The first thing the pilot said to me was, “Whoa, here come the storms. We’d better take off now or never.” We climbed into this tiny 6 seater Cessna, headed down the grassy, wet runway and took off. The dark clouds kept rolling in. Story by Todd Murray.
The plane climbed higher and higher. The aim was to cross over the mountain tops before the clouds hindered our visibility. Our pilot, Ben, was growing increasingly concerned; his normal flight path was not looking like an option.
We continued to fly directly into the darkening clouds, then, at the last minute he decided to abort the flight path, dip the left wing and duck away from the edge of the dark, cloudy mist. We then took a huge left hand turn just before flying straight into the cloud.
Somehow he found a crack in the clouds, and for a brief moment we could see the mountain top. Ben quickly dipped between the cloud and the top of the mountain, and then, just like that, we had made it over the top of the mountain in the nick of time.
We continued to fly along the mountain ridge enjoying the beautiful scenery of Palawan, an island in the Philippines. The next comment Ben made to me was, “What you are about to experience, you will never experience ever again, anywhere else.”
We circled around the airstrip where we were to land. It was a tiny, grassy airstrip in the remote jungle mountains and looked like nothing more than a small, overgrown golf fairway!
As we continued to fly away from the airstrip, it occurred to me that there were mountains either side of this airstrip and at either end. How was he going to approach the strip?
There was no direct line he could follow. We rounded a mountain and the airstrip was out of sight again, but the pilot began his descent into the valley. With no strip in sight, he zig-zagged his way through the valley, getting lower and lower at every turn. The wing tips were only just missing the trees. When I thought the plane couldn’t get any lower, the airstrip popped out of nowhere, and the wheels touched down right at the beginning of the runway. My heart was in my throat, but there we were … 9 Aussies from Grace Church in Port Macquarie had just arrived at one of the most remote mountain areas in the Philippines.
Home of lofty mountains, rainforests and the world’s longest underground river, Palawan is nestled between the island of Mindoro and North Bornea. Palawan is one of the largest islands and provinces of the Philippines and is perhaps the most famous tourist island in the Philippines, known for its beautiful beaches and scenery.
It’s an unforgettable place, with the most beautiful people tucked in mountain places waiting to hear about their Saviour.
Already living in the tribe are some missionaries from Australia who work with New Tribes Mission (NTM). It is hard to believe, but even in our technologically advanced 21st century there are still 2 billion people or 6,500 people groups who have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ shared in their own language. These missionaries are learning the language and culture of this tribal group, with the hope to teach through the Bible and translate the Scriptures into their own native tongue.
They are also busy teaching literacy to the people, which will empower them not only to read God’s word one day, but will elevate them in society. Grace Church, alongside NTM, seeks to support the work through sending teams and financial support.
This year, a team of 9 young people from Grace went on the adventure of a lifetime. The goal for this team was to experience life in another world and help contribute to the needs of the tribal members and the missionaries. During the wet season, one of the key bridges from a missionary’s house to the rest of the tribe was damaged and dislodged through a flood. Our role was to re-build the bridge and re-route the water so that it flowed under the bridge again. Half of our team set about re-building the much needed bridge, while the other half of the team began re-painting one of the missionary’s houses.
Because these houses are made out of bamboo, they tend to deteriorate quickly due to the savage weather that is often experienced in these places. We re-painted the house in 3 days, which would have taken the missionaries almost one month to complete on their own. So they were very thankful to have us visit!
The missionaries in the tribe also run a medical clinic funded by Grace Church, where they assist with the medical needs of the tribal people – when they give birth, flying them out to hospital, providing treatment for malaria, or just providing a simple bandaid. This tiny clinic provides invaluable assistance to the needs of 500 or more tribal folk.
A few days after returning from the tribe I received this story …
Even though it’s rainy season here in Palawan, some of our friends lost their home to fire last night. Mulita was busy with her children, weeding her mountain rice field. Her husband (and cousin) Jambi had just taken their youngest home to cook him something to eat.
Somehow the house caught fire, and within seconds flames had engulfed their little home. Jambi grabbed little Normisio and ran out of the house, then rushed back to try to save some of their things. By this time Mulita had seen the smoke, and rushed back to find Jambi reaching into their burning home and grabbing whatever he could.
“Stop! Stop before you die!” Mulita yelled. Jambi managed to save some blankets, a pot, his hunting gun, and a little food, but so much more was lost to the flames. Their machetes, knives, clothes, medicine, cooking wok, backpack, and other things which they needed to survive.
Spending the night at a neighbour’s house, the usually quiet and unemotional Jambi cried for the whole night. Mulita came down the mountainside this morning, and her way of dealing with it was very characteristic of her outgoing nature!
She told and retold the story, complete with a re-enactment of all the events! Some of the other villagers are giving them a little money to help replace their things, and we also got together a backpack full of emergency supplies, replacement medicines and clothes for the family, which George hiked up to them today.
A moving story of what life is like in a tiny remote village in the Mountains of Palawan.
While in the Philippines, the team also had the opportunity to visit Compassion (child sponsorships). Grace Church in partnership with Compassion have sponsored a community of children in the Philippines, and we are now seeking to send teams to this community every year to help in any way we can.
If you would like more information about the work of Grace Church in the Philippines or other places overseas, please contact Youth and Missions Pastor Todd Murray, ph: 6581 0654 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org