By The Shore At Dusk
A few hours after our arrival, I told Barry, the team leader, that I want to do things right but I didn’t exactly know what to do. He responded that in missions you could never go wrong. When you don’t know what else to do, just smile.
It was getting dark, I stood, by the shore, with Barry, Pastor Jelon – the Badjao Pastor, and a few other people. I watched how Eric and Marcy (my team mates) played with the children. Oh, how the children loved it. And how Erick and Marcy enjoyed it, too.
Seeing Things Differently at the Dawn of the Day
In that community, one family owned a toilet and a bathroom, a family from Mansilingan, Bacolod City who settled in Palawan. A few steps away from where we stay is the house of that family. I wanted to be the first one to get a splash of water in that bathroom. That night, I have asked Pastor Jelon to wake me up at 4.30 in the morning because as soon as those doors open I will have to jump in there to shower.
The whole world was still sleeping; some were still snoring except for Pastor Jelon and myself. I remembered that verse in Mark 1:35: “The next morning Jesus awoke long before daybreak and went out alone in the wilderness to pray.” It sure was long before daybreak but it was not in the wilderness, it was by the shore for me. While waiting for those bathroom doors to open, I walked by the shore to pray.
In prayer, I begged God (in tears) to tell me why He brought me there. I was amazed at what I heard from Him. “Emmylou, the compassion I have for you is the same compassion I have for these people. I died for them, too.” I stood there and wept, the moon and the ocean as my witness.
At the dawn of the day, I was beginning to see things differently. I was ready to learn new things and unlearn old ways.
Goodbye is not Forever
Jesus said, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other places, too, because that is why I was sent.” (Luke 4:43) It’s time for us to bid goodbye to the Badjaos. We may want to spend more time with them but we cannot do it. It was time for us to go to the other tribe – the Batak tribe.
We were getting ready to leave, as we were packing up our things, Eric asked me whether he would give his favorite blue shirt with a “there is only one way to swim” print on it, away or not. I said that it’d be better to give it away. And he did willingly and cheerfully.
After all, God deserves our best, not the scrap. He deserves our favorites, not our leftovers.
The Journey Continued
Leaving the Badjao community, we traveled first by bus, a 20-40-minute ride depending on how many stops the bus makes. We dropped off our heavy luggage in a storehouse and headed to climb the mountains for an overnight stay with the Batak tribe.
It was a 3-hour and 15-minute hike (according to John’s timer) through the long, slippery, muddy, grassy and narrow trail. When we started the hike I can still see the sun. When we arrived the tribe, I can already see the moon and the stars.
There were uphill and downhill, rocky and muddy trails. The road was broad and wide but as the journey continued the trail became small and narrow. Then, I recalled what Jesus said, “…the highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
We crossed rivers and each had small bamboo pole bridges one of which Barry broke and down he went to the river. Most of those bridges do not have railways. The first bridge we crossed had a railway that stretched up to the middle part only.
I almost fainted along the way. The downhill trails I enjoyed but the uphill ones are really a struggle. I cannot keep pace with the rest of team, but John, Pastor Jelon and Erwin were with me all the way. Pastor Jelon carried my handycam bag and John would hold my hand as we crossed rivers.
Over the Mountains and the Seas
I walked in awe thinking about how God brought us from one place to another.
That morning we were on a pump boat to an island. We had lunch under a nipa hut by a white sand beach. We were enjoying the sumptuous broiled fish that the tribal fishermen and Pastor Jojo, the Batak tribe Pastor, caught and cooked for us. (And I guess it’s worth mentioning that it was during this time that I soaked my cellphone in water and so I lost my connection to the civilization henceforth. The cellphone was inside the pocket of my khaki shorts and when we stepped out of the boat, the water was just calf-high but there was a big rush of the wave and it soaked me until my waist. Now, I have a dead cellphone in the middle of nowhere.)
That afternoon, we were on our feet up the mountains gazing in awe of God’s glorious creation and His superb creativity. God is the artist and the world is His masterpiece.
Brian Doerksen in his “Creation Calls” chorus declares that:
“How could I say there is no God
When all around creation calls
A singing bird, a mighty tree
The vast expanse of open sea.“
David, in his psalm sang about the majesty of God (8:3, 7-9)
“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers – the moon and the stars you have set in place – the sheep and the cattle and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.
O, Lord, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth.”
God, the Creator of all the heavens, the moon and stars is truly majestic and worthy of our praise, honor and worship.
Every Step I Take
For that entire hike, if I was not talking to my companions or filming the footages, I was talking to God. When tired, I’d declare to myself that every step I take I take in Jesus.
I reminded myself that I was living out the name of the young professionals cell group department in our church of which I am the overseer, the Trailblazers. I convinced myself that I was pioneering, trailblazing away!
After all, my identity as a trailblazer is that of pioneering the way for those who come behind me; leaving a glowing trail for the next generation; and making a difference in the lives of the people around me – this is what I do and this is who I am!
So, onward feet! Forward march! Let those clay-coated Colorado sandals bear the mark of a 3-hour and 15-minute hike.