Back in Davao for a Time

As our last newsletter explained, we are returning to North America for the sake of Sora’s health and our kids’ education and well-being. But we are stopping in Davao until the 3rd of February to see old friends, resume old ministries, and enjoy a place that is full of happy memories for our family.

We worshipped with Davao Covenant Reformed Church on Sunday. Hosanna was glad to see Ate Flor and Ate Juvie, and they were happy to see her:

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Matt got together with some of his former Greek students. They plan to meet five or six times while we are in Davao. Here they are reading Romans 3 and 4 together in Greek:

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Hosanna loves Abreeza Mall, so we took her there. She has a big heart:

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Matt has been asked to preach at Davao Covenant Reformed Church next Sunday. He’ll be preaching on the book of Jonah.

Sora also is back in the saddle. She’s teaching a class on herbs to the student midwives at the clinic where she used to work.
As we prepare to leave the mission field for the foreseeable future, we are delighted to be here in Davao, and fully expect to return again in later years.

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Photos from November

Bandung is a huge city, but there is beauty if you slow down and look. Here are some things that caught my eye in November.

A snail moves across our front porch. 


Moss covers hexagonal paving stones at IMLAC.


Sora’s homemade bread, shaped for Holy Communion.

Bandung under the clouds from a warung on Jalan Punclut.


The hem of a batik shirt:

Rainwater courses down a drainage ditch past ferns and stone walls:

Matt with IMLAC tutors Michael, Nelson, and Ricqi:

SAMS and New Wineskins

Our family is back together in Ohio again after spending the first half of April on the road. Our first stop was All Saints REC IN Raleigh, where we were graciously hosted by Fr Ian MacGregor. He also took me on a visit to St Andrew’s mission about 90 minutes away in nearby Asheboro. From there, our family headed to Asheville for the SAMS retreat and 40th anniversary celebration at the Ridgecrest Conference Center and the ensuing New Wineskins for Global Mission conference.

We were blessed by the small group meetings at the SAMS retreat, where I benefited from the prayers and advice of Philip Mounstephen, the director of the Church Mission Society in the Church of England, and was able to give care and prayer to other missionaries in turn.

 

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Matt with CMS director Philip Mounstephen

The main prayer request I shared with the group was my concern to do a good job of learning Bahasa Indonesia, a language that will be critical to the success of my work in Bandung.

The very next day, Sora and I had a meeting with Singapore’s Bishop for the mission deaneries, the Rt. Rev. Kuan Kim Seng and the Dean of Indonesia, the Rev. Timothy Chong. It was an immediate answer to my prayers when Bp. Kuan told us that we would have at least a year to work on language learning. Praise God!

It was a pleasure to spend time with the Singapore clergy at New Wineskins. Bp. Rennis Ponniah also prayed for us and gave us the right hand of fellowship.

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From left: Assistant Bp. Kuan Kim Seng, Dean of Indonesia Timothy Chong, our family, and Bp. of Singapore Rennis Ponniah

The biggest news coming out of the New Wineskins conference is that we have a planned departure date now…and we have purchased one-way airplane tickets for us to arrive in Singapore on June 27. (From there, we’ll head to Bandung in early July.)

At New Wineskins, Sora and I enjoyed talks by Bp. Felix Orji of CANA West (ACNA) and by Bp. Rennis Ponniah of Singapore. It was also good to enjoy fellowship with other missionaries from SAMS, and to see friends from the REC and other Anglican churches.

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From left: Matt, Bishop of Singapore Rennis Ponniah, REC Presiding Bishop Royal Grote, Sora, Dean of Thailand Yee Ching Wah, and Dean of Indonesia Timothy Chong

On the last day of the New Wineskins conference, Sora and I participated in workshops with Stewart Wicker, the director of SAMS-USA, discussing how we were called to go to the Philippines and then to Indonesia.

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Sora on the panel for SAMS’ workshop entitled “Is God Sending Me?”

We were blessed by our time in NC, and we left feeling encouraged and eager to go to the mission field again soon. Thank you, SAMS, and especially Nita Dempsey, for arranging for our participation in these two conferences.

Communication and Its Results

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This morning, I’m writing thank-you notes to some our our senders who have extra support in December and January. I fill my fountain pen, get out the stationery and write a page or two for each, making sure to include a little bit about how our ministries are going, and how our family is doing. For a missionary with good support, this is a very pleasant way to spend a morning. There is a natural and Biblical link between missionaries and their senders: the missionary is not doing his own work, but the work of the Church. The parish or congregation needs to know what the missionary is doing, not only for accountability, but also so that the members can grow in their relationship to Jesus through this involvement in the work of missions. Thus, communication by the missionary is essential: it is how the sender is connected to the work that is being done far away. But there is a secondary effect: when senders are well-informed and connected to the missionary, they are able to encourage and support that missionary more effectively. In the age of email, this is easier than ever, but I believe that there’s also a place for handwritten ink on paper. Our family is considering a placement in another country after our home assignment in 2016. There are many days when the stresses of the foreign mission field make the idea of signing on for another three year stint daunting. But having a great group of senders is a huge spur to further missionary work. (By contrast, I imagine that having poor support would be a huge discouragement and an excuse to leave the field. Fortunately, I can only imagine!) Thank you to all our senders and supporters. You have been exceedingly faithful, and that encourages our family to gird up our loins and look for what work the Lord may prepare for us to do.

A Visit and Holy Communion

Last week, we enjoyed a visit from Canon Bill Jerdan (REC Board of Foreign Missions) and Bp. Peter Manto, the rector of  Trinity Church, our home parish in Mason, OH. 

They arrived around 12:00 on Saturday, but we had trouble getting to the airport in time to pick them up: an accident on he Pan-Philippine Highway had caused traffic to stop about half a kilometer from the airport entrance. Out came Sora’s iPhone, and we ducked across two lanes of traffic into a subdivision full of tiny one-lane streets arranged in a veritable labyrinth. I wish we had taken video of it: we had to fold in our mirrors to get past a few awkwardly parked vehicles, and at one point, a suprising dead end (construction) forced us to back up for two blocks and retrace our steps. But we did emerge, and past the accident.

This put us at the airport nearly half an hour past the time when we should have been there to pick up Bp. Manto and Canon Jerdan, but fortunately they had only recently emerged from customs and immigration, and had not been waiting long.

After depositing their bags, they went with me to buy albs at Colors Crew on Mabini St. in Marfori Heights, since the airline baggage weight limit had prevented them from bringing any (and vestments are very affordable here):

It was a short order, since we had planned a service of Holy Communion for our family and friends on Tuesday night. This would give only two and a half working days.

On Sunday, Bp. Manto and Canon Jerdan accompanied us to United Covenant Reformed Church of Davao, where they met Pastor Vic Bernales, Elders Allan Ostique and Ojie Bicaldo, and the rest of our friends from church. This was a meeting I was very glad to see, for I have always considered Anglicanism a way of being Protestant. (The Church of England historically has simply received, not reordained, continental Reformed ministers; and even such high churchmen as Laud and Cosin instructed Englishmen sojourning on the continent to partake of the Lord’s Supper in the Reformed churches, not at the Roman altars; and of course, the Church of England sent a delegation to the Synod of Dort.) I have been quite blessed by the ministry of Pastor Vic, and I could wish that Anglican churches had more cooperation with Reformed churches.

On Monday, Bp. Peter and Canon Bill toured the birth clinic. Clinic director Matt McNeil gave them a tour and explained the workings of the clinic and its vision for training missionary midwives. Sora happened to be supervising a birth room shift that morning.

I had left my car at a carwash, so we took two pedicabs to Victoria Plaza.

 

At noon, we headed to Faith Academy so Bp. Manto and Cn. Jerdan could see the campus and watch me teach my classes. Head of School Alan Farlin gave them a tour.

  

In the evening, we joined Pastor Bernales’ family and my Greek students for a meal of Filipino food at the Probinsya Buffet:

The following day, Tuesday, we received a visit from Abp. Frederick Luis Belmonte of the Anglican Church in the Philippines (Traditional). It was a very cordial visit. We discussed our respective ministries, prayed together, and exchanged presents —  Canon Jerdan gave a presentation edition of the Reformed Episcopal Book of Common Prayer to the Archbishop, while he presented us with new stoles, which we wore later that day.

We took the Archbishop out for dinner at the Tiny Kitchen. When dinner was over, Sora took Bp. Manto and Canon Jerdan to pick up their just-finished albs while the Archbishop and I set up my Faith Academy classroom for the service of Holy Communion. Here’s a photo from dinner, which I include because all of our children managed to cooperate for the camera at the same time:

 

We then headed to Faith Academy again to worship God. All my Greek students showed up, along with the Bernales family and Elder Ojie and Jenette Camporedondo from our UCRC family. With help from Pr. Vic’s son Yuri on the piano, the congregation sang out and got a fair taste of an Anglican service. It was a true joy to serve the common cup to so many who have blessed us with their friendship and have ministered to and with us over the last two years. Our family was especially blessed to have Bp. Manto, our pastor for ten years, here to celebrate Holy Communion with us. It felt like Trinity Church had been magically transported to Davao City for an evening.

 

Thank you, Canon Jerdan and Bp. Manto, for taking the time to come visit our family. Your advice and sympathetic ears were very valuable, and your presence with us was a great encouragement to our whole family.

Matt’s Trip to Indonesia and Singapore

In October, I spent 10 days visiting Indonesia and Singapore. The purpose of that trip was to meet clergy in the diocese of Singapore, especially its deanery of Indonesia. Chief among these is the Rev. Dr. Timothy Chong, who is the dean of Indonesia, and has been tasked with setting up a seminary to train clergy there. My visit was a first step toward discerning whether the Lord may be calling our family to join in this work.

Dean Chong picked me up from the airport in Jakarta, put me up in hotels for nine nights, fed me royally in his own home and in restaurants, introduced me to his colleagues and parishioners, and showed me the greatest kindness and hospitality. It was a pleasure to talk with him, especially about the future of the Anglican church in Indonesia (Gereja Anglikan Indonesia, or GAI). We shared our views of the goals and methods of seminary education. Teaching Greek and biblical studies is my passion as a missionary, and the work of equipping pastors in the GAI would be a very exciting and fulfilling calling.

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Being in Anglican circles meant dressing as an Anglican clergyman for a few days. (I do not generally wear clericals in the Philippines.) My fellow SAMS missionary, Gregory Whitaker, was the other American present at the consecration service in Singapore. I observed that he was the only priest wearing a black shirt, and I was the only one wearing a round collar.

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By contrast, I was impressed by the beautiful batik clergy shirts that Dean Timothy Chong was wearing:

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Dr. Chong took me to visit GAI churches in Jakarta and Bandung, plus a service of Holy Communion at a medium-security prison. The language barrier was a frustration, of course — I did not have a chance to acquire even the most basic Bahasa Indonesia before my visit — but a cheerful welcome and warm hospitality was the unfailing experience. (I’ll be sure to put some time into language study before my trip next June.) Here’s the bright purple hand-stamp we each received on entering. Mine stayed with me for five days!

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At St. Paul’s Bible College in Bandung, I sat in on an Old Testament class and saw some lively student interaction with Dr. Gideon Limandibrata.

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Hosting me for meals in Bandung and Singapore was the Rev. Yopie Buyung, also of St. Paul’s Bible College, who engaged me in a spirited discussion of whether we ought to see any Greek philosophy behind the Logos of John 1:1.

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From Bandung, we went to Singapore for the consecration of two new assistant Bishops, the Rt. Rev. Kuan Kim Seng and the Rt. Rev. Low Jee King. I vested and processed with the other clergy. St. Andrew’s Cathedral is a most impressive structure. I imagine it was one of the tallest structures in Singapore when it was first built. It now occupies a serene area in the middle of bustling skyscrapers.

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Please pray for the Diocese of Singapore and for the GAI, both for its present ministers and its future. There is immense potential for the gospel to be proclaimed and embodied in Indonesia.

Closing photo: the Prayer Book of the GAI, translated by a committee headed by Dean Timothy Chong.

 

 

Everything Will Turn Out Alright

We have a black Toyota Revo, a sort of narrow, miniature SUV that is admirably adapted to the streets of Davao City. We bought it from another missionary leaving for furlough in February 2013, and since that time, it has helped us have many fine adventures.

Unfortunately, getting the right papers for it has also been an adventure. Right out of the gates, there was a scare when we tried to register the car. The Pentecostal missionary who sold it to us had transcribed the license plate wrong on the handwritten bill of sale. So when our insurance agent Miss L submitted it to her computer, it showed up as a Honda Civic. The clinic director, Matt M, broke the news to me: “You have a hot car.”

I am accustomed to associate “hot car” with Ferraris or Lamborghinis, but our Revo is dull black and won’t win any concourse prizes. How could it be “hot”? Matt M explained that this meant “stolen”. This seemed increasingly likely since (1) it was from outside Davao City, and (2) the previous owner had never bothered to register the car in Davao, choosing to leave it as a Manila vehicle. And now the plates did not match the car. Near as anyone could tell, we had just spent five thousand dollars on a stolen car that we would never be able to register or own.

A day later, resigned to the loss, I had a sudden inspiration to check the bill of sale against the physical plates, and discovered that an F had turned into an E by a stray stroke of the pen.

So it wasn’t a stolen vehicle after all. I texted this welcome discovery to Miss L. She went down to the LTO, and initiated the registration process. We had already insured the car so we could drive it. That was in February 2013.

16 months later (Sept 2014, last week), we still did not have the registration and title to the vehicle. But now there was a deadline: Sora wanted to take the car to Tanauan, Leyte, for the grand opening of the rebuilt Cumpio Midwife Clinic. This would involve a ferry, and ferries will not take vehicles without registration papers — because, after all, they might be “hot cars”.

So I put Miss L on notice that we needed to get the OR and CR (original receipt and certificate of registration) by Sunday 9/14, and she promised to try hard to make it happen. The LTO had to do a title search in Manila before they could register us in Davao City, she explained. Sometimes this takes two years.

Here, I must beg my wife’s pardon. She is pretty close to being Superwoman. She can read much faster than anyone I know; beats me at all games; and can even deliver babies. She is also marvelously adaptable, and loves being a missionary in a foreign culture. (“What’s your superpower?”) But she is human, and the prospect of her travel plans breaking down because of a failure of paperwork was too much for her to bear. Besides, I’m told it isn’t good for missionaries to publish only their triumphs and hide all their weaknesses, sin, and shortcomings. So here it is: Sora started to worry. I could tell she was worried because she wasn’t saying anything about it. On Thursday, I asked her, “What are you going to do if the OR and CR don’t come in time? Have you considered other transportation?” She replied grimly, “I’m not ready to think about that yet.”

Finally, Friday 9/12 rolled around. This was the day of reckoning: Sora was to leave on Sunday, and the LTO is closed on the weekend. It was now or never. I texted one last desperate reminder to Miss L, and hoped for the best. Sora went about her day, shopping for food to take on her trip. Just before noon, while eating lunch at ArmyNavy, she got a text from Miss L that the CR had been signed, and that we were only waiting for the LTO to print out the OR. At that moment, she heard, of all things, the restaurant’s piped-in music. It was the Beach Boys singing:

“Don’t worry baby
Don’t worry baby
Everything will turn out alright

“Don’t worry baby
Don’t worry baby
Don’t worry baby…”

Surely a providential sign, right?

But 4:00 came. Then 5:00. The LTO was closed. Still no word from Miss L.

Here, I come to another weak missionary confession: at this point, we had a good old-fashioned marital spat. I will pass over most of it, but it started with Sora looking for someone to blame for the failure of her plans — and there I was, in the bedroom, the man responsible for dealing with the car paperwork! The spat ended with me shouting, “Fine. I hope you can’t make the trip!” and Sora storming out of the room.

Half an hour later, Sora came back upstairs, lay down on the bed, and said, “I’m sorry for blaming you, honey.” I replied, “I’m sorry for lashing out at you.”

And then, at that very moment, my phone chirped, and a message from Miss L appeared: “My helper has the papers, and will deliver them tomorrow.”

I have said before that God wants us to get used to trusting him. He also wants us to be patient with the different pace of this culture, and to roll with the punches. I’m not sure what moral to draw from this story; perhaps all of them. But this much is certain: it wasn’t our planning or our “get-things-done” attitude that made the difference in this case. Rather, if I may paraphrase Proverbs 21:1, “The heart of a bureaucrat is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; He turneth it withersoever he wishes.”

Sora got the OR and CR, and I had a gas station attendant check the air pressure in all the tires, including the spare. She made her trip.

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(Some details of chronology and place have been corrected from the first appearance of this post.)