August 17, 2016
Greetings to you, our praying friends.
For the past two months I have been back in Guiuan. Gerrah was with me for one month. Sheena also spent 5 weeks as part of her mission trip from GLO.
On our way to Philippines we met with an elder from one brethren church in Singapore to update him on progress with the rebuild after typhoon of 2013. Their Assembly had given $13,000 to rebuilding effort so it was a way to account for where their money had been spent.
Largely my time has not been spent on reconstruction but has covered a variety of activities. To support, encourage, listen to and help the local leaders. The guys asked me to do a series for those involved in children’s ministries and as I have been doing this now for so many years we did a couple of evening sessions and had 20 in attendance each time.
The second Sunday I was there was Keypeer’s wedding. This was held at GCF and the Sulangan folk were picked up so that they could be a part of it. Keypeer and Charmaine lived together since they were sixteen and it was a kind of bitter sweet occasion. Bitter in that Keypeer’s mother had a falling out with a brother and so didn’t come to the wedding and Charmaine’s mother did not want any part in the ceremony- She did come to the service but refused to be part of any family photos. Sad as it was a reminder of how Keypeer and Charmaine really only ever had each other. But the sweet part is that as I shared in my opening remarks (1) In becoming Christians Keypeer and Charmaine became part of a bigger family that really does love them – the church and (2) how much they have grown since meeting the Lord – their sensitivity and obedience to the Lord.
Keypeer and Charmaine are our two interns I.e. Trainees for ministry with the goal of eventually becoming full time workers. For the past year Elmar has taken over most of what was my role as mentor but for the past 6 weeks I have done many things together with Keypeer. Much of it has been on a practical nature but many, many conversations have been had while working and stopping numerous times to pull out photos or sketch out diagrams on paper. Keypeer helped with several jobs around home. Now most of our ceilings have been completed but we do have a problem with white ants in the house.
My main focus has been to encourage and support the new church plant at Sulangan so almost all my Sundays and Wed evenings were taken up with teaching the members of the small group there.
We have mapped out a teaching program for the next 3 months and have dealt with a few of the necessary Christian disciplines that help grow the folk spiritually e.g. QT, prayer, MV and evangelism.
From the initial 6 weeks back in March and April when we commenced, the numbers have dropped somewhat. Two of the families have moved elsewhere in pursuit of work but we have also had a couple of other young men join us which is positive. Through one literature drop we contacted another lady who has come along and plans to continue with us. With the team we have between 20-25 each week.
Numbers in the youth and children had also dropped off. The team had been running a sort of youth group Sunday afternoons but were only attracting 2-4 and so I suggested we make a time change to Friday after school, and energise the program a little. The house church is not far from the high school and so most students have to pass it on the way to and from school. So for the past 5 weeks we have seen an increase from 12-25 youth coming along.
On a practical level, I installed 3 toilets at Sulangan and also put in my old beat up water tank which catches rain water off the roof and delivers it down stairs via temporary plumbing. We finished most of the concrete paths and had the outside plastered dealing with some water run off problems.
The old Isuzu vehicle which took a beating in the typhoon and needed a replacement engine soon after, has been used extensively as a work vehicle. We have had a new rear cab fabricated, had some critical maintenance done on it and can now be used by the Sulangan team each week. Karl is in the process of getting endorsed for a vehicular licence.
Sheena arrived as Gerrah was heading back to Australia, and then mid July half of this year’s GLO students arrived for their mission trip – eleven in all. We had a varied program.
As part of their visit we held a cultural program at the school in Sulangan and 2 other high schools. This resulted in about 8 youth who came along on the following Friday to have a bit of a squiz.
Apart from Keypeer’s wedding and the children’s seminar, I didn’t have much input into GCF leaving it mainly with Elmar and Erick to manage and it appears to be going well. However as Elmar lives at our place we had many a discussion on issues that they are struggling with. Most weeks they see new ones come along. One of the down things has been that the high school closed off its back boundary fence and so there is no longer easy access to our student centre. This means that that window of opportunity has now closed, so discussion is ongoing about what we might do to replace it. A student centre in Sulangan has been suggested.
While the GLO team was there besides Sulangan high school we also went across to Manacani Island where Karl had done some voluntary teaching a few years ago. It turned out that I knew the principal from when he taught at Guiuan National High School and he was well familiar with our Kindergarten and School. We did 4 sessions there with the whole school. At another private school there were about 600 kids in attendance. Through youth ministries, kids clubs and outreaches we have had prior connections with over 100 of these some who still come regularly to church activities.
Keypeer has kept up liaison with the Guiuan inmates who are now located about 1 ½ hours away. He was keen for the GLO students to share and so we took about 8 guys up to the prison and Baron’s mum also came to visit her husband who is in for drug related offences. There is current concern about this as our new president is taking a hard-line approach on drug offences, a shoot first ask questions later stand. There are already over 600 drug pushers and users that have been killed since he took office 5 weeks ago.
The prison was a unique experience as they don’t have an exercise area. Prisoners are housed in two cells about 6×6 meters and over 40 guys in each. In between the two cells is a holding cell for about 8 women. These two cells are along a narrow corridor and so we came up with a way of being able to share the gospel with having a team of presenters on each side. SInce then Baron’s mum, with her youngest child, has been coming down to Sulangan for the past 4 weeks and looks to really enjoy the teaching we have been having there on the church as the flock of God.
Our own Grace Christian School has gotten underway with 10xgrade one students, 24xKinder II, 21x KI and 10 Day Care students 65 in all. Its main goal is to reach the whole family and so early in the year is our orientation and socialisation program. The GLO students ran this down at one of the little seaside areas. Please pray for us as we try to build up a support base for this
Some other jobs that got done with help: Sheena and 2 early arrivals painted out flat one and set up a bunk bed there for the guys on the team. One day for practical the students helped line the second flat which was going to be used for the student centre but now will be used for one of the Kids Club run each Saturday which attracts about 20.
I was unable to put the shed up as the preparations weren’t complete for it so there are a lot of materials still lying around. I have Albert and Utons on the job creating some storage areas and cleaning up the mess that has accumulated until this can be erected – Possibly next year now.
With all the wet weather and no gutters yet installed a few, quite large rocks had come away from the hillside at the rear of the classrooms and had blocked the pathway. We got to and cleaned them away then completed the pathway and steps that give access to the toilets. I also wired up one more of the classrooms for lights and power. I have enough work in Guiuan to keep an electrician busy for two weeks if anyone would like to volunteer.
I made an order for the dormitory/ emergency housing roof and this arrived while the GLO team was there- I spent 3 days of my last week getting it up and tidying up the fire walls etc that weren’t properly done. There is a week’s worth of plumbing to be done as well including all gutters and down pipes.
My work has ranged from mechanics, to painting, carpentry to concreting, to plumbing and electrical besides a wedding, a child dedication and house blessing. Teaching, seminars, mentoring and bible studies, and hosting 11 visitors. There is no shortage of challenges and variety but I think I am about ready for a bit of a rest. My next schedule to head back to Guiuan will be mid October.
Thanks once again for you loving support
Paul and Gerrah