I (Eric) was reading Psalm 105 a few days ago and was reminded about Joseph. Having had two dreams from God about his future, things went very badly for him. His brothers beat him up and then sold him where he was taken to Egypt. Despite things then looking up, he was falsely accused and thrown into jail – an indefinite sentence no doubt. So much for God’s promises! But then as we know, in an instant everything changed. We are not told how long Joseph was in prison or how he felt about it but we feel we can relate in some ways to Joseph’s experience.
When we arrived back to the Philippines, we found that tall weeds had overtaken the fields and our garden, and our mowing tractor and brush cutter had both broken down; we also discovered that more guava trees were dying and fruit flies had been damaging a lot of the fruits.
On top of all this, two goats had died and the bananas were bearing a pathetic amount of fruit. We also discovered that Bernard was discouraged with the lack of progress made with the Talakag churches and felt tired, perhaps with all the extra responsibilities plus family financial needs troubling him. Sandra was also not very well and struggled to put the house back in order, and Waddy, our pet dog, was very ill. He could not pass urine, perhaps from salt added to his food, and we were heartbroken when the vet put him to sleep.
We just felt everything was falling apart as we both also started to pick up ailments one after another. At times when we feel like asking “What now Lord?”, having to go back several steps again instead of moving forwards, feeling tired, fed up and like failures – these are the times when we struggle to hold on to our faith; however, God faithfully and graciously carries us through it. And the verse “… and the peace of God which passeth all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…” helps us up and to go on again.
So, here we go – Eric straight away worked on the machinery and helped with the mowing; he also went and scouted agrivet stores and found a pheromone spray which is now controlling fruit flies and this week we harvested more. In dealing with dying guava trees, we’ve replanted about 300 and will have to do a lot more next year – we’ll plant between the living trees also in preparation.
Our Barakah team Bible study on Wednesdays, which Bernard started while we were away, continues. Bernard proposed to work three-four days a week, to allow him to engage in a business that he and his brother are planning. We are praying for another person who can volunteer to help and work with us.
As for the Talakag churches, Bernard continued visiting and doing weekly training with San Fermin Church, but it ended up with him having to lead the church and with no progress made towards them working in their community. So we have decided to discontinue our work with them for now due to a lack of proper leadership. We will focus on two well-established and leading churches who have organised their core group and consistently attend trainings. We will still welcome the other churches in our meetings when they want to join.
Our plan to do things in our local community is moving forward. We have talked with the local zone (the immediate local area) leader to discuss our plans and she was very open to supporting us. A couple of municipal and provincial (equivalent to district and county respectively) officers then came to visit and encouraged us to help organise groups and cooperatives, especially among the youth and women in our community, as it will facilitate the support of the government in trying to reach the grassroots. They were also encouraging us to consider forming a farmers’ association. We are excited! These are exactly the target groups we are planning to reach here and it’s like God was confirming that we are on the right track.
This week Bernard and Sandra are going for a “suroy-suroy” survey (an informal walkabout meeting/visiting/chatting with people) and we have decided to go firstly to Colpa on the edge of the village where some marginalised families live. They are labelled as “unpopular people” and have been accused of robbery and being squatters (the latter of which is true, for some of them). Even the zone leader is not so keen on them, so we have to tread carefully so as not to alienate others.
We want to invite young mothers to bring their preschool children (some are of school age but don’t go to school) for a playgroup that we are initiating. This can be a way of reaching out to women and hopefully a work-group will eventually come out of this. We are deliberately approaching marginalised groups first, in order to give them a sense of importance so they will not feel intimidated among the others.
Sandra was troubled by a cough while we were on leave, something that has now been diagnosed as asthma. She is responding to an asthma puff medication with steroids and she has felt herself again over the past two weeks. Eric is starting to shed the pounds he gained while in England, which he does not mind. He also had his share of ailments when we arrived back but he is now back to full health and strength again. Praise God for his promises to us before we left: “… he will keep us strong and well.”
Peter had been keeping himself busy while we were away fixing an old wreck of a motorbike buried in the mud during a flood. He bought it very cheaply with some of the money he was given and earned while in England. It looks smarter now than our old car! The other day, he stated: “Oh no, I will be 19 soon, then everybody will be expecting me to behave like an adult!” We wish!
Atiyyah has settled in well both at school and living with Eric’s sister and her family, although she finds it hard loaded most of the time with homework! We feel encouraged and blessed that she is unembarrassed to stand up and hold on to her Christian values, but it does not hold her back from making good friends and going out with them and being confident enough to be MAD (make a difference) when the occasion calls for it. Thank you for praying with us for Atiyyah’s adjustment.
Lastly, we want to thank God for all of you. We felt loved and appreciated with all the welcome and kindness and interest you showed to us when we came to visit you. And it’s comforting for us while we are away (and an assurance) that you are all praying for us. We also felt excited and reawakened to the challenge of being salt and light when we heard how some of you shared your plans with us, ways you are reaching out to your communities. We feel so blessed by God through your love and friendship so thank you.
And with this, we send our love and blessings; we just want to apologise for the length of time you have had to wait for a link letter.
Thank you again for all your support and prayers and blessings to you all. We would like to wish you all peace, love and joy this Christmas.
Eric and Sandra