Friday, June 13, 2014

What You Can Learn in Just 3 Months in Puerto Galera!

Magandang Araw (Good Day) Friends and Family,

June 9th marked three months already since we arrived in Manila.  An update is long overdue; our apologies for our tardiness.  We started writing this newsletter almost a month ago on the way back to Puerto Galera from a trip to Manila.  Now, I am back in Manila for the third time since then and much has happened between then and now, of course.  But we wanted you to know that Jim and I are still alive and living in Puerto Galera.  We are getting settled in slowly but surely.  Slowly is the operative word I think.  I will try to summarize the major events and paint you a picture in the process. 

Life is never short of adventures because everything is new to us.  We are learning our way around Puerto Galera (the region we live in), Calapan (the nearest city of any size to shop or do official related tasks) and Manila (the place to find anything as long as you know where to look).  We have retrieved our shipment of personal belonging from the States with much additional stress, time and penalty fees ($1500...ouch).  Things that once seemed strange or unique or out of the ordinary are beginning to seem normal.  That is what some of the included pictures portray.  I can’t say we agree with the way things are done in this country, but we are getting used to it.  Simple things are done very differently here.  The words “Out of Stock” seem to be the motto we hear often.  And sometimes things they do are brilliant!

Filling the gas tank of the trike with Coke!? Just stop at the road side sari sari store, give them some pesos  and they hand you a bottle of gas. Interesting!  You can buy your fruit and gas and a single cigarette on a back road all at the same time.  It is better service than going to the drive up window at McDonalds.
We are living at Tamaraw Beach Resort, which is the place that the founders of Threads of Hope stayed when they met the original two girls who were selling bracelets on the beach.  After living in an efficiency apartment for two months, we have finally moved into our two bedroom apartment and are in the middle of making it our own.  It just happens to be the exact apartment that we stayed in in early 2012 when we came to the Philippines on our family vision trip.  It is totally trashed at the moment because we are repainting because of dark colors and badly chipped walls, repairing damaged things, buying furniture that isn’t rock hard and building shelving to organize our stuff that we shipped here.  We have everything that we need at Tamaraw to meet our basic needs and beyond (including gorgeous sunsets that we catch once in a while).  It is our sanctuary away from the village.  Also, with as many power outages as they have here, it is our connection to productivity on the computer because they have a generator that is started within minutes of the power failures or scheduled outages.  They are also giving us a phenomenal rate for rent and allow long-term renting.  The owners have been very welcoming, gracious and tolerant and we greatly appreciate them allowing us to make it our home.

This beautiful sunset is a pretty daily occurrence.  However, this one was spectacular!  We see one every once in a while, but we know there will be another to watch in 24 hours if we miss the current one!  They are stunning from the ministry center as well.
Cars are amazingly expensive here.  After testing several very old vehicles (1970’s) and nearly having a wreck, we just finally bought a new model.  A 1995 Pajero (19 years old), which is basically a mini jeep-type vehicle, with an automatic transmission, for $5341 (another ouch).  The road to the ministry center is rough (some major rocks and obstacles) and narrow (with 2 way traffic) and hilly (at the base of a mountain) and curvy (with lots of blind spots), so we needed a vehicle that will be able to take some beating without us feeling bad when it gets dinged.  The vehicle needs to be registered, but even that is no simple task and requires a trip that will take 5 hours at least.  It requires a drive to the largest city in the area, Calapan.  That is about 48 kilometers or 30 miles along the coastal road which is mountainous with many, many curves (that people cut all of the time).  The road occasionally gets washed out from landslides during wet season (which is just starting) as well.  The drive takes about 1.5 hours one-way. 

Here is our store (one of our offices) and the high school that was added on to the ministry center this past year and our little Pajero named Pepe'.  Hard to believe that thing is 19 years old.   It has a "crackled" hood from the sun, very stylish!
We are step by step creating spreadsheets and systems for tracking monthly orders, buying thread and paying the bracelet makers.  We are getting to know the 35 leaders of the bracelet makers a little as well as the guys who help at the church on a regular basis.  The language barrier is a small problem, but we can usually find someone present who speaks English better than we speak Tagalog to help us to convey the necessary information regarding the present situation.  Jim, as suspected, is doing quite well at picking up the language because he remembers it when he hears it.  I, on the other hand, don’t learn the same way and am much less accomplished in language learning than Jim.  I quite simply don’t have the time I personally require to study it because I need to hear it and see it.

Just a fan plugged into a wall outlet?
  Look closely at the picture below!
OSHA would love this way of
 plugging in a fan in a public building!
We are one step away from completing our retirement visas requirements.  So next week we will probably be returning to Manila to submit our application.  Then two weeks after that we will have to return again to get our completed visas.  We stay in Alex and Chris Kuhlow’s condo in Manila when we come, so it is very convenient for us.  They are back in the States until November, so we check up on things here for them as well.  Another one of God’s MANY provisions for us.
When we come to Manila, quite often Pastor Al and Marina, his wife, come here to take care of their house and then have Marvin (our local mechanic) drive the van here to haul things back to Mindoro that we have purchased from other missionaries who are moving back to the States or pick up our shipment, etc., etc.  This trip it will be to get a washer and drier we are purchasing.  Laundry is actually one of our biggest monthly expenses.  We will have those machines paid for in no time.  A TV is on the list as well.  The only time we watch TV is when we are at the condo in Manila.  We don’t have time to watch TV anyway in Aninuan, but if we had one we may take a little more time off.  So overall, we are being well taken care of.  Without Al, Marina and Marvin and the Isuzu ministry van I don’t know how we would acquire anything without paying extensively for it and having it shipped from Manila.

As I review the original part of this newsletter, I see that our typical day has changed quite a bit.  We used to get up and exercise, do devotions, shower, drink our protein shake and take our vitamins.  Then we would get on a trike and head to the thread store which is inland about a mile.  We would stay at the thread store from about 10am to 5-ish pm.  We would take a trike (motorcycle with a covered side car) back to Tamaraw, eat dinner, and settle in for the night on the computer to do Threads of Hope accounting, inventory management, purchasing, monthly order creation, thread purchase orders, etc., etc.  Maybe even a little time for Skyping with family and friends.  We would typically quit at around 11pm. 

Now our schedule no longer includes exercise, and devotions in the mornings.  We go to the Ministry Center for around 9am and stay until 6pm and drive ourselves back to the apartment.  We then go to work on the apartment and grab dinner and bring it back from the restaurant to work and eat at the same time.  I am trying to get apartment things completed and Jim is trying to keep up on the business stuff.  Please pray for us to find some balance again as quickly as possible.  On Sunday morning and Wednesday evening we are still typically at the ministry center for service or prayer meetings (unless we are in Manila).  Unfortunately we don’t understand 99.9% of what is being said so we still need to find a way to be fed in our own language after a 3 hour service. We read the Bible during the service and if we catch a scripture verse that is mentioned we go there and read so we have some clue what Pastor Al is teaching.

Elwyn is in the tree harvesting mangoes for us.
No safety nets, no ropes, no shoes!
Marina, the pastor’s wife, makes sure we eat by providing us with lunch on the days she is there.  We also, quite often, get paid in fruit.  We love that!  We have been gifted with pineapples, mangoes, papaya, guyabano, banana turon and sometimes some biko (coconut milk, sticky rice and brown sugar), my favorite.  The mangoes are amazing.  Lately there is a steady flow.  We eat four, they give us eight.  

Notice something missing below? They don’t even use ladders!
He is climbing down the bamboo he was using for netting the mangoes.
Soon it will be pineapple season!  Looking forward to that as well.  They planted tens of thousands of them a year or two ago. 

This is the way pineapples grow!
I never knew what the plant looked like.
Back on the home front, since we have been here there have been some happy and sad events at home as well. Our son Ben got a job that he loves, requires much travel and allows him to continue his on-line studies when he has down time wherever he has internet as well.  He is moving to Indiana in July to live with a buddy of his seeing that he is always on the road anyway.  Our son, Will, temporarily quit his full-time Jimmy John’s job so he can do some touring with his band and some fishing with Jim’s brothers in Canada.  He is an excellent drummer.  He is dealing with a strange immune health issue that occurs after he gets a cold.  It is not life threatening, but has the potential to affect his kidneys in the future.  It is something most people outgrow, but his just started when he was here in the Philippines 2 years ago.  We officially have no teenagers anymore.  Ben turned 22 in March, right after we left the States, and Will just turned 20 on May 30th.  We are very proud to be the parents of both of them.  Another one of God’s provisions.

My papa, gone to be with the Lord at 80.
  What a blessing!
Also, my father, Donn Roeder, had to have his second lower leg amputated just two months after the first amputation and ultimately passed away a few weeks ago on May 19th.  If you are a family member or on Facebook, you already knew that.  We are thankful he is no longer in pain.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of a promise made to me months ago when I was praying for Dad’s salvation.  I choose to trust and obey that my earthly father is with my heavenly Father, pain free and whole.  The hardest part for me is not Dad’s passing, but the celebration I missed afterwards.  The family time.  They have already had many bonfires in his honor.  But, on the day they announced they were going to amputate the first foot, we received a peace and were released to set a date to move here.  We knew we were saying our final goodbyes this side of eternity when we left.  Please pray for my mother, Doris.  She will miss him terribly.

We thought that the music part of our ministry wouldn’t start for a long while, but while we were still in Manila upon our initial arrival to the country, Jim was already informed that he had 5 guitar students lined up.  We did some special music for the anniversary celebration service.  Jim has been able to help Pastor Al rewrite or alter one of many of his songs.  Pastor was so excited to fix the song so people could follow it.  It just needed a few tweaks which Jim worked through very quickly.  Jim also spent some time teaching some teenagers how to harmonize.  Now there is a lull in the music area again, but that will ebb and flow anyway.  Jim fills in with guitar when Jojo, the pastor’s daughter is away, but has very little time to play in general.  He finds out he is the one playing guitar for the service right before the service starts.  It is a good thing he is a good, accomplished musician.  He handles the surprises well.

Our kaybigan (friend) Gabby.
We will try to profile one person who is dear to us in each newsletter so you can be praying for them as well.  This newsletter includes a man who is a Muslim who is a pearl/jewelry vendor on our beach.  His name is Gabby, pronounced “Gah-bee”.  Chris and Alex have known him for years and have been praying for his salvation.  He was teaching us Tagalog when we first got here (and will again when things settle down).   Very recently, he acquired some land that he built a house on.  That land just happens to be about a two minute walk from the Ministry Center, so he now shows up there on a regular basis, sometimes with his baby daughter.  He helped us count and bundle bracelets for a few hours last week.  He is leaving for Mindanao (southern Philippines, mostly Muslim population) for three months at the end of June now that the summer is over here and most of the tourists are gone and the kids are back in school.  His wife is working on a degree in Information Technologies.  We have not met her yet.  So please pray that Gabby would come to meet the One True God.  We look forward to seeing where God is going to take this relationship in the years to come.  We will need nationals to keep this thing afloat here that are computer savvy.  Perhaps he and his wife will be a part of that?  We wait and we watch and we pray!

I have two new stories to add that Jim has conveyed to me since I have been here in Manila while he holds down the fort there in Aninuan (pronounced ah-nee-new-on).  

On the way to the ministry center the other day Jim was a bit frustrated because he feels overwhelmed.  As he drove along the road he could see a man ahead of him bent over.  As he approached he could see that the man was Alan, the father of Baby Angel.  Angel is the little girl that Threads of Hope helped with medical assistance a couple of years ago because she needed a shunt put in her head for her Hydrocephalus.  Last year she had another operation that Threads of Hope helped fund for her Spina Bifida so that she had a chance to walk someday.  As I understand, someone even came here from the States to help her with her therapy.

Back to the encounter on the road.  Jim could eventually see that Alan was bent over because he was helping to stabilize Baby Angel who was wearing her little braces with her twisted up legs and was WALKING in front of him!  Gone was the “woe is me” feeling, to be replaced by a sense of awe that God has put us here to be a part of an amazing ministry that we happen to love.   How wonderful is that?

Last night as Jim faced the onslaught of requests that come directly after a church service from the leaders, he was talking with a young woman named Beth.  Beth is one of those gals that we are watching for possible help in the future because she seems quite sharp.  On our very first pay day, she made a “nice spreadsheet” comment about Jim’s spreadsheet system that he created for tracking orders and paying people.  Well, last night, she asked where I was.  Jim explained that I was in Manila because I had an opportunity to learn more about new areas of Manila from a seasoned veteran missionary.  She then proceeded to tell him that she can’t stop watching us because when she sees us she sees the love that we have for one another and she is very encouraged by it.  That comment is a direct answer to a prayer I have had for over two years now.  Because I am not a spoken words person (writing is easier for me), and don’t feel like much of an evangelist, I have prayed that our relationship, our marriage, would make a difference in the lives of the people here.  

As I think about it, this is the second time we have heard the evidence of that from the leaders.  That reminds me of the concept to “teach them about Jesus, and if you have to….use words”!  People are watching everything we as Christians do and it makes a difference no matter where we live.  I praise God for yet another answer to prayer and His awesome provision.

We feel very blessed to be used by God in His ministry, Threads of Hope.  We are thankful for His constant provision for ourselves and those we love.  So life is a bit out of order, but the day will come when and we are settled in and have day to day things under control and the big projects behind us that will allow us to remain in this country and continue serving.  Life will get back into balance.

As you read this book, you have seen MANY things to pray for us about.  I am sorry for this being so verbose.  It is hard to summarize three months of life in a new country and still give you a vivid picture of life here for us.  Even amongst the chaos WE ARE BLESSED.

Our contact information is as follows if you want to email, Skype or Facebook.  Skype is our best and favorite method of contact if you want a quicker response and/or some face time.  Next is email.  Jim gets on Facebook much more than I do (that matches our personalities), so look for his name if you are not already friends. (email address)        
jim.julie.marsh (Skype address)     
920-744-7444 (Magic Jack)

Tamaraw Beach Resort (mailing address)
Apartment 110
Aninuan, Puerto Galera
Oriental Mindoro,
Philippines 5203

Blessings to all of you.  We greatly appreciate your prayer and financial support.  That is what allows us to be here to serve.  You are just as much a part of this ministry as we are.  We love you all. 

I am back in Puerto Galera again and have more adventures to add.  However, I will save them for future posts.  Please check out the blog as we will post more often now that things are starting to settle down and we know how to use it better.

May God richly bless you,  In Christ!

Julie and Jim Marsh