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BATTAMBANG, Cambodia — Statues of mythical animals and an ancient…
Blogging from Cataingan, Philippines
Greetings from somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. I’m on a six-hour ferry ride between the ports of Cataingan (on the island of Masbate) and Bogo in the Philippines.
I’m on the ferry now because me and my cohorts missed our overnight boat ride to the city of Cebu yesterday. But one thing I’m quickly learning about this nation of nearly 104 million souls is that there’s always another boat.
I’m tagging along with students from Southwest Christian School in Fort Worth, Texas, on a spring break mission trip and representatives of Bread for a Hungry World.
I’m witnessing some of the Texas-based ministry’s work, which includes efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition and provide a stable income for souls in countries around the globe. Here in the Philippines, Bread for a Hungry World works closely with several Churches of Christ and Filipino-led ministries.
After a brief stopover in South Korea, I arrived in the Philippines’ capital, Manila, and met some good friends at the airport. Gigie Carranza is one of them. She’s a longtime worker for MARCH for Christ, a medical ministry operated by Filipino Christians. I’ve reported on MARCH’s work around the globe and Carranza’s personal ministry to Christians and those in need in cities including Hong Kong.
I also was glad to see Mhalbe “Mai-Mai” Lagaria. I met him back in 2010 during Angkor of Faith, an annual youth conference that gives young Asians the chance to praise God and serve street orphans in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Lagaria has done mission work in villages across the Philippines — many times without support. (“God provides,” he told me as we took a flight from Manila to the scenic city of Legaspi. “I know I have more than enough. I have a lot.”)
From Legaspi, we took a one-hour ride in a “Jeepny” (retrofitted Jeeps, some of which date back to the United States’ time here during World War II) to the village of Barangay Buang, where an adult Bible study and kids’ class were in full swing. The local Church of Christ sponsors the event, which occasionally includes meals provided by Bread for a Hungry World.
The church developed after medical missionaries and relief workers — from groups including MARCH for Christ — addressed the community’s physical needs and began studying the Bible with them. Kevin Usaraga is a missionary who has ministered for the church for the past six years.
Cherry Longa, age 21, and Jonimar Basilon, age 17, and a handful of other young Christians sang Vacation Bible School songs with the children as Usaraga led the Bible study. The youths travel nearly two hours, once or twice per month, to work with the kids. They attend a 20-member Church of Christ in the village of Bacacay, Albay.
From the village, we took another long Jeepny ride to the edge of the island, where we boarded two fishing boats to sail to Masbate. The wind was blowing and the waves drenched us. But I got some great photos.
One of the boats had engine problems and needed to stop in a village to get more fuel. The other boat (the one I was on) had problems, too. We had to pull up to a narrow, rocky strip of beach so the fishermen could make quick repairs to one of the stabilizers. The overnight boat we planned to catch in Masbate for Cebu was due to depart at 6:15 p.m. We were cutting it tight.
After an “Amazing Race”-esque dash to the island, we saw the boat waiting for us and cheered — and then sailed right past it.
The fishermen had to dock a few blocks away, so we stuffed our luggage (and ourselves) into the tiny sidecars of taxi motorbikes and scurried back toward the boat dock.
When we arrived, the boat was gone.
I tried not to fret, keeping in mind the “no problem” philosophy I just picked up on a reporting trip to Jamaica. We found a very nice hotel — complete with air conditioning and warm showers — and ate dinner at Jollibees, a Filipino fast-food restaurant. Upstairs at the restaurant, the students had a devotional.
As they travel, the students are doing daily readings and writing their thoughts in a book called “Experience: Mission Trip Devotionals & Journal” by Standard Publishing. The topic for the night’s devotional was “Actions of Faith.” Here’s a snippet:
God doesn’t look for perfect people to use; he looks for willing people, and he will use anyone who makes himself or herself available. Everyone with you on your mission trip is imperfect, but your willingness to be used for God’s glory is the key.
After missing the boat, those words seemed particularly appropriate.
(Editor’s note: I’ve been off the boat and on “dry” land — it’s always humid here — for a few days now. I had to wait to post this until I found a good wi-fi connection.)
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