We arrived, landing on an airstrip surrounded by lovely Butuan palms and spacious fields. Rafonzel's brother, Pastor Jack, along with church leaders, Kuya Jehoven, Kuya Elmer, and Ate Mila (the project director at God's Love Student Center) picked Michelle and me up from the airport. ("Kuya" is the name meaning "older brother" in Tagalog, just as "Ate" is for "older sister". I love the warmth in which people address one another here, where even a perfect stranger is treated with respect when called by these kind, endeering titles.) They had a huge banner welcoming us! I must say, I don't think I've ever had a warmer airport greeting in all my travels (and I've been welcomed so kindly at many an airport)!
We drove from there to a lovely Filipino lunch (rice and barbecue chicken and fish). They feed me so much here...the generosity is overwhelming! Then we has the great joy of visiting New Life In Christ Fellowship, where BCCS (Butuan Christian Community School) school was in session. We had quick exchanges with the teachers and students, trying not to interrupt class too much! I think my white skin may have caused a bit of giggles and excitement, though...uh oh! We'll be back for a symposium/chapel Friday morning, where we'll be doing a presentation for the students. I'm looking forward to that!
Upstairs (steep stairs I might add), we met the Compassion staff for the project there and took lots of pictures...The same glee-filled atmosphere that I felt in the Compassion Philippines country office, I felt in this little student center office. I cannot wait to visit here on Saturday and meet the many children! There is a little girl waiting for a sponsor whom I've been praying over...please let me know if you'd like to sponsor sweet Marjay! She's in kindergarten and likes to play house, sing, and tell stories :)
We drove over to Caraga State University, where we met the student leaders for Salt Light Campus Movement- the Christian group at this university of 5,000 students . About 40 members are part of the regular group (they lost 30 who graduated recently).
On campus we got chocolate "ice candy" made from local frozen carabao milk, and the students led us on pedicabs to go check out the carabao! (These pedicabs are similar to the tricycles found in Filipino cities...Tricycles are run by motorcycle drivers on the left with a little seated covered area for passengers on the right...but these pedicabs are powered by a manual bike! Those drivers' calf muscles are STRONG!) We flew down the dirt road, as if racing our new friends on the other pedicabs, mud splashing, voices laughing, my chocolate spilling all over shirt and bag, while trying to hold on for dear life and taking photos of this rare ride experience for an East-coast American girl. I enjoyed the few minutes of pedicab turbulent "flying" immensely!
"Prayer allows you to knock Difficulty off its feet, even when you're on your knees. It's a power like no other, a great first option- not just a last resort. When you move into the future undaunted, miracles begin to happen. The impossible becomes the impossible." (Christine Caine)
I believe those miracles are beginning to unfold in Butuan: at this time, in this generation. The harvest is ready and God is awakening a city to His love!
After having some good laughs as I met Filipino carabao for the first time (they are quite the characters!), we climbed a little hill, walking narrowly along a bumpy ridge next to the rice field. Then we had our departure with the students- farewell to our new friends until Friday!
From Caraga State University, we visited the local market, where our church friends loaded us up with mangos and bananas-enough to feed an army! That's okay, I love fruit, so I'm sure I'll devour these tropical delicacies with ease :)
For those praying for our Beauty for Ashes Mission Tour, please keep in special prayer the next few days as we have 5 events in 3 days! Pray for open hearts to the message, especially at Caraga State University, and for hearts to be encouraged as we minister to local church leaders, Compassion staff, children at the school and the project, and other youth/young professionals in Butuan.
The following are some verses I am meditating on and would love to share with you:
"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." (Ephesians 3:20)
"But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume." (2 Corinthians 2:14)
"For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us." (2 Corinthians 1:20-21)
I wish you could all meet the carabao and ride a pedicab! It's priceless ;)