From Jake, still out there in the Philippine

Last blog (chronologically speaking) from me! 

Our last full day in Cagayan was an excited & emotional time. Over the past few weeks we've come to know a lot of new people; we enter the community to cries of 'ate Hannah, ate Konna' & 'hey poppa' - apparently I've been adopted by a few of the kids! 

We got in there early to crack on with saying some goodbyes after having studied how to do this well from a sociological/developmental viewpoint & also having reflected on Paul's goodbye to the Ephesian Church. 

Alongside the goodbyes we still had a few practical bits to do. Our hand washing, tooth brushing & love language posters went up; full colour, dual-language masterpieces which will hopefully provide ongoing education of some basic principles for living life well as a community. The imperative for the morning, which turned into morning and afternoon, was to get he septic tank fully operational and to leave a comprehensive explanation of how it works & why it is important as well as the biblical principles of decent sanitation. We were able to fill the septic tanks with water drawn from the newly installed and fully operational pump which locals were over the moon about - and had already started washing & drinking from. We had to hammer home just how important it was to wash well away from the pump so chemicals and pathogens don't soak back into the ground and the water flow. There is now a sign telling people not to wash next to the pump in no uncertain terms. We have also been encouraging people to get involved in the new empowerment project so that they can start to be able to purchase properly filtered water 15 pesos (25 pence) per 30 litre refill - whilst the pump is providing cleaner water than the river or 'spring' it is only intended for washing unless boiled first - boiling large volumes of water is difficult due to lack of containers & the lack of safe wood burning areas. 

We crammed it all in and felt like we achieved all we could alongside the pastor, his family & the other locals who had by now become integral parts of the project, taking full ownership. There were heartfelt and emotional goodbyes as we recounted all we had done together, the way we had conducted ourselves, shared where and what we were off to next, prayed together & took lots of photos - 'wacky-wacky'. 

After some time to do some souvenir shopping for folks back home (or get a haircut in my case) we hosted an evening celebration inviting Pastor Mario's family (which had somehow grown to include half of the tribal community) as well as our friends for from the wider Higa-Onon tribe. Lechon Baboy (spit-roast pig stuffed with lemongrass) and roast chicken, with rice & fruits followed by a couple of cakes to celebrate John Roger & Gerline's Birthday made up the menu. Before dinner I read Paul's communion institutions to the Corinthian church from the Bisaya bible that Pastor Mario had given me. After dinner there was a lot of dancing. We closed together in prayer & then once again exchanged some emotional goodbyes!

The following morning was last minute packing, goodbyes, final jeepney ride to the airport, more goodbyes and we began our many leg journey home. A long delay in Cagayan, a sprint through Manila airport, a captain America marathon, lovely Qatar airways food & service, quick layover is Doha, an attempt to sleep over the Middle East and Europe, a nice chat to an Aussie about to start a teaching career in England, touchdown to Edinburgh soil, taxi & then hop into uncle Les' mini-bus service to head back to Candy Cottage! Nearly home!

From team member Gemma

Tuesday Week 3 Blog: Lost in Translation from Gemma Louise Smith

Breakfast was a little later and a lot quieter than usual today, because it's the first morning since a lot of our team finished their time with us in Cagayan de Oro. Chocolate oats were a hit with many - a welcome gift from our new American friend, Brian! Everyone who is still staying on the upper floor of Coco Bay huddled around one table as we ate, and Brougen was the lucky one to share the story of her life to the biggest audience we've had so far! Brougen doesn't describe herself as Christian and it was so great to hear her speak about the different ways she's recognised God's protection throughout her life, I loved praying with her afterwards too! I'm really encouraged by Brougen's faithfulness and her expectancy.

Somehow, our plan to set off for the Cugman tribe (the community we're investing in) didn't get communicated to our jeepney driver, Ariel, so after some waiting and a couple of phone calls, we hopped into public transport on the highway. The customary thirty seconds later, we hopped out again (we're not allowed to walk near the highway, thank you health and safety!) and set off to make the most of the hour we had with the tribe. Some stayed at the pastor's land to clear the ground around the sceptic tank for the tribe's new toilet block and others prepared for this afternoon's sanitation teaching, while the rest of us went around the community, visiting some friends we've made and inviting new families to be with us in the afternoon. It was great to go with Tiana, Ru Wi, and Cheryl and I felt welcomed by every house we visited; my only discouragement arose when we approached a Muslim household, only to discover that they spoke a different language than our translators, so we weren't able to communicate our invitation to them.

With little cloud cover this morning, it was a relief to get out of the sun for lunch at Rudy and Nitz' house. It was also a relief and total delight to be reunited with some of our Filipino friends who we've been missing since they moved out of Coco Bay! I loved our pre-lunch reflection today; silence allowed us to remember what Jesus won for us at the cross, before Jake shared some powerful spoken word poetry, then we tucked into plates of spaghetti (no rice!) and I had the chance to get to know Billy and Libby, the parents of an American family who are staying with us for now.

Back at the Cugman tribe in the afternoon, some disagreement became apparent over the most effective and economical way to build the sceptic tank. Frustration threatened and some materials that had been bought weren't what we expected, but James and Joe did a brilliant job of working with Rudy and Pastor Mario to settle on a revised plan. The rest of our afternoon with the tribe was packed with the kind of beautiful moments we were made to enjoy. Jamar (the Pastor's eldest son), John Roger, Joe and James came up with some resourceful ways of bending and straightening the steel rods that would form the structure of the sceptic tank; two young Filipino children led us to a safe part of the river bank and helped us to collect rocks for the base of the tank; Konna used her passion for music and dance to help many of the Cugman kids learn how to brush their teeth and wash their hands, with help from some of the Wildfire team and Filipino volunteers.

Over dinner, we reflected on moments and people from today who have helped us to see who God is and enjoy his hope for our lives. I particularly liked sharing language with the Cugman community as I tried to make more use of the Bisaya I've picked up so far. We each had a unique perspective to reflect on, but overall everyone has really enjoyed working in unity together. By the time we gathered for dinner, the concrete base of the sceptic tank had been laid with a steel frame ready for the hollow block walls. Throughout today, we have overcome communication struggles in a few different ways and, today, men and women from across the generations and the nations have worked together to facilitate a better quality of life for this community in the future. Today looked a lot like God's hope for our lives to me!

Half Way

Our team have now crossed the half way point in our mission trip to the Philippines. Please continue to remember us in your prayers. God is good, all the time. We've seen amazing wonders, and it's a privilege to be here serving in the way we've been able to. I will continue to post testimonies of the team and share some of my thoughts during the remainder of our time here. For now, here is some pictures. Josh.

Post from team member James

...Day today! 

I'm not really sure what day it is anymore, probably Wednesday, possible the 3rd August and definitely busy. I could look but it is quite nice not really knowing!

As you probably know from the previous posts we have been investing a large amount of time with the Cugman tribe (there are no fixed spellings here but that is probably still somehow wrong!) Cugman is an area on the outskirts of CDO and a tribe has been given some land there and have been invited to locate themselves there to benefit from the city and all it has to offer. There are a number of different people groups living in the area and the seem to be integrating well.

(Do excuse me - I need to reapply my anti mosquito stuff as I appear to be quite an attractive meal!)

We have seen some pretty amazing things happening among the tribe including a number of healings! We also established that water borne disease was a problem and there were a number of people getting ill because of polluted water supplies. Some of the other local communities have water pumps and basic water treatment and having checked those out we want to see if this could be a solution for this community.

Off the back of previous conversations and community observations, we started today researching wells, pumps, water sources and the dangers of sewage and other pollutants seeping into the water supply. Would the same solution work in a different community and what technology and expertise is there locally?

This afternoon we visited Cugman again and split into teams doing wound care, praying for healing, visiting houses, doing kids ministry and mapping the plot and locating it in relation to local land features so we can place it on a topological map of the area so we can get an idea of the general flow of the water table. We also got welcomed by the tribal leader/pastor who dressed in his tribal clothing and prepared fresh coconuts for us all! If you have not drunk the milk from a freshly cut green coconut you have missed one of the great simple pleasures in life!

There is more research to do on the water supply but it is exciting to be able to dream about a project that can save lives and begin to transform a community! Assuming the location is appropriate, we hope to install the pump in the grounds of the church so that it naturally becomes a community centre! We are also dreaming about kingdom models of business which could help sustain this community long term! Early days yet but it's exciting to dream!

This evening we were treated to a cultural night with out hosts and experience some of the rich Filipino culture including wonderful fruits, different foods and then a lot of dancing!

God is good, we are dreaming of his Kingdom coming and what that might look like for Cugman! Please pray God will give us wisdom and courage!

God Bless all - James

From team member Konna

Day 7 blog from Konna:

After an amazing and intense week, we visited a local church called Glorious Hope this morning. As soon as we were welcomed in I immediately felt how spirit filled and joyful the church was. The worship was lively, and ended beautifully with violinists. The vice principal of the school that we met on Friday gave us a great message during the service which we all enjoyed and it was lovely to meet and talk to her afterwards. We also shared some of our own testimonies to the church about what we have been doing so far in CDO. After the service we also met and spoke to the different members of the church and we then took photos.
After church we went out for lunch at a local resturaunt and got to try a range of different fillipino foods. 
Afterwards, we went back to the school we visited and played basketball with some of the pupils. (I attempted - which resulted in me just running up and down the court because I didn't know which way I was shooting)
I also played them some of my dance music and showed them how to shuffle - which was surprisingly exhausting in the hot weather, but actually very fun and amusing.
Whilst myself and some others were spending time with the pupils, another group went to visit a relocation settlement for people affected by a typhoon.
To conclude the day we got a jeepney to the mall and ate dinner together - the chicken was very nice (and so was the rice - as per usual). Afterwards we went to a Christian merchandise shop which I also thought was really cool. 
This week has personally been very overwhelming to me in various ways, and I feel that I have learnt a lot about myself, my team, this culture and my own relationship with God. After such an incredible week I am excited to see Gods gifts shine through this team, and how we can really impact these communities and change lives over the upcoming weeks.

More from Jake...

Body clock at the ready; it's another early start! Over breakfast we heard Gemma's life story & we're all pretty in awe of this woman of great spiritual maturity even after only having known the Lord for a short time in her adult life. As a team we've also been reminded of the importance of early investment in young lives as Gemma was discipled in her early formative years, perhaps a large part of the reason for her maturity now!? 

After the world's shortest jeepney ride - literally around 300m (good ole health and safety) we arrived again at the community that we had our first adventure into on Wednesday. We were hearing from the Lord that we ought to visit house to house again but also to leave some to inhabit the church building to pray, worship & intercede as well as be ready to receive people and offer hospitality. We also felt reminded to focus on Deuteronomy 28 - that The Lord has given us principles that lead to fruitfulness and life lived well - it was the fullness of life together that we wanted to learn together with this community. 

We co-opted some young gents - aged around 7 - to be our 'tour guides' helping us navigate around the community. We found plenty of people hanging out and enjoying their Saturday. Some we had met before and some we encountered for the first time. Plenty of banter, plenty of learning about families, dreams & needs. We met four heavily pregnant women who we were able to bless, it made me rather wish that Freya was here. We also found the young chap healed on Wednesday from his hip and shoulder issues - walking around freely with no misalignment and no pain. We discovered why he wasn't so happy about having being healed. Our tour guides told us that he is a Muslim & that he was scared and that his family didn't want to know the gospel - we explained that we had no desire to 'convert' him but that we were simply happy that he had freedom from his ailment and that the kingdom of God has come near to him. 

On our return to the church building we found a hoard of kids and perhaps 10 adults as well. One of the team introduced me to a tatai (grandad) who had a broken leg a ceased back which obviously led to rather limited mobility. Some of the team and I prayed several times and each time the man seemed to be getting better; he straightened up, experimented with some twisting, bending, walking (video below) and finally he ran! I didn't see him arrive but those who saw him were amazed at the transformation - this then led to a woman having a partially blind eye being restored & the associated pain in her eyes and head disappearing; a woman being healed of fever and stomach issues & there were others who said that prayer had healed them of pain in various areas - we couldn't see any physiological or anatomical changes but there were significant changes in countenance and this added to the party atmosphere which a few more had now joined as well! There were two children, one with a rash & one with swollen glands neither of which got healed so please do pray for them. Those parents were explaining that they had both developed the condition due to washing in the river. After further questioning we learned that the lack of good water for washing and drinking is one of their biggest concerns. 

We finished our time together by celebrating communion with various breads and bihon (really fine noodles) bought in the community. Togetherness, freely giving, freely receiving, healing, reconciliation different nations together... A vanguard of the kingdom! 

In the afternoon we sought the Lord as a team and reflected on our first few days & our goal of being part of God's justice being enacted here in Cagayan; that the oppressed and downtrodden would be empowered, those with ailments healed & those who are trapped, set free. Many opportunities ahead... Watch this space! 

- Jake

Team leader Jake writes...

Philippines blog day 5

Day 5 saw us kicking off bleary eyed but full of beans, ready to head off to Opol Natonal Technical Secondary School. A 7am start. The team, along with some of the DTS from the Kings lodge, yammed some breakfast down their necks before loading a packed jeepney for an hour long & rather sweaty prep time. The teams were rather in at the deep end - they knew we would be sharing on culture, politics & faith in our respective nations across 4 classes but didn't know which teams they would be in until just before we loaded the jeepney. 

Teams devised plans and majored in different areas ranging from fish & chips through to the differences between constitutional monarchies and democratic republics... Wasn't expecting that! 

From what I saw, most teams were a little overwhelmed by the Filipino high school culture, the rowdiness and the near celebrity status visitors often end up attributed with; for any of the team wishing to go into teaching, this was a brutal crash course in class room management. Most went softly-softly, engineering ways of managing the energy and Hannah creatively employed the 'if you talk over me, you come sit on the floor tactic'. Though the first class brought out some nerves and hesitation, by the next two classes all seven groups had found their stride. 

By sharing life stories & cultural traditions through well used ice breakers like hangman & ceilidh dancing many of the teams were able to transition into heartfelt autobiographies and also teach on well rooted identity and the kingdom of God. 

Following the classes we went through the obligatory 100,000 selfies & many of the team took the opportunity to pray and prophesy over individuals. Pray that the various interactions would settle into the hearts of these young lives and would truly be transformative. 

During a massive storm we set off for smokey mountain, the rubbish sorting powerhouse of Cagayan, where people also make their home. This conglomeration of shanty habitations has become the topic of many sociologists' academic inclinations in recent years. Smokey can be dangerous in adverse weather with lots of debris filling the air. Thankfully, by the time we arrived, the storm had died down and we just had to watch our step in the gunk of mud and seismic bin juice. 

Some of the team cared for wounds, others de-loused and braided hair whilst small teams visited house to house, prayed for the sick and learned about smokey mountain life. 

I finally got to see the work of Kuya Thomas, a Swiss guy who went from tourist to NGO pioneer who has set up a centre working to economically empower women and get kids in to school. It's a taken a while but I'm starting to learn about how of some of the dots join together up on smokey; I feel that there is a long way to go. Strategic partnerships are not the easiest to comprehend in a different culture, much less in the midst of this intricate microcosm. Pray for continued wisdom for Pastora Ruth & the others dreaming of how we can continue to model kingdom living in this strange and wonderful place.

From team member Joseph

 

Philippines blog 4 from Joseph Fuller

Today, our Wildfire family has been encountering God across a number of locations. We are blessed to be following on from previous work by YWAM volunteers and the local Church.

Our morning was spent in the community of Baloy. Here we joined Mega Outreach in a time of public worship before forming into smaller teams to share our living hope Jesus Christ, and pray for the sick to he be healed. People have experienced pain leaving their bodies, the restoration of mobility and also a young girl has been completely healed from fever during our visit.

Reflection is an important part of our activities and we take time to share together our struggles, encourage each other and challenge how we think about and serve others. We want to imitate the model that Jesus gave us for life as family together. We are reviewing and challenging how we think and act while doing this.

In the afternoon, we had the honour of visiting a tribal people who have relocated to the edge of the City. We were warmly welcomed by them and spent time getting to know each other around the sharing of food. Here we looked for the Character of God represented within the people we met and affirmed what we saw in them. We feel that we have received so much from their example in hospitality and are beginning to consider how we might undertake a project alongside them.

Our evening was spent in the urban centre of Divasoria with many needs both physical and spiritual. This area is a location where a huge cross section of local people live and meet. There are generations of street children here, and injustice is obvious. Our team have shared in a variety of ways, to bring truth, hope and healing to these precious lives.

Summary:

Our 2nd Full day in Cagayan is providing us with many insights into Filipino lifestyle, values hopes and needs. We have been starting to consider what we can do to bring long term change to communities of people. Our group continues to grow closer as we learn more about who we each are and how to live well together.

- Joseph

Day 3 from team member Tiana Rob

"Today was our first day of outreach in and around the CDO area. Before outreach we worshiped and prayed with the rest of the mega outreach team, it was great to worship together a team. We then joined as an outreach team and spent time listening to God and his plans for our day. The Wildfire team visited a tribe for half the day. The tribe was based on the outskirts of CDO and they had recently been moved out of there original settlement. We visited different houses and prayed with individuals for healing and any other requests. I prayed for a Filipino women in one of the houses and she was so touched that we where there and was overcome with God’s joy that she starting crying. It was amazing to see what God is doing through us being his hands and letting him move through us. At the beginning of the day I had a word about God’s blood flowing through our veins allowing us to feel his presence throughout the day. God really fulfilled this word today and I felt his presence constantly with us. We where able to play with the children there and interact with them through sport and painting nails. Later on we visited a church which has been expanding recently and we saw the land YWAM has recently bought which may be used to create a training base. We then visited a local high school to see what we could do. Today we felt the Lord with us constantly and got to learn more about the culture. We are all excited and expectant to see what other things that God is going to do."

The Journey

This afternoon (25/06) we all arrived at Coconut Bay in Baloy, Cayagon De Oro, concluding our long journey from Edinburgh. In fact, prior to this we drove from our team training base in Stafford on Sunday at 6am, flew to Doha, Qatar where we had a 7hr layover before our connecting 9hr flight to Manila, Philippines. On arrival in the Filipino capital we were driven to a hotel to catch up on some lost sleep before our final flight to Cagayon De Oro. 

 

Our breakfast at the hotel consisted of beef, rice and eggs! After such an intense time of travelling, Jake (our leader), Hannah, and myself decided to take advantage of the 3hr wait by having an hour-long massage in the airport. This was a treat but I never expected the masseuse to sing love songs to me at the same time. I never knew this at the time because the masseuse sang in Bisaya, a language spoke predominately in the south of the Philippines. It wasn’t till it was over that Hannah happily translated for me all the masseuse had been singing. At this point every muscle I had loosened up in the previous hour tightened up again. 

 

We were met in COD by Maged and taken in a Jeepney, a large Filipino army truck like taxi, to where we are currently staying at Coconut Bay. The Jeepney then took us to the YWAM base in CDO where some of the team who have been here before met old friends and the newbies like me were introduced. We shared dinner and chatted with a DTS team (Discipleship Training School) based here and local volunteers. We also met some of the children who live near the base. The YWAMers on the base spend much of their time working in the surrounding community, most of which is in severe poverty. So we are all excited to witness the change God will make there. Personally speaking I've felt totally carried in prayer throughout the journey here and my brief experience of the Philippines so far. We've got on really well as a team so far and are all excited for tomorrow and the weeks to come. We feel called to the Philippines and ready to share and show the love of Jesus to all kinds of people, and wait in anticipation for what God is going to do.

 

Josh

The team is prepped and ready...

We're off - Philippines here we come - each day one of the team will be blogging, vloging or taking snapshots of what we're up to. Here is part 1 from Hannah (17).

"Our time here in Stafford has been very affirming for me. I was nervous coming into a team where I hardly knew anyone, only to find a family of all shapes and sizes but that fits together perfectly. All the discussions, dinners, activities and exercises have helped us to develop into a formidable army for God. Were going out with a statement (shown in the picture below) and a team covenant in which we will hold strong to in order to Glorify the name of God. Your encouragement as part of our team has been so vital in us understanding further what God has for us, and in the morning we set off on what I can only imagine to be the most impacting month of our lives, going strong in faith and full of Love! We're ready. 

~ Hannah"