Well, things are really kicking in to high gear for Bethany. She has been involved in a whole bunch of different orientation/getting-to-know-you activities with the other new students this week. I'm sure she'll tell you all about it in a couple of days, but I thought I would write a blog today since she's got lots on her plate. Oh, and she told me to.
About a week and a half ago, Dad and I went to visit a place called Isla Verde, which is populated by a people group called the Badjao. These people are sometimes referred to as "sea gypsies" and "God forsaken". In fact, the origin of the name "Badjao" is actually "bad Joe", which is a thinly veiled suggestion that they are unwelcome aliens.
The Badjao are extremely poor. They are squatters on government land, living over a sea of garbage along the shores of the Davao Gulf. If you're a Google Earth user, you can see the overcrowded neighbourhood at: longitude 7° 4'15.00"N, latitude 125°37'29.00"E. Their homes are suspended on stilts, six to ten feet over the filthiest mess I've ever encountered. All of the garbage that ends up in the storm drains of Davao City (a city of 1.3 million people) eventually winds up under the homes of Isla Verde.
The neighbourhood is a maze of strange make-shift walkways that are also suspended above the filth. If you need to catch up on your prayer life, I suggest you go for a nice leisurely stroll through Isla Verde. With each step upon those thin, wobbly boards, I wondered if any man of my mass had ever ventured along this path. With each shift of the bamboo supports, I contemplated the consequences of a plunge into the primordial soup. I was later told of another foreigner who "took the plunge" and contracted typhoid within 24 hours. Silly me, I was just worried about my camera.
The children of Isla Verde negotiate those pathways without a care in the world. They seemed truly perplexed when Dad and I stated that we could go no further because the 12 foot stretch of sagging bamboo that stood between us and our destination was more that we dared to attempt. At times the Badjao seemed impatient when we caused traffic jams with our hesitations. There are better pictures at the bottom, but this one gives you an idea of what the walkways are like:
They are a beautiful people though. As always, they loved to have their picture taken, so I was a very welcome visitor. Our guide was a man named Mordegai. He is an African missionary who served the Badjao for many years. He took us to a home to visit some old friends of his. The house was simply one room, approximately 15 feet square. The floor was made up of bamboo slats that had enough room between them that you could easily see the debris that floated far below. The entire structure swayed to and fro every time somebody shifted their weight. We were invited to sit on the floor of their home while Mordegai did a bit of translating for us. We had a chance to pray for them, and I think our visit was a blessing to them.
I hope to go back there a lot in the coming months. Not only are these people very poor, but they have been rejected by the surrounding community. It seems to me that more than anything, they simply need someone to love them. Jesus was always hanging around people like the Badjao. If I want to be like Jesus, I think Isla Verde is a good place to start.
I'll tell you more about Isla Verde in the coming weeks. I have already returned there once since my first visit and Bethany was there today. For now, I will leave you with a few photos of our journey. You can see the garbage in the background of some of the pictures.