Sunday, January 20, 2013

It's More Fun in the Philippines

This is the story of our adventure to the Philippines in October 2012 as a pilot trip for our church to help figure out how our church can serve long term in the Philippines.
The Team: Jeff, Randi, me, and Daniel on location for where our church will be serving for the next few years.
The night before we left, Daniel and I spent the night at Jeff and Randi's since our first flight left DFW at 6am. That morning Daniel drove to Louisiana to meet his mom and drop Liam and Jack off. At J and R's Daniel tried out his new mat and I slept on the couch. After a few hours of sleep we got up and headed to the airport.
Right side is us before leaving for the Philippines, and Left side is us leaving the Philippines and headed home!
We flew from DFW to San Francisco to Honolulu to Guam to Manila where we had a 20 layover. We spent the night at the Remington Hotel. We had some issues with rooms and number of beds, but we finally got a good room and slept well until about 3am when our bodies realized it was 4pm at home. We Finally got up around 6 and went to eat at the pancake house down the street then headed back to the airport.

Our hotel in Manila
Eating at the Pancake House - pretty good breakfast!
We arrived in Butuan City where Joie met us and took us to Dottie's Place hotel to drop our bags then we went to Pizza Hut for lunch. An IMB missionary with Neamiah Teams met us and drove us out to a farm earlier supported by the IMB but has since been turned over to the Filipinos. They have plans for biosand water filters, lots of land for farming that needs to be cleared, space for large groups and possible housing for a missionary family. They need workers to get the farm going again.
This is a large "taxi". It can fit about 10 people. That's Joie on the bike behind us. This is how we got from the airport to the hotel.
Dottie's Place Hotel
Looking at a clinic and some bunk rooms on the Farm
Biosand Water Filters that need to be finished.
 We also went to Joie's farm, ate coconut, pineapple, and local fruits. We saw some local cock fighting. And watched as a village worked together to harvest rice. That evening we ate at a local restaurant and ate some of the best "chicken on a stick" that I've ever had.
In front of the beautiful rice fields
climbing the tree to get us a fresh coconut
My first time to have coconut water
Enjoying fresh pineapple and coconuts
Everyone ordered chicken on a stick. It was good!
The next morning we rode a van for about 2 hours and met some guys with skylabs or a motorcycle with wings. Rode for about 3-4 hours on skylabs to Pastor Bhen's village. We had to cross a river on a bamboo raft. And the "roads" were not roads, but more like mountain bile trails with lots of dips and ruts where bikes have been stuck in the mud. Bumpiest and most scary and possibly the coolest thing I've ever done.
This is what we rode for 4 hours on.
This is how we rode on that bike for 4 hours. Yep.
Crossing a river on a bamboo raft.
A "road". However, this is actually a very good section of the road. A lot of the time part of the road was washed out or had huge ruts in it from motorcycles going through it when it was mud.
Bhen's wife Teresa fed us lunch and we walked around the village looking at the community. I played with some little girls and taught them A Tooty Ta. We rested for a while and then ate dinner and went to a worship service where we were introduced to the community and Jeff explained what we were doing here and Daniel presented a message on living the Christian life. Lots of singing and instruments were involved.
Our welcome group when we arrived in Bhen's village.
The homes may not be much in our opinion, but I love that they take pride in what they have by planting flowers and decorating!
Walking around with the kids. The Church building is behind us.
Beautiful views!
One of the classrooms in the village.
This is a view of the village from a large hill. In the very back is the school, the triangle shaped roof is the church, and you can see some of the houses.
A new building.
This is how they cut lumber in the Philippines. With a chainsaw.
We were welcomed by the military.
The stage in the church.
There were soooooo many people there wanting to hear us speak. This is about 1/3 of one of the sides of the church.
We shared twin sized beds under mosquito nets that night and it wasn't too bad. We woke several times to various animal noises. Goats, chickens, roosters, dogs, cats and pigs. The roosters started crowing at 5am. We got up and had a devotional with the local pastors and learned about their vision for the BaMaTa community and Pastor Ben's strategy for missions in that area.
Jeff hanging a mosquito net above one of the twin beds
This is the area in the Philippines where our church will be serving. Who wouldn't want to live here!?
Explanation of what Bhen and his team want to do in the area.
Pastor Bhen and his team and our team
Blessed to have the opportunity to be here.
We ate some breakfast and sugar cane and hit the road in the motorcycles again. We took a few stops on the way this time. The boys played basketball in a village and the kids there thought it was so funny. I had the chance to talk with Teresa about the healthcare needs and women's healthcare related to birth and such.

SR team with Pastor Bhen and his family. The sign we are doing is for "love God, love people"
On our way down the mountain we got a flat less than a mile from our stopping point. We took a little motorized cab the rest of the way. We hired a van to take us to Butuan City. Picked up our things that we stored at our hotel and hit the road again. Took a jeep thing to the bus terminal to hire another van. Snuck in the back way through the market so the drivers wouldn't see the Americans and jack up the price. Joie went to negotiate and came to get us when he found a fair price.
Market we walked through.
 Everyone loves to stare and they have no problem doing so. And every time Joie would hire a ride of some sort, as soon as we showed the drivers always started trying to renegotiate the price. We rode in a van for about 3 hours to Surigoa where we stayed at the Tavern. Super nice hotel and we walk in all dirty and smelly. Took quick showers and had planned to get some "American" food so we went to the hotel restaurant for burgers. They were awful. I should know by now not to expect much from American food in other countries. Its just not the same. Joie ordered some seafood soup that Daniel really enjoyed. Daniel and I stayed at the hotel to call our family while the others went to find pizza. We all passed out quickly and slept through the night for the first time.
We started getting lazy taking pictures, so this is the only picture to show you how nice this hotel was. They had cold Starbucks in the lobby.

 The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and walked down the street to catch a ferry out to Dinegat Island. The boat rode was about 4 hours and we got to see a lot of little villages along the way. We rode on top of the boat instead of inside where it was crowded, hot, and smelled like fumes.
 We snacked on bread and fruits that Joie and Jeff picked up in the market before we left. Some of the water got a little rough so we ended up wet frequently.
Daniel talking with a man in the street while waiting for our ferry - turns out he was a believer!
Our ride to the island.
Enjoying a Red Bull before we left!
Just riding a boat.
It's amazing what the waves do the rocks.
A town that we passed.
This is how we rode for 4 hours.
We finally arrive in Tubajon on Dinegat Island and met Pastor Arnel and his family (wife Jane, and children, Daniel and Abigail). They live above the Baptist church where they were sent to pastor about one year ago. They currently have 15 regular attenders. We ate some lunch and walked around their community and met some people. We spent some time visiting with the Captain (similar to a chief) and see the bats that live in the trees in his backyard. We walked almost the entire village.
The market
walking to the church to drop off our bags
The church and Pastor's home upstairs
Beautiful island
They have running and clean(ish) water an electricity. Multiple churches of various denominations with Catholic being the largest. We also found out about a cult in the Philippines but I don't recall the name. Apparently the leader is in hiding though. As we walked back to the church several kids ended up following us so I spent some time outside playing with them. We did A Tooty Ta, Father Abraham, and Baby Shark. They sang a song for me. I asked them questions about their lives and their island. Finally it got dark so I went back inside the church and told them to go home but they didn't. They all stood at the door and looked in as we ate dinner and talked. The pastor agreed end to let them come inside the door and Daniel shared the story of the three trees with them.
All the kids listening to Daniel tell a story
Then we sent them home again and shut the door but most of them continues to stay outside looking in through the concrete blocks. Some of the church members came over for dinner and a prayer meeting. We joined the prayer meeting and prayed for many things about the church and the village and for our church's mission as well. We were sooo exhausted when it was over and set up bedding on the floor and in the pews and went to sleep. Thankfully we had fans to keep us cool.

The next morning we woke, snacked a little and went to get a boat to take us to some of the smaller villages. We assumed it would be a big boat but it was very small and we all just barely for in it.
Small boat. Very small boat.
The water was very choppy and we all got very wet. We were only able to go to one village because the water was too rough to get to one village and there was too difficult to dock at another village. The village we went to was nothing like we expected. They also had drinkable water and electricity and a clinic where a midwife was able to deliver babies with sterile procedures. They had toilets in about half of the homes. I'm guessing the village had 100+ homes. We found out there are 3 families who are believers and just recently converted. A pastor comes from Tubajon about once a month to teach. We had the opportunity to pray over one family.
Gorgeous blue water
Since we couldn't go to other villages we went to take our "vacation" at the beach. Joie had planned some down time for us at Tubajon where we would swim and relax. We set up hammocks and swam with goggles looking at the reef and sea life. We had an amazing lunch with noodles, crab, fish, and of course rice (a staple in Southeast Asia) and some of the church members joined us.
Yummy! Crab! It was sooooo good!
Our "vacation" spot

After lunch we took a boat ride to another area where the coral ref was better and it was so amazing! I've never swam at a reef and the water was just beautiful. We had lots of fun with an underwater camera. (Unfortunately no one has posted any of those pictures so I can't share any of them with you.) We walked back to the village where all the kids were waiting for us. It was too dark to play anymore and we were so tired from being in the sun all day. We wanted to just sleep but we had dinner being prepared. We scarfed down some dinner (we hardly ate anything) and went back downstairs to get ready for bed. All the kids were outside watching. Some church members had shown up. But we didn't care. We were drained from the sun and swimming and we just wanted to sleep. So we did. For a few hours at least. We woke up bright and early to catch the ferry back to the main island. We had to check the night before to make sure it had arrived. We were afraid for a while that we were going to be stuck on the island for another day. But the ferry was there. Still exhausted we took our packs down to the docks and sat on the boat for a long time waiting to leave.
SR team and Pastor Arnel and his wife
The ferry had to go around one of the islands to stay out of the harsh waves so it ended up taking longer to get back to the main island. We got to see the sun rise. On this ride we were forced to go below into the passenger area because apparently it's illegal to ride on the top like we had been doing and we passed some authorities at one of the ports. I could NEVER ride down there for 4+ hours. That was terrible for even 15 minutes.

We got back to Surigoa and hired a van to take us back to Butuan City. That was a really long van ride too. We all passed out in the van.
We spent the night at Dottie's Place again. I wasn't feeling well so Daniel and I stayed at the hotel while Jeff and Randi went souvenir shopping. I finally started feeling better after an hour so we met up with them and picked up a few souvenirs in the mall and a local shop and then headed to dinner. We debriefed about our week with Joie and prayed over our trip and encounters with people. Then it was back to bed and up the next morning to go to the airport to head home!
Ready to start the long trip home!
We flew from Butuan back to Manilla where we had another short layover. Not long enough to get a hotel room, but too long to just sit in the airport. So we went to the Mall of Asia. Why not!? We had nothing better to do.

Jeff, Randi, and I ate at an Italian restaurant while Daniel went to go see a movie. (Turns out he didn't get to see it and ended up walking around the mall for about an hour looking for us.) And then we headed back to the airport that evening to catch our plane for the long part of the trip back to the US.

And that is the story of our trip the Philippines.

This is something that I listened to while we were in the Philippines. It really hit home with why we were there and what God has called us to do.

Are we willing to be where Jesus is? Why would God reward our obedience with suffering and not prosperity? It's biblical.

 Jesus wasn't clean or comfortable. He wasn't up scale. He calls us to go, not stay. He does not promise wealth or prosperity or health. If we follow Jesus, he went to the dirty, despised placed, he lied those who were unloveable, touched those who were untouchable and he paid for it. He was persecuted - threatened, mocked, beaten, and crucified.

 So do we really want to be where Jesus is?

We won't get thanks, we may not be able to protect our family, it will be dirty, may be hostile. This is a struggle for most Christians. 

When Jesus called us to himself he did not call us to prosperity but to suffering. Deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow me. Christ is all we need. That needs to be our focus. 

Suffering isn't just a consequence of obedience. It is a strategy of mission. If we are to show Christ to the world then we have to show the true Christ of scripture. 

Mission without suffering is Christianity without a cross. 

- summarized parts from David Platt's sermon "Out of the Camp". Go listen to it.