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!