Happy New Year and all that stuff...
A couple of Sundays ago we were delighted to find a church that feels like a really good fit for us. They are located just a few minutes from our house, and much of the church leadership lives right here in our neighbourhood. In the two Sundays that we have attended it has been clear that they really have a heart to minister to this community. They love to pray for the sick and worship in spirit and truth.
Today we joined them at another of their "missions". They have a sister church that is located at the local dump, New Carmen. I say "church", but that doesn't really do it justice. It really is a model for complete community transformation. Since 2004, when a man from Orlando named Justin discovered it while riding his bike, New Carmen has seen incredible change.
New Carmen is made up of about 40 families. Until recently they literally lived on top of a massive pile of stinky garbage. They now live on a nearby hill, where they have nice little homes in neat little rows. They once made a living by rummaging through the dump, looking for bottles and other trinkets that could be sold for a few pesos. Now they farm several different crops and raise a variety of animals. There are two school buildings, a thriving church (nearly the entire village is in love with Jesus), and several healthy cell groups.
The dump was shut down earlier this year (actually, I guess that was last year now), though it is expected to reopen in 2008. It is currently undergoing some much needed improvements. The government received funding from several western countries to make the dump more environmentally friendly. This means that they intend to build some sort of dam to keep the garbage from washing into the river. They are also working on installing a system to collect the methane gas to use for energy. When the dump reopens, people will no longer be allowed to rummage through it. However, the Barangay Captain (sort of like a neighborhood mayor) has really got a heart for New Carmen and is hoping to secure legitimate employment at the dump for many New Carmen residents.
Today we were thrilled to join some of our new friends for a medical clinic in New Carmen. A man named Dr. Glen is in town from Delaware and spent all morning seeing patients and prescribing some basic medications. Bethany got to be his pharmacist and did a great job. She also got to pray for many of the patients when she gave them their medicine. Dr. Glen is an orthopedic surgeon and was able to inject lots of cool things into people's arthritic joints. I sat next to him for a while, silently observing and trying to learn a bit of what he was doing. I also made lots of faces at his younger patients. I noticed that most children were being treated for diarrhea and their parents were instructed to boil their water. After lunch he performed a few basic surgeries, removing cysts and growths.
I missed much of the clinic because I was roaming through the jungle. Justin, who is kind of the head missionary at New Carmen, took me for a tour of the community. Specifically, he took me to see the water sources. They have a number of springs, but only one is a suitable source for drinking water. In actual fact, that water was tested and found to be only marginally appropriate for drinking. Based on the number of cases of diarrhea we heard about today, I'd say the water could use some improvements. They are very excited about the water filters, and I hope to deliver one to them in the next few days.
Justin also showed me the pig pens, the fish farm, and the duck pond. I say pond, but in actual fact, the pond was filled in with mud after a recent flood. The dump managers have since placed a wall of garbage next to the duck 'pen' to keep the area from flooding again. Soon they will construct a proper dam. The ducks are bred to make balut, a tasty Filipino treat that consists of a duck embryo that has developed for approximately 18 days, almost to the point of hatching. Yummy...feathers and beak and everything! Bethany actually likes to eat balut. I don't even like to say balut.
I'm being long winded again, so I'm going to wrap this up. Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to helping this community get clean water. Getting to New Carmen requires putting the truck into four wheel drive, so that's pretty cool too. I also want to learn as much as I can from Justin. He obviously has a great deal to teach me about transforming a community and I want to learn all about how to get small farming businesses started.
I'm feeling overwhelmed as we begin 2008. So many things to learn and so many things that I want to accomplish. The last six months have been a great time of making connections. Now it's time to put those connections to use. More than anything though, I must remind myself that the number one priority is my wife and doing everything I can to help her get through school.
I'll leave you with a couple of photos from today.