Greetings from the jungle mountains of the Philippines! Our group of four student and short-term missionaries arrived in Manila on Monday evening, August 28, after an eventful day of travel for all four of us. As many of you may know, Hurricane Harvey had devastating effects on the state of Texas. My family and I had been watching the hurricane prior to my departure, seeing its possible path going over my hometown of McAllen, on the southern border of Texas. We were warned about the possible cancellation of my flight due to the hurricane. However, I knew that the same God that calmed the storm with, “Peace, be still,” would work a miracle. The morning of my flight, I was informed that my flight was cancelled. After a series of calls and a little panic, God came through and I was able to get on another flight.
We stayed in Manila for the night, and flew out to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, the next morning. From Puerto Princesa, we took a four hour drive down to Brooke’s Point. As excited as we were to finally be able to get to the mountains, we were unprepared for the journey to Kementian Village, where we would be spending the next year. We stayed the night in Brooke’s Point, and drove to the base of the mountain the next morning. We were met by two Palawano boys who were attending our high school. They were to be our guides for the hike to the Kementian Village. They would also each have a sack of things that needed to be delivered to the village from the lowlands. The hike was nothing but difficult. It was a series of uphill, steep and slippery trails. After about the first hour, myself, along with the other two girls began to feel the weight of the humidity in our lungs and the packs on our backs. One by one, the two Palawano boys began to offer to carry our load, till they were finally carrying both their load and ours. They hiked at such a tremendous speed, even with our packs and their sacks. We were struggling so much to keep up! I can’t tell you how many times I fell. What made it even more amusing was that they walked so swiftly in sandals called dura-lites, which are basically like pure rubber Birkenstocks, while we were slipping and sliding slowly up the mountain in our Chacos or hiking boots.
Upon arrival to our village, we began our two-week boot camp and one-month electronic fast. This was to help us acclimate to the culture quickly. We slept in bamboo huts, on bamboo floor, with only a sleeping mat and a mosquito net. It was hard to sleep through the night. We cooked over a fire, hand washed our own clothes, used the restroom in a squat pot in the ground, showered with a bucket and pail, and gathered food just like the Palawanos do. We learned to harvest rice, how to cook their food, and how to find it. Since we live in the jungle mountains, we have to hike everywhere to get anywhere. To make matters worse, we’re in rainy season, so it rains everyday, making our hikes through the steep trails even more slippery. My feet are perpetually muddy, and my American hands are raw from having to hand-wash my clothes. We ate banana almost every day—ripe or green, boiled, raw, roasted, fried, you name it. In order to help us learn the language faster, we weren’t allowed to speak any English, even amongst ourselves. I need the Palawanos help for everything. I can barely walk through these trails on my own. I can’t wash my own clothes with my hands this raw. Cooking over a fire is not exactly my specialty. I feel like a child all over again. It’s not easy living here. Though we live in the beautiful jungle mountains, it’s a hard life. What do I have to offer the Palawanos? I can barely live here myself. During training, we talked about how our time as a missionary is comparable to the 6 stages of marriage. That first honeymoon stage here in the jungle mountains did not last very long. In fact, it ended the first day. Culture shock came quickly and I began to question, “What was I thinking?”
My answer didn’t come right away. As I progressed through the rest of my first week, I began to doubt more and more that this was where God wanted me. I started thinking of how much it would cost for me to go home, and what I would tell my friends. “It’s not the life for me,” I began to formulate, “I can’t stand being dirty 24/7. I have cuts and scrapes all over my body. I can hardly get around here. I’m tired of eating bananas all the time. I’m not cut out for jungle life. I might just need to be a missionary somewhere else.” But then I remembered Jesus. He hiked through mountain and valley, for endless miles at a time, just to reach people. If He were in Palawan, His feet would be muddy too. The Bible tells us that He didn’t even have a place to lay His head. He worked tirelessly for souls to have the message of salvation, even at the expense of His own life.
On Sabbaths, one of our school classrooms transforms itself into a church. It is also a bamboo hut. There are no pews, much less A/C. Everyone sits on the bamboo floor or on their makeshift desks around the church. Although it was supposed to be a day of delight (Isaiah 58:13), my first Sabbath was so miserable. I missed my home church, I missed pews, A/C, speaking English, eating real food, a shower, everything that I had back home. But then a familiar song began to be sung in Palawano by the congregation: “Meet me in heaven, we’ll join hands together. Meet me by the Savior’s side. I’ll meet you in heaven, we’ll sing songs together. Brothers and sisters, I’ll be there.” As the tune was sung with such fervor, I began to weep at my selfishness. This was why I’m here. I want the Palawanos to be in heaven too. I want to be side by side with them, hand in hand, singing the wonderful song of salvation that the angels long to sing. What can I give the Palawanos? I can’t give them a better way of living, they do it so much better than me. I can’t give them a mattress, they’re perfectly fine on bamboo floor. I can’t give them English, they don’t need it. But I can give them Jesus. I can give them His love for them and how He will give them freedom from the bondage of sin if they will just believe. That’s why I’m here.
My first two weeks have definitely been eventful. I will send another update about the second half of my first month very soon too. Thank you so much for your prayer and support. Please continue to keep our project in prayer! “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10. My prayers to you too!
Bondservant of Jesus Christ