For the past several days it has been on my heart to write a summary concerning our trip to the Philippines. As I am on the plane somewhere over the Pacific (Northeast of Korea), it seems to be the best time. This trip to the Philippines has kept us quite busy each and every day while we were there.
As I write, I wonder how I can convey to you all that we saw, witnessed and were a part of. This report certainly cannot contain it all but what I can share is indelibly written on my heart.
It has been 4 months since our last trip to the Philippines and I believe it is my 5th visit in the past 4 years. Each and every time my heart widens for the people here who by economic standards have little but, what they do have, they freely give to us in friendship and love.
Our team this time included Mark Jantzi from New York, myself, and four others from the Czech Republic. They are Martin Kluson and his older daughter, Kristyna who is 14 years old, Roman Oulicky and his second daughter Petra who is 17 years old.
In my previous report I shared on the Philippines and our involvement in three areas of ministry on the Island of Mindanao. We continue to labor much for the Kingdom Message Ministry School, Inc. It is now in its fourth year with the new school year starting in June. We had to hire two new teachers (1st and 3rd grade) along with a new principal, whom we did not have before. In addition, we hired a guidance counselor, which is required by law. This brings to 12 the amount of employees at the school. Our enrollment dropped from 115 to 92 this year. I was told that the government is now paying parents the equivalent of 15 dollars per month (indigent children) if they sign their children to public schools. I asked a teacher why would a parent sign their child to a private school versus a public one? She explained most classes have 40 to 60 children in each class whereas the private school such as ours has between 16 to 22 children in a class. This makes available to the children to have a better education due to the teacher/child ratio. Also, parents who have a desire for their children to learn of God want them to attend a school such as ours. This way their children are able to participate in a Christian education and learn daily from the Bible. On a further note: This is the first year of teaching for our new 3rd grade teacher. My, is she so very young (19-21?). Maybe I am just getting a little older.:-)
When we were here in February-March we saw the need to put in place a new classroom, new fans, computers, teaching programs for the teachers along with new uniforms for them and for the children, and paint rooms and desks. The cost for just these alone came to over four thousand dollars. I am amazed and thankful that the Lord has provided these funds through the generosity of many. Within 2 months all of these expenses were paid for.
When we arrived last week the changes and improvements overwhelmed me. Everything that we asked the employees to do they did and more. We have been blessed to have a wonderful principal and two new teachers with a heart to teach. During this time we got to know them very well. Our team that came this time also brought expertise in management, accounting and computers. By the time we finished, the administrator and clerk were trained in Excel and bookkeeping. We now have three new computers (to add to our one old desktop). The teachers and principal have a computer and printer for their work in their small faculty room. The guidance counselor, the administrator and the bookkeeper each have their own. I cannot tell you how good it feels to know that they have been given the tools and teaching from our team in order to excel (no pun intended) in their jobs. The time we spent at the school was very much needed concerning situations and problems that required our counsel and assistance.
We spent two days at the Bible school that is in Jabonga, 50 kilometers from where we are staying. This school has around 30 students, several which are natives that live in the mountains. It is wonderful to see young people desiring to know more about God. The receptivity towards us was very apparent. Their smiles and handshakes reflected their thankfulness toward us. Petra and Kristyna fit right in with them, eating lunch and talking together.
The Bible school had requested help in purchasing equipment for vocational training in addition to their Bible studies. While we were there, we were able to purchase a sewing machine and a mig welder through support from the Missionary Fund. Br. Edmar will instruct them in welding and one of the teachers is a trained seamstress that will teach them the sewing trade.
In the Butuan area we work with a number of fellowships and home groups. Each time we come, we can see spiritual growth in their lives. We have met new brethren as well. One is a man named Augusto. He is 57 years old and an elder in his home fellowship.
Augusto is crippled in his hands and legs. Another man, named Bibi, carries him everywhere he goes. I asked him what had caused the crippling of his body. He explained that 19 years ago he was afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis. There is nothing left of his fingers except his palms and several withered digits. I explained to him how my twin sister Phyllis and I had been afflicted with RA many years ago. He said, “Then you know what I went through and can understand.” I said, “Yes.” He went on to say, that when he came down with this disease, he lost his job and his wife left him. But, he went on to say, it has made him draw close to God and he is very thankful for that. As he spoke I could sense the genuine attitude of thankfulness that was in his heart. No bitterness whatsoever remained in him. I then thought of my wonderful wife Sue who has stood with me through those dark times of my life. It takes a special person like my wife who loves me in good times and in bad. Thank you, my precious Sue, who I love dearly.
In addition, another thing came close to home. This man named Bibi, who is an elder here in Butuan, was in one of our Sunday meetings. After the meeting, we were praying for people and he brought up his 14-year-old daughter for prayer. I saw her coming and it felt strange for she reminded me of Megan, our niece. As she drew near I knew why. When Bibi asked for prayer, he said that her head was swelling. Though she was not as severe as Megan, I asked if her problem was with hydrocephalous? He said yes and that she had a shunt placed in her head several years ago. We prayed for her that God would touch and heal her. My heart felt such compassion for her. I remembered all the years from the time that Megan was born until now. Megan is a miracle for the doctors said that she would not live long nor would she ever walk. I thought of all the years that Dan and Carol have stood with Megan and loved her dearly laying down their lives for her. I knew exactly what this man Bibi was going through. Sadly though, the mom left Bibi many years ago for another man. She was unable to cope with the thought of caring for a special needs child. But this man carried on his responsibilities for his family. I commend him for his unselfish love to her.
I could go on with other stories. We prayed for many older women with sicknesses as well as young children. The needs are so overwhelming. We pray believing that God will move and touch all these precious people. The meetings were anointed and blessed of God. Many, including the team that came, were blessed by the Word that came forth in the various places.
We had another wonderful experience. Let me share it with you.
The Hotel Karaga, in Butuan, is where we have stayed and held conferences yearly for the past 5 years. We have come to know the sons of the owners of this hotel.
They are Chinese in nationality. The youngest son, Perkin, has always lived here in Butuan. His oldest brother, Patrick, recently returned to the Philippines to take over the family business. He had lived 10 years in Milwaukee. We have come to know these two over our recent trips, but when we came this time their middle brother, Philip, had just come from Phoenix to be married. They had already begun decorating the hall when we arrived on June 28th. During this time we got to know Philip as well. The wedding was on Thursday, July 4th. The day before, Patrick mentioned that we were most welcomed to come for we were like family to him. We took it in passing thanking him but did not want to be an intrusion on this wonderful occasion. The day of the wedding Mark and myself decided to put on our best clothes and at least watch and take some pictures of the wedding from a distance. We came down the stairs and the wedding had already begun. As we walked to the door the hostess insisted on us signing our names. We then stood at the door to watch. The place was so beautifully decorated that I had ever seen for a wedding. There were arbors covered in roses, hundreds upon hundreds of them, they even covered the railings going up the lobby stairs. As we watched the service, Patrick’s cousin came and said we were to sit in a certain spot. It was not a secluded place to say the least. We reluctantly went and sat down. The service soon ended, we took some more pictures and decided we better leave before they served the dinner. We chose our timing so as not to be noticed and we almost made it out of the room. Suddenly Patrick as well as Perkin quickly ran up to us. “Where are you going? You must stay for dinner!” We tried to graciously bow out but they insisted. “You are like family to us. You must stay!” Mark and I went back to our seats and the dinner began. They had two large roasted pigs, Philippine style at each serving table. The meal was also adored with various Philippine dishes of the finest kind.
Mark and I took some more pictures and then began to eat. Across from us was a Philippine woman. We greeted her and talked. She shared with us that she was the sister of the bride who had flown in from San Diego for the wedding. We shared with her that we had just met the bride the past several days but that we knew the brothers through our stay at the hotel. She said, “Oh, you are the missionaries that stay here at the hotel when you come to Butuan. We have heard of you.” Shortly after Philip and his bride came to the table for pictures. Philip mentioned to Mark and me he was so very glad that we came to his wedding. Philip also mentioned that we were family to them. We felt so honored that we were given such a high place of respect on their wedding day when most of them present were family and close friends. It was quite a humbling, yet most wonderful experience for us. We will never forget it.
Well, I could go on but this will have to suffice for now. In closing, all of us on this trip will never forget what we received. What little we gave out, we got so much more in return.
I want to thank each of you, our dear brethren, for standing with us in prayer, supporting our every step on this endeavor on behalf of the Kingdom of God.
In Christ’s love,
Br. George Herrig