It sure is nice having Someone who can take care of all the things that are beyond our ability.
About three weeks ago, Napthali, our trusted Filipino Bible teacher, made his monthly visit to Kalbu in Kebgen. Kebgen is Taw’t Deram territory and very remote from civilization. So when I say Napthali “visited,” I mean he hiked narrow, precipitous trails for 10 to 12 hours through some of the most rugged country in southern Palawan. One section near Meggringgit borders a sheer cliff and even the most nimble are challenged to find footing on the jumbled rocks. Kalbu told me it was very dangerous, and when a Palawano says something is dangerous, you better believe it. Anyway, Napthali’s trip was long and laborious, but he didn’t get lost, and he was able to arrive at his destination in a respectable 10 hours. Kalbu, our 20-year-old Palawano worker, has been teaching school and giving Bible studies for over a year in Kebgen and has been doing a very good job.
Without helicopter assistance during emergencies, we are concerned about how to support our workers in the more remote areas. This issue came into sharp focus when Napthali arrived in Kebgen and found that Kalbu, who had been recovering from malaria, had taken a turn for the worse with a bad respiratory problem. That Friday night, Kalbu was having a hard time breathing. Napthali called me on the cell phone asking what to do.
First, we had to diagnose Kalbu’s problem. That was a bit of a challenge. Napthali is not medically oriented, Leonda was in the States awaiting the birth of our granddaughter, and our staff at the clinic were new and inexperienced. So, between calls to Kebgen, Kemantian, Brooke’s Point and the States, we finally decided that Kalbu should get out of the mountains as quickly as possible. By that time it was 10 p.m. Napthali was worn out from the hike to Kebgen, Kalbu was unable to walk, and nobody in the village was willing to help carry him out. So the question remained: how do we get him out? The next question was hard, too: where should Kalbu go? The 10-hour hike back to Kemantian would be a nightmare carrying him on a stretcher or in a rattan backpack. The other alternative was an eight-hour hike to Ransang on the opposite side of the island. Not knowing what else to do at the moment, we had to leave Kalbu in God’s hands, praying and hoping we could get him out the following morning.
Early the following morning, a Sabbath morning, about 10 Palawanos hiked out of Kemantian to PIADP, where the trail meets the road, and I picked them up at 8 a.m. We then drove west around the southern tip of Palawan in our faithful but not-so-dependable Toyota pick-up. The road had deteriorated a lot since I had last driven it, and I wondered whether we would be able to get through. If we couldn’t, we would have to retrace our steps and then head north up the eastern coast to Abo-Abo, then over to the South China Sea and Quezon on the western coast and then drive south for seven hours on unimproved roads to Ransang.
Fortunately the roads were just good enough, and we made it to Ransang in less than three hours. I dropped the Palawanos off, and they headed into the mountains. In this area, cell phone reception is marginal even in the lowlands, so I sent one of our functional two-meter radios with them. Fortunately Napthali also had a radio with him. Then I found that the radio in the truck was out of order, so I wasn’t able to communicate with them that way after all. I felt pretty useless sitting there while everybody else raced into the mountains at top speed to rescue their brother in Christ. The trip in would probably take them eight hours, and the trip out might take even longer if they were carrying Kalbu. I expected them to return no earlier than 9 p.m. There was little for me to do but pray that God would work out the details. I asked in town (not much of a town) if there was a place I could get a cell phone signal and was eventually directed to a beach about four miles away. I got a strong signal there, but then when I called Napthali, there was no answer. Eventually I got a call through and asked what was happening. He said they were making good progress. I asked who was carrying Kalbu, and he said nobody was. Kalbu’s breathing had improved dramatically, and he was able to walk on his own, though rather slowly and shakily.
As I waited, various groups of local Palawanos walked past, and I spoke to them. At first they were amazed to find an American speaking Palawano. When they realized I was from Kemantian, they immediately began to tell me how much they needed a school in their village eight hours into the mountains in another direction. I told them we would love to come, but we did not have anyone to send at the moment. I promised that when we could find someone willing to teach them, we would be more than happy to help.
At about 3 p.m., I met Napthali, Kalbu and the others at the trailhead. Kalbu looked very worn but much better than I had expected.
Our trip back was marred only by the need to replace a tire that blew out with three nails in it. Amazingly, the spare had air in it, so it was rather a non-event. The truck overheated only once, but we had a jug of water along, so we were able to remedy that problem. Then the rear brakes jammed up, but I was able to crawl under and remove the parking brake cable so we could move again.
Upon our arrival in Brooke’s Point, we were delighted when Kalbu said that he would prefer to eat a good meal before going to the hospital. Later when we took Kalbu to the hospital, the doctor could find little wrong with him other than a bad case of bronchitis (relieving Kalbu’s fear that his childhood tuberculosis had returned.) The next day, Kalbu was talking about returning to Kebgen, but we told him he it would be better to go back to Kemantian, get some rest, finish his course of medicine and make sure he was well before going back to work. It’s hard for me to explain the drastic change in his condition, but to us it was obvious that God had taken care of Kalbu in His own way.
As I write this, Kalbu is back in Kebgen and has requested that I come visit soon. He tells me that some of his people are ready for baptism. I am glad to know that God is still truly in control.