October 2020 Updates in Photos
Dear <<First Name>>,
We operate carefully and are still under quarantine restrictions. Cases are up nationwide and locally. We are adjusting, adapting to new rules and regulations as to bringing cases into the Tebow Cure Hospital in Davao but so far, things have been manageable with God's help and direction. You get used to wearing a face mask and face shield, stomping on a foot bath with your shoes, having alcohol sprayed on your hands multiple times each day. Our staff and livelihood and ministry related families are blessed to not be personally impacted health wise by the pandemic.
One of our concerns as organization has been planning for the future, especially during uncertain times. This month, we took the step to put in place an Executive Director team from within our ranks. Pastor Jonas Lisbe and Disserie have worked with us since 2014, primarily on Leyte Island. They have been very effective and innovative leaders. Jonas will now serve as our Executive Director, with Disserie in a support role. Over time, they will be taking on many of my responsibilities and if God allows, leading the Philippine organization. We are also making some other adjustments in coming months as part of a 3-4 year succession plan.
One of the main ministries in Leyte is livelihood programs with the put put units and motorized fishing boats. Over 170 families are involved. Bible studies are held each Friday with the put put drivers. At one of the studies, a driver was recognized for turning in a wallet left in the unit, with a substantial amount of money inside. God continues to work on the hearts of the drivers during this challenging time.
Yesterday, a new blessing of supplies for the 340+ Compassion families in Palompon arrived. The drivers and SOD staff worked hard to distribute the food relief packs along with eggs, face masks and face shields to the families.
Small groups are able to meet and some baptisms are possible in rural areas. Two new believers were baptized on Mindanao Island in Aplaya and eight in Padada in the past week. Baptisms were also held in Leyte. We rejoice as people make commitments to follow Jesus.
Bibles are given to each new believer at the time of baptism. We are still working on the larger distribution of 6,000 Bibles but we have to be careful in gathering groups of pastors together. We may be adjusting strategies to do more "church by church" distributions in rural areas. A bit slower but perhaps with better connections to the churches and pastors.
One of our long-term partnerships is with Care Channels. The joint garden project in Aplaya is bearing much fruit (and leafy vegetables ) as well as opening doors with the women in the community. The harvest is used to help with the feeding program and also the families involved in the community garden.
Many residents are still without housing since the December earthquake and food blessings are greatly appreciated.
The Aplaya Ministry team continues to be involved in rehabilitation efforts along side of the police and local government units.
Care Channels is helping to sponsor high school students both in Aplaya and Padada. Spiritual training is given along with help for their modular studies by the SOD funded staff.
We could fill this newsletter with photos of children blessed to have cleft lip and palate surgeries at the Tebow Cure Hospital. On the average, we are handling transport for about 40 appointments each week. Typically, 3-4 appointments are needed for each child, with some older children having speech therapy as well. Some days, we are running four vehicles plus hiring taxis to get people to and from their appointments.
It is such a joy to watch two of our college scholars, Mariel and Rachel, helping to find families in the very rural areas which are in need of surgery assistance. They are so happy to see the families coming back home, with new smiles on their faces!
We are slowly housing families now but in separate locations. These are two of the families being transported to housing on Friday, after surgery discharges. Food is provided for the families.
The Rest House is being used for up to two families at a time, for those families unable to go home between their appointments. The Rest House team has been reunited with May Ann servicing the other off-site rooms via motorcycle for their food. All in all, we hope to assist about 10-15 families each month with short-term housing.
At the Marilog High School of Agriculture, modular classes have started. Younger students (18 and below) are not allowed on campus. The parents have to come to school each week to collect and return the modules, some walking very long distances. There are 22 - Grade 11/12 supported students and seven former students now in college who receiving support in the Datu Salumay area. Many thanks to those who are helping to support these students.
Often we share these words with our staff --- "We are challenged but not perplexed. Concerned but not anxious. Careful but not fearful. Trusting God through these times and trying to find creative, meaningful ways to serve people in His name, to reflect his glory and make disciples".
Thank you so much for your prayers and financial support. People have asked how we are doing financially as a organization, so I will take a minute to answer that question. Almost all of our regular donors are still with us so our basic income flow is intact. The exchange rate is not so favorable at this time, so the value of the funds sent is not as high as in 2019. We are also not receiving as much in the way of unexpected donations, which periodically come in through the year help to fill in the gaps. We are carefully adjusting our spending, not requiring some support for some programs such as feeding in schools and reducing part-time staff. Like pretty much everywhere in the world, things are a bit tight but we feel very blessed.
Peter Cowles for the SOD Boards, Staff, Partners and Grateful Recipients of your concern and generosity.