By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Education and Customization, Missions Innovator Specialist (WMU, SBC)
Getting off the plane in Manila felt a bit like walking into a Sauna. The temperatures were in the upper 90’s and humidity hovered at 85%. For my husband, myself and our three small boys our missionary adventure was about to begin. New food, new customs, and new languages were everywhere!
Trials came quickly; 2 major earth quakes, volcanic eruption, military takeover, ambush, Dengue fever, typhoid, broken bones, miscarriages, land slides, rabies shots, back injury, kidnapping and death threats, dysentery and more. Looking back, I would not change a thing! In the midst of it all we saw God be miraculous.
Today when I’m worried I look back on those years, remember the faithfulness of God and the worry is gone.
Within our first few years, our area experienced one of the worst draughts on record. Many of our friends had only one bowl of rice every other day to eat. Words cannot describe the emotional turmoil from sitting down to dinner when so many had nothing. No rain, no drinking water, no crops. No crops, no food, no income. No income, no money for anything. The problems seemed too numerous and overwhelming. Rather than feel sad, it was time to find solutions.
Solution 1: Food. Most of the farmers planted on sloped land using techniques that destroyed the land. We learned about a new method that saved the top soil and retained water. It was perfect! With the help of an agricultural missionary we began training farmers. During the weeks of training, the men heard Bible stories, many hearing them for the first time. Once hungry families now had food. Villages without even one Christian now had churches.
Solution 2: Water. Wells are expensive to dig but because Southern Baptist gave to the World Hunger Fund money was available. One of the wells now serves a Muslim community that had been closed to Christians. After putting in the well, we had permission to visit the community any time. And we were given permission to share the message of Christ. I can still hear the words, “I thought Christians hated us now I know Christians care about us. You come here any time.”
Solution 3: Healthcare. Many did not know the importance of washing hands or the appropriate treatment for a fever. Basic healthcare classes were taught. Occasionally volunteer medical teams came for free health clinics. Disease declined.
Solution 4: Income. Women learned to grow F.A.I.T.H. (food always in the home) gardens in their front yards. We taught women how to make soy sauce, floor wax, bar soap, back packs, and house shoes. The products were sold and the monies used to help with household expenses. A house in a developing country is often nothing more than a straw hut with a dirt or bamboo floor. There are still costs; new straw mats for the walls, food, school costs, etc.
Solution 5: Education. Some communities had no school. In those areas, we found volunteer teachers who taught every day. In areas with schools, we provided volunteer teachers in exchange for uniforms and supplies for children living in extreme poverty.
Solution 6: Goats. At our house, we raised and milked goats for newborn babies. Goat milk is the only milk newborn babies can drink and tolerate. We still laugh about a few of those goats!
Solution 7: Money. A baby delivered by a mid-wife was near death with lockjaw. The mid-wife used bamboo to cut the umbilical cord causing severe infection. Hospital policy was payment before treatment. The father had no money. He prayed for God to provide . It was not a hard decision for us to make…the life of a child for the cost of a hospital bill seemed like a small price. Penicillin was administered. Within a few days, she was healed. For the years that followed any time we visited their village the mother brought the little girl out to us and would say to her, “these are the missionaries that saved your life.” There is nothing so humbling! It still brings tears to my eyes.
Fourteen years, ministries that ranged from farming to Bible studies. Funny stories, sad stories, and miraculous stories too numerous to count. Somewhere in the midst of it all, God shined and souls were saved.
Jesus said, “Whatever you have done for the least of these you have done for me.” In today’s economic crisis there are people all around us who have needs. Instead of feeling sad, ask God to help you find solutions. The results…..MIRACULOUS!