May 2020 - What is happening amid the Pandemic?
Dear <<First Name>>,
It truly is a different world than just a few months ago. While some restrictions here have eased to allow more people to go back to work, we move about with caution under many new requirements. Social distancing, wearing of face masks while at work, shoe baths for disinfection, hand wash stations in vehicles...vehicles which normally can travel with 12-20 persons, now travel with 2, 4, 6 persons. Employees required always to wear official IDs and have a work related travel letter with them. A city which is divided into categories from very high risk to low risk. A country largely locked down by island and regional borders. Staying inside the house for 50+ days, not being allowed to go outside due to being above 60 in age.
As a ministry team we are safe and healthy; blessed to have ample food and comfortable places to live. We have learned to meet online rather than face to face, finding we may even have more communication between staff members and islands than in the past, by "forced" online communication. We also have noticed our opportunities to connect with churches, families and prayer and financial supporters has increased, as people are in their homes here and across the ocean.
One of my frequent answers to questions about our circumstances, timing, safety is -- "I don't know". We know this -- God is all knowing and is here with us and we trust him. We repeat and think those words each day. We have had to encourage one another to rely more on God and less on the media, balancing needing to be informed versus being overwhelmed, balancing information and trust.
It is doubtful I will travel out of Mindanao this year to the USA or to other islands. We are sad that ministry teams also will not be coming here in 2020.
We do continue to operate and have some blessings, challenges and prayer needs to share with you amid the pandemic.
God has blessed some of the the fishing families with catches of large fish! Pastor Junrey is one of the best fishermen in the Palompon area. He also is the pastor of the church in Mag-Asu.
We dedicated a new boat in May and another boat will be ordered soon. Getting parts has become a challenge due to some supply chain issues from island to island.
The Singson family from Oguinsan was blessed with a large tuna. Roldan became a follower of Jesus three years ago. God used the fishing boat ministry to reach him and his family. This is the "Virginia" boat family.
Also from Oguinsan, the Quimaco family caught a really nice sail fish. We have given larger hooks and stronger line to some of the families and they are able to catch bigger fish now.
Most fish with their hands as their "rod and reel", so it is a spectacular day to catch a fish such as this!
The 103 boats are allowed to fish but not sell the fish at the large market due to the quarantine restrictions. So the fish are sold within their communities and used to feed their families. Please pray that they will soon be able to sell their fish at the large market. This size fish, if sold at the market, would provide income to feed their families for 2+ weeks.
The put-put drivers are allowed to come back to work, except for those 60+ in age. Pastor Jonas had to work hard to reach some of them with relief goods, as they were not able to leave their areas. This is the Tina Kay operator, used by the Villamor family. They are also pastoring a local church but not yet allowed to go out of the area, due to being 60+.
One of the needs of the drivers is soap, as hand washing several times a day is required. It is been good to be able to give soap to the put-put drivers.
At this time, there are no active COVID-19 cases on Leyte Island. That is a huge praise! Due to restrictions though, there are few passengers for the put-puts. School families are the main riders in Palompon -- schools remain closed or adjusted, likely for most of 2020-21, as to traditional in classroom education. They are struggling.
The Compassion Philippines organization donated dressed chickens for the 300+ Compassion families in Palompon, Leyte. A huge blessing for each family (2 whole chickens each) but a challenge due to short notice and no storage options. We had to get them out quickly.
A collection area was created. Ice was purchased to hold over the chickens.
All distributed in 24 hours. Lots of soup being made for sure as the families have no refrigerators to store fresh chickens.
The families at the REST House still are not allowed to go outside of Davao to return home. We appreciate their acceptance of this continuing reality. We see so much creativity from Geraldine and Rhea Delle, the SOD staff members living with them since January.
One of the families was recently featured in the Cure International stories.
Mother's Day was bittersweet. A first time experience for all....but away from most of their family members.
We have set up a home school center for the children which is also used by some of the mothers as well, to increase their language and math skills.
During our weeks of home quarantine, God opened doors for us to assist in finding and transporting future cleft/palate cases for the Tebow Cure Hospital. This is a great need as outside-the-country teams will not be allowed to enter the Philippines to do cleft surgeries this year and possibly in 2021 as well One child is having surgery today and four others are scheduled next week. We are praying to able to find 4-5 qualified cases for surgery each week.
We have an even stronger partnership with the hospital as a result of jointly working on finding/transporting cases. Below is a local language flyer which is being distributed by 12 different ministry teams in Mindanao and Leyte. As part part of this effort, we are able to give allowances to pastors who are leading some of the teams, which helps them too during this time.
Our vehicles are now labeled with SOD/Tebow Cure signage.
The Davao based team is excited to be back together. Two team members (not shown) are now assigned to work from the Tebow Cure Hospital.
As schools remain closed until mid-August, feeding programs are generally on hold. We are exploring some options to adjust programs/resources in certain areas as many of the children are at risk due to limited food supplies. We also will be distributing soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste to some of the children.
The Aplaya Ministry Center and the Leyte Ministry Center have been allowed to be more active than other areas in food distributions. We still maintain an online presence 2x per week for those at the Padada Center as Pastor Gerry and Bem Bem are not yet able to travel back to Padada, due to restrictions.
Some of the college scholars have not yet completed the school year and are doing classes online or via take home materials. We continue to be in contact with the scholars and have been giving allowances for school supplies, internet loading and other needs.
We really appreciate your prayers and inquiries as to how we are doing. We are grateful for your continued financial support for the ministries. We have reduced some temporary staff, made some budget adjustments both permanent and temporary.
We have some Bibles on order but printing companies are still closed at this time. We look forward to distributing 6,000 Bibles in the next 12 months.
We are excited as a team to be given opportunities as we look forward to new ways to intentionally make disciples during this time of transition. Please pray for safety and discernment as we move forward.
Blessings to all,
Peter Cowles for the SOD Board(s) and staff