I am convinced that all the things in my life that I eagerly wait for are in some sort of time warp – traveling adventures, my wedding, the holidays – they all seem to take decades to arrive but then vanish so quickly into a wonderful memory treasured deep within my heart. And now I can add my trip to the Philippines to that list. I journal for many reasons, probably the most important reason being that I often forget the valuable details that I long to remember. Life clouds away the little details in time. And I blog for many reasons, probably the most important reason being that I want to record my journeys and see how far I’ve grown.
So today I would like to share some of my journal entries and many of my experiences from my most recent adventure to the other side of the globe…
Landing in Butuan City, Philippines
date: Friday, October 5th, 2012time: 7:30amlocation: On a plane to San Francisco, CA
The first hour of our journey. Trying to sleep, been up since 2:45am. Plane is small and very loud. God keeps filling my head with thoughts. Some “words” to share with the church:
1. Although I love local and national missions, I feel most drawn to international because it forces you to be totally reliant on God (in a way we ought to be all of the time). When you visit a land with unfamiliar people, languages, and customs, you cannot rely on your own wisdom and understanding. This is a beautiful risk of faith. I think of Abraham traveling to the Promised Land. God told Abraham to, “go to the land that He would show him,” but getting there would be no easy task. It took faith, courage, and sacrifice.
2. I believe the purpose of marriage is to set on display the relationship between Christ and the church. Traveling for the gospel’s sake as a couple, then, is a perfect opportunity to show and experience that unity. It is my experience that if you have never served in missions with your spouse, you are missing out. If you want to see if Christ is truly the center of your marriage, make the sacrifice to serve together, in an unknown land. Trust me, you will be stronger and more unified for it.
3. Women, we are first children of the Most High God, before we are wives, or mothers, or professionals, or students, or girlfriends. Now I love massages and bubble baths and shopping as much as the next girl, if not more. But there is more to us than that. Missions is a great opportunity, among the many others, to show our families, friends, and co-workers that God comes first in our lives. Moms, show your children that the gospel is worth the risk. Put life and worldly obligations on the back-burner every once in a while. Wives, be your husband’s helper on the mission field. Sisters, lead others by example into a deeper relationship with your Savior.
Passage God placed on my heart: Philippians 3:7-8
I remember as I was writing all of this, feeling a sense of obligation. I knew that these things God was putting in my head, I had an obligation to share with my church.
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” (John Piper)
Skylab Motorbike to Agusan Del Sur
Crossing the River to Agusan Del Sur
date: Monday, October 8th, 2012time: 8:30pmlocation: Agusan Del Sur, Mindanao Island, Pastor Ben’s Tribe
Today I learned the value of baby powder. From 7:00 am to 1:00 pm we traveled to this tribe, via van and skylab motorbike (a.k.a. crazy Filipino concoction), each hour I feared for my safety a little more. So far no injuries or sickness, however, because God is faithful. The multiple hours on the wooden wings of the dirt-bike were by far the most exhausting. Never before have I experienced anything like it, and I grew up riding things like this.
Pleasantly, we were welcomed by gracious hosts that provided us with food and beds. Pastor Ben’s family prepared many delicious meals for us (our favorite was the noodles).
That evening we joined their church service as honored guests. I was blown away with how warm and inviting everyone was. They even had a slideshow and hand made banner that said, “Welcome Solid Rock Team.” They were anticipating our arrival, and we were pleased to be there worshiping among the other believers.
Children of the Tribe
date: Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 time: 8:30pm location: Agusan Del Sur, Mindanao Island, Pastor Ben’s Tribe
Pastor Ben brought us coffee before our morning devotional, and it was exceptional! Sleep was interesting… between the goats clattering on the wood floor outside the window, the roosters crowing at ridiculously early times of the morning (4:00 am?), the dogs barking across the road, the cat we suspect climbed in through the window, the mosquito net draped over us, and the tiny bed Jeff and I shared trying not to fall off. But all is well. Who can complain when they awake to see the sun rise over such a beautiful rain forest?
The tribe has been so kind. The children are just precious. The children’s school is rather impressive, especially since all of the teachers are volunteers. But Pastor Ben and his tribe still have many needs. The people here are still very poor. They have plenty of land, but lack the resources to cultivate it.
Notes from the Pastor/Agriculturalist in the tribe: (see diagrams)
After spending some time here at “kilometer fifty,” I developed a new understanding for the term, “unreached peoples.” The people here are physically hard to reach. Not everyone has the time, health, or resources to travel five hours up a mountain.
View From Kilometer Fifty
The Agriculturalist, Pastor, Our Team, Translator, Teacher
date: Wednesday, October 10th, 2012time: 7:30pmlocation: Tubajon, Dinagat Island, Pastor Arnel’s House
Last night we stayed in Surigao City so that we would be close to the dock to catch the ferry. We got a good night’s sleep and even had a shower! But each trip I take I reach a “breaking point.” On this trip to the Philippines it was at dinner over a hamburger. As silly as it may sound, I was just wanting something familiar. We had spent about eight hours traveling, I was filthy, smelly, starving, and exhausted. And all I wanted was a hamburger. So at dinner I ordered one, there at the hotel’s little restaurant. It made me want to throw up and cry at the same time. Not because it was disgusting (which it was), but because physically and emotionally I was drained.
But then (after the help of some Tylonol PM), I slept a great eight hours, had a pancake for breakfast, and spent four wonderful hours on a boat in a beautiful ocean. And as I was laying on the roof of this boat, listening to the crashing waves, feeling the cool ocean air on my face, and being completely oblivious to severe sunburn I was getting, I remembered that my God is a God of peace. And the gospel is worth it. Any difficulty I face here is worth it. I would do anything for the gospel, anything for His glory.
Tubajon is the most beautiful place I have visited yet here in this Philippines. But we are like fried little American lobsters! I have never experienced a sunburn like this before. I’m not sure where my sunburn ends and the mosquito bites begin…
Pastor Arnel is quiet and kind. He and his family are very hospitable, they even brought us fans! You cannot even imagine our excitement. The children of this tribe are very interested in the “white people.” They wait anxiously at the door of the church, itching their way closer and closer inside. Apparently it’s good luck to see new travelers.
Tubajon, Dinagat Island
Tribe Found During Boat Adventure
date: Thursday, October 11th, 2012time: 8:30pmlocation: Tubajon, Dinagat Island, Pastor Arnel’s House
Today did not exactly turn out like we had planned. But today was a great adventure! First we took a small boat around the island to visit a tribe, we were not sure if they had heard the gospel. So Pastor Arnel took the six of us. I was sure there was no way we were all going to fit on this little boat (more like a canoe), but of course we did. Filipinos have mastered the art of transportation efficiency.
The water was very rough. And although it was the most beautiful water I had ever seen, crystal clear, the large crashing waves were frightening. I was very aware of the possibility that one big wave and one wrong turn might tip our little over-loaded boat and we all get carried away in the current. I even remember saying out load the title of the tragic news story, “Four Americans Drowned Off Dinagat Island.”
But again, God is faithful. And then I remembered the scriptures of Jesus calming the storm. We finally docked, safe and sound. I did, however, get slightly sea sick. My stomach hasn’t been at ease since. I had developed a fever blister, thanks to my sunburned face, and it grew enormously out in the salty sea. But praise the Lord, the tribe we finally arrived at did have two churches, one Catholic and one Evangelical. We had planned to visit more tribes, but the tide was too high. We even got stuck there at the first one for awhile due to “typhoon type weather.”
The rest of the afternoon was indescribable. We spent a few hours on the most beautiful beach, snorkeling through the most spectacular coral reefs, and soaking up some much needed down time. Pastor Arnel’s family came to join us and brought with them some lunch: fresh crab and fish (caught earlier that morning), coconut just cut off of the tree, watermelon, and of course some white rice. Then I rested in the shade in a hammock for a while. I feel pretty sure that I could have spent days on that little beach. A true tropical paradise.
That night Jeff and I fell asleep before dinner was ready, we were so exhausted.
Passage God placed on my heart: Mark 4:35-41
Dinagat Island brought about its own set challenges, but also an opportunity to fall in love with these islands. I think it is important to experience the wonderful parts of a land, even if your purpose in going is to find the parts that are lacking.
“Missions without suffering is like Christianity without a cross.” (David Platt)
Boat Adventure: I’m only smiling because the tide calmed down
Afternoon on Dinagat Island
date: Friday, October 12th, 2012time: 8:00pmlocation: Butuan City, Mindanao Island
Yet another traveling day… This trip has taken the noun “traveler” to a whole new level.
We encountered another rough day at sea. The 4+ hour ferry ride from Dinagat to Surigao was treacherous. I have never been so sea sick in my entire life. The only way I didn’t want to throw up was if I was lying down, which on the roof of a boat with a high tide, it is not the easiest thing to do. It was yet another occasion in this trip where I really feared things could go terribly wrong. But instead I chose to believe that God was in control and if He brought me here then He would get me out, safely. And He always did.
Then we rode in a van for 2+ hours to Butuan. We checked back in to Dottie’s Place, the little hotel we had stayed at the first night, and finally got to use a real toilet and shower again! We had Pizza Hut (for the second time) because we had had enough white rice. Then we did a little souvenir shopping. Overall it was a good day, except that me and Amanda wad “tummy troubles.” We were all still painfully sunburned. And we had finally adjusted to the time change, just in time for us to head home the next day.
Passage God placed on my heart: Psalm 96
Ferry Ride to Dinagat Island, Enjoying the Original Redbull
Noteworthy Quotes (aka “inside jokes” to remember)
“Certified tough.” (this refers to missionaries and the challenges they face) “For Americans, everyday in the Philippines is your birthday.” (in all the places we visited, we Americans were very welcomed, and occasionally Filipinos would say, “Happy Birthday!” for no reason) “Yes, mum.” (even in the states, I like to be called, “ma’am,” but here they take polite courtesy to a whole new level) “Oh, that’s under miscellaneous.” (this refers to Jeff attempting to track our budget, before I stepped in) “Everybody has a water buffalo.” (for real) “You should buy a water buffalo and take it running with you.” (this was Amanda’s suggestion to me since I take my dogs running) “Somebody snooze the rooster.” (if only it were possible) “Oh, Philippine time…” (Filipinos do not operate on American time schedules, which we often forgot) “Now I know how the Kardashians feel.” (this was made in reference to all the children that shadowed us everywhere we went while in Tubajon, they were so interested in everything we did, even when it wasn’t interesting) “Hakuna Matata!” (things don’t always go as planned on mission trips, but you can’t let it get to you, so we would often just remind each other: no worries)
[“Hakuna Matata” is a Swahili phrase that can be translated literally as, “There are no worries.” Its meaning is similar to the American English phrase, “no problem,” or Australian English phrase, “no worries,” and is akin to, “don’t worry, be happy.”]
“Love God, Love People” – Our Team with Pastor Ben’s Family
Rice Fields, The Beginning of Harvest Season
School in Pastor Ben’s Tribe
Tubajon, Dinagat Island
SR Missions: Playing in the sand
“Not all those who wander are lost.” (J.R.R. Tolkien)