DAILY LIGHT focuses on three spiritual pilgrims, each in a different stage of life, who take us on a journey of what it means for them to be a Christian in the modern world. Sharing wisdom from their past and hopes for their future – it is an exploration of the extraordinary in our everyday lives.
DAILY LIGHT focuses on three spiritual pilgrims, each in a different stage of life, taking us on a journey of what it means for them to be a Christian in the modern world.
Sharing wisdom from their past and hopes for their future – inspiring an exploration of the extraordinary in our ordinary everyday lives.
“Daily Light” will air at 6:30am Easter Sunday (April 20th) on the Seven Network.
The Film premieres.. get to it if you can. Should be a great night.
The Mindanao Chapter pt. 2.
"Team work makes the Dream Work" Warwick Bentley (Thanks Hortons)
Friday December 9th, 6.30 am. We awake to overlook one of South East Asia’s largest freshwater lakes. Lake Kitcharao. The lake is already busy with small boats buzzing about checking crab-pots and fish traps. We are the last to wake on Mindenao it seems. I watch as an old fisherman pulls his boat up on shore to wash his face in his hands before he begins his days work. Breakfast is served and we are treated to 'American Breakfasts' overlooking the lake. 1 Egg, 1 strip of Bacon, 1 piece of toast with a Juice and a coffee. The Philippine breakfast ordered by Nathan is looking a lot better, Rice, Egg, Sweet Pork or Pan-fried fish, Cucumber and tomato with Juice and Coffee. We quickly down our breakfast and jump on board our awaiting tricycle chariots. We zoom out onto the open road, with the wind in our faces, leaving our ‘Gun Free Zone’ Hotel behind. Day two had begun.
We arrive at Project 646, The Merciful kid’s Development Center, to be greeted by Pastor Antonio M. Senosis and project director Nancy Olay. The project base is the New Life Gospel Church in the small town of Butuan. The same town we had dined in the night before. The warm smiles and healthy handshakes assured us that we were in good hands for the next two home visits. We are again split into our two groups. Group two jump on the back of motorcycles and zoom of down the small dirt road with their guides, as group one clambers to organise ourselves into the same tricycles we arrived in.
Group 1 (Jayson, Richie, Izak and Warwick (me))
As our tricycle whizzed down back alleys and dirt roads, we came to a small open rural area with rice fields on either side of the road and a large tarp with rice being dried out on a concrete slab only meters from where we stopped. Jayson in particular had taken a real interest in the rice obtaining process and investigated the dried husks. Nancy calls us to attention and we are given the rundown on our first house visit for the day. She explains to us that Marlon is a special student with particular needs. She explains that his mother has recently died of a preventable cause and his father is constantly abusive to the children of the house. We have to get through the field of mud, rice and buffalo before us to get to the house. We all draw our breaths and get on in.
We arrive at Marlons house, a small raised two room timber structure with an undercover porch area, to find him there with his older sister Joy. There is no father to be seen. We nervously make our way onto the front porch and take our seats and await the arrival of the father. Joy talks to us and explains that she has studied in Manila, but there is no opportunity in the Butuan area for her to progress further in employment or study. Right now she is needed at home to help look after the children and cook the meals. She looks to be in her teens, but bears the responsibility of someone much older. Marlon can’t sit still. I suspect he may have what we call in Australia A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder). He bounds around like a young labrador, smiling into the camera lens and running in and out of the house. Joy scowls at him as he pushes past her to get close to the camera again. As we begin to settle in, an old man makes his way around the side of the building. He is a slight, shadow of a man with a baggy white tee and wide brimmed farmers hat on to shade his face. He introduces himself as Marciano, the father of Marlon and Joy. We are all taken aback by the small man before us. Not at all the beastly abusive parent we had all envisioned. He had been waiting by the road in town for our arrival and apologises that he must have missed us as we passed. We tentatively accept the apology and ask him a few questions about the living conditions in the area. Marciano explains that they have very little, that there is only very limited work in the area and all he wants is for his children to grow up and be educated. As tears roll down his gnarled cheeks he begs us, 'please, if there is some way you can help us..' . Nancy explains that these are tears of joy. We see no joy in his plea, only a desperate man longing to be in control of his circumstance. Our view of Marciano is shifted as we no longer see the abusive villain that we had imagined him to be, but a father struggling to maintain control and composure as his world has collapsed around him.
Marciano is lonely, his children have all married young to get away from the house and his wife has recently passed away sadly leaving behind 3 children to raise and support with no means to do so. Poverty raises it’s head in many ways. This was a lonely, hard poverty we were witnessing. We pray for the family of the house and give them a big bag of food and supplies to get them through the next week. I feel sad for Marciano as I can only imagine the humility it would require to accept our help.
We say our goodbyes to the Juntong family and head out through the muddy field to the awaiting tricycles again. Jayson loses both his thongs to the sucking mud and abandons them to the field. To his surprise, and ours, Marciano sees Jaysons thongs and digs through the mud to re-gather them. Upon reaching the road he motions to us to follow him to a small water pump where he proceeds to wash our feet and shoes from the mud. He has nothing to give us, but decides he can wash our feet of the mud of his field as a symbol of his gratitude. A fathers pride is regained in a small way.
We drive down the road to our next home visit, a small cluster of houses only a few blocks away from the Juntong home. We are greeted by a family in the street all very excited to see us. This was not the immediate family we had come to visit, but an extension of the family. The home were going to visit next, was one of five in a small compound of houses all owned by the one family group. Everybody was related and they maintained a family community unit within the compound. As we made our way to the actual family we were there to see, the whole community gathered around us. The Lalisan family were the only family in the compound with a sponsor child. To have a house visit was a big event. We sheepishly made our way inside the family home and sat on the raised wooden floor opposite the 6 family members. The rest of the community made their way into the house and poked their heads through any hole they could to get a better view of us. There were faces through holes in the walls, doors and windows, even through the floor boards, all trying to get a glimpse of the visiting foreigners. We talked with the family and even played a game or two to lighten the mood. The pressure of the house visit was all a bit much, it seemed, as the family barely spoke a word for our whole visit. Only Arnielyn, the sponsor child broke the silence to answer questions and ask ‘are you my sponsor?’ to Richie. He apparently drew a striking resemblance to Arnielyns sponsor back in Australia. Mr John B-rd.
As the visit progressed we noticed that the most conversation we could draw out of the family would surround this John B-rd fellow back in Australia. Arnielyn was so affected by this man she’d never met and the whole family spoke of him as a part of themselves. The impact of sponsorship became suddenly very real. A whole community lifted out of desperation and loneliness through one child receiving a sponsor. We said our prayers, gave out the supply bag and said our farewells as we moved out of the house into the street again. As we were leaving one of the small children from outside the home walked past me grinning with his small packet of Milo. A community that cares and shares together, thrives together. We headed back to the church to regroup, before lunch in town and shooting back up to our lake hotel.
After a heavy and impacting couple of home visits, Richie and I decided to take a canoe paddle out to an island we had seen on the lake for a little respite. Richie went into ‘outdoor education’ mode and schooled me in the finer points of canoe paddling (as I had no idea.. apparently team work is required in a two man canoe, and after my sporadic paddle changes, Richie took the helm and we eventually broke our perpetual circular trajectory.) We reached the island and circumnavigated the base taking in the beautiful tropical scenery. What appeared from far off to be a nice place to perhaps rest and relax for a while, now on closer inspection, turned into a steep rocky spire with sheer mossy sides and impenetrable dense foliage on top. But being men, we weren’t going to let a little thing like danger (spiders, centipedes, panthers.. whatever) stand in the way of our imagined tropical getaway. We jammed the canoe between a rocky outcrop and made our way onto the only platform we could find. As we started our ascent up the rocks into the trees we realised that we may have bitten off a little more ‘tropical getaway’ than we could chew. The trees were littered with big sticky spider webs and the rocks were coated in slippery moss. After both of us had a decent fall each, we decided we’d just climb onto the nearest tree and try get a view of the hotel. We got out onto the thick branch of a fig tree and both claimed our mission accomplished. Ah the great explorers. High-fives all round. We ticked that conquest off the list and scrambled down to the water to wash off the spiders and panthers we were sure had made their way into our shirts. After wringing our clothes out, we un-wedged our vessel and paddled back to the hotel to prepare ourselves for the up-coming school visit.
Everyone was ready and waiting as we pulled ashore and we quickly dressed and jumped aboard our tricycles again to head off to the school. The children were waiting as we arrived in the largest numbers we had seen yet. None of them deterred in the slightest by the pelting rain that arrived with us. We quickly made our way inside to sign the visitors book and get ourselves organised. The young kids flocked all around, lapping up the attention and high-fives dealt out by the surfer boys. We were directed into the school hall where after we had introduced ourselves, were treated to a beautiful song from the children.. from 2 feet away. It was beautiful and intimidating at the same time. So many had crammed into the hall that there was barely any room for the kids to perform. The boys smiled and lapped up the performance. Jordy gave everyone a lesson in ‘Aussie-Aussie-Aussie! OI! OI! OI!’ and Richie taught the children the finer points of ‘paper, scissor, rock.’ Everyone seemed stoked. Even the ice-cream man outside wore a smile, despite not being able to light his cigarette in the rain.
After the school hall we visited the class rooms and at each room were treated with an impeccable 'Wel-come Vis-ee-tores!' in perfect unison. There were many children from the town at the school and all wore perfect uniforms and clean black shoes. The same children we had seen in dirty, worn clothes on the street, wore their uniforms (and I assume education) with impeccable pride. There seemed such a high value placed on the institute of education that I have never seen back home. It was also the one thing, that at each house visit, the parents of the sponsor children would express the desire to see in their children. An education. It seemed evident to everybody we spoke to, that education meant opportunity and opportunity meant an escape route from poverty. Compassion provided this opportunity for many of the children we saw at the school that day.
With the weather clearing up slightly and the school ice-cream man finally able to light his cigarette, we new that it was time to get into the real reason we were here. The whole school vs. the Vis-ee-tores (visitors) soccer extravaganza! The game kicked off with the ball being flung across the field in no particular direction and then dissolved into a game of trying to remain on your feet while being mobbed by 50 children at a time. Jayson was the first to be claimed by the slippery field, then countless others, as the slippery mud took victim after victim. The field became lined with the younger children and staff all spectating and cheering every time a goal or a fall occurred. Both seeming to be of equal entertainment value. After watching a few goals go though at the our end, Team Captain, Andrew ‘the General’ Merry took to the goal square and stood guard of our pride. Unfortunately, to no avail. As the onslaught of children continued, we became no match for their barefoot skill and pure speed. They were nimble little players and we conceded defeat. By the end of the game, only Richie and Andrew remained on their feet with all others being claimed by the mud. We hugged and high-fived our way back to the tricycles and headed back to the hotel for our final night.
Arriving at the hotel, everyone was exhausted. We ate our meal of local eel, fried chicken and vegetables in watery fish sauce (this one not many ate.) followed by mango, vanilla and purple ice-cream. We finished up and headed back to our rooms, only to be greeted by and black wall of insects where our bedroom door once stood. Apparently the brown ‘stink’ beetle migration had begun and our room was the only light on the lake worth migrating to. The beetles filled our room and covered our bed and camera equipment. After an hour or so of sweeping, citronella-ing and flame-throwing (deodorant and lighter.. Thanks Jake and Jayson), we finally had our room back. The sulphur-like smell of the bugs and crunching under our feet made for a nauseating sleep and I threw up more than once in my mouth during the night.
Thank you lord for your kindness, mercy and grace for those in need. Thank you that you provide our every need and hear the cries of those that need you the most. Thank you for compassion, education and the supplies of our every need. Thank you LORD for your plan, your love, and the outworking of both in our lives.
I do wonder though, LORD.. stink bugs?