Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Divine Appointment

It’s amazing how God uses our mistakes for His glory and His good. A few weeks ago we were going around apartment complexes and knocking on doors to follow up from a community event. We had a list with everyone’s names on it and where they lived. One of the places on the list was in building C but my teammate accidentally misread it and thought it said E. So we knocked on a door in this complex that wasn’t even on our list of follow up contacts. To our surprise, a Jordanian woman answered the door and invited us into her home. Her name is Susan*. (We had advertised for the event we had the week before and I think she remembered us knocking on her door.)  She has been in America for about 7 months and speaks English pretty well. 

For the next hour, we had a great conversation and talked with her about Jesus. We found out she is Muslim but she seems quite open to the gospel and talking about Isa Al Masih which is Jesus the Messiah in Arabic. Although she struggles to understand the differences in Christianity and Islam, we have continued to build a relationship with her and have helped her with her English. We bought her The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to help her read and comprehend more English. She’s been reading it and loving it and we hope that it will lead to more good conversations in the future about who Jesus is and why He is the most important thing to us.

I love how God uses everything for good even when we think it’s a bad thing. It proves His faithfulness and sovereignty over every aspect of our lives. Since we have to leave in about a week we are connecting her with a sister we’ve met here to continue the relationship. Please pray that a good relationship is formed between them before we leave and that after we leave that Susan will keep asking questions about who Christ is.

- Chelsea

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hot, Hard Work (Lots of pictures!)

The team with the Filipino workers
If you think that "habitat" sounds familiar, then you're probably right. This Nehemiah Team partners with Habitat for Humanity, the well-known organization that provides housing for people all over the world. The team here works with Habitat directly, but they also have the NT ministry on their minds. 

The team is led by O'Neal, and includes Jeremy, Hagen, Austin, Brent and Joal, the Filipino. They've been working in a project in Cagayan De Oro, a huge city in northcentral Mindanao. I took a six-hour bus ride over the mountains of the island to catch up with the team. 

As you might expect, they've been hard at work. They've contributed to the building of over 20 houses this summer. The team works alongside the same team of Filipino workers every day, and this team is their main ministry. The house-building process is streamlined- on a single row of houses, you could see more than ten in the process of being built, all at different levels. The houses are made of hollow cinderblock and framed with rebar, topped with a tin roof. The inside is about a 15 x 15 foot area, and is high enough to allow a loft to be built. Every house is painted the same colors as the others in its row.

The team does a lot of what you might call grunt work- They make cement, move blocks to the work site, lift cement and blocks to the men on the scaffolding, paint, and move dirt. The Filipinos do some more of the complex work of welding the rebar, laying and filling the blocks and placing the roof on. The workdays are Monday through Friday, starting around 8, and ending closer to 4. While you can get shade inside the houses, you mostly work outside in the sun. A common Cebuano phrase of greeting everyone uses is "init kaayo", which means "very hot."  Indeed, every day is hot hard work, tiring even with the afternoon siesta break.

But in terms of hard work, there's no better team. It seems like every day the guys challenge each other subconsciously to work harder. Who can dig more dirt, lift more bags of cement or 100-plus pound chunks of coral is the unsung battle cry of sorts. Even the Filipinos join in on the fun, making jokes about how huge the team members are compared to the nationals. 

All in all, it's been a hard-working summer. 

Pray for the team's strength as they work one last week before heading back to Butuan City. 

-Brian & the Habitat Team

'Backfillng,' in which you move dirt dug from the foundation back
into the house to level the floor for a cement floor to placed on top of. 
Lunch: usually PB&J, but also could include cold canned meat
 and bread alongside a Cobra energy drink. 

Row of occupied Habitat homes
This chunk of coral isn't an unusual sight in the soil; the housing
project is only a few hundred yards from the ocean.
They decided to move these chunks inside the house to level the floor.
Unfortunately the coral chunks had to be removed from the inside of the house
because they were too big.

About 150 houses were being built in this project.

hollow cinder blocks, made by the home owners for 1 peso each.

Sifting the dirt to create the smooth finishing plaster for the walls.

Yes, the man up top is welding in flip flops and cheap sunglasses.

Mixing cement

The t-shirt around the head is common place; here in the Philippines
nobody actually wants to get darker. 

Passing the Torch

Greetings from the Ulot Team!

We've had a day off for rest because our team has been riddled with sickness--congestion, fevers, achiness, nausea, fatigue.... Our namby-pamby American immune systems seem ready to throw in the towel but we are not. And we could not be under the care of a sweeter couple than the local pastor and his wife, who host (read: royally spoil) us when we come downriver each week. Tomorrow we'll head out for our last week of ministry in one last barangay! I can't even believe I just wrote that sentence.

The barangay we were in last week was site of the local high school, which meant we got to see some of the youth we met earlier in the summer, further upriver. It also meant that each day began at 4:37 a.m. with pounding drums and xylophones as the high school dance team practiced their routine for an upcoming fiesta right outside our windows.. what can you do about that but laugh? :) We spent several days there and then hiked a good hour or so through fields and jungle to a much smaller barangay for a few more days, where we had the luxury of staying in the home of some local believers. We spent one happy afternoon there scaling rocks to a gorgeous waterfall, where our hosts--husband and wife--were baptized. B-e-a-utiful.

God is at work in hearts, and people continue to eat up the Bible like the Living Book that it is. It's exciting to be a part of the Great Commission in these remote parts and pass on the torch to new brothers and sisters as we leave each barangay. Actually, that is an understatement--it is the single most exhilarating, most humbling, most satisfying thing I can think of doing.

-with thanksgiving to our God who is always good, for all that He's done and continues to do
-for the new believers along the Ulot River to grow strong in the faith
-for strength & sustenance during this final stretch
-for restored health & strength for our team

grace & peace

Living at Consorcia

I rolled into Consorcia one afternoon to a huge health center unlike any I had yet seen in a village, boasting multiple rooms and two floors. The facilities have running water and electricity, and they easily accommodate the team. Consorcia is a sprawling village of over 1,400 people according to last year’s estimates.

The team is led by Kaley, and includes Anna, Charlie, Elina and the Filipina Sharon. On the afternoon I arrived it began to rain pretty hard, and right away Charlie and Anna talked about going out with the kids and taking an afternoon shower with them. If you’ve seen my early posts, you’ll know this is no act of random inspiration; it’s something these girls look forward too.

This group is the only all-girl healthcare group. The team dynamics are clean-cut and sometimes funny to behold- for example, the girls constantly disagree over who will do dishes next because they all think it’s their turn, as if it was a privilege.

That’s just one of their fun stories to tell. I could tell you how the girls were scared to use the bathroom downstairs because of the bumps they hear in the night, and their hilarious bucket solution. Or how they found a spider with a leg span of two hand widths in the bathroom as they bucket-bathed. There is no shortage of comical stories in this village!

There’s also no shortage of ministry in this village. The team has been having Bible studies with many families and sharing the gospel door to door. They’ve been having house church, which for weeks had no-shows, but now has had genuine believers coming seeking the Lord. Almost every night is Bible story night with the many children of the village, including singing songs and playing games. The team goes on exercise walks with the kids sometimes too, holding hands and singing songs and just talking. You’ll see pictures of the team holding hands and giving piggyback rides to the kids, and that’s a snippet of the action and heart of the team here.

Guess who got to name the baby, Juliana?

The children here, like many places, peer in constantly on the every move of the Americans. But here in addition to watching these kids write notes and draw pictures expressing their love and affections. The notes quickly pile up on the table through the day, each bearing a slightly different spelling of the American names than the previous. Even I got a huge stack of the letters during my short stay.

Be in prayer for the people the team is ministering to. They have met many who have eagerly received the word. Be in prayer that during these last days the team would continue to be strengthened by God to do His work. While there is little time left, God is enough to do great things.

I ate great while here, but if there wasn’t enough food for lunch I could always be sure that Anna had enough Clif and Nature Valley bars to fill me up.

-Brian & the Consorcia Team

These girls aren't afraid of playing in the rain

Bible stories with the children
Playing 'open and close the basket'
Going on an exercise walk in the evening
Being surrounded, as usual. 

Brown suger-fried bananas

The view from the balcony where we sleep

The birds who live in the health center, flying
around and nesting wherever they please

Our friend was fetching starfruit for us

The health center where the team stays.