Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fried Geckos and other Delicacies

I happily watched as Shama opened the can of Multigrain Cutlets and heated the frying pan. Vegi-meat is a rare treat in the mountains and we were looking forward to eating them. Carefully she breaded the culets and then put them in the frying pan to cook. We watched intently.

The cats ran across the floor and we were momentarily distracted in watching them scuffle on the datag.  When Shama looked back in the pan she gave shriek. We all jumped to our feet and ran and looked in the pan where she was pointing. “There is a gecko in the cutlets! A gecko fell in!”

Frantically she grabbed the spatula and managed to flip the small lizard onto the floor. It was quite dead from the heat by the time she was able to remove it from amounts our cutlets and we poked it dubiously through cracks in the bamboo. After some consultation, we decided the cutlets were still edible after the foreign object had been ejected because they were still cooking on high heat.

And we thoroughly enjoyed those cutlets! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

But If Not....

“But if not…”

I sat cross-legged on the bamboo floor and struggled to find the words that I wanted. By far the hardest thing for me to do in a new language is tell a Bible story and bring out a meaningful lesson: there are just so many words I don’t know.

It was four in the afternoon on a Sabbath and I was visiting a branch Sabbath School down a curvy gravel road at the base of the mountains. I had already told a children’s story and a sermonette at church and had done another branch Sabbath School and 2pm before arriving here. Looking at the kids before me, I tried to summon up a few more ounces of enthusiasm. It’s not that I wasn’t enthusiastic, I was just tired!

Continuing with the story found in Daniel 3, I stumbled my way through the story of the three Hebrews frequently turning to Naptali (a friend and fellow missionary) for key words not yet in my vocabulary.  Drawing to a close, I sat back and let Naphtali tie my straggling conclusion together with a few questions. Oh to be fluent in Palawan! Someday….

While he spoke, I reflected on the story I had just told. My mom had called it to my attention a few days earlier while we were driving up to El Nito and I had been thinking about it on and off ever since.
I went back and reviewed the verses in Daniel:

“Be it known, O king, the God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand. But if not, be it known unto thee O king that we will not serve thy gods, nor worships the golden image which thou hast set up.” Daniel 3:17, 18 (emphasis mine)

He could make me fluent in Palawan in a heartbeat. But if not… yet will I serve Him.

He could take away homesickness. But if not… yet will I serve Him.

He could heal a friend’s father who is suffering with one touch of His hand. But if not…yet will I serve Him.

He could provide nurses for Kemantian so that Shama and I could move back to Emrang. But if not…yet will I serve Him.

He could make the future known to me so I would stop guessing as to my next steps after the Philippines. But if not…yet will I serve Him.

As Naphtali finished speaking and we prepared to leave, I smiled to myself at the lesson I was finally able to learn from a Bible story I’ve heard for years:

God is always near and I am well aware of that, but the test comes when we ask Him to do something and it seems as though the answer is no. My God can do anything and it is His will that every good and perfect gift be given unto me (James 1:17); but if he decides not to do it…. Let it be known that I still will not worship any other god because I know Who holds the future! 

Wrestling with God

 “You have been put to no test but such as is common to man: and God is true, who will not let any test come on you which you are not able to undergo; but he will make with the test a way out of it, so that you may be able to go through it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“Father! You have promised not to give us more than we can handle….I claim that promise now!” My cry was lost in the tumult surrounding me – some praying out loud, some singing, other reading Bible passages at the tops of their voices.

Throughout my 23 short years, I have never in my life wrestled so physically with the power of Satan as I did that night.

It started on a Monday night with two girls sleeping in a hut. The door was flung open with such force that it crashed against the wall and they awoke to see ‘someone’ standing in the door. Immediately, they became unresponsive to human voices – screaming, moaning, talking to things that we could not see, and thrashing around with incredible strength.
Minan, Kyle, Brian, Timothy, Tina, Shama, Kiana, Kar, myself, and several Palawano gathered at the house to sing and pray around the prostrate girls. None of us could fathom why this had happened to them – they were both baptized, believing member’s   and even in their shrieks were called out to “Empu” (God). We prayed, read, and sang at their house for nearly three hours until the girls had calmed down a little. Around midnight several of us walked home while a few stayed behind to spend the night.

All throughout the next day the girls continued to go in and out of consciousness and sessions of struggle. As evening fell, it was decided to move them to the school so that more of us could gather and we would continue to pray and sing there.

As the night darkened, it seemed to me that all hell broke loose. I cannot describe neither the blood curdling shrieks nor the terror of seeing them flail and kick fighting against something only they could see. Then, unbelievably, one after another began in the same way.  By three in the morning, there were 13 people being attacked.

You cannot imagine the scene unless you’ve been there: each person surrounded by others holding them down so they wouldn’t hurt themselves, people prayed – aloud and silently, and others were singing. Above the noise of song and prayer rose the screams and cries of those struggling. It got so terrible  that Kiana and I wondered aloud to each other at one point during that night if Jesus might not come that night.

It was terrifying to think that the person next to you might be the next one. There came a point in the night where I couldn’t pray any more – there just weren’t any more words for me to pray. It was all I could do to claim Romans 8:26:

“And in the same way the Spirit is a help to our feeble hearts: for we are not able to make prayer to God in the right way; but the Spirit puts our desires into words which are not in our power to say.”

But above the tumult and confusion of that night one thought remained central in all of our minds: Jesus has already won this battle. Satan is fighting so hard because it’s his last desperate struggle. He knows that these children have committed themselves to Jesus and it makes him furious. Even in the midst of their torment, they would call out to Jesus to save them.

When the stars finally faded and the darkness began to slip behind the distant hills, I felt that with Jacob I had wrestled all night.  As the dawn broke and shadows slid away, I felt the spirits of darkness recede.

Looking around the room from one exhausted face to the other, I praised the Lord for each one of them. I couldn’t have made it through that night without the knowledge that Jesus was right next to me and our team of missionaries was praying along with me for the Spirit of God to fill that room.

The battle did not end with that night; it continued for nearly a week though never did we experience a night like that again. But with each day, it became more and more apparent that the Satan was losing ground that he would never again regain.

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 1:7

I have been tried and I pray that I have come out stronger on the other side.
Coming from the United States, I always knew that the devil wanted to control our lives and hold us fast in his clutches. I also always knew that Jesus wants to protect us from this if we only ask Him. But I had to come to the Philippines to see the actual real struggle between Michael and His angels and Satan and his.

Though not as blatant in the US, Satan still seeks to control us. The very fact that it is not as apparent makes the struggle that more dangerous. He can control areas and we don’t even know it.

I’ll never forget that night and by God’s grace I’ll never be the same person. I pray that while I may not have a physical reminder of my night of wrestling like Jacob, I might hereafter have a ‘limp’ to remind me of Who has blessed me and Who can sustain me day by day and  that it will cause me to lean even more upon Him who alone can keep me from falling. 

Though Tears Fall

I stood looking down at him: his swollen abdomen dwarfing delicate arms and legs. His eyes were deep yellow and glazed his breathing shallow. I sigh and walked out of the room.
Miritis runs up and put her arms around me. Her brother, Ilil, stands more shyly in the background. I lean down and give her a hug and feel my heart contract. Their father, our patient in the next room, is dying of colon cancer. They have no mother. 
Afternoon after afternoon I sit on the clinic porch holding the little girl on my lap and singing songs or playing kickball with the boy on the grass in front of the clinic. I can’t ignore them as they wait for their father’s death. They started calling me ‘Indu’ (mother) and running to me for hugs every morning.
Colon cancer is deadly even in the States, but in a remote mountain village there is even less we can do. Our patient was carried out to the hospital in the lowlands, but when they could do nothing more for him they dismissed him back to the mountains.
Kiana, Naptali, and I hiked in with the patient from the hospital. He had only hiked for about 20 minutes before he could go no further. Naptali ended up carrying him on his back with Tajung (a circular piece of cloth). Kiana and I carried the bags with the patient’s son, Ilil.
I look to my right and to my left. The kids are sitting beside me as I type, exclaiming over the novelty of seeing words appear on the screen. In the next room, their father lays motionless – he’s lost 4 kilos in the last week. My eyes fill – and spill over.
Though tears fall, I take vitals and weigh the patient again: he’s lost another kilo and his breaths are barely 6 a minute. We try to tempt his appetite with anything that sounds good to him: pineapples, hot milk, peanut butter, coconuts. He can barely eat and vomits frequently.  Shama and I have a schedule to check on him last thing before we go to bed and first thing in the morning. Mostly, we are just waiting.
The children beautiful: happy giggles help hide worry in their eyes. I haven’t all the right words to explain what is happening, but they know. I pour all the love I can into them, desperately trying to ease the situation. I know it isn’t enough, but it’s all I can do. No, it’s not all. I can pray.
I pray for them, that they might have strength and that they might find loving people to raise them after their father dies. I pray for their father, that his last days might not be filled with agony and worry for his children. I pray for Shama and me. I pray that the Great Physician might work through us in some small way and use our hands for his glory.