ok go

Look, if I can do this…


It’s Friday night. Earlier I was listening to the radio with my neighbours. The news is that he storm has slowed, so we have a little more time. Also, it’s weakened. Windspeeds have dropped from 250kph to 195kph. The supertyphoon has lost its super status. It’s smaller now – 600km across, down from 700km. My neighbours are encouraged, and the relief is visible on their faces. This is progress, and it gives us hope that by tomorrow, when it is forcast to arrive, it will be weaker still. After listening to the news, we hold a prayer meeting at the church. Before we pray, I tell the story of Jehosaphat, and their response in prayer encourages me. I’m invited for dinner. We eat the pig that was slaughtered this morning. It’s delicious. I’m happy that everyone is more relaxed. I’m happy that the typhoon is weakening.

I’m writing this at “The Lighthouse” of Kid’s International. Like everything else, the internet cafes have closed. A sign at Robinson’s Mall states in typical Filipino understatement “This store will be closed on Saturday”. The Lighthouse is staying open. Here, we are right on the seawall. Everyone around has evacuated to escape the possible storm surge. They are staying. Nicola, the manager, wants to be here for those who didn’t leave, and who will need a place to run to if the storm is strong. Their house is as strong as any storm – it survived Yolanda – but most of all, so is their faith. As I rode here, the streets were deserted. The wind picked up and as I now look at the weather report, it shows that the fringe of the storm has made landfall. It’s time. Keep praying and pray with faith. Our God is a God of miracles.

Summon your power, God;
    show us your strength, our God, as you have done before.

Psalm 68:28

SuperTyphoon II

The warning came on Wednesday. I got a text from Isaac, a YWAM missionary in Tacloban. His dad has a tropical storm app, so he is my most trusted source of information. The forecast is that it will arrive on Saturday. Waiting for a super-typhoon is a strange experience. The weather is calm. The sun is shining. Nothing suggests that we are about to suffer a major catastrophe. That’s exactly how it was before Yolanda. Many people were unprepared, despite the warnings, because they didn’t listen. No-one is making that mistake this time. We are counting down the days. It’s good that they have time. It’s just a shame that most people lack the resources to adequately prepare. Yesterday I rode from Burauen back to Palo. People use the road as a place to dry their rice harvest in the sun. Yesterday the road was busy with people laying out their rice. I was wondering why people appeared so unconcerned. But then I realised that wet rice is worthless. They were getting as much in as possible before the storm comes. The queue of farmers at the rice mill is the only tell-tale sign of a crisis. People panic quietly in the Philippines.

Forewarned is forearmed. It’s also foreworried. The hardest thing to deal with is the fear. Packing up my most essential items into a plastic box, I’m hit by the reality of how much I could lose. I’m wondering where to put my stuff to best protect it if the building collapses. The church has a huge cooking pot, which I’ve put my books in. The Waray-Waray textbooks I’m using have survived every storm since they were published in 1967, so I feel it’s my duty to preserve them as best I can. In the cooking pot I think they’ll survive even if the storm comes with an earthquake. Worst-case scenario is that the rain gets into everything and I’m left with the clothes I stand up in. Although I’m not expecting that, I’ve gone from faith to despair and back again. Last night, I sat alone in the church, looking at the walls and wondering if they will still be here on Sunday, wondering for the millionth time if I’m really doing the right thing. But God has demonstrated time and again that He is right here with me.

I’m upset about the things I might lose, but I can replace them. This is not my house. If I’m homeless after this storm, I will have a choice of offers from resourceful friends for a place to stay. But for my neighbours, they will wait for a tarpaulin from the relief agencies. They will lose precious things that they have painstakingly collected and which have cost them a lot. They have no idea how they will replace what they are about to lose.

As I write, some of the local kids wander past and give me a wave, just like they always do. There is no trace of concern on their faces. As I return their smiles I am thinking about how they will feel tomorrow, as they go through possibly the most harrowing experience of their lives. Again. It’s incredible that barely one year after Yolanda, it’s happening again.

This is what I say to God. Since the warning came, I’ve been telling everyone I can about the story of Jehosephat in 2 Chronicles 20, as he faced disaster in the form of a massive enemy attack. Before doing anything else, he and his entire nation looked to God for help. Full of faith, Jehosephat prayed, reminding God of His promises, saying “we will stand in Your presence before this temple that bears Your Name and will cry out to You in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.” God replied with another promise, fulfilling that promise with one of His most amazing miracles. I’m still believing for a miracle. God has promised me too. But as I prepare for the worst, I realise that my preparations are not acts of faith. As I do the things I ‘need’ to do, I can actually feel my faith ebbing away. It’s wrong to be complacent or presumptuous, but I need to find a way to put my faith into action rather than my fear. It’s not enough to believe for the best. Faith without deeds is useless. I have to balance my preparations for disaster with preparation for a miracle. I look around at a village of vulnerable people, multiplied thousands of times in barangay all around this province. The pressure is immense.

But I know I’m not alone. Thousands more are praying with me. God promised Abraham that for the sake of ten righteous people, He would not destroy the town of Sodom. I’m reminding Him of that conversation, just as Jehosaphat reminded God of all the things He had promised even generations before. Hard as it is to stay here, it’s a privilege to stand before God on behalf of a people needing a miracle. It’s exactly what He sent His son to do. It’s exactly what He wants me to do. “Just as the Father sent me, I am sending you.” How about you? Will you stand with me?

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:31-39

God is faithful.

New home

Let me tell you a little about life in my new ‘home’. This area of Leyte is mostly a flood plain punctuated with volcanic mountains. Thankfully the volcanoes are pretty quiet now. Barangay Barayong sits in a cluster of these mountains. Although it feels remote, it’s still within the municipality of Palo and the highway is only a 15 minute motorbike ride away. Getting to the highway is a bit of an adventure. The road is mostly dirt track with the occasional stretch of concrete. There’s no drainage so the flat parts are full of potholes and the climbs are rutted from the rivulets that form when it rains. The road goes past the provincial jail, where the road turns into a small muddy pond. Most households here have a motorbike or scooter. No-one has a car. It’s just not practical. The road is hard work on four wheels and anything other than a 4×4 would have a short and uncomfortable life. Anyway, the locals easily manage to fit a family of four and pretty much anything you might need on a bike. I have yet to accept the challenge of more than one passenger. No wait, the other day I did give a ride to maybe 3 or 4 kids (I daren’t look back to see how many there were). The funniest thing I’ve seen is a bloke carrying four old ladies down the highway, with one sat in front of him on the tank. There’s a saying they have here – “Only in the Philippines..”

In the village of Barayong, apart from a few ‘middle class’ concrete homes, the majority of people live in wooden houses. Many live without electricity and some are still ‘post-yolanda’ with tarpaulin sheets for walls and roofs. Some have concrete floors and some build their houses on stilts and have wooden floors, but many have just earth for a floor. Almost everyone cooks on wooden fires, usually inside the home or porch. Because there is no refuse collection, they also burn their refuse. This is the hardest thing for me to deal with. I’m an obsessive recycler, but never mind the environment, it’s a health risk right? In the mornings you can climb the hill at the top of the village and look across a smoky haze of houses as the sun rises over the mountain. It’s very pretty.

There is no piped water supply. A few are able to buy bottled drinking water but most drink, cook and wash with water drawn from various wells which have been dug around the village. The quality of this water is poor. When I arrived my neighbours told me that they don’t drink it, so I haven’t done, but I’ve learned that the families who don’t have enough money to buy drinking water actually do drink it. Many times people, especially children, become sick because of this. Almost everyone has only an ‘outside lavvy’ and also washes their clothes and themselves outside, which means with their clothes on. Having a bath is done standing up in a bowl. The ‘ice-bucket challenge’ is what we do here twice a day.

My place is attached to the church. I have a concrete floor, electricity, a calorgas stove and also a toilet where I can take a bath in private. Thankfully I don’t have to strip down to my undies and bath in public, which is what the other men do here. In summary I’m camping in a lean-to garage, but that’s a pretty good living here.

From my very first night I realised that the previous tenants, a family of rats, had not yet left the property. For the first few weeks I slept on the church stage. The rats were living under it. I spent the first night covering the hole with whatever I could find to keep them from getting near the floor where I was sleeping. After that first encounter, I made it my mission to buy some poison. It took me a long time to find some. The locals prefer traps, since they are reusable, but I don’t like the mess. Eventually I did find some, which they seemed to like. As I waited for them to die or leave, I took to sleeping with earplugs. What the ear doesn’t hear, the heart doesn’t grieve over. The earplugs also lessen the noise the church gecko makes. Previous to the rats, my only unconquered enemy were the local tiny ants. They are highly-organised machines which get into anything that’s not airtight. They find a container’s weakness and then exploit it mercilessly. Airtight tupperware is expensive here, but some food comes in resealable bags so I’d begun collecting them. The bags have to be quite thick, as the ants gather together to bite through cellophane wrapping. But good enough deterrent for ants is not good enough deterrent for rats. After my rodent housemates had chewed through all my carefully-collected bags – even the empty ones – I realised I needed to take my kitchen security to a whole new level. Now I have a plastic box with a locking lid inside which I keep my new collection of airtight bags. The box keeps out the rats and the bags keep out the ants. Combined with the poison, which the rats loved so much I nearly ran out of, the rats and the ants appear to have retreated. I am victorious.

The basil, the bag and the birthday – part 3

The birthday. The bag, the basil – these are small matters. But when God is faithful in the small things, He’s showing us He can be trusted with the big things too. It was the day before my birthday. I wanted to have a party but I had no money to throw one. In fact, things were financially critical. I had £30 (PHP2000) left in the bank, with £200 (PHP14000) in bills to pay the following week. Plus my visa was due to expire. Changing my flight to go home would cost me even more than renewing my visa, so I was three days from hitting a financial wall and becoming an overstayer. I was beginning to get worried. Maybe I should have gone home while I still had enough money to change my flight.. Foolhardy, risk-taking behaviour. Again. This always happens. When will I learn..

Indeed, when will I learn. That day I got an email which told me that the new tenant for my house back home could move in. £300 (PHP21000) was gonna be in the bank by the weekend, plus an extra £300 a month after that. Oh and the birthday party? Actually I got that too. I spent my birthday visiting a village I’ve begun to work in and where I’m planning to make my home for a while. I was invited into a house to have lunch. Lunch turned out to be a birthday party. Not for me, for a little girl called Kiesha Louise. No-one there knew it was my birthday.

I’ve discovered that I’m on a journey that I did not plan, but God has. It’s like a paperchase. God is always a little way ahead, laying a trail of notes for me to follow. Just when I think maybe I’ve gone the wrong way, there’s another note, a word or a miracle. I learn from it and press on. I don’t know where the chase will lead, but I’m happy to be on it.

The basil, the bag and the birthday – part 2

The bag – One morning I was visiting my friend Gulab in Palo. I had an appointment in Tacloban in the afternoon. That’s all I had to achieve that day. I should manage that, I thought. The afternoon appointment was important. It was with some pastors who’d asked me to visit and who I’d already turned down twice for prior engagements. Turning down invitations in the Philippines is a tricky business, so this time I made sure I had nothing else to do so there were no chance of complications.

Gulab invited me to stay for lunch. That’s fine, still plenty of time, I thought. After lunch, he invited me to stay to meet some missionaries, one of which was a Scot. Now I have been missing my countryfolk, the prospect of meeting one was very attractive, even if he was actually from Scotland, who may not be my countryfolk for much longer. They were going to visit a local village and distribute some food. I was worried about getting to my appointment in Tacloban but Gulab assured me that our excursion wouldn’t take long. Ok, I said. Oh, when will I learn.

I got a lift in the missionaries’ car and when we arrived at the village I realised the place we’d arrived at was near my friend Bob’s house who I hadn’t seen in a long time, so after spending some time in the village I excused myself and went to visit Bob. Now I’d left my bag in the car, but I was expecting to be riding back with them later, so it was OK.  I arranged for them to text me when they were leaving, so I could get a ride with them. Well, I thought I did, but I think something got lost in translation. I returned to find they’d already left. Worse, my bag was still in their car. As I trudged back to Gulab’s house I was thoroughly dejected. I was already pushing it to get to my appointment. Now I had a mission to track down my bag and I expected I wouldn’t get there at all. Now remember I’d already turned Gordon and Emie down twice already. A no-show on the third attempt would be a disaster. Why, God, why…

Anyway, I got back to Gulab’s and managed to get the number of the driver who had my bag in his car. They were in Tacloban. Yes, they had my bag and I could meet them at Robinsons. I texted Emie and she was OK with my lateness, but I had only a vague idea of where they lived and no idea how to get there. At Robinsons, as I collected my bag from the car, someone in the car mentioned “Imelda village” – woah hold it right there, that’s where I needed to be! I inquired. Yes, indeed they were going to Imelda village. Result. Room for one more? In the Philippines, there’s always room for one more.

Ok, we were back on track. On the way, we chatted about their stay. “We’re staying with some local pastors, called Gordon and Emie, do you know them?” Do I know them.. Bosh. In an instant, everything had been turned around. My disaster became a testimony. “Yeah, that’s where I’m going now. Thanks for the ride”.

It turned out that the driver, who I’d been talking to while I was desperately trying to salvage my day’s plans and find my way to Gordon and Emie’s, was in fact Gordon and Emie’s son. Everyone was pretty impressed with this minor miracle. “God is good”, I said, smiling smugly like this happens to me all the time. I thought back to the moment walking down the road when I was kicking myself for screwing up my day, thinking I was a million miles from where I needed to be. Sometimes, when God is silent, it’s because He’s trying to hide a smile: “ Just you wait, son – I think you’ll find it’s all in the bag.”

The basil, the bag and the birthday – Part 1

The basil – It was a friend’s birthday and, since she likes Italian food, I offered to cook. Pasta and its accessories are not difficult to find here, if a little more expensive than at home, but in the wake of the typhoon supplies of everything are still a bit hap-hazard. There is an abundance of shops and they are all full, but they’re full of pretty much the same things. I’ve no idea why this is, but it left me a little concerned about whether I would find some basil. Normally I would trail round the small shops in downtown, trying to shop like a local, but I feared my fate would be a wasted afternoon hearing the words ‘waray na’ (‘we don’t have any’ – it’s not very encouraging that they named the local dialect Waray-Waray. Waray is their word for ‘no’) So I opted to go straight to Robinson’s, the largest supermarket in Tacloban. To my dismay I found that their herb and spices section consists almost entirely of salt and pepper. And mushrooms. Mushrooms, it seems, when dried and put into 20g packets, are a herb. However, waray basil. My last hope was the veg section. To call it a section would make it sound grand. More of a desk. Nothing. Nada. Waray herbs of any description. I was about to leave when I noticed the shop assistant opening a large box behind the counter. Three things led be to believe that the box contained my desired ingredient. 1. I could see that in the box were lots and lots of large green leaves which looked remarkably like basil. 2. Hand-written on the box was the word ‘basil’. 3. When I asked what was in the box, the lady replied, “Basil”. Wow, now I believe. I was pretty sure I could hear God saying “So, did you want some basil? Have a boxful..”

Ever since then, whenever I go to Robinson’s, I check to see if they have any basil. Waray na.

Romance.. @Robinson’s?

I was trying to leave Robinson’s mall. I couldn’t reach the door cos I was surrounded by hundreds of screaming teenagers. No, it wasn’t a dream, and sadly they weren’t screaming for me but for JC de Vera, a clearly-popular celebrity who had just appeared on the specially-constructed stage in the middle of the shopping centre. As I make my way through the crowd, I see him pick a beautiful girl to join him on stage. He looks wistfully into her eyes while mouthing the words to the Goo Goo Dolls backing track:

“All I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life..”

The girl is beside herself. Her face is inches away from his as she shyly returns his gaze. But don’t worry for her commercially-exploited innocence. Her heart may have stopped but she hasn’t forgotten about facebook. She wastes no time getting her ipad out for an on-stage selfie. The fake sincerity is entirely mutual.

The somewhat less than star-cross’d lovers and the words of the song made me remember what had happened to me just a few days before. I was lying on my bed just worshipping with my headphones in. I was waiting on God, asking Him to come, directing my prayers to that place somewhere just above my head, you know, where God is. All of a sudden I felt Him say, “I’m already here”. And then I felt myself realise that while I was talking to the top bunk, the “voice” was from inside me. Right after that I felt wave after wave of God’s love flow through me, and after a little while I was completely blown away. The intensity of the moment made every other ‘worship time’ feel like a rehearsal. I had read that day about how in Jewish culture, when a couple get engaged to be married, the groom goes back to his father’s place to build a house for him and his wife, and he leaves his most trusted friend (his ‘best man’) to prepare his fiancee and keep her pure. The Bible describes the Church as the bride of Christ. Jesus, the groom, has gone away to ‘prepare a place’ for us. The Holy Spirit is like the best man. So I was lying there feeling like I wasn’t just with the Holy Spirit, but with Jesus Himself. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is our teacher, teaching us to dance, but what we experience with Him is ‘dance class’. He is our mentor and friend, but He is just preparing us for the big day, when we get to dance with Jesus. On Monday night I felt like I was dancing with Jesus.

Anyway, I needed to get up to switch on the rice cooker, cos I was cooking for one of the students who had arrived early back at the college. After I’d done that I went to find him and he was with Glenn, one of the carpenters on the site here and also a pastor. I was feeling pretty wasted, smiling like I was high on something. I put my arms round them both telling them how great they are and then I said “Hey, who needs healing? Someone is gonna get healed right now, come on”. Glenn said he has a bad knee, so I put my hands on it, said something spiritual and bosh, he’s healed right there.

It’s a simple testimony of what happens when we have intimacy with Jesus. Heaven comes to earth, for us and those around us.

Back in the crowded mall, I’m comparing that moment of intimacy with what I’m seeing. No-one is being fooled about the authenticity of the romance here – it’s all just a bit of fun to lighten up the weekend. But the brief show reflects what everyone watching the stage dreams of – a Cinderella moment with the king. Please God, can we bring a real moment of romance to Robinson’s mall?

Keep calm and carry on

Things aren’t panning out as I expected. I was expecting to hit the ground running and see miracles, signs and wonders wherever I went. Three months in and I’ve seen barely a trace. Sure, there have been some great experiences but that’s not what I’ve come here for. Let’s revisit the vision:

..from the rising of the sun they will revere His glory.
For He will come like a pent-up flood
that the breath of the Lord drives along.

Isaiah 59:19

Revival. From the start things have been a lot harder than I expected and as time marches on I’m beginning to wonder how long this will take, and if it will happen at all. What should I do if we get to November and we’re still not seeing revival? Should I go home with nothing to show after spending eight months and several thousand pounds here? Could I stand at the front of New Life, after all the faith-filled big talk before leaving, and say ‘yeah, it was ok’. Should I stay here until the vision comes to fruition, even past my planned return in November? These are the questions I’ve been asking God. To be honest, it was becoming more like a plea. Please God, don’t let me go home empty-handed.

I’ve been thinking about my first church visit when I arrived in Leyte. The Pentecostal church at Tigbao, Tacloban. I’d felt like it was significant, but afterwards I couldn’t see why. Physically I’d been in a very sorry state that day, not at all the triumphant revivalist, and I’d left without saying much to anyone. I’ve been wondering if I’d missed something, so last week I decided I would pay them a second visit at the weekend. At least I could see how they were getting on with fixing their roof.

I arrived to find the roof was on and that it was Pentecost Sunday. The projector displayed an image of Pentecostal fire. The pastor was pointing to it and adding some fiery preaching. I remembered how we’d really met with God the last time I was there and now I was expectant again. But after the introductions, the announcements, the birthdays, more announcements, baby dedications and offering we were a full two hours into the meeting. At one point the band started to worship and I felt things started rising in the Spirit, but then they went into ‘smile a while’ and everyone stopped to shake everyone else’s hand. I was thinking we’d missed the moment. It was hot. Under the new roof the temperature in the church felt about right for baking bread and my expectation was starting to wane. I was tired now and ready to go home.

But then the pastor got up and announced that he was going to cut short his preaching. After a brief talk, he said, we would spend the rest of the meeting in worship, seeking God’s face for a fresh outpouring. Man, that cheered me right up! He introduced the theme of his message: “Don’t go home empty!”  Wow, I’d just heard my words come right back at me, no longer a question but an answer. Man, he didn’t need to say anything else (which was just as well because I didn’t understand most of it.) All my questions were answered right there and then. I’m gonna get my Pentecostal outpouring in this province, and I’m not leaving until I do.

Lick your elbow for ‘no’

I was in Tacloban the other day, getting off the jeepney at Robinson’s Mall, when I saw a guy with a t-shirt which said: Do you like me? Breathe for ‘yes’. Lick your elbow for ‘no’.

We all want friends, right? (Yeah, you can say you’re a loner but we all know you’re pretending). Wouldn’t it be nice if friendship were as easy as breathing? This past month or so has been a very hard time, mainly because I’m struggling to make real friends here. Hospitality is second-nature to Filipinos, like breathing, and their warm welcome can easily be taken to mean acceptance and friendship. Clearly it doesn’t. No-one offers these things to a complete stranger. It’s a process, and I’ve found that gaining them here, particularly as a socially clumsy foreigner, feels definitely more like licking my elbow than breathing. I’ve discovered a few things that might explain this. Five hundred years of colonialism for a start. But what I think what I’m struggling with has even deeper roots than this. I discovered a new word the other day: Sakop.

Sakop is Waray-Waray for ‘tribe’ or ‘family’. Acceptance and friendship comes from being part of the sakop. Sakop extends into other social groups too, including churches and even Bible college dormitories. Ironically though, an idea which enshrines acceptance and friendship and the sense of family also alienates those who fall outside the line. Which language you speak (there are roughly150 different languages spoken in the Philippines), or what your surname is, or what religion/denomination you belong will influence where you can find ‘sakop’. In the Church, denominations tend to be inward-looking and outwardly indifferent or even hostile. Sects and cults flourish here, and maybe that’s because they appeal to and exploit the Filipino sense of sakop. All this makes fitting in very difficult for the white foreigner with poor language skills and few friends (yes, I’m feeling very sorry for myself at the moment). For me, sakop is a problem not a blessing. I just don’t fit in. I have no gang.

Feeling alone out here is very upsetting and I don’t know what to do about it. John the Baptist may have managed as a one-man crusade but I don’t fancy my chances alone in the mountains with the rebels. Apparently the government here doesn’t pay out for westerners held to ransom. I need to find a gang. I’ve been reading about this new gang called ‘revivalists’ in Bill Johnson’s book, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind. Bill seems to be one of the figureheads of a group of people who want to see heaven invading earth. Miracles and signs and wonders breaking out everywhere. Revival. As I’m reading his book I’m realising that this is the gang I want to join. That’s what I’m here for. I know that’s what I should be doing. It’s very disappointing that I’m not and I don’t mind saying I might need a little help. I’ll find a gang of revivalists. If I can’t find one I’ll start one. Will it get anywhere? Will we see the kingdom come? Breathe for ‘yes’. Lick your elbow for ‘no’.

British Expeditionary Force

Last week I went on vacation. I visited the home of one of the students in a village on Daram, one of the smaller islands. I thought it would be a romantic excursion – you know – a tropical island bathed in sunshine with long beaches running down to cool, clear waters. Boats are the only way to get from one place to the next. Life is more traditional here. Jo-Jo’s family live in a house made of stitched palm leaves next to the village basketball court. I loved it. But a simple life is also tough one. The village’s only income is from fishing and fish doesn’t fetch a high price in a country surrounded by sea. Jo-Jo’s parents have to work hard. They have invested whatever they have to spare not in making their home more comfortable but in their children’s education. I stayed in the village for four days and, although it was romantic and we went swimming, drank from coconuts and took boat rides in the twilight, it was also a hard experience for me.

There was no electricity on the first night, although that’s not uncommon in the Philippines. It’s just gone off here now. The next day the village well ran dry. Apparently this happens a lot during the summer. It was incredibly hot and there was not a drop of rain for days. Water had to be bought privately from people who had drilled their own, deeper, wells. It was upsetting to see the family go to expense to provide for me. I had brought emergency money, which I wish I could have given them, but it was already gone. On the way there I’d taken a ferry to the wrong part of the island and had to hire a small boat to take me the rest of the way. I was conned and ripped-off by a shop owner who pretended to know the village and Jo-Jo’s family and found me a ‘relative’ who took me there and also took my money. It was upsetting enough at the time and more so now as I was wishing I could have given more money to this family and the church here.
I became ill, I think from the heat, drinking the water and eating the local diet of white rice and fish three times a day. I had expected to be able to buy fruit but the village had no greengrocer. Without fibre my digestion backs up and after a few days I get food poisoning. The family helped me out really well, finding some fruit and bottled water to help me recover.

While I was there I was reading a book on prayer by Paul Yonghi Cho. In it was a reference to Isaiah 50:10-11 :

Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.

It goes on to say:

But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.

Wow, strong language right? In this I felt God saying not to rely on my own resources, or even the resources of the family I was with – what little they were. There is a message in this prophecy for the people of this province (man, the whole world, right?) and I wanted to demonstrate it to them in my sickness. God could provide all their needs, both healing and provision, and they don’t need to – in fact they mustn’t – try to figure out a way themselves. They didn’t really get the message and it was difficult for me, as their guest, to turn down their efforts, so I had to compromise a little, but at least I had confidence to know that God would heal me even without medical help. Throughout the next day, Sunday, my health improved and by the evening I was feeling ok again. Oh, and it rained too.

I left the island feeling a bit perplexed. It had been a difficult time and I wondered if it had been the right decision to go there. But the church there is strong in spirit and has good leadership. God is looking for places to light revival fires, and I think the church at Casab-ahan will be one of them. Oh man, that means I’ll have to go back! No, I want to. There is a saying here “Bowas na man liwat!”. I learned it after playing someone at chess. Literally it means “tomorrow again!” It’s fighting talk. I went to Casab-ahan underestimating what I was walking into, and I left feeling like I’d been pulled out of the water at Dunkirk. Next time will be different. I will return to drink the water and eat the food, accept losses, but never accept defeat. Is it my pride? I just feel it’s what God wants me to do. “Mabalik ako” – that’s the local translation of the words of General MacArthur when he was forced to abandon the Philippines to the Japanese: “I will return”.


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