresoftimandbethany.blogspot.com

We had to leave at two so that we were back in Upian before dark. The next day we dragged ourselves out of bed and hiked the steep hill back to the road.

From what I understand, this village is one that is closer to the road than many others. Very few people go to these people, they are just too far away and too far to walk to. What is a life worth? A couple day hike? Sore muscles? Nights on the hard floor?

What did Jesus give up in order to redeem us back to Him? He is God and yet he became a man and hiked up hill and down to show people God’s love for us! He was ridiculed and spit on. He was beaten and crucified. He gave up his life so that we could be reconciled with Him. What is a life worth? Ask Jesus...

Why am I trying to keep my life comfortable?

Steven Veldstra