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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Updates

Food for Life

When crossing cultures there is always fascinating discoveries to be made about how others view the world. One of the areas we have always found interesting centres on food. This is summed up perfectly in the Filipino expression, “if there is no rice there is no meal.” It would not be overstated to say that rice is life. Enter any local market or chain grocery store and you will find rice, in bags, in bulk, from many various venders and varieties. It fills the baskets, and the stomachs of millions every day. Rice is most definitely life. There is however a certain irony in this. Every day, as rice is being placed on millions of plates, small rural rice farmers are being placed under pressure, finding their livelihood increasingly unsustainable. For the growers of our food, rice is becoming less life giving every year.

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There are several contributing factors behind this development. Globalization has increased competition as rice grown outside the Philippines continues to flood local markets. Land reform, intended as a means of fair distribution for the poor, has now created a system where small farms are limited in their ability to achieve economic scale. Farming practices over the recent decades have moved small farmers to input intensive methodologies, dependent on chemical fertilizers, and to make matters worse, these farmers have become reliant on rice traders, increasingly locked into a cycle of dependency.

Through our work with Kabuganaan Philippines Ministries (KPM) we have been made aware of this struggle, specifically with farmers in Capiz Province on Panay Island. The churches of Capiz, where many of these farmers worship, feel this struggle first hand and an increasing discomfort with the situation has caused a small group to begin working through possible ways to help. Michael Waddell and Duane are part of this group. Over the past 15 months we have been working through options, building capacity in leaders, and exploring new concepts for ministry and community engagement that intersect with marketplace and business development. The result is the birth of a dream to establish a cooperative that works with local churches and local farmers, the formation of a system that will work toward just practice and equitable compensation. We are calling it “Food for Life.”

Cooperatives are of course not a new idea. In fact, in the Philippines, cooperatives have long been established as a way to use community cohesion to create stability, especially in the agricultural sector. What is new, for the Baptist churches of Capiz Province, is a cooperative that works with farmers and church congregations. It is the first step into thinking through ministry, and community development, in a new way. Cooperatives have the potential to be long term partners in ministry that are inherently stable once established, stable organizationally and financially. CBM, along with KPM and other community leaders, are now in the process of creating plans to start a prototype that will used to test the idea. Beginning with a small group of 10 farmers and one circuit of churches, Food for Life will establish the market, work through new models of agricultural production, and build capacity in the area of business, all in a contextually appropriate way and all in partnership with local churches.

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