September 2020 Update with Photos
Dear <<First Name>>,
We continue to be blessed to serve families who are in need of surgeries to repair cleft lip and/or palate conditions. As we are able to travel across some of the nearby borders, we are finding and transporting more cases outside of Davao City proper, to/from the Tebow Cure Hospital. This often puts us in contact with rural, tribal communities who lack opportunities for these surgeries.
This week, we are arranging for transportation for 40 appointments, meaning around 80 one way trips. This is sometimes by paying for taxis for local cases or giving an allowance for fuel for those who can arrange private transportation. Most commonly, transport is by using our own vehicles along with a contract van service. This is like putting together a puzzle each week. Some cases require our drivers to travel two or more hours to a pick up point. Families sometimes travel several hours to get to the arranged meeting place. We then travel to Tebow Cure back another two hours. They have their appointments and then we have to repeat the process to get them home.
Appointments can be for 1) screening, 2) COVID swab testing, 3) nutritional assessment for surgery, 4) surgery admission, 5) post surgery discharge, 6) suture removal and follow-up, 7) speech therapy or 8) starting the process for a second surgery. Quite often, those with both cleft lip and palate (about 50% of cases), have multiple surgeries.
By the end of September, we will have been involved this year in over 90 completed cleft lip and palate repair surgeries in partnership with the hospital, with most since late May. The majority of current cleft and palate, are coming through SOD referrals and are being transported through SOD arrangements. The transformations are so remarkable.
In one of the tribal areas, we are using two of our college scholars - Mariel and Rachel, to help find and screen cases. Last week, they were used by God to bring three cases for their first appointments from these very remote areas. Our drivers picked up the families on Tuesday and returned them home on Wed morning. We were able to safely host them in separate locations in Davao, one family by one family. If needed, we now have simple accommodation arrangements to allow us to house up to six cases at a time.These families were all housed for one night.
Bringing in tribal families is often complicated, as some have no formal birth records. Others have never been out of their areas and need to be walked through the process. For one of the families last week, it was the first time to ride in a vehicle with four wheels. Bringing them to the city for a surgery, staying over multiple nights away from home....well you can imagine how much work it takes to get to the point of surgery. Praise God, these three children are now scheduled for surgery, one this week and two during the first week of October. More than 10 other cases have been identified by our college scholars. We also are making regular trips with them in the areas, as we did on Saturday.
We are trying to get this little one to Davao soon but she lacks a birth record and some other papers. Please pray God will make a way for this to child to have a surgery.
Gary was so shy the first time we met him. After coming to Davao with his father for their initial checkup/screening and staying over one night, he was all smiles when we saw him yesterday on a return trip to his village. Gary does not yet attend school - due to bullying. Soon this will change.
Transitioning to Leyte, an additional put put unit was dedicated and released. While the income from driving a put put is greatly reduced due to the lack of passengers, they are still grateful for the opportunity to have their own unit. We really miss not being able to travel to Leyte as we have done throughout past years. Pastor Jonas and Disserie continue to do a remarkable job of leading the ministries in Leyte. They also assist some in connecting too with some of the Davao based workers.
Bible study occurs each Friday with the drivers and the feeding program still is going on three days a week, in partnership with the drivers. This is a wonderful, living example of Hebrews 10:24-25 -- "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near".
The boat families are able to be out on the ocean and God is blessing many with good results. Funds for a new boat were just received, so we will be adding another boat to the fleet in October.
Back to Mindanao, the Aplaya ministry team continues to use creativity to spread the good news of the gospel. Pastora Lazel is a regular on the local radio program.
A major emphasis of the government is rehabilitation of those having admitted to having a problem using illegal drugs. The Aplaya team continues to be an active partner with the local government and police forces on these efforts. Moral recovery includes sharing of the gospel message through written materials, group discussions and testimonies.
The Aplaya Church is in rural areas several times a week with supplemental feeding for the children, who previously were given a daily meal, when schools were in session.
The Padada Community Center celebrated their second anniversary, having successfully transitioned to a new facility. Schools reopen soon but only for modular or online classes. The students are eager to fellowship together at the center several days a week, even with masks and physical distancing in place.
Pastor Gerry and Bem are leading the efforts in Padada and are making good use of the new facility. Our Bible distribution for 2020-21 started this week under the leadership of Pastor Gerry. Things will be slower this time as only small groups of pastors are allowed to gather for the distributions.
Another distribution is scheduled soon, perhaps by the end of this month.
We do trust God during this time and are grateful for the many opportunities being allowed to serve communities while being in the time of the pandemic. We are still under a form of quarantine and do not see that changing in the coming months, as the President has extended the state of calamity for the next 12 months. Still, we move ahead, respectful of the need to always consider the safety of our staff and the communities in which we serve.
We are grateful for your partnership with us as we continue to follow God's leading.
Peter Cowles for the Staff and Boards of Seeds of Dignity and the many very grateful recipients of your prayers and generosity.