I spent this past week somewhere in Mindanao, at a beautiful private resort high up on the slope of Mt Apo; the highest mountain in the Philippines. The facility was built by a Filipino man as a private get-away for his family but he allows select groups to use it, free of charge for ministry purposes. The majestic views, peaceful surroundings and lush gardens were really quite astounding with plenty of quiet little gazebos and sitting areas to think and pray. It is beyond the end of the maintained roads and definitely “off the grid” so there was no electricity, only a generator that was turned on a few hours each evening, to pump water for showers. Unfortunately, the water hose to our room was damaged so we only managed to fill a small bucket with water, for three women to share for bathing and flushing each day.
The event was the first meeting of the Sub-regional CHE Working Group, consisting of representatives from Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, to explore more effective ways to work together to reach our respective communities. The conference was very well organized with a nice balance of year end updates, new learning, spiritual retreat as well as practical demonstration through a visit to a developing organic farm managed by our host from Well of Life. As I work largely alone, it is always so encouraging to spend time with others who share my burden and passion and have much wisdom gained through many years of experience in community development.
In terms of practical learning, we worked our way through a curriculum on Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation developed as in-service training for the Peace Corp. The modules provided processes for identifying hazards, risks and vulnerabilities in order to prepare for potential disasters, as well as short and long term interventions to be implemented during and after a catastrophic event. These will be adapted to CHE lessons to train front line workers and community members in for the vulnerable communities in which we serve.
This was not an easy trip in that it required a full days travel in each direction, but was well worth the effort. When I look at the needs of so many in SE Asia, it is easy to be overwhelmed by my own total inability to address the situation and it is equally distressing to look at the failed efforts of the powers of the world to address needs in the well publicized “War on Poverty”. We were reminded by the guest speaker of the story of the Burning Bush in which God showed up and addressed Moses by name, creating a holy place in which Moses was reminded of God’s commitment to His people. God’s nature was revealed in the fact that He has heard their cry and is aware of the suffering of the oppressed and promises deliverance.
Ironically, God chose Moses, a weak and fearful individual, to go to Pharaoh and lead the people to the place freedom and provision. God also promised to strengthen, guide and protect Moses in the task before him. It is only as God steps in that the real needs of the people can be addressed and this is what gives meaning and hope to the work of CHE in this region and keeps me going.