On November 29, 2016 the South East Asia delegation team returned to Nashville, TN. Our team consisted of Austin and Kristin Bennecker, Tim Sherrod and myself (Shaun Galford). We are thankful to God for the opportunity we had to serve at our organization’s program area in Palo, Leyte. We entered the trip with a variety of objectives that included Bible teaching, media production of our program area, improving the functionality and hospitality at our community center, Tahanan, as well as other organizational objectives. God was so good and helped make the most of our time there.
Each morning the team began with a devotional, which set the tone for the day. The texts and topics covered during those times characterized our week, some of those included “sacrificial living,” “working night and day,” and looking to the Lord for help (Rom. 12:1-2, 1 Thess. 2:10, and Psalms 120). By the trip's end, we were all satisfied and knew that the Lord had done something special. Throughout the trip Kristin Bennecker was faithful to update our blog. Her entries provide a window into our daily activity. Click the link to read those updates. It was a blessing to stay at Tahanan. The time spent with the Miller family and Leafa Vagatai, a SEA Team Member that was finishing her last week of a 10 month immersion trip abroad, was mutually encouraging.
One morning we visited the local elementary school where Leafa Vagatai and Clark Miller volunteer and spent the morning with the teaching faculty. The majority of the teachers were veterans with much wisdom, some having taught for over 20 years. It was a blessing to hear their stories about why they choose to be educators and what makes them passionate about teaching. However, we also discussed the various educational challenges they face from a lack of administrative staff and instructional materials. Unfortunately, the school has no budget to replace the resources lost in Typhoon Haiyan and the teachers are left to raise their own funds to outfit their classroom and acquire supplies. They were very grateful for our team’s assistance and look forward to working with us into the future.
We also did quite a bit of work at our community center, Tahanan. This included finishing a structure for vertical growing out of bamboo and chicken wire that lines the stone wall of the property. The food grown in the Tahanan garden will provide for the weekly table fellowship, as well as shared with neighbors in need. In addition, the food can be brought to the local prison as our team continues to minister to incarcerated women. Inside Tahanan, Kristin added the finishing touches to give the community center a more welcoming environment for all visitors. Tim gave a technology seminar to the Millers for the improved internet network he set up and their new computers. Those tech additions and upgrades will help the Miller’s increase productivity and efficiency as representatives of our organization. Austin's footage will be a resource to bring awareness of the diverse needs and better communicate our organization’s work in the program area.
Looking forward there are many reasons to show gratitude for the good work that God is doing in the Philippines. There is direction for the garden, young adults are being drawn to the Tahanan to learn the word of God, our relationship with the local elementary school continues to grow, and opportunities to visit and help the women in the jail remain strong. This coming January, we hope to host another SLAM week and a youth pastor conference.