The Church Mission Society
Eric and Sandra sent a newsletter
THEIR OCTOBER 2021 NEWSLETTER
As planned, we opened our cafe in
mid-May – for one day! That afternoon, they unexpectedly announced cl lockdown
for the three baranqays in our valley, starting the next day. Eventually in July
we were able to re-open, and aqain, on the day we opened,
they announced a lockdown starting the next day - this time in Caqayan, but as that is where our customers mostly come from it was useless to stay open, so we dosed again. All very frustrating. We're still closed now as leisure visits are still not allowed.
We have the Delta variant here too and despite the government's best efforts, daily cases are slowly creeping up, although still only just over half the UK level, but with very low vaccination coverage. Sandra has completed her vaccinations and Eric has had his first dose - both of us the Chinese Sinovac – hopefully better than nothing! Very sadly our good friend here in Kinawe, Pastor Boy, who has been a great help to us over the years, died a couple of weeks ago from (Covid after 10 days in intensive care.
We are thankful that we have been able to continue with the Bible study group uninterrupted. We also started a weekly youth group a few weeks ago, which is a mixture of fun - including some Zumba dancing, games and snacks - and discussing issues which are of concern to them and a short reflection. Unlike before with the younger children, we've both Found we enjoy doing this and look forward to our weekly gatherings. The young people are very open and eager to do things and to talk, even about their problems and difficulties. We just had a session on how Covid invades the body, which they found very interesting and helpful in terms of the whys of the protective measures (and that they are not just ordinances of authority). We hope it will also help the adults make an informed decision on vaccination. There is poor uptake by the rural people here for vaccination because of Fears, including that vaccines can turn you into a zombie in the future! Please pray, as the cases are going up and all the hospitals and clinics are now full. in Cagayan. The Delta variant is well established here. Pray that our zone will not be affected. If it is, we will have to suspend the Bible study and youth groups.
As we continue to make the farm a picture of creation care, we get to see pleasant surprises: new species of birds, including small green parrots. many of them now nesting around the farm, as well as colourful dragonflies and butterflies and other insects. Unfortunately. we also get more caterpillars eating leaves and most neighbourhood chickens come to feast on our abundance of insects and worms and – much to Eric's annoyance – to scatter at! the mulching! An electric fence a few inches off the ground has reduced this problem. We even had two colonies of wild honeybees. Sandra has been bottling citronella oil and virgin coconut oil and pickling fruits from our produce in the hope that when we open the cafe we can also sell these and show people how to make them.
It is very easy to get discouraged and lost in our seemingly day-to-day activities that may not lead to any "successful ministry". As we shared our frustrations with our good friend Pastor Nady, he said something that helps us to face each day with a purpose:
"To do anything that is good for other people, or actions that will help animals and plants and the land - all these are a pleasing aroma unto the Lord,"
This is what counts, This has liberated us to face each day with a purpose, free to be a "minister" for the Lord for whatever and whoever and wherever and however! Eventually he will make things Fall in the right places. What matters is that at the end he will see what we do and declare, "It is good". Do please pray that the Lord will continue to show us the "mission for the day" and for us to accomplish it with energy and joy.
Having not been able to come on leave this year, we were planning to come next year. But having also not seen Atiyyah for almost two years, we have decided we will come on leave this winter - not the ideal time, but it will make a change. We sold our house in Devon last year and bought one in Shropshire. It's currently having some repairs done which should be finished by November. Our plan is to come in November (10 days' government quarantine, we're still on the red list - unless the rules change) and stay until early spring. We will be in touch shortly regarding visiting our churches. Please pray for these plans as nothing is definite these days and we see they are now expecting things to get worse again this winter!
We do thank you for your continued support
and prayers and we look forward to
hopefully seeing many of you soon.
With every blessing
Eric & Sandra
CMS is a Christian society that works around the world to promote Christian values and transform communities through leadership and example. Frimley Parish supports the work of the Reads in the Philippines whose mission in the rural communities of Mindanao is to provide Christian ministry and encourage farming techniques through their school and farm. They are continuing to provide safe ministry through the lockdown.
CMS is active with leadership in this way around the world and their work is transforming societies in deprived and war-affected regions. A recent example is The Good Shepherd Christian School for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon run by CMS partners Emil and Reem Bourizk and Phil and Silvie Good, who opened a teaching facility before Christmas with space to serve its 140 students from struggling mostly Syrian refugee families. CMS can provide support and engage help from retired teachers in UK to support their work.
A message from the Reads, Christmas 2020
We want to wish you all the very
best for Christmas, even though we know many of you (including us, Atiyyah is
in Devon) will not be able to see parents, children, grandparents,
grandchildren... We do pray for you all as you go through a very difficult
winter. We praise God too that the vaccines are starting to come through and we
pray that 2021 will be a better year.
We thank God too that case numbers are falling here in The Philippines and in our area, with restrictions being eased.
We are planning to come on leave next summer, even if it means us going through quarantine etc. We hope and pray it will be possible to visit many of you then.
With our love, prayers and wishing you many blessings for Christmas and for next year,
Eric, Sandra, Peter and Atiyyah
10th October: Update from Eric and Sandra
Face mask, face shield, thermometer, barangay pass, community tax certificate, alcohol wash. OK, we’re ready to go now. It’s a job to keep up with all the requirements! In every place you go it is routine to flash your barangay quarantine pass (some people hang it around their neck like ID), go through a foot bath, alcohol hand wash, temperature check, then fill in a form for contact tracing – all a must. These are government requirements which establishments have to carry out. It must be working as there is relatively freer movement and yet few cases. And at least we are able to sing in church and have communion – individual cups and each bread in a plastic sachet; trying to open it without dropping it on the floor is the challenge!
We are pretty free to move around within our region of Northern Mindanao, but if Sandra were to visit her mum in another region she would have quarantine for two weeks in a government facility, then another 2 weeks here on her return. And you cannot escape it because of checkpoints, manned by the police or the army! Needless to say, travel is limited. Walking around most people wear masks and increasingly face shields too – or face a fine of 1500 pesos (£23). For positive cases quarantine is imposed in the immediate home area only, so there is the neighbourly pressure to make sure you don't get it.
On the other hand, there are positive things too. We have noticed a table-top economy sprouting in local communities, selling fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, pots and pans with cooked food, and trays of eggs among sacks of rice. Though organised social activities have been stopped the local communities seem to have come alive with neighbours chatting and children playing. Impossible to follow through social distancing in this culture of community living! Every house, it seems, has a display of potted plants and many have planted vegetables too, assisted with seeds distributed by the Department of Agriculture.
The downside of this for the farmers is that vegetable prices are really low, not helped by the lockdowns in other cities preventing buyers from coming. However, the good news for us is that fruit prices, particularly bananas, are very high at the moment.
After a couple of months of total inactivity due to strict lockdown, we had to rethink about ways to minister. We expanded the meeting area for easier socially distanced seating, bought a contactless thermometer and asked permission from our barangay to restart our Bible study group. To our surprise, the group has increased in number!
Secondary and elementary schools will go on home learning with modules collected once a week by the parents where the internet is not very good (that's our area) – modular methods but nothing seems to be definite. Their opening now is not until October. We decided to start gardening with the local children twice a week. They enthusiastically started with Eric to fence and weed and the father of one came with his cow and ploughed the area. Then they each planted their own plots. It has been interesting and sometimes surprising to observe who is more diligent in watering and weeding, not always who we expected. Sandra introduced them to sprouting beans and they faithfully washed/watered their jars of beans for 3 days. Then they tried eating the raw sprouts – and the feedback was “Yuck” with a crumpled face. But then we fried it with batter to a crisp and yuck changed to “Lami man diay!” (“Surprisingly yummy!”) and they took home some for their mums to try.
Peter finally resumed classes – all online – at the beginning of September. Atiyyah managed to get through the A level grading fiasco and is off to Reading to study law. They don’t just have an arrival day this year, but a 20-minute time slot and only one person can assist them with moving their stuff in for a maximum of 30 minutes! Then they are restricted to associating with their accommodation group only for the first two weeks – a sort of quarantine we suppose. Atiyyah is looking forward to going, but making the most of the remaining time to spend with her friends from school. This will be the first time Atiyyah is not going to be the only new one, so a bit of a novelty! We wanted to come over to see her off to uni, but sadly with COVID-19 that became a non-starter due to the six weeks quarantine required: 2 weeks in the UK, 2 returning to Manila and 2 more returning to Cagayan! It is looking like it will be next year when we come on leave (hopefully!) before we see each other again. Even visiting Sandra's mother on the same island is impossible still.
in all the uncertainties we can only go on with confidence knowing that we have an almighty and gracious God who has the whole world in his hands (as the song goes) and is in control.
With love and prayers, Eric and Sandra
14th August: Eric and Sandra Update
We hope you are all bearing up well under the Covid and managing to avoid it. We have been blessed that the number of cases in our region has been very low - unlike Manila and some other places. Church services resumed with us at the beginning of June - with singing too.
We have been able to restart our bible study group and have two or three new members who have joined which is encouraging. We have extended the extension we put on to the centre last year to the full width now, both to accommodate the bible study and also the adult learning, which has also resumed. We have also started a garden with some of the local children and a twice weekly session to help them with their schooling and teach the younger ones basic computer use.
Classes resume on the 24th, but all learning at home, either online or with printed sheets. Due to travel and gathering restrictions doing anything with churches is pretty is not feasible at present.
Masks have been mandatory since March and from this Saturday face shields are required too! For all gatherings social distancing is required, alcohol, temperature check and a record kept of who attended (including at church), so they can track and trace if necessary.
We are getting plenty of rain at last this year, so everything is growing well. We are planting alot of trees as we move to an agroforestry system.
Atiyyah has just got her A level results - three Bs which she is happy with, especially as just before she got them Reading Emailed her to say their offer is now unconditional. Peter resumes online on the 24th.
Blessings to you all
Eric & Sandra
Message from Eric and Sandra
April 2020: Eric and Sandra in Lockdown
November 2019: Eric and Sandra Newsletter
June 2019: Eric & Sandra Newsletter
April 2018: Eric and Sandra Newsletter
November 2017: Eric and Sandra Newsletter
June 2017: Eric and Sandra Newsletter
November 2016: Eric and Sandra Newsletter
Update (March 2016) click here.
This is a Question and Answer on the Frimley link with the Reads.
Q. When did the connection to the Reads work in the Philippines begin?
A. In 2012. Before then we were partnered with the Reads in Zaire.
Q. Where is the project?
A. On Mindanao Island (see map)
Q. Where on Mindanao?
A. Cagayan do Oro (see map)
Q. What is there nearby?
A. Cagayan River (below))