Eric and Sandra Read link letter no. 32 July 2019

Dear friends,

The school year started and the Kapihan centre emptied of children, quickly replaced by adults doing schooling. From organising continuing education (ALS – Alternative Learning System) for our four workers, it grew to 15 interested neighbours and now, to our surprise, has expanded to almost 40 as more come from the whole barangay (a village or district). We had to quickly extend the ground floor and borrow more chairs and tables!

Thursday was basic learning to read and write day, Friday elementary level and Saturday high school level. The students were an odd mixture of mature housewives, working men, out of school youth and teenage mothers complete with tag-along babies and dogs! The relaxed and flexible learning atmosphere created by their amazing teacher (who finished early one day so she could cross the river and chase up the slackers) made their experience a positive one.

The ALS programme stopped for several years in our barangay due to the class being held in a very noisy public place and at times they were moved around so it was very distracting. The teacher also felt that it did not receive much support from the local government, so it was stopped. However, to get vocational training (which is very popular here) and better jobs, people need at least a high school diploma so the need for it remained.

Students working hard in the ALS high school class

Barakah Farm is now classed as a “Service Provider” for ALS by the Department of Education. The centre is in a quiet spot which the students and teacher appreciate as there are no disturbances. When asked why we are doing this, we say that it is a way of serving the community as an outworking of our Christian faith. It’s helping people to tap into available government programmes which they often hesitate to do themselves as they are intimidated by the whole process. Your prayers over several months have paved the way for this – thank you for praying with us and please continue to pray.

A month ago, Raymond – who is the brother of our former caretaker – was re-housed near our farm. Very sadly, he suffers from brain damage after being poisoned by carbon monoxide a few years ago and although he can understand a bit, he can’t attend to his own basic needs. After his mother died a few months ago, the family badly neglected Raymond and left his elderly father to look after him. When we went to visit Raymond, he reeked of urine, was pitifully thin and had very bad pressure sores all over his back. We cleaned him up, tended to his sores and gave him some milk. Sandra asked him if he knew Jesus and he nodded his head.

Two days later, Sandra saw that Raymond was dying and, along with Linda and Romel, she stayed with him. They sang worship songs over him, read Psalm 23 and assured him of the peace he would find in Jesus on the other side. We think he understood as we saw tears streaming through his closed eyes as he then quietly went. Following his passing, we cleaned him up and dressed him in new clothes. Later the family came to organise the burial. What touched us was how all our workers voluntarily came to help in ministering to Raymond, gently washing him despite the awful smell of the sores. Even some of the children, who come regularly to the centre, came to help by fetching water and things. It was a beautiful thing and one born out of love.

Later during our Bible study, Raymond’s passing brought up a discussion of death and eternal life in Christ and people openly expressed how they were not sure where they would go after death. We then discussed Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins and the assurance we can have of salvation. Following this meeting, our Bible study group has settled into five regular couples and some singles, along with the children who love to share their “thanks and praises” at the opening of each session. The most awaited part for them, however, is the merienda (snack) time!

The men all had to sing in the choir on Father’s Day

Robert (not his real name) is a 10 year old boy who came to the children’s summer activities. He shared with us that he often gets bad dreams and then can’t go back to sleep. He was also very worried about his dad who had disappeared. We prayed for him and the next day he confided in us that he couldn’t sleep the previous night, so he prayed and then he fell asleep! At the Bible study, he shared that he was thankful that he has somewhere to come where he feels happy. As we take every opportunity that opens up, we are thankful that the Lord is showing us that every small seed is planted for God’s kingdom. Please pray with us that we can continue to minister to others in their day-to-day lives and that more neighbours will come and join our Bible study group. Robert’s father has since come home.

The Fiesta procession, which we took part in

The planned training of pastors this June has not happened as they decided to concentrate on finishing their theological training (although some would still like to do it at some point). We were naturally disappointed but our vision of seeing churches play a major part in the holistic transformation of their communities remains steadfast and we want to still do it. So with this in mind, we continue to earnestly pray for at least 10 churches who we can envision and work with. We don’t know how – or when – the way will be opened by the Lord but could we ask you to pray with us specifically for this please?

One of the things that helps us to be steadfast is that we have our churches faithfully praying with us. We are so thankful for this.

With love and prayers

Eric and Sandra

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