We arrived at the OMF guesthouse in Calapan, on the island of Mindoro, Friday evening straight from the OMF conference, for which we ran the children’s program. Saturday was a much-needed rest day, the only other thing we needed to do was meet with Mimi and Paulo, from BL (Dawn For The Poor) in the afternoon and discuss the plans for what we would do with them in Calapan. It was good we had that day to rest because we were asked to jump straight into ministry activities, starting with a church service at the BL centre Sunday morning. This included us doing three worship songs, a skit about the parable of the banquet, followed by Sam preaching on this passage from the Gospel of Matthew. Sam was only given notice that he would be preaching Saturday evening, but with God’s help and some work into the night, he put together and preached a great sermon. Paulo translated both the skit and Sam’s talk into Tagalog so the congregation could better understand what we were saying. Unfortunately, Ben was unwell and was unable to be involved in the service.
Acting out the Banquet Drama (from Matthew 22)
Sam preaching from Matthew 22:1-14
We shared Sunday lunch with Paulo and the other BL leaders. Following lunch, we played some ice breaker games, which helped us to get to know the leaders and vice versa. We also split into pairs, two of us with two to three of the BL leaders, in preparation for the next day’s visits to families connected to the BL church. After dinner, our host Jen took Kathy, Marge, Dina and Sam shopping so they could buy grocery items (noodles, crackers, toothpaste, laundry soap etc.) to give to the families we would visit the next day. We then put one of each item into shopping bags, 65 in total.
Discussion time and lunch after the service.
Each pair of us had been allocated an area with a certain number of families to visit. Some were within walking distance of the guesthouse, others had to be travelled to by trike (a motorbike with a side car). As Ben was still unwell Monday, he stayed at the guesthouse and rested. Tuesday morning, he had recovered enough to join Dina in visiting a few of the families nearby. The families we visited live in homes which are smaller than the average Australian bedroom and are constructed out of a hodgepodge of building materials, including salvaged pieces of timber and tree branches, cement bricks, tarps and plastic sheeting and corrugated iron. These “buildings” are not strong at the best of times, but following Typhoon Nina, which struck Calapan in late December, many are in need of repair. Some are only accessible by foot bridge, constructed out of loose planks of wood and bamboo posts. The people we met face many struggles, but so many continue to look to God as the source of all their strength. It was an honour to meet and pray with and offer support to fellow Christians. This simple act seemed to touch them greatly and it was encouraging to see the ongoing work that BL is doing, reaching the lost, as well as teaching and building up in faith Christians among the urban poor of Calapan.
Kathy with one of the families we visited, and a couple of local BL leaders.Add a comment
Some of us didn't have as many planned activities in Calapan as originally expected, but that didn't mean we had nothing to do. The typhoon had not only taken off part of the roof of the guest house, but also damaged a lot of the trees around it, and made a mess of the yard, and so Jen put us to work. In particular, Kathryn, Sam and I were clearing sections of the yard and cutting up fallen trees for firewood, and fixing up doors that weren't closing properly due to swelling after all the rain. By the end of our time there the place was looking much nicer!
I also came in handy as an architectural draftsman while I was there, offering some advice on a couple of projects. I met a local civil engineer named Sakai one day, and we discussed how best to repair the roof damage. He was able to give me a lot of information about local materials and construction methods, which was very helpful in then putting together notes and a sketch for Jen on how the repairs should be done. The other project is the renovation of the lower floor of the guest house to be more suited to holding conferences for up to 30 people. After talking to Jen about what is required, I measured up the area with the help of my assistant Sam, and then drew a floor plan. Now I need to work out the best use of the space and show OMF some different options to consider.
On our second Sunday in Calapan we visited Jen's church with her, the congregation of which is largely Chinese, and so in some ways it was better suited to foreigners, particularly as the service was in English. Overall it was similar to one of our services back home, with singing, prayer, bible reading and a sermon, but we also experienced sabai sabai prayers and bible reading, where everyone prays their own prayer out loud at the same time, or reads their own bible translation at the same time, and we were welcomed one at a time during the service, since it was our first time.
Apart from that we did get to explore Calapan a bit, getting around in tricycles when Jen wasn't driving, with some of us going out for sundaes of an afternoon, checking out the shopping centre and markets, and going to the beach. And at night we watched movies or played games when there wasn't anything else on.
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On Thursday while the others went to Welfareville, Ben, Sam and I accompanied a group of twelve New Zealand short term mission workers and three missionaries on an Orientation Tour in Manila. We left Manila at 11am, catching a bus to Quiapo. Here we walked through the markets where they sold such a wide variety of things until we got to the big Catholic cathedral there. We were approached by many paddlers selling potions supposedly cures for all kinds of illnesses, and crucifixes. We went into the back of the Church and watched for a bit before going into another room to see statues of Jesus (often depicted as dark-skinned and called the Black Nazarene). Many Filipinos were rubbing the feet of the statues and saying their prayers.
We then went to Jollibee- the traditional Filipino fast food place. We three felt like pros as we know how it works pretty well by now. The New Zealanders were still surprised at the combinations of food in one meal- spaghetti, rice, spring rolls, chicken and chips!
Next we were taken to a jewellery store which was pretty fun- lots of interesting little trinkets (bizarrely including British and French souvenirs!).
Then we split into two groups and our group walked through markets and into a more Spanish section of Manila. We felt almost as if we were suddenly in a European country! We looked inside another Catholic Church there. Then, we went to Fort Santiago where there is a museum about Jose Rizal- a celebrated folk hero. It was strange because we were suddenly surrounded by many white tourists! Our tour guide said she had never seen so many. We saw a brief movie about Filipino history and cultural influences. It really helped to explain why some of the Philippines seems very Western (because of American control after the 2nd World War) and some seems very Spanish. Rizal advocated for independence from Spanish rule and was put to death because of this.
After the museum, it was time to make our own ways back to the Manila Conference Centre. Unfortunately, the traffic was terrible! I think we narrowly avoided several crashes as our driver just beeped his horn and drove on regardless of others around him. Anyway, we eventually made it back safely, after about two hours of travel!
Ben, Sam and I really enjoyed the Orientation. It was fun to be with people who had just arrived in the Philippines as well as experienced missionaries. The museum was very informative, I didn't know much about Rizal and we didn't go to the museum last time I came. It was good to learn more also about Filipino culture. It's certainly very different to Australian, as we have found throughout our trip. However, it's been great to make connections with people here, who despite cultural differences, we can laugh with and focus on serving God together.
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Tropical rain seeped in through the narrow sheet of protective plastic into the undercover area of the trike. Our driver stopped and, telling us to remain, stalked off to what looked like a greenish looking farmhouse, presumably to ask for directions.
The rain was rising now, and around us I could see drenched rice paddy fields, with no-one in sight, and, more surprisingly, no noise in earshot – very different from the crowded streets of Manila, or even the small yet bustling metropolis of Calapan we’d left that morning.
‘Are you the Australians?’ The driver had returned, and with him a few smiling faces. Jumping out of the trike and quickly leaving our over-charging driver behind, we introduced ourselves to the staff of the Centre for Servant Leadership Program, the Bible College Iljo, our OMF friend, had asked us to teach at for her…
Bible college teaching – me?
At age 23, with only 2/3rds of a diploma of theology completed?
Teaching students I’d never met before, at a Bible college I knew next to nothing about, in a culture I’m only just beginning to scrape the surface of?
I might not have known the students, the college, or even the culture of teaching in the Philippines, but what I do know well is the Bible. Thanks to my parents, my various church families, my theological studies in my gap year and my ongoing training with my AFES group, I have been blessed with good faithful teaching not just of individual Bible stories, but of how the Bible fits together as one book.
The students we taught knew their Bibles well (better, perhaps, than some of us at Mittagong Anglican!). Most of them, however, were not familiar with the consistent storyline of God’s grace, kingdom and covenant-keeping through the Bible. It was a joy to be with them as we explained how, even in Genesis 3:15, God promises a Messiah to right Adam’s wrong, an offspring who will ‘strike your (Satan’s) head’.
We raced through the Bible together, on our search for this ‘snake-crusher’, seeing this promise extended in God’s covenants with Abraham, Israel and then David, until finally seeing the kingdom of God coming to dwell with his people in the person of Jesus Christ.
As we looked at the cycle of sin, judgement and grace throughout the Old Testament, we encouraged the students to interact with the teaching in creative ways, such as in drama and art. While this gave them a break from our Australian accents (which some found difficult to put up with!), it also provided inspiration for them to teach the Bible with similar approaches in their own ministries.
Most of the students are in their twenties, and are preparing for full-time ministry once they graduate in April. Please pray that these students will be faithful teachers of God’s word, and that he will use them to train up other young people in their church. We had a wonderful few days with them, and were treated with beautiful hospitality by staff and students alike. Short-term mission is at its most effective when it supports long-term work, and this was what we were doing, helping out not only Iljo and the staff of the college, but the students, as they prepared for lifetimes of ministry.
If you yourself are unsure of how the Bible fits together as ‘one book’, then I recommend reading Vaughn Robert’s ‘God’s Big Picture’. Copies can be purchased from the church office or via Koorong.
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At the OMF Field Conference, Kathryn and I led the youth program.
We had about a dozen teenagers, all Missionary Kids (MKs). Their families came from a number of different countries: Germany, UK, Switzerland, the Philippines and Singapore.
Some of them I remembered from 2013 - although they were much younger then, and in the children's rather than the youth program - so there was a nice continuity there.
There were a couple of challenges along the way - one being that there was no allocated room for the youth program. We ended up spending a lot of time in the conference centre's games room and cafe, and the cafe staff were very accomodating when we kept moving the chairs to suit our bible study!
We had the youth for nine hours each day, and at other times like meals and free time they often wanted to hang out with us, so there was no escaping!
But thankfully they were a great bunch of kids.
Here's some of the things we did at the program:
- Games: Being based partially in the games room, we played quite a lot of foosball, carpet bowls, darts and ping-pong. We also played some running around games like Fresher and the sneak-up-behind-someone game, some card games like Mafia and Emperor Scum, and some other games, including "Zip-Zap", Bang and Kill (the latter two leading one of the girls to say "all the games you play are so violent!" - but they weren't really, promise!)
The most popular games included a photo caption challenge, where we sent them off around the conference centre, armed with a camera and a list of captions, an epic game of bible-story pictionary and a drawing game.
- Watch a movie: One evening we watched the film 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' with the youth. The heavy rain on the tin roof of the games room made it difficult to hear the film, but maybe it was just as well as they ended up finding the New Zealand accents a bit hard to understand!
- Bible study: At the heart of what we did was time spent in God's word. Like the childrens' program, we based our studies around a bible overview, based on material from Vaughan Robert's book, God's Big Picture. Kathryn and I led bible studies, looking at how the structure of 'God's People in God's Place under God's Rule and Blessing' is seen throughout the bible, and how all of it fits together. I was worried that the material would be a bit difficult, especially for the younger ones, but they seemed to grasp it well and were enthuiastic to read God's word.
Over the course of our eight bible studies, it was great to see some of the quiter teengers grow a bit more confident in contributing to the discussion.
We also spent time eating at the cafe, having our accents made fun of, and just chatting with the youth. It was great to get to know each of them better throughout the conference, and get a glimpse into their lives as PKs in the Philippines.
It was a very exhausting few days for the two of us, but it was great to be able to invest in the young people and encourage them. I know I'll be praying for each of them in the coming years, that they will continue in their faith, and keep trusting Jesus Christ as their Lord.
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