From the monthly archives:

March 2005

Outreach in Sta. Maria, Malalag

by Original Author on March 31, 2005

Originally posted by Betty Jo Harter

Isaiah 58: 6, 7, 8:

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? , Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.

For the person living in comfort, scenes of starving children and homeless people seem distant and unreal. Our standard of living in much of America insulates us from harsh renderings of these real human conditions.

I only thought I understood the poverty stricken children of the Philippines from the photographs Gus would bring home from his many trips prior to our move here in 2000. Photographs could not capture correctly the ravages of hunger and poverty. I was not prepared for what I was able to view upon our arrival here. I do now, and have always believed that showing mercy is not optional in the Christians life but that is a clear test of faith.

Gus had a monumental task ahead of him in the work among the churches. The children and I did not come just to take refuge in our gated community behind the walls of our home. We came to serve the people here most of all the helpless starving children. “Thank God”, I said “that god only requires us to be obedient; He brings about all the changes”. Like so many others who want to make a difference to reach out in mercy, I did not know where to start. The landscape is so vast. Hunger, yes starvation, disease, and hopelessness is everywhere. I could have waited to map out a plan, and learn the language so I could communicate effectively and wait until I had enough resources for my well mapped out program. I do not discount that those things would have been beneficial, but it seems that so much of my Christian life had been spent in preparing to do something and never doing it! God being my helper I became determined to act upon all the promises of our God to sustain us and to deliver us.

My soul longs to capture the scenes that unfold before me on a daily basis for you who pray and support the effort here. I apologize for my lack of vocabulary. I will attempt to describe the most recent event to rescue five children from starvation as it unfolded…January 14, 2005………………

……….…Communication here in the Philippines is usually by sending text messages through the cell phone, or sometimes by radio to the remote regions in the jungle (Filipinos refer to it as forest). Most communication is dispersed from one village or outreach to another by messenger as communicated to an official in the Barangay Hall (we sometime refer to it in America as the County seat). Such a message came to us through many attempts to find help from a family of fourteen children on the mountain side of a province called Santa Maria, located in the southern island of Mindanao. The call came through to the clinic, Beauty for Ashes, from an NGO (Non-Government Organization) here in Davao City. The alarm sounded so familiar—fourteen children in one family and the mother is gone, where? We seem to never be able to find out where all the mothers disappear. The Filipinos have a saying “Dead Mother”. Just accept reality and go on. She probably will not return, don’t spend your time looking for her. I still cannot get used to just accepting it as fact, a natural reaction I am told to birthing so many children and not being able to feed them. So, she or in many instances the father, leaves the other one to suffer alone. Sometimes, they both leave the children. “Dead mother”, “Dead father”.

Understanding the family dynamics before preparing to leave to find the deserted children made my heart pound. What condition would we find? Never minding that I was preparing to trek through the jungle in the heavily populated kidnapping area. I truly could not focus on that because I had to get to the children. I will admit however that I did pull out one of the baby receiving blankets and wrap it around my bleached blonde hair in a Muslim wrap. My companions said “that’s okay, Mom Betty, but what are you going to do about your American nose sticking out?”

That early morning of the 14th, I prepared children’s clothes, baby bottles, formula, diapers, first aid supplies, sterile water, and food for the journey for me and all my companions. Dr. Redulla, (a young pediatrician who agreed to help us part time at Beauty for Ashes) Annie, our Social Worker, Mae and Jenny, midwives who help nurse the children and our trusted helper Rey. The landscape leaving Davao after getting out of the city is really very beautiful; the roads used to be treacherous, but are now much improved. Still, however, there are areas of good road, bad road, with ruts instead of smooth surface. You soon learn to either endure the “hardness of the way” or grab the handle strap and brace your body for the impact of the trenches from time to time. Even so, if you focus on God’s creation of nature and not man’s disaster of the roadway, it is inspiring. The mountains are lush with foliage. Exotic flowers (bulak) everywhere. This tapestry of God’s creation is magnificent.

You are constantly brought back to reality with the Nipa Hut scattered along the road. Some barely standing while leaning on a pole for their foundation, barely sticks, and a plastic covering for their roof; if they are blessed to have a roof. Most of the time cardboard or newspaper is used for the siding of the house. It is always the same, many smiling friendly faces of children everywhere running around, some without clothes or barely any clothes school age children are at home unable to attend school, they are caring for the small children, while the mother is away somewhere working for1,000.00 pesos ($20.00 a month) to support her family.

After traveling 2 ½ hours from Davao City, we entered the little province of Santa Maria. It was market day! “Oh no”, I thought, just a I am trying so hard to be inconspicuous among these people, trying to lower myself in the backseat so as to not call attention to my white skin, I find that everybody in the province it seems has gathered on this one day in one place surrounding the Barangay Hall. The Barangay hall is where we needed to be for our first stop. Mr. Rey, Dr. Redulla and Annie got out of the car and proceeded inside the building to find the Barangay Captain, (an elected highly respected official representing the area). We were informed that a driver, a 4-wheel drive vehicle, and several officials would lead us to the mountain and the family we were looking for.

Santa Maria was hit by a twister and landslide at the same exact time of the tsunami in Indonesia. The Philippines was very blessed that Indonesia blocked the wave from coming this way; however, we did feel several earth quakes afterwards (The latest being the night I started to write this article February 5. It registered 6.9 on the Richter scale). We traveled by car as far as we could. No roads, only paths it seemed. We soon realized we could travel no longer with the car. We were bogged down in muddy ruts due to the recent landslide in the area.

The wise option seemed to be to hide the car in the brush in the forest. Gather our supplies and get in the back of the four wheel drive vehicle of the Barangay officials. The Filipinos always make room for one more or ten more to ride in a vehicle. We all squeezed in with our supplies and proceeded to drive until it became apparent we would have to walk the rest of 1 to 2 kilometers. Now that seemed challenging enough to this 65 year old woman but I thought it was a little much to forge two rivers by foot along the way. However, I eagerly wanted to get to the children and I certainly did not want to be left behind in this jungle. I called on the Lord to please give me physical strength and give me wisdom to discern what to do when we would arrive at our destination. I am always amazed when our friends here ask me, “Why are you here?” “What Mission Board sent you?” I always answer the same. “No board, Sir. A board would be too far away to do us any good. God called us and He is so very near, we call on Him for our sustenance, our strength, His wisdom to guide us. Men may fail us, God never will”

How my mind wandered back to so many memories of sermons preached by Elder Bradley when we first were traveling from Babylon to Zion 43 years ago to enter the Kingdom. As brother Bradley would tell Gus and I how the Gospel brought life and immortality to “light” through the Gospel. Not life but “light”, he would say. He would tell us that God directed his ministry and called them to preach. My heart would swell and my tears would flow at the sound of the true Gospel. The freedom to know we had found a people after so many years of searching who believed that God was in control and would reveal and direct his people by His word and His Holy Spirit. Before we heard the Gospel we had prepared ourselves to go the jungle to try and “save people for eternity”. That was a burden “neither we nor our Fathers could bear”. We were delivered from that misguided burden, and now I find myself with utter joy and thankfulness that the Lord has given us the opportunity to serve His dear children as described in Matthew 25:35, 36, and Isaiah 58. We have to be the most blessed family on this earth to have this opportunity. (I apologize for reflecting so much on our travels to the church but the threads are part of the tapestry of our lives, the reason to be able to rejoice in this day at hand for our truthful understanding of the Gospel).

Every one of my younger companions walked ahead of me carrying most of the load, while Mr. Rey lingered back with me both to photograph our experience for you and to assist me should I slip and slide in the mud. The stones in the river bed were very slippery so I chose to roll up my jeans and wade through in my tennis shoes. My rock skipping days are in the past! The younger ones tripped across so gracefully even with the load. As we turned a bend in the path, Jenny turned to us and said, “I think they live on the other side of the mountain looming in the distance and across another river. I was too tired to utter a groan. It would take too much energy I just prayed a little harder. As we got to the river we looked up in front of us and we could see the huts on the horizon. Soon the Barangay officials stood at the edge of the river and called out to the family to see if anyone could hear us so that they would anticipate our arrival. They heard, and the children and people from the 3 huts began to scamper down the mountain to greet us. The younger girls and the doctor were already across the river at this point. The father of the children could see that I was having a hard time trying to decide how I would get across. He got a log and placed it across to the other side. I decided that if I fell off the log I would create quite a scene, so I decided to do as I did in the last river and put my feet in and wade. I actually found the slippery path up the steep grade on the other side was much more difficult than the river. My heart was beating so rapid with eagerness to finally get to the task at hand which was to identify the children of the 14 who needed our help, and to determine how to get them down the mountain to the clinic. We also needed to know who would accompany them from their home, seeing that the mother was nowhere to be found. Nothing could have prepared us for the appearance of the 5 children who needed our help. A set of girl triplets, 2 years old, and a set of girl twins, 10 months old. As they brought them out of the hut I was so saddened at their physical appearance of malnutrition. The twins were Kwashiorkor – swollen with edema, having been fed only one food. The triplets were a combination pf Marasmus, Kwashiorkor. They were dirty, full of sores, hungry, and naked. Sounds like the description the Lord gave our sinfulness when He described His love for us in spite of our condition, doesn’t it? I did gather these babies in my arms spread one of the blankets I brought on the ground, and tried to determine how we could be of help. The obvious being, of course their need of food and clothing, Beyond that, I would not know until I got them back down the mountain to the Barangay in Santa Maria and on to Davao City and Beauty for Ashes…

All of the other children gathered around us trying to determine from their worried looks on their faces just what our motives were. The doctor, the midwives and I quickly because of experience were able to reasonably diagnose some of the apparent physical problems just from observation, and examination. Anemia and dehydration wee the most obvious sign. It was determined by family counsel that the father and the only other daughter, who was 12 years old, would come with us to the clinic to help with the children. I wondered as I looked at the surroundings and the hut how the family of all boys left behind would survive without the work this little sister “Nellie” did for them. The tattered clothes were strung up on a line. They looked as dirty as the unwashed clothes. Of course there was no water except at the river. They said there was a spring somewhere where they could get their drinking water. Nellie would do everything. Prepare what food there was to prepare, scrub the clothes by hand as best she could and tend to the 5 babies. The 5 babies slept in the hut stretched in hammock hanging from the ceiling while the other children curled like pretzels on the floor. I had taken five sets of everything, anticipating that we would have to bring all 5 children back with us. Blankets, clothes, diapers, bottle formula. We stretched everything on the ground in assembly line fashion and began to dress and bundle the babies for the journey. The babies were crying, the children that were to remain at home were crying, everyone was crying as we explained that the babies were in danger of dying due to their malnourished condition we assured them that we would treat them for at least 30 to 45 days and then we would bring them back as soon as they were well. We started down the mountain with the other children running behind us crying for their father. One little boy looked as though he was overcome with grief seeing that his father was leaving. I opened one of the packages of cookies I had packed for our snack and handed them out to the children running behind us as we continued our trek back to our car.

The remainder of the walk back was much the same as I described in the beginning. However, now we had five crying babies who were hungry and sick, a father, and a 12 years old girl. None of whom had ever been in a car or traveled outside their small area. Having experienced this many times in the past I prepared the car for it. We prepared the bottles and started feeding. I prepared the car with old towels and plastic I brought because I knew they would vomit because they would be car sick. Other than that the trip back was uneventful. We knew our work had just begun…

We arrived at Beauty for Ashes, having called ahead and asked that beds be prepared for the children’s arrival. Everyone at the clinic always knows their role for preparation of new patients and they were very careful to follow through with preparation. We pulled up to the gated wall, rang the bell and all the children and staff from Beauty for Ashes ran out to greet us. How many times do you see triplets and twins from the same family? It was our first! As dirty and as soiled as the children were, we were very careful not to bathe them yet. Usually the malnourished children suffer from hypothermia so we bundled them immediately. We prepared their schedule of feeding, prepared the IV’s for those that were dehydrated and tried to get them to sleep. The next day we would do laboratory work up and X-rays. You can just imagine the culture shock of this family. The clinic is a very modest building by American standards, but it has electricity, running water, bathrooms, and plenty of food. In just a very few hours they had moved from their hut on the side of the mountain to riding in a car, experiencing the traffic of a city and the modernization of a home. They were so frightened and uneasy as we tried to settle everyone for the night.

They have now been at the clinic on medication, they have been on our feeding program for malnourished children, they have had physical therapy, and lots of love and attention. It has been thirty days now and the children are steadily gaining weight, although the triplets are still only 60% of their weight for age, I have now come to another crossroads in their care and that is, “What do I do now?” No mother, a father who needs to be away to be able to work and a 12 year old little girl who has more than most grown women can do… No relatives anywhere to help them. No NGO’s who would respond to them for help. Oh pray for me our children, and our dedicated God honoring staff. We have to make life changing decisions daily for so many children. We long for the day when we can build on the property we have to acquired, oh how we the facilities to care for and raise these children the Lord has given us.

I miss America! Gus and I attended a meeting before Christmas where a Filipino choir sang America the Beautiful. I sobbed for the longing to stand with my fellow Americans and salute and honor our great country! We often sit around the piano, the children, Gus and I, and sing the songs of our country, and from our youth, and pretend for awhile that we are not out in the middle of the ocean so far from our homeland!…

…I miss my birth children and grandchildren and the great grand children I may never see. There is an ache in my heart that will never go away. My heart hurts sometimes over longing for them. I dare not dwell on it…

…I miss the church, the Kingdom of Baptized believers we joined so many years ago. The songs of praise, the songs of everyone in harmony praising God with their voices. I play the Church tapes and CD’s daily that we brought with us from home and rejoice and cry.

Brethren we are where we need to be! How can anything we do be thought of or even suggested as sacrifice when we compare the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

God Bless,
Mom Betty
Photos of our trip in Sta. Maria, Malalag

{ 0 comments }

Psalms 68:13

by Original Author on March 25, 2005

Originally posted by Betty Jo Harter

"Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold."

God’s amazing creation “the bird” has been my constant companion encourager through the years. I’m here now in the hospital wondering if they will come and perch somewhere even in the distant rooftop within my view.

From my bed I do have a view of the outside. If I turn my eyes downward I view the roof and all the mechanical large containers they need to operate this hospital. However, if I look up I can see the sky, the clouds, and the rooftop of buildings in the distance.

Now I am very thankful for whatever they have put on this rooftop to function. Last night, the electricity all over the city went out, “brownout” we call it. We had a memo from the embassy yesterday morning. The terrorist promised they would bomb either our port in here in Davao, Shopping Centers, Markets and Churches. They want to retaliate for the terrorist shot in Manila jail break last week. “Oh” I said to myself “they here”. I can’t do anything about it. God is in control, He knows I’m here. Gus, John Mark, August, Rhea, Joanna, and Helena were here! August started crying and wanted to go home. “Just leave! I called home, all the other babies were crying at home. Should Gus leave by the stairs with the children? “What if the terrorist were outside or should he stay put where we had an emergency lighting in the hospital from the hospital generator?

And so I am thankful for all the mechanics to run this hospital sitting on the rooftop outside my window.

Back to my birds, “the sparrows” my consolation the Lord had always used to lift my spirits so many times in the past. It is 6:00 A.M. “Good Friday” and they have found their perch on my window outside. They are dancing outside, just “peering” at me as if to say, “We have not forgotten you’re here”.

“Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.” (Psalm 68:13)

God is wonderful; merciful to me I think he has sense of humor, showing me in these little sparrows that I’ll be up, dancing through the house (in joy of heart anyway) on these old swollen legs that don’t seem to work right now.

Thank you for your emails and constant prayers. I covet them both. I will be alright. The Lord sent these familiar encouragers to me again. He always does if I keep my eyes focused upward and not on the rubbish on the roof below.

God Bless
Mom Betty

{ 0 comments }

Prayer Request from Gus Harter

March 23, 2005

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter We have seen the Lord’s hand in healing in the chronic illness of Betty Jo. Once again we ask for your prayers. Because she has so many complications from multiple diseases diagnosed; Lupus, Diabetes, masculitis, Addison’s, hypertension, we never know whether to be alarmed at new symptoms that seem […]

Read the full article →

The tumor is gone!

March 18, 2005

Originally posted by Betty Jo Harter Praise the Lord with us in behalf of the healing of our 16 months old Rhea. She is so beautiful beyond words. Huge brown eyes that are enchanting. The cutest turned up nose, very unusual for a Filipino child whose nose is usually flatter. Her personality is mischievous at […]

Read the full article →

Four Ordinations

March 11, 2005

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter I have been traveling and preaching on the Island of Bohol for four years. In the first week of March we ordained four men to the full work of the gospel ministry. For different reasons with each minister I have postpone the ordination of these four men. But after […]

Read the full article →

Seven Kilometers from Heaven

March 9, 2005

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter Two years ago I baptized a young minister named Roseller Nemeño, Sr. and seven members of his congregation. A year later I participated in his ordination and the constitution of Providence Primitive Baptist Church at the city of Molave in the province of Zamboanga del Sur. This past week […]

Read the full article →

Papa, Papa!

March 8, 2005

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter Both my schedule and that of my wife are hectic. They keep us separated doing different works of mercy, I with the churches and she with the many children. I recently took off a day just to be with her. Beauty for Ashes called and requested Betty Jo to […]

Read the full article →