I am surrounded by wilderness, perhaps as humans were meant to be. I feel the refreshing breeze as I look upon the ocean, mountains and cliffs. Distant villages with wisps of smoke ascending from tiny bamboo houses arrest my attention.
Standing atop Katimungkal, one of the steepest and highest summits in the area close to our project, my students, some other missionaries and I pause after our climb. According to some village natives, many people have injured themselves trying to reach the summit via the difficult trails. We made it safely, thank God.
There we held worship, watched the sunset and experienced being above the clouds. The altitude and high winds made it difficult to start a fire. But we managed to start one.
Have you ever wondered what worship is like among the tribes of Palawan? Well, that evening around the fire, another missionary and I shared a few worship thoughts with the group, and we all sang and prayed. Afterward, we played Bible games and let the fun, fellowship and love reign.
One game we played was choosing what animals to fit on the ark as if we were Noah. I spoke out my choice. The next person said the animal I picked and added another one. Each person kept the list going. It became gigantic. Things were getting tough because the students would choose their fauna’s most specific and challenging names. And if you thought that we foreign student missionaries (I’m from Brazil) had a firm enough grasp on their native Palawano language to say all those animals, you had to be there to see and hear us. We certainly didn’t.
Take a minute and try to memorize this part of the list in order: Bekberek et bukid, gukguk, tungew, tempehyoyoh, hwahwah, menihwalud, parergitan, sampadywata, berigarang, meniniktik, tengdungbaga’, beguidbungaw, etc.
And guess what? We, teachers, also got on board with the level of difficulty and would add some tougher animal names from our languages. We all had a lot of laughs trying to say and recognize all the animals.
There are so many remarkable aspects of life in Palawan that I am still trying to absorb. Maybe it’s the trail up here. It could be the treacherous cliffs we just hiked or the thin trail at the summit. Maybe it’s the fantastic view, the people I’m with, or the reason for coming to this spot. Maybe it’s everything. The purpose of this experience was simple: get connected to God. But how do we truly do that?
As I pondered that question and thought about the core values of this adventure, some things were essential: to let our fellowship show that we have each other’s back, to have an adventure, to keep our spiritual lives on track, to fight for other people’s spiritual battles by doing outreach, and to see God up here and listen to what He has to tell us. The more I think about it, that is a good summary of my reason for being here.
But life here is not only about adventures like these. Life here is very busy and intense but pleasant. There is a lot of work to be done here in the jungle: building necessary structures, rescuing people and carrying them through the mountains, giving classes in native languages, raising disciples (especially youth), doing outreach, and preparing activities for the students. For me, the best part of being a student missionary is the thought that you can become part of the people, their culture and their experiences. You laugh together (tirar muitos), have crazy adventures together, and go through hardships together. You taste what it is like to live their life in the jungle, learn with them and share what you bring of your own culture and knowledge of Jesus.
That’s a little bit of why I believe I am here. I believe the wilderness and the people are becoming home now.