Updates

Church of The Triumphant Christ

We have a friend in Manila, a young pastor who inspires us as she serves her people in and out of season. Pastor Joy Pring, CTC Church’s gift to the community, has a love for people and a passion to see lives transformed. Her church is situated in a village that is made up of middle income families, a nice place to live but not extravagant in any way, a place that would fit well into any Canadian context. Across the wall, however, is Ascona, a poor area that people have lived in for over thirty years without title to the land. Ascona sits on the bank of a river, water that is black with pollution, with smells that make you sick to your stomach.

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When it rains, the river rises and floods the passageways. When it rains hard the village is under two meters of water. All of the houses are on stilts. It is so common an occurrence that village leaders have strung ropes to aid people’s movement and constructed makeshift boats to float supplies. Children can’t leave their homes when this happens. It simply isn’t safe. CTC has had a small work with this community, Sunday school with children, a small feeding program, some financial support when emergencies happen. They happen often.

The church has been feeling overwhelmed by the pressure and underwhelmed by the response. This is not uncommon, well meaning people set out to serve and eventually burn out under the pressure. Poverty is complex, it is hard! CTC knows this first hand. My friend Joy knows this personally. She asked for our help. We laughed together as we acknowledged the level of her desperation in asking us. Humour always help put things into perspective and keep things from getting too heavy. Yes Jesus wept, but he also laughed! We chose to engage.

This is always a difficult situation for us. There is never sufficient resources to go around and communities like Ascona face so many challenges that it is above the capacity of a small local church to handle, or a couple of Canadian GFS come to think of it. Does this mean we should walk away? Absolutely not! Jesus didn’t, Joy doesn’t, we couldn’t. We offer what we have, at best a widow’s mite, a mustard seed filled with hope, an expectation that God will honour our efforts, heal our mistakes, and cover it all with His grace as we wobble forward into places we have never been, doing work we are woefully under equipped to do.

In the case of CTC that mustard seed comes in the form of encouragement. Church leaders need to hear that it is ok to be frustrated, permissible to feel deeply about all the causes of poverty, the ugly side of this world. The role we fill in partnership is co-journeyer, training and assisting where we can. Sometimes that is active work, getting our hands dirty. Sometimes it needs to be unhurried, prayerful, especially when things are especially difficult. In either case it is a privilege and a blessing.

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Marketplace Ministry, Updates

Business Development: Mission in Action

Part of our work allows us to focus on business development and initiatives that help people to envision new possibilities. To do this we have been working on ways to assist individuals and teams as they work through ideas for business startups. To do this we use something called Business Modelling. This form of business development focuses less on making a plan and more on working through the ideas and testing them in the real world. Using something called the “Business Model Canvas,” we create space for ideas to form and grow as they are readied for testing, the crucible where they are measured for validity.

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The format itself is not very important, there are many excellent ways to process new business. What is important is the opportunity we have received to help others realize their dreams. We have worked with all levels of society, rich and poor. We have encouraged business development that takes people into account. We have even managed to take our training on the road, beyond Manila, even beyond The Philippines. We work with individuals and teams. Private businesses and agencies developing social enterprise. We have even been invited to help ministry teams develop new strategy for mission that is self sustaining and highly innovative. It is amazing to see what people can dream into reality.

We didn’t set out to become consultants, but that is exactly what has developed. Doors have opened as people hear about our work, allowing us to share in their vision, helping them to refine their ideas as they work out complex issues and complex problems. It has stretched us, challenged us, and mostly humbled us as we have been forced to learn, often from our many mistakes. We often joke that failure is a great teacher and we are always learning. It is a truism but in our case it has proven to be truth. It is good not to take things too seriously.

What is most exciting about this development in our work is the opportunity it has given us to share about marketplace ministry. We are given voice in areas beyond where we imagined, influencing decisions that are shaping business and mission development that considers the gospel as it relates to our neighbours in the workplace. Decisions that are changing the very essence of business purpose, moving to an agenda that adds social and environmental issues to the bottom line, what we personally view as important parts of holistic mission. What is most exciting is our ability to encourage business people, helping them to embrace their calling to serve, as business people, to see the value of business as a means to human flourishing. It is good work, a really great part of our job, and we are blessed to have this opportunity to help people in this particular way.

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Marketplace Ministry, Updates

Stingless bees, a sweet project in Bicol

Throughout 2017 we have been travelling to Bicol, a peninsula on the southern tip of Luzon Island, in order to support work being done to reach out to the Agta people. Landless people, the Agta tribal people live a subsistence life, often as day labourers. Working with local partners we helped to develop a business model that has introduced bee hives to the community.

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Bee hives can be split, allowing for a growth model that doesn’t require funding support from they outside, building up a business over time. The hives can also be moved if the family is expelled from the land and can be placed in a hollow during a typhoon, both real issues for these people. A stingless bee variety, the honey has a significant market potential that exceeds the level of production the project could ever hope to manage.

While the hives are being split and the people are being trained, we are developing a second, parallel business model that is developing the production and marketing of the honey. In order for the Agta people to receive fair and timely compensation for their work, there needs to be a developed business model that can accommodate their honey quickly and profitably. The parallel business will produce a stable supply of honey that can serve to fulfil contracts and grow the market over time. The Agta people will have access to these markets as they grow their own production, freeing them from the burden of marketplace development that can stifle startups and slow growth. Eventually, should they choose, they can further develop their own businesses with training that will be made available. There is much potential for growth should people choose to participate. This really is a sweet project!

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Marketplace Ministry, Updates

The Launch of Food for Life

It has been over 18 months of preparation, teaching, dreaming, and planning. Food for Life is now a reality! Starting with 10 farmer cooperators, Food for Life is in the process of building a community of people who will stand together in the face of significant oppression. Food security is always a maddening condition that no one should ever have to suffer. Food security amongst farmers and farm workers is just shocking and should never happen. As global pressure exerts itself, local small plot farmers are forced to borrow increasingly for farm inputs and are left with less money to support their families every year.

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Cooperatives have become a vital part in sustainability for rural communities but have themselves become less stable and many have failed over the past decade. Food for Life is starting small which will allow leaders to learn without placing the community under further risk.

What makes this venture so exciting is the participation with the local church. Congregations are banding together in support of these farmers. In the rural churches it is the farmers who are beginning to think differently about how to support each other, choosing to act as a community rather than solely in their own interest. This has included a collective decision to pursue ecologically sustainable farming practices that will restore soil quality after many years of over fertilization. This was not a decision they were compelled to take, in fact it was their decision to make it a mandatory aspect of membership, community in action for social change. It was an amazing thing to witness. Creation Care and Marketplace Ministry coming together within Sustainable Community Development. It is a Gospel Movement!

In the city, where most of the rice is sold, urban churches have also committed to support these farmers and farm workers. Congregations are making decisions to purchase locally grown rice over imported options that are most often less expensive. This is the reality these farmers face. Factory farming in other S.E. Asian countries has pushed down the price of rice in the region. Farmers in The Philippines, small land holders, are unable to compete if they try to go head to head with such scale. Where these small landholders have an advantage is in their ability to produce higher quality food, Food for Life. These urban churches are learning about food quality and community value, choosing to purchase local products that benefit the local economy and their families. It is a fine example of using the marketplace to assist in transformation, in ways that are sustainable and tasty!

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Updates

A Time to Mourn

It is with great sadness that we must begin this update with the notice of an incalculable loss. Pastor Gilene Franco, the teacher at the Aglongon Child Care Center, and her husband Pastor Nestor Franco, leader of the Aglongon Baptist Church, both lost their lives on Sunday July 16. Attempting to cross over a bridge during a storm, Gilene and Nestor were swept away during a flash flood trying to reach family who were in need of making it to the hospital. It is a tragic loss to their family and the community.

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Many from Canada will know these two dear people. Teams from CBM came to Aglongon to help rebuild after the typhoon. The Francos made an impression on all who met them. It was Pastor Nestor who made me (Duane) feel welcome on my first visit to Duran. In fact he made me promise to come visit him, an hour long walk into the jungle, a promise I kept, and I am truly blessed for having done so. I received amazing hospitality from the people of Aglongon.

We ask for prayer. Pastor Nestor and Gilene have grown children and a living parent. This unexpected loss is a burden, emotionally and financially. This is also a blow to the church and child care center, work that is so important. The community is in mourning and the needs continue. Their funeral will be this coming Saturday, a final goodbye, but their loss will be felt for a vey long time.

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Updates

A Time to Dance

At the Libas Child Care Center it has also been a difficult start to the school year. There has been some difficulty in finding a new teacher to serve this community and we are pleased to introduce Celeste Martinez, a student at Filamer University, who chose to take on this project early July. Celeste is an answer to prayer and a blessing to this community and to KPM.

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Our concern was that there were 20 children connected to the centre who were being left behind by the lack of a teacher. With Celeste joining the team, we were all grateful, especially with the fact that she is an exceptional young woman and has a deep passion and burden for underprivileged children. Frankly she’s amazing. In fact we completely underestimated the headcount. After two weeks of her working with the center, Celeste’s classroom has just over 40 students. This is an amazing accomplishment, and we are dancing with joy at God’s provision, asking Him to continue leading us as we work together to reach out to this community.

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Reflections

A season of goodbyes

Every year, with the end of term arrival, there begins a series of goodbyes, families and individuals who are leaving, uprooting themselves and severing ties to place and people. It is a difficult time and over the years I have become somewhat calloused to any emotions, until this year. For some reason this time around the goodbyes were more difficult, the lingering sadness more challenging to manage. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, something member care could sort out nicely, but this reflection is not about that. This reflection is about what it means to be a witness within the pain of loss and confusion.

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The disciples, at the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus, also faced a difficult goodbye. Over the past 40 days Jesus had been presenting himself to these friends, teaching them about the kingdom of God, preparing them for the next phase of God’s plan. The disciples, witnesses to God’s mighty work through Christ, were still facing confusion and pain. It echoes in their questions, their concern for Israel, for the restoration of God’s promise to His people. They wanted to know if now was the moment where the kingdom was to be restored.

The disciples weren’t just saying goodbye to their leader, their teacher, Lord, and friend, they were saying goodbye to a dream, a worldview that only a few weeks earlier was focused on an earthly kingdom, Rome out, Israel restored. Perhaps included was a sense that reward and power would follow. After three years of ministry, his death on the cross, the resurrection, and now 40 days teaching, these men, who knew Jesus personally, still didn’t understand what God was doing. In confession, I too suffer from this spiritual amnesia. After decades, I am guilty of missing the point, failing to act and think out of my faith but rather out of my fear. I too have asked if Jesus will finally now restore the kingdom to Israel.

But Jesus answers them with grace, reminding them that only God knows the terms on which all will come to completion. We are called to be His witnesses, and are given the very power we seek, not through our own strength but the strength of the Holy Spirit, and not for our own ends, but for the Kingdom’s sake. In the pain and confusion Jesus hasn’t abandoned us, and like disciples before us, God gives us the strength to persevere in any and every season. And here, at the end of their time together, Jesus tells these men they will go to Jerusalem and Judea, and throughout the entire world. He also tells them they will go to Samaria.

A word that no longer stings in our ears, Samaria was not the place respectable people went. It was the place no good person would enter and now Jesus was saying go. We too are called to go. Jesus gives us permission to go places, for the sake of the gospel, we once had been forbidden to enter. Samaria can be a brothel in El Alto, or a slum in Nairobi. It is a rice farm in Capiz and a Muslim man’s home in Cotabato. Samaria is the high places of Metro Manila towers and the low places of a northern Canadian First Nation reserve. Samaria, for me, has been all these places and many more, and I am grateful for having been sent. But I am still sad. I still feel the loss of all the goodbyes.

It is easy to get paralyzed, to stand there staring into the sky, waiting for Jesus to return, longing for him to return, wondering if you can continue. Another confession, I am prone to wonder if any of this matters or is of any worth. I ask again, Lord, when will you restore the kingdom to Israel? In spite of all that I know to be true, I can still get bogged down in my own discouragement, my own self-pity and spiritual amnesia. But then the angels come and cut right through the pain. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand there looking into the sky?” Men of Galilee, another phrase that has lost its sting, a reminder to these men they were mere provincials, the lowly not the elite. Any remaining delusions of grandeur now finally, and ultimately, shattered. These men were called to be witnesses for the true king, the real kingdom, and that meant looking out at the world, not up into the sky. I too am a mere provincial, from Duncan no less, the Nazareth of the West, but I am still called to witness to the world on behalf of my king. Sometimes that includes working through the goodbyes and the sadness, one eye looking outward and one staring into space.

Good women and men from Galilee, from Duncan, from communities around the globe, why do you look up? We all have received the call, to witness the life of Christ to every corner of the globe, and at times we will experience the season of goodbyes. And if that were all, it would be enough because it is for the King and this sacrifice pales in comparison to the one He made for us. But it isn’t the end. The angels don’t leave the disciples alone with their pain, a kick in the pants and a pep talk. They leave them with hope. In the same way Jesus left, he will return. None of this is for naught. The goodbyes will be replaced with warm hellos, moments of reunification and restoration. And as the old hymn reminds me…

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know
He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives.

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