I thought I might share a little of our Manila to Butuan travel experience with you. We went to the airport in the morning – no problem. We checked in all of our luggage and we were 2 kg under the limit; the lady then even allowed Jim to additionally check in his 8 kg carry on – no problem. We boarded our flight on time; we were among the first ones to board the plane. The plane then taxied out to the tarmac and the pilot announced that we would be leaving about 1/2 hour later than expected. We sat there for an additional 90 minutes and the outside heat was in the mid 90’s. Finally, the plane begins to move; but he’s going back towards the terminal. He parks it on the far side of some remote parking lot and announces that there is a technical problem and the mechanics will try to fix it – another 1/2 hour goes by without any success; (it seems that a temperature gauge shows the fuel temperature is too warm). Soon we all leave the plane and are loaded onto buses and moved a little way down the parking lot – another 1/2 hour. Finally, we are boarded onto a nearby plane (now we’re the last ones on board). This plane is the same Airbus model but it seems to be a very old one; the seats are very uncomfortable. But this plane actually flies and we arrive in Butuan 3 hours late. Oh, and as a consolation, the crew passed out free bottles of water and packages of cheesy crackers to everyone.
So, we have safely arrived at our destination and are ensconced in our hotel. It is Friday, the 21st of June; there are no meetings planned for today and we must unpack and settle in. Our hotel is attached to the Robinson Mall; so we explore the neighborhood, locating potential eating places for our next 10 days.
Saturday begins our meetings. We have two meetings at the KMM School today; we call it “Elder’s Meetings”, but there are others who come to hear the word. I brought both messages regarding the prophetic word of God Shaking the Heaven and the Earth. On Sunday, we traveled out through the miles of rice paddies to Brother Ben’s fellowship. It has been quite dry here lately; so, this has been a good time to travel this mostly dirt road. I brought a word on Sowing into the lives of others and Reaping of the same. Sister Marylou made an excellent lunch for us before our return to Butuan. In the afternoon, Jim brought a message: Making Jesus King, at the school. Again, the parents blessed the team with a generous gift of local fruits, more than we can possibly eat in a few days.
On Monday, we began two days of ministry at Jabonga, approximately 1 ½ hours drive north of Butuan. It has been awhile since we were last there, being advised against such travel, due to the ongoing political Muslim unrest. We understand that the Mindanao Island continues to be under martial law, but the situation has quieted down considerably. Our two days of travel was completely peaceful and without incident. Brother Edmar and Sister Medlyn now live in a house right next to the main highway, which also serves as a business, where items are sold and also meals served. This is also now the site of their fellowship meetings. The other building, where the bible school once functioned, is being used for other purposes by the owners. Edmar said that this building is for sale at a cheap price; but the building is not well built, not a good buy and the land is not included.
The first of our two-day meetings at Jabonga were very hot and humid, with temperatures in the mid to high 90s (“real feel” over 100). Merlinda has A/C in the van; but I suspect that if more freon were added to the system it would be colder; but it is indeed tolerable. At the meetings, I give a three-part series of Following the Journeys of the Ark of the Covenant: first in the wilderness, then crossing the Jordan to Jericho and finally from Shiloh to the Tabernacle of David. Jim brought the final word on how Abraham was tested by God in the sacrifice of Isaac. It was good to see a few of the young people (formerly students), who are now starting families and reaching out in ministry. I would especially mention Michael and Eileen, now with two children, who live an hour’s drive from Jabonga and have a ministry even further out than that. Michael has a secular job and sacrificed time to attend these meetings. Pray for Edmar and his family as they are struggling financially. They have indeed paid a price for believing and living the message that we preach. He is no longer working at the location 3 hours west of Butuan, and is working closer to Butuan. He has faithfully agreed and sacrificed time to serve as our translator for all of our meetings.
On Tuesday morning when we went down to the mall restaurant for breakfast, we found that every table was taken (usually the room is nearly empty). I found a waiter and he suggested that we find another place for this morning’s breakfast. I asked one of the men at a table what was going on in town. He said that today was the coronation of a new Catholic Bishop and many came for the occasion. So, Lito took us a different route that bypasses the downtown area in the morning. The days continue to be very hot and humid with no rain. Another day on our return to our hotel in the afternoon, we found all the traffic at a standstill and the police out directing traffic. At first, I thought, it was a parade of some kind of circus, as I thought I saw clowns all dressed in strange clothes. Then I saw the sign that it was a LGBTQ parade. Some of the waiting taxi drivers got out of their vehicles and appeared to be calling out curses at the paradors. Soon we were on our way again.
Wednesday, June 26, begins our three-day visitation and ministry to the KMMS. When we first arrived, we laid out our agenda and set up some meeting times. Then Jim and Rita began to introduce some new physical education activity and games. The Department of Education told me at the last visit in February, that they would like to see more physical activity among our students. We found that they had already set up some “warm up” type of activity, but it was not being carried out often enough. We are recommending at least twice a week. In addition, Rita challenged them to some more strenuous exercise than they had been used to.
And then there was the additional bonus; some new activities were introduced and it seemed that everybody loved it. Jim was teaching the use of jump ropes in the large “auditorium” and Rita was teaching the game of Jacks on the hard, smooth floor near the office. The children simply did not want to quit playing and go back to their classes.
Thursday, June 27, we continued what we had started on the day before. We discovered that every time the children had free time, they were out in the pavilion/auditorium area playing with the jump ropes and the large rubber balls. We also found this room full of the same activity during their lunch hour. I believe the new toys have accomplished a good thing for stirring up physical activity.
We interviewed the new teachers, observed the teaching activity in each of the classrooms and made recommendations for further improvement. We are very pleased with the extra space that our new rooms have created for some of the larger classes. We are also very positive about the full day of classes that we can now offer each of the students this year (no more half day classes except kindergarten).
Our last activity of the day was to hold a meeting with all nine of the teachers after the close of class in the late afternoon. Since we again brought more reading books (including as many classics as we could find), we are strongly encouraging the teachers to make reading a strong focus in their curriculum. We are also emphasizing to them that since we are a Christian school and that we are giving priority to hiring teachers who are born again, that they make definite plans for how they will introduce the bible and its principles into their teaching. It was a good meeting and it has been a good visit.
Thursday evening as we were about to begin our sleep, the heavens opened up with wind, thunder, lightening and torrential rain; but it did not last long and left only humidity with an overcast sky the next day.
Friday, June 28, is our last day for school business. Most of the morning we attended a board of directors meeting. We addressed our concerns and instructions for actions that need to be taken. We are pleased with the way the school is operating and we believe it will be a major factor in the physical and spiritual maturing of our current 157 students, as well as their parents and the staff.
Saturday is actually not scheduled for school or ministry business; but we are invited to teacher Helen’s house for a late afternoon meal. Br Lito drove us back there, along with his family and Merlinda. It is a couple of miles past the school on the Jabonga highway. Then we turn off the main highway on a paved road for another mile or so. Then we turn off that on to a real dirt and grass road (more like a trail) for about another mile (1.6 km). This part of the road looks like it would be a real challenge if it were wet or raining. We understand that Helen walks this part of the road every school day to catch a 3-wheel taxi. When we finally got to her house, I thought we had really found the jungle. Someone called it the end of the world; but there were other small houses further in and around her.
This is the house that we finished for her after she lost her husband two years ago to Typhoid Fever. Lito did a very good job as the builder: there is a hand pump in the front, a comfort room with a proper septic system and it is wired for electricity, whenever the utility gets around to hooking up back there. Helens entire family was there: her 6 children, her 4 brothers and her mother. Also there, was her new fiancé, Valentino (a single, never married man; September marriage planned) and his family. It seems to be the occasion for the families to meet each other. Also present to help with preparations were Marissa and Jocelyn from the KMMS. This woman and her kids are very tough; I found that they have all been sleeping on the bare concrete floor. I am asking around to see if there is anything we can do about this for them.
Sunday, June 30th, is our last day of ministry here. It is a typical day, weather-wise. The actual temperature is about 90 but the “real feel” is about 100; it is humid and hazy. But the Lord is sustaining us in a marvelous way. Our morning meeting is at brother Lito’s fellowship. I brought a message of how Joshua and Ruth made good decisions that brought about God’s highest purpose in their lives and they were blessed. We were served a lunch (each receiving their own young coconut to drink from) and then we were shown the new house for his family that Lito has added to the back side of the meeting place.
The afternoon meeting was held at the KMMS fellowship where Brother Jim brought a message from Romans 8: God is for You. It was a good meeting and we were glad to be greeted by the parents and most of the teachers. These are actually somewhat sad farewells, as we have come to share a love bond with these dear people.
On Monday morning, we began our long two + day journey back to our homes in the USA. We are so aware of the Lord’s sustaining power in our behalf. We have not gotten sick; we have been protected and overshadowed in our travel; the jet lag seemed to be a minor thing and we seem to have adjusted to the change to a much warmer climate. I can only thank the many brethren for their prayers and the much support, and especially your continuing support and sponsorship of this little school and the work of the ministry here. May God bless you, each one.
Mark, Rita and Jim