Ministry Moments – November, 2019

Ministry is Not Easy, But it is Worth it and Exciting Too

I have recently been blessed, a very dear friend and co-worker of mine wrote a book. It is called Stepping Off The Edge; Faith and Fiasco in a Philippine Mission by Deborah Tuhy Simmons.

I worked with Debbie at Lutheran Hour, she was one of my Team Members in the Response Center. Her husband and also my friend is a Pastor now retired. From 1986-1992 Art and Debbie served Our Lord and the people of remote villages in the Philippines. It was not an easy time for these two Americans and yet they did it. There were tears, joys, horrible living conditions. I knew they were both strong, but I had no idea how many trials they would have to endure and trust God to get them through.  They truly are AMAZING people and love and trust the Lord and HIS people with all their hearts.

I would like to share some of what Debbie and Art went through and if you are interested, I have a couple copies of her book for you to borrow. For me, it put my life and so called “struggles” in perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I still get frustrated, and discouraged at times, but it has helped me see that God will go with us anywhere. He was with Art and Debbie in the Philippines and He is with us here in San Leandro and Hayward, California. He loves the people of the Philippines and He loves the people here too.

They started talking about being Missionaries in the early 1980’s. After 6 years of thinking, praying, planning and training they finally packed up and went off to the Southern parts of the Philippines. They knew they would be ministering to people that could not read or write or figure numbers. The people lived in bamboo huts with straw roofs and that the children would die young. For their water for drinking, wash in and butcher their animals they turned to the river. The people had witch doctors for the health care. When Debbie and Art would come out of the mountains to trade they would often get cheated. The people’ beliefs they would be ministering to were in spirits that were indifferent or evil and that was just the way life was. The temperature was 93 degrees as a low and there was always rain.

Debbie and Art spent 2 years here in the United States studying the language they would begin using in the Mission. Once they got there they spent another 2 years studying other dialects, some of which weren’t even recorded. They spent time getting to know their culture by living in and with the people. Listening to what their needs were. They lived in cities, and remote out posts in those same bamboo huts, with no running water, or indoor plumbing. With cock-roaches 4” long, infestation of mice, rats and many other critters I would not want to meet with a sledge hammer, much less than with a “flip flop”.  As they traveled to remote villages they found the roads were non-existent and often there were life-threatening mud slides. They soon recognized it was not going to be easy. There was a tribe that had never seen or been reached by “civilization”. They knew it would be more difficult than they imagined, “But we won’t be alone! We are  confident that God will go with us as we begin our work among the Tagakaulo Tribe”.

They were right, it was difficult, they were often robbed, homes broken into, the “workers” they hired to help them build their home and reach the people would be given money to purchase materials and they would not receive the materials and the money would be pocketed by the workers. There were always people begging for money and food. Oh and the food was what the culture was used to. Rice with every meal, even hamburgers in the cities had rice in them. Many times they would be ready to prepare their meals and the rice was infested with ants, they would have to soak the rice till the ants would float and then sift them off prior to cooking. They would have to cross rivers swollen from the torrential rains. Most of the time they had no electricity, gas or running water. Water had to be brought in by buckets and they needed to catch rain water for drinking because the wells were filled with foul water.

Art began learning and teaching Debbie the Kaulo language. They needed to use their Cebuano to learn the tribal dialect. An 11 year old named Migo started helping Art to learn the language. That would prove to be culturally interesting as one glottal stop turned the word “boss-man” into “monkey”. They would move from village to village learning about the tribes, but as Debbie said “I’m sure that for a long time we’ll learn more about them than they learn from us. It’s a different and fascinating culture, and the more we learn, the more successful of mission will be.”

After three years of “getting to know some of the people, Art and another missionary went on a trip to the mountains to check on the house that was slowly (and I mean slowly) being built, they returned home encouraged, it was an excellent trip this time. They were being welcomed everywhere. They were plied with coffee, and urged to hang around and chat. Debbie remembered a time when all the people would run into their house and hide when they would come through the villages. Progress!

They listened to their needs and their desires. They learned their customs and their culture. They learned that what these people needed and wanted most was literacy. They started a small Sunday school, the children came to hear the stories and were glued to their benches waiting to hear what they had to say. They started with a hand full of children and wound up with so many they couldn’t squeeze them into the one class room and had to build another room. Art started by offering a literacy class and was expecting to have to go out and beat the bushes to find people who would want to come to class. As it turns out they wound up with more than 200 people wanting to come and had to have a ”wait list” for a second class.

Art and Debbie are and will always be heroes to me because they never gave up. They may have felt discouraged, frustrated, and at times even angry with the people of the villages because they would be taken advantage of, but they were patient, and they ate stuff I would never want to eat, endured illnesses including having  amoeba.  Cock roaches, mice, rats and no flushing toilet or sinks (Debbie bathed in a bucket for I have no idea how long) in their home (sorry folks I need a flushing bathroom and a shower). They reached many people with literacy and the Gospel of our Lord. They gave up a lot and they gained so many for the Kingdom. I look forward to meeting some of these people in Heaven because God gave us Art and Debbie. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

In HIS service,       

 Debbie Oatman

Ministry Moments – God’s Work / Our Hands

A bit of a different story that Debbie shared this month:

Debbie, Justin’s mom shared a “Justin story” and I have been given the joy and privilege of sharing it with you. I thank Debbie for that privilege and honor and I thank God for sharing Justin with me and this World. He is and always will be a blessing.

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This is my friend Justin, I have known him since he was around 2 years old. He was in class with my daughter, Christiana when she was the same age. Justin has always been “non-verbal” and yet he has always had that amazing smile and willingness to be the best friend anyone could want. Christiana was quiet and shy, Justin was “quiet” and anxious and willing to do things. Christiana was verbal and was able to sign with Justin so they could talk and play with each other. Justin loves and has always loved music and they would sing and sway to the music together. We missed Justin when Christiana moved to another class/school. We would see Justin and his mom at times when we were living in Santa Clara and sometimes at the church where Christiana attended school until we moved to St. Louis. It was always fun to see that Justin remembered us and would always have a smile and a gentle touch for us. He can be very insistent when he wants to greet his friends, I remember that about him and it makes me smile because he is so genuine with his love and compassion. I am friends with his mom on Facebook so I can catch up on what is going on in Justin’s life and the life of his mom and sister, it is a joy!

What Justin and Debbie are doing in God’s ministry.

Today we ran errands to 3 different places in Oakdale. At each place, people knew Justin and loved receiving his jokes. The really interesting place was the car wash. I handed the joke to the employee that was closest to the car because Justin was on the wrong side to hand it to her and he was insisting. As I rolled down the window, she told me they had a “book of Justin” inside that sits on their break table. I gave her a puzzled look and she continued, “We have a whole book where we put his jokes so that we can look at it during our breaks and laugh.” Hahahahaha………..I guess Justin is now kind of like an author…or is that a cartoonist…nah, it’s probably closer to a comedian that people watch frequently, at least local people. God has been speaking to me about Justin’s ministry and He is using Justin to open doors. It’s been pretty interesting what God is saying. I don’t see the whole picture yet. But we are to be working as a team. Justin opens the door and then I am to go through the door with a different kind of ministry. God is so creative!

Thank you Justin and Debbie for sharing yourselves and God’s love with everyone. Thank you God for giving us Justin and Debbie, we are truly blessed.

In HIS service,

Debbie

Ministry Moments – August 2019

PLI Ministry Moments
Who is our neighbor? Who do we need to reach out to?
I have been planning the lesson for Friday Friends this past week and I chose to study and present the “Good Samaritan”. I love this parable. Jesus is asked by an expert in the law what must be done to inherit eternal life. This is an expert in the law asking Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Wow! Jesus calmly asks the expert “What is written in the Law?” How do you read it?” The expert answers “Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus then tells the expert he answered correctly. The expert wanted to justify himself and asked Jesus who is my neighbor? That is when Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.
So, who is our neighbor? Is it the people who live next door to us? Is it the people who live across the street or around the corner? For me I would have to include those I live close to as well as our neighbors around St. Peter’s and Grace. As we were on vacation, we had opportunity to meet and greet and talk with neighbors from all over the World. We met some very wealthy people, some moderately wealthy people and some people who would be considered “poor”. Something I discovered, is some of the most wealthy people are actually “poor”. Some of the wealthiest people I found were not nearly as “happy” as the people that were perceived as poor by society.
When we on board ship we had the privilege of having dinner with a couple from the Los Angeles area. They were a delightful couple and we really enjoyed our time together. We would often be some of the last people to leave the dining room and the staff would be trying to set up for the next dining group. They were wonderful conversationalist and they had so many fascinating stories to tell about all the amazing places they had traveled to. They quite literally probably traveled around the World. They visited countries I have only dreamed of seeing and had amazing experiences. They told us all about the fabulous jewelry they bought from different places, the amazing clothes and goods they got from places around the World. They told us all about their beautiful home, and the plans for the next cruise she would be taking with her friend in just a month or so. They were wonderful people and we so enjoyed having that time with them. There was however something missing, they were constantly worried about losing what they had. They were concerned about their home because of the earthquake, she would NEVER wear her amazing jewelry on her trips because it may get stolen or lost. They were concerned about going ashore to get more things to take home and store.
We went ashore and we asked to be taken to “Old Town”. There we saw and met people that lived in small homes and had small store fronts, they had big families. They were dressed simply and they proudly displayed their goods. I met a couple of ladies that had a kiosk and were selling goods that ladies had made. The “artists” or seamstresses, had taken their time and made table cloths, place mats, dresses and other goods to sell to supplement their small income and help their families. They were proud of the work they did and it was beautiful work. Although they didn’t speak a great deal of English, it was a pleasure to talk with them and choose some amazing things to bring back and share with our family and friends. These ladies blessed me in a way that brought joy. They weren’t afraid of losing anything and they were willing to share what they had with others. Some they knew and others like me they would not ever see again. What they had they knew was a gift from God and they were willing to share. We saw people walking around on the cobblestone streets and sidewalks and some were disabled and people stopped to help them along. If someone was hungry they were willing to share food with them. Vendors sold fresh fruit in plastic baggies and as I was sitting in the town square while Mark took pictures of the Cathedral I noticed those who purchased the fruit eating it and seeing people sitting on the curb alone and they would offer to share their fruit with the people around them, I was even offered some fruit. Vendors kept their money in their pockets, or in small boxes (cardboard). They weren’t afraid of losing something. Their goods were displayed out in the open. They were proud of their goods and willing to share. They weren’t afraid of losing or having their goods damaged. The amazing thing was that I noticed they were at peace and they were happy.
The Cathedrals were beautiful, they were simple and the people were proud of them. Many of them are very old and there is a lot of work that needs to be done on these old buildings. I also noticed they displayed a box to contribute to the repairs so members and visitors could give to that cause. The people were not afraid of visitors coming and walking through their church building and the surrounding gardens, they were happy to have people come and go, to pray and observe the beauty of the Sanctuary. People came and went and sometimes people put a few pennies in the box to be used for repairs. Work still has to be done, some things are obviously still needed to be done, but they are trusting that God will send enough pennies and nickels and dimes to pay for the repairs, in the mean time they have chains holding up their bells and spackle on the walls and they are glad to share it with their neighbors. They are happy to share it with me, I am considered their neighbor.
I loved sitting there in the square and watching and smiling a people, I loved talking to them with their broken English and my really broken Spanish. I loved watching the children make toys out of whatever they found, rocks, sticks or whatever they found. I thank God for the opportunity to share a smile, a conversation, a hand shake, a piece of fruit with my neighbors. I was blessed by my neighbors and I pray they were blessed by me as well. I will keep them in my prayers. The vendors who made the place mats, and sold table cloths. The vendors selling fruit or preparing meals. The children playing in the park square. I also pray for our dinner mates, and their family. Sharing a little bit of me and receiving so much from them has made me appreciate what I have so much more and I want to share and be a good neighbor to all that I meet. I may never see those people again this side of heaven, but I do pray they know God love them and cares about them and that I left a bit of that love with them along the way.
 
In HIS service,
Debbie