Sunday, June 28, 2009

Story bracelets and sports help the Sonlight team share Christ

It’s 3:15 pm in the Philippines (that’s 4:15 am U.S. Central) and I’m sitting under the pavilion at the high school in Lingayao. Jeff is playing “Shout to the Lord” on the guitar and singing along with Thea, Melanie, and a group of children. Nearby Christy is telling the gospel through multicolored “story bracelets” as Wendy translates.

“This is called a story bracelet. It has no power—it’s just a reminder. Yellow means heaven, where Jesus lives. Do you know heaven? Do you want to go there? The black represents me and you, the sin in our lives, the bad things we do.”

Doug is handing out purple and black tracts with the title “Ang Gasa” (The Gift) and Roger is playing ping-pong with a teenaged Filipino as Christy continues.

“But Jesus died on the cross, for my and your sins, and the red represents the blood. When you accept Christ in your heart, it becomes white, and you are wiped clean.”

Laura, Sarah, Debra, Kate and Tammy are playing volleyball in the grassy field in front of the classroom buildings. The girls on the other side of the net wear green-and-white gingham skirts—part of the universal school uniform of the Philippines.

“Once you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, then green means you grow in learning more about Jesus. You grow by reading your Bible, going to church, sharing with other believers, and sharing the story of Jesus.”

Sharing the story is exactly what the Sonlight team from First Baptist Church of Ft. Payne is doing. A few moments later, the children are now in a frenzy around the table receiving the story bracelets and stickers, as well as writing their names down for a drawing for a basketball prize.
The Filipinos are an eager and open audience, both young and old.

“It’s been an extraordinary trip,” said Melanie as their last day of ministry came to a close. “They’ve been very welcoming.”

The team was welcomed into many different barangays on the island of Mindanao this past week, playing basketball and doing toothbrushing demonstrations at elementary schools (while incorporating the gospel into both). During the school visit, the team talks about how to have not just clean teeth but how Jesus cleans your heart “and you only need to do that once!” Then, during the game halftime, they perform dramas and share their testimony to audiences numbering usually over a hundred.

The team has been welcomed by Filipino believers too. “The Philippine Nehemiah Team members, Jetter, for example, have been so helpful, so encouraging,” said Thea. “They’ve encouraged me in my faith by their day-to-day testimony. They remind me of what the early church must have been like.”

“Wow,” said Tammy, “I’m not ready for it to be over. I’m ready to come back again.”


The basketball teams after the game.

Story bracelets and tracts!

Roger plays table tennis

The team with teachers from the elementary school where they did the toothbrushing presentation.

The girls' volleyball game - Filipina side

Onlookers during the toothbrushing presentation. The eagerness of people in the Philippines to hear the message the team was saying means many people heard the gospel.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday update pictures

Teacher Melanie signing autographs!


Team USA & the opposing team- Philippine National Police

Drama during halftime

Medical Crusade Offers “Abundant Life”—Physical and Spiritual

“Number sixty!” calls the man on the platform, and another mother and child step up and join Dr. Mike and his translator for consultation. Two roosters are crowing in the background behind the hum of the crowd gathered around the registration table. It’s all part of the Abundant Life Medical Crusade in the covered basketball court/pavilion that serves as a community hub for the village. The team is helping people who rarely receive medical attention by offering consultations, checkups, and basic medicine. After Jordan and Sam (summer medical interns with the Nehemiah Teams) take the patients’ temperature, blood pressure and weight, they go to a waiting area until their number is called by the doctors. In the waiting area they hear the gospel presented by local Pastor Antonio. Antonio uses a large cartoon-boxed banner that illustrates “God’s Way” vs. “Man’s Way,” and the Good News coloring book to communicate the message of sin and redemption in a way people of varying literacy can understand.

The medical mission team was welcomed with open arms by the village this morning. They were introduced one by one to the community by the Barangay Captain himself. The captain’s assistant also spoke: “In behalf of the barangay officials, we are very thankful for you coming here. Our barangay is very far from the city. I have been living here since birth, and this is the first time our barangay has had visitors like you to do a medical mission.” The lady who spoke these words later heard me (Ben) share my testimony at the evangelism table, translated by Pastor Antonio; at the end of the day she said that she was open to attending a Baptist church if one was nearby, and asked how one went about converting from the Catholic church.

This first-of-its-kind team is mostly from First Baptist Church of Ft. Payne, Alabama, joined by Jordan and Sam and Filipino partners including Bong, Lang Lang, Pastor Antonio, Pastor Allen, and others. They have visited five barangays since they started last Friday, helping over 960 families become both physically and spiritually healthy.

A Winning Day at the American-Filipino Friendship Game

The Sonlight mission team joined forces with Teams to bring the American-Filipino Friendship Basketball Game to village of Florida yesterday. Players from the church joined college summer missionaries in a showdown against the barangay all-star team – a group of irregularly tall and astoundingly athletic Filipinos. The Filipinos took the win after much sweat and hustle on both sides, but the team wearing the USA. custom jerseys still won. How? The Sonlight team, mostly from FBC Ft. Payne, accomplished their true mission – building relationships with the rural residents of Butuan City and sharing the Good News of Christ!

Sonlight members delivered two testimonies and two skits during halftime. The audience crowded around every meter of the basketball court inside the concrete pavilion. An estimated 200 heard the gospel in the course of watching the friendship game; many eager children also took the “Ang Gasa” (The Gift) tract. The game was a witness even on the court. For example, the teams prayed before the start of the game.

The day was repleat with ministry leading up to the game. Around 1:30 the team presented drama/health education at a nearby elementary school. About 100 children lined up neatly in rows and cheered in unison as Ms. Melanie talked about “clean teeth and a clean heart.” “Brush your teeth three times a day,” she said as Buffy put another visual on the board. Later she said, “You only need to clean your heart once, by asking Jesus to clean it for you.”

The team also played volleyball against the local high school, girls vs. girls and guys vs. guys. (A loss and win, respectively.) The girls on the team brought out bubbles, balloon animals and a drawing for a basketball before the game started. A line of eager children quickly formed for the balloon animals.

After the game it was a 2-hour boat ride down the Agusan River and a tricycle ride to McDonalds, where everyone celebrated a full and fruitful day of serving the Lord. Youth Pastor/Team Leader Jeff summed up their experiences on Tuesday:

“We’ve been working for 4-5 days now and the variety of things feels like many weeks. Our students have been amazing with the sharing of their testimonies. There’s a sense of accomplished purpose, a sense that God’s directing our steps and giving us opportunities to share in many ways. Our team is great because they never complain. It’s our missions motto – “be flexible”—and I’ve seen our team be so flexible. The most thrilling part has been transportation—motorcycles, boats, and tricycles. The most rewarding aspect—the attitude of the people, because we’ve been so embraced. …I thought I was almost exaggerating the challenges when I was preparing, but I wasn’t—you just have to experience it. You can’t get what it’s like riding four on a motorcycle until you do it. We’re all doing things we never imagined we’d be doing. The importance, the urgency of sharing our faith is a real lesson we’ve learned.”

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Update

What a great day the youth team had! They started their day with a 45 minute ride on a pumpboat up the Agusan River to the village of Bilay. They shared a brief dental/Gospel presentation in the first through third grade classrooms. During the student's lunch break the team was able to play with the children... bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!! The kids also grabbed up all the balloon animals Doug & Lauren could make... as quickly as they could make them!

In the afternoon they shared the dental presentation with the daycare program (3 & 4 year olds) and then headed for the high school. The Filipino students taught the team a local game. It was fun to watch them play! The girls played the game first... the American girls did a good job learning the game but were never able to "score." When the guys turn came they did a little better... looks like a good game to play during football/basketball practice to work on their agility! They also played volleyball against the local students.

While some were playing, other team members talked one on one with the students, sharing the "storytelling bracelet" (salvation bracelet) with them. Pray for these seeds that were planted.

Around 5:30 people began to gather for the basketball game: Americans vs Filipinos. All played a great game and our team did end up winning by about 5 points. This was an especially fun game for David since this is the village where we lived when he was 5-8 years old. Several of his friends were playing on the opposing team. During halftime the team shared several dramas, Sara and Christy shared a brief testimony, and a presentation was made to the local officials with a letter and gift from the Fort Payne Mayor's office. A drawing was also held for a couple basketballs, a t-shirt, (Thanks Sand Rock High School) and a frisbee.

"Walk the Line"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Homestay comments

As team members went out to their "homestay" this past Saturday, we asked them to be active learners of the culture and what was going on around them. Each of the youth team members were hosted by a local family/church. Most of them slept on the floor, used an outhouse-type bathroom, and ate things they might not have eaten before. Read some of their experiences below:

What was difficult about your homestay?
  • sleeping on the floor (either concrete or bamboo)
  • The water supply was far away. The hosts had to fetch water for us to bathe.
  • It was hard to see the beautiful children living in such poverty... and how this poverty affects their hygiene and safety. It made me uncomfortable. But yet it didn't seem to bother the parents.
  • Knowing that they were giving us the best of the living situation and it was still so much of a lower standard that most people I know would be willing to accept.
  • It was awkward at times not knowing what was going on. We'd just sit there and smile and wait for someone to tell us what was going on.

What did you learn about the culture?
  • pigs are very loud when they're being slaughtered
  • Filipinos are very communal. They stayed up at night talking until time for bed, then everyone went to bed.
  • Roosters crow all day long, not just at dawn... they actually crow BEFORE dawn
  • Filipinos love guitars and karaoke
  • The people are very welcoming- even with the language barrier, you could tell when they were lovin' on you or when they were teasing you
What I learned about myself?
  • I'm a wimp!
  • They can worship without all the "stuff" we think is necessary for a worship setting
  • How blessed are the poor. Wealth is dangerous. Being comfortable is a dangerous thing.
  • It's difficult to be with people who are different from me. How much more difficult it would be to truly love them if I have a problem just staying in their house.
  • Even at 50 (which they said for them was more like 100!), I could dominate on the basketball court... although I did have an advantage... I was playing in tennis shoes and they were wearing flip-flops.


Several team members celebrate birthdays while they are here. Taryn on the day the team left Alabama, Buffy on Saturday, Eleanor on Sunday... and the Story's will celebrate their anniversary later in the week. The team had a little celebration tonight in their honor!

Sunday update

After Saturday night's "homestay", each of the groups worshiped with their hosts Sunday morning. Two of the groups were able to attend a local wedding (see pics below) and experience another part of the Filipino culture. Following a lunch which included a roasted pig... everyone loaded up in the jeep once again for the hour trip back into the city. Right before the jeep arrived at the hotel... the other two teams arrived, via motorcycle. All 7 team members, their host, plus drivers arrived on 2 motorcycles. Oh I wish I'd had my camera handy! I'm sure they felt every bump on the trip into the city.Everyone was looking forward to a shower and a clean set of clothes! Right now the team is meeting to finalize their ministry for the next few days. The medical team will continue with the clinics while the youth team will travel to a different location each day. The youth team will be sharing a short dental presentation with 1-3 grade students each morning, playing games with the students during lunch, and then sharing some time with high school students after lunch. Hopefully they'll get to play a few volleyball games with the older students while sharing the gospel through drama, personal testimonies, and giving out tracts. Late each afternoon they'll play a basketball game against the local village team.

Wedding lunch

Saturday Pictures

Betsy with friends!

Pastor's wife cooking lunch for the team

Dona B with patients

Doctora Glee with a goiter patient

Eleanor & Dr. Mike in the pharmacy