The medical mission was a huge success and the team was able to give over 50 Hepatitis B vaccinations yesterday! It was heart-wrenching to hear the stories that some of the people told about friends and family members that had died from Hep-- but also really put in perspective how significant it was, and in general people were really grateful
. On the flipside, there were also people though that Pastor Ferdie had to literally drag in to get vaccinated-- I was almost irritated that they would be so irresponsible to pass up a free vaccination and risk contracting and spreading it further... I was impressed and proud of Ferdie for being so gently persistent with them and finally convincing them to come in-- he really has built a great rapport with the community despite only being able to be there every other weekend. Our role mainly consisted of keeping the kids occupied and distracted while their parents were being stabbed and injected... which was definitely not an easy task! Many of them are really shy and if they haven't had any English yet in school, I'm limited to my three sentences of Tagalog and I'm sure all of them want to hear in their native tongue all about how I'm constantly sweating... but they are so precious!
The afternoon was spent making our rounds, visiting families in the community-- and it's surprising how different each experience has been in different areas. Zaragoza has been the most difficult to visit for me, as the overall attitude of the people was more of helplessness and despair than the previous areas we'd visited. One of the biggest projects that Ferdie has helped spearhead with the help of Outreach Philippines, is a rice loan program. They basically have a loan system set up where families can borrow a set amount of money during the dry off-seasons and aren't expected to pay it back until harvest time
. It has really challenged the people to take control of their own needs, yet is available to help during the times that it's just not feasible for farmers to make any profits. Ferdie's hoping that it'll help shift perspective and ultimately empower them to help themselves. It seems so simple... yet as I walk the roads and visit in tiny half-fallen houses where a family of 9 lives, it's hard for me to grasp on to too. Regardless, the people were still gracious and generous to us and I had an entire entourage of kids following me from house to house asking me all kinds of questions about my school and what kinds of animals live in Michigan. They were really intrigued at the concept of a squirrel and would beg me to do my impression of one in between every stop we made... and then double over with laughter. Maybe they were more intrigued just with making me look like a fool. :)
Last night we all gathered in the chapel, talking with our new friends (as much as possible) and eventually started singing hymns out of their songbook. It didn't take long before we'd attracted a large group from the surrounding area. They knew a few familiar songs in English, but the majority of what we sang was in Tagalog--- it made me appreciate even more knowing many of the hymns, as I could follow closely the tune and then boldly stumble through the foreign text. They appreciated our efforts, and as we sang, all the anxiety of not knowing how to communicate without a common language diminished as we lifted our voices together in harmony, in one voice
. The small chapel was overflowing this morning as we gathered for worship and there were many silent smiles of acknowledgment between us and the ones who had shared the night before as we began the opening songs. Although I didn't understand much of what was going on, I was content just being in the presence of their worship. The helplessness and despair I saw the day before had been replaced with joy and thankfulness for the love of God they share and definitely brought the message to ME regardless of the fact that it would the 3 of us sharing the spoken word with them. I wish we would have more time to spend with them, but I'm definitely glad to be back in Binalonan for the night.
We head up to the Isabela province tomorrow morning which is about 6 hours from home base here and we'll be there for a week. Word on the street is that it's much more rural and they've loaded us up with mosquito nets to sleep under while we're there. Great, I already sweat profusely all night long and now you want to send me where there's no electricity for fans AND want to add a net over top of me. The view of the mountains better be good. :) After hearing Doctor Rogers horror stories about Dengue Fever and Chickagunya Fever, I'm gonna be walking around with those nets wrapped around me like a hazmat suit. Don't worry though, mom, I have a full supply of insect repellants in every form that they make them in.
Until I return...
As I was writing in my own journal tonight and reflecting on the past couple days, I strangely feel like I've been in the Philippines for months already, yet it's only been 10 days. I'm no longer surprised by bowls of rice at the breakfast table, my dreams all take place in the Philippines (and are increasingly become more and more valuable as horror movie plots that I could probably sell to hollywood and make millions from, thanks Malaria prophylaxis), and returning to the Magabalin palace (Josie and Chito's) after two days in Zaragoza felt like we were returning "home".