November 2020 Photo Update
Dear <<First Name>>,
This week, we are faced with new restrictions due to the rapid increase in COVID cases. For the past 30 days, we almost felt like we were in a routine again, still though with many challenges. We are grateful God has allowed a continuation of ministries albeit in different and unexpected ways.
Here are some highlights we would like to share with you as to what God is doing.
We were so excited to see Nanay get a house after several months of living under a tarp. Many came together in the Aplaya Community to build the house under the leadership of Pastora Lazel. Her prior house was destroyed during the December earthquake. She was living in an evacuation site until the pandemic hit and the shelters were shut down. Below are the "before" and "after" photos. She is so happy!
Students in rural areas are struggling to continue studies via the modular packets. Most of the areas where we serve do not have internet access and/or a computer in the home. Students are not allowed on campus and parents must go to the schools once a week to turn in/collect modules.
At several sites, SOD staff/partners are helping students, especially those who are under a scholarship. The parents are trying to help but many themselves lack basic skills in math, reading and writing.
Tutoring also allows opportunities for Bible study and discipleship. These students, sponsored by a partner organization, are part of the youth group at the Aplaya Center.
Any gatherings involve mandatory physical distancing and the use of a face mask and in some areas face shields. It is good to see the ministry centers being used for rehabilitation efforts for those who have admitted having a substance abuse issue and are in a mandatory moral recovery program.
Staff and volunteers at the Aplaya and Padada Centers are partnering with the local government, police forces and other pastors and are a key part of the rehabilitation process. Doors are very open to sharing the good news of the gospel at these regular meetings.
Worship services continue at the Padada, Aplaya and Balik Balik centers, closely following the government protocols.
Balik Balik Community Church services
We continue to distribute Bibles but in smaller numbers due to the challenge of gathering pastors together from different areas. This is a slower process but allows having more direct contact with the recipients. These are members of a tribal community in a mountain area in Davao Del Sur. Two cleft and palate cases were also identified for future surgeries from this community!
The 65 put put drivers continue to struggle. After one driver collapsed due to a lack of food, we opted to do another rice distribution along with the three days per week partnership feeding program. They really want to work and are trying their best to achieve a basic income. Few passengers are out and about particularly due to age restrictions and schools being closed to students.
Pastor Jonas and Disserie continue to coordinate MWF noon feedings. On Fridays, the Bible studies are a great encouragement as they share their burdens and successes to one another. One driver shared that he found a wallet in his unit this week and returned it to the local government. This is the third instance during the pandemic of showing good character and witness to the community by returning a wallet or other items of value left in the put puts. Please continue to pray for the drivers and their families.
Heavy rains and winds have closed the sea on many days this month. As soon as there is opportunity between storms, the fishing boats are out and some good catches are being reported.
The typhoons have mostly gone north of Leyte Island so the 160+ fishing boat families have been OK thus far as to damage to their homes and boats. Usually, the typhoon season is over by mid-January. Sadly. substantial damage and some deaths are reported in the Northern Philippines from the three recent typhoons.
Along with the feeding of the put put drivers, feeding programs are going on in isolated communities. We are not allowed to gather the children but can deliver food to their "homes". Many of these kids are still without a house due to storms and earthquakes and were part of our feeding programs at the schools.
We have been blessed by several thousand OneMeal food packets and are distributing them as we recruit and visit cleft and palate cases in the mountain areas. The girl in the photo below (left) is a potential surgery case for 2021. Gary (below on the right) had a surgery in October. Some of the rural cases are not able to be qualified for surgeries due to being under weight for their age. Having these food packets is of great benefit to the families.
We have been able to transport and in some cases house families in the past month, so they can benefit of the charity surgeries at the Tebow Cure Hospital. SOD staff facilitated about 120 appointments in the past 30 days, with more than 25 able to benefit from cleft lip/palate surgeries.
It is so encouraging to see the remarkable transformations going on. God is at work.
It is a joy to be able to pray with all the cases before we take them to/from their appointments.
Our most active scholarship program is at the Marilog High School of Agriculture. Each month, the parents gather together for updates and Bible studies facilitated by one of the local pastors. Recently, it has become more difficult for us to personally attend these meetings due to the rising COVID cases in Davao.
We are also giving out the OneMeal packets to our scholarship recipients - 22 Grade 11/12 students and seven in college from the Datu Salumay area. Most are of a tribal background. We appreciate the many partners who are supporting these students.
We are so grateful for your prayers, concerns and financial support for what God is directing and allowing us to accomplish amid the pandemic. We also pray for those especially across the ocean, as we know these are challenging times for all.
With much love,
Peter Cowles for the SOD Boards, Staff and Grateful Recipients of His Many Blessings
(our vehicles are jointly labeled for SOD and the Tebow Cure Hospital due to patient transport)