Sunday, June 5, 2011

Update 7

Farewell to Palawan
Hello everyone!
We are now in the lowlands preparing to make our way back to America. It is quite a new experience to be writing this in an air-conditioned room! The past eight months have been incredible! We thoroughly enjoyed our time as missionaries in the mountains of Palawan. We would like to conclude our blog with a couple more stories from Kemantian.
Middle of April found us in Emrang. We made the trek to Shama and Allie’s new hut to help finish a couple items that I was unable to complete in March. It was great to be back there. During our three-day stay we made a new bench for the clinic, shelving for the kitchen, cut the bamboo siding to make windows, and finished pouring concrete in the outhouse. Becca and I slept in a tent on bamboo leaves. It was quite lumpy! However, we had a great time with the girls and working on the hut.
The end of April was a special time. All the missionaries spent about three days doing team-building activities. It was a lot of fun to work as a group and accomplish something completely unrelated to the usual daily tasks. Some of the activities included getting everyone across the river without getting wet, building a hut in one afternoon, the trust fall, and blind-folded tag. Fortunately no one was hurt in any of the activities and we all gained a better understanding of team communication and effectiveness. The mission project plans on continuing to use this method of team development in the future.
In early May, Becca and I spent the night with a native family. We wanted to experience what it is like to be a native and sleep on bamboo (datag) with only a thin sheet. To start the night, we had a delicious meal of pancit and rice with our friends, Agus and Mindan. Shortly after eating we went to bed on the cold datag and Becca and I tried to huddle for warmth. One would think the jungle is hot all the time, but in the mountains it gets to the low seventies/high sixties at night. About an hour after trying to sleep I began to shiver and shake somewhat uncontrollably. Becca felt my head and said I was fevering. So, about midnight Becca and I trekked through the jungle to the clinic to get some tylenol and malaria meds. We then headed back to our friends house to sleep. It was truly a native experience, sleeping on cold bamboo and getting malaria!
Becca learned how to make linidgid a couple weeks ago. Basically, linidgid is the local bread. It is made out of a root called kumbahang. After peeling the root, one spends a lot of time grating it over a makeshift grater (an unfolded tin-can with nail holes) until a large pile of shredded root forms. Then the pile of shredded kumbahang must be stuffed into a rice sack or shirt and “milked” or squeezed until all the water is removed. At this point it is called linidgid. Just stick it in a frying pan and ten minutes later you have native bread (like a flatbread).  
It is exciting to see how well many of the low-weight babies are progressing in size as they continue to come to the clinic for weight checks and milk formula. We wrote about one of the babies, Indil, in our third update. Her aunt has adopted her and has taken on the responsibility of bringing her to the clinic for milk formula. She is doing so well! Another baby named Iprilina is doing fantastic also. Her mother has over ten kids and is unable to produce milk anymore. Therefore, milk formula for Iprilina has been life-saving.
During our stay in Kemantian we adopted a cat named Milo. Becca really likes this kitty. You could say they are kindred spirits. They both like to relax. It was very common to find them napping together on our bed. Every morning about six, Milo would come to our door and meow until Becca would elbow me and say, “Jon, can you please get Bubba (our nickname for Milo)?” So, I would bring Bubba to bed so Becca could sleep with him until seven. This cat was spoiled! Whatever we were eating, this kitty enjoyed also. It’s no wonder he got fat on a Fri-Chick diet! Bubba has one of those faces that’s hard to deny. We will miss him a lot. We considered bringing him to America, but it would have been really expensive to go through the whole quarantine process.
Three weeks ago Becca bought a 12-hour-old chicken for eight pesos. One of the local boys was running around with it and Becca saw it and wanted it. Its mother had been killed by a dog the day before, so the little chicky wasn’t going to live very long. Immediately Becca started feeding it rice and little ants. For the first day Gapas (our name for the chick—meaning cotton ball in Palawano) had a difficult time walking. He would peck at the food but miss most of the time. By the second day he was much more skilled at grabbing food with his beak. For warmth, Becca found a flexible water container and filled it with hot water and placed Gapas on it wrapped in a blanket. It was cute to watch the little chicky peep and then quiet down when put on the “hot water bed.” On the third day, Becca thought that Gapas and Milo (the cat) should be friends. So, during Milo’s usual visit in the morning she introduced the two. In an instant Milo grabbed Gapas in his mouth and jumped off the bed. Fortunately Becca’s screaming scared Milo enough to drop Gapas and give me time to grab the chicky before he got eaten. It was quite an ordeal. I’ll never forget Becca screaming, “He ate my chicken, he ate me chicken!!!!” The whole village heard it, and it was the talk of the day. By the fourth day Gapas was still cute but incredibly annoying. Something had to be done about the constant peeping. We managed to find a mother hen who had just hatched a brood of chicks. So while we covered the hen’s eyes we stuffed Gapas with the other chickies under her belly. Amazingly it worked! A week later we saw Gapas still running around with his new family.
One of our fellow Filipino missionaries, Napthali, had to have surgery last week. He has worked at the mission project in Kemantian for over five years. He has been an extremely valuable asset to the project. He is an agriculturalist, teacher, preacher, and fix-it man. The project would not be where it is without him. Anyways, Nap has had symptoms of a kidney stone that has been untreated for several years. A urologist checked it out recently and said he needed surgery and was not a candidate for lithotripsy because of the size of the stone. So, last week I came to the lowlands with Nap for his surgery. There is no HIPPA here and there are about ten patients to a room, not including the 10-20 family members.  In the Philippines, every patient has to have a family member or friend by their side at all times. If the doctor orders any medicine or supplies, the family member has to go across the street and buy it from one of the many stores. It was crazy! During Naps surgery one of the nurses from the operating room came and told me that the doctor needed a pinrose drain. “Are you kidding!!!??” I thought. Nonetheless, I ran across the street to six different stores before finding the right drain and then ran back to the OR with the requested item. I had heard of instances when doctors didn’t even close-up incisions because there was no one to buy sutures for the patient! Thankfully nothing went wrong through Nap’s entire hospital stay and he is recovering very well. One thing is for sure, no matter how many Americans complain of medical care in the States, I will always be very grateful for it!
Currently, the mission project in Kemantian is in need of some more medical staff. The nurse that was to work the clinic after we left was unable to stay. Therefore Shama and Allie, the two nurses/teachers in Emrang, had to leave their project to fill-in at the clinic until more medical people arrive. We still don’t know who though! If you or anyone you know is interested in working in a remote jungle clinic in the Philippines please email me ( or Leonda George ( Ideally the medical person would have some experience as an RN, be able to go to the Philippines ASAP, and be able to commit for at least six months. If anyone is interested or has questions please let us know!
As we reflect back on what we have learned medically, we are quite grateful. Over this year we have learned how to treat many tropical diseases and primary care-type illnesses. It has served as a fantastic opportunity to confirm my decision to be a doctor. I absolutely love it! For Becca, it has confirmed her decision not to do nurse practitioner. She enjoyed it when I saw the patients and she prepped all the meds and did the assisting. It has been wonderful for both of us to see what we enjoy and what we would rather avoid. She is the best co-worker I have ever had!
We are also thankful for the many things we learned that were unrelated to medicine. We know that God brought us to Kemantian. It was not always easy, but we learned so much. It was like stepping into another world. Time seemed to stand still, yet fly by. It was like going back in time over a century ago. No cars, no electricity, few distractions, and no rush hour. It’s a small world when life revolves around your next meal or getting to bed by 8p. It has given us a more diverse perspective on life, and we hope to carry-on many of the principles learned by simple living.
As we transition now into a new phase in life, we continue to solicit your prayers. We will be heading to Johnson City, TN to start medical school and find a nursing job. We have already experienced reverse-culture shock in a slight way since coming to the lowlands. We realize we will continue to go through a learning curve as we shift back into American society. However, we hope to always have a piece of the Palawano culture with us—hospitality, simplicity and kindness.
We want to thank you for your prayers, financial support, and encouragement during our time on Palawan. It is very empowering to know that friends and family have been so supportive. Again, thank you!
With love,
Jon & Becca

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Update 6

                          Becca teaching Kina how to brush her teeth.
                                       Camp meeting on Sabbath
                                          One of 22 baptisms in the Tamlang.
                                       Brian and I at the tarp waterslide.
                                                     A 10 inch Ilupian.(Above)
                                       The food from the Balikbyan box. (Below)
                                           Swimming at the Tamlang River
                                               Becca's Chickies
                                    The kids start young with machetes here.
                                   Jon suturing a boys cut hand.
               Using the cooking pans to bounce the cell signal to the phone.
              This girl recovered from cerebral malaria after Quinine at the clinic.
                                    The view from the village at Emrang.
                              The beginning stage of the hut for Shama and Allie.
                                                      Brian's tarp hut.
                          The finished hut with all the natives who helped.
                           The natives cooking after finishing the new hut.
                                         Sandals outside of church

Greetings  Everyone!
It has been a while since we have updated our blog. We have a lot to write about. Here are a variety of stories we hope you enjoy.
Last week was camp meeting here in Kemantian. Unfortunately, because of a lot of rain, we had to have the meetings inside the church instead of outside under a big tarp as planned. Despite being cramped in small quarters, everything worked out wonderfully. The meetings started on Wednesday night and ended Sunday morning. We were privileged to have a singing group from Mindinao (another Philippino island) sing for the meetings. People from all over the mountains came to listen to the singers and speakers. Everyone loved the experience. On Sabbath we had close to 200+ people and 22 baptisms (the largest number since opening the project over 15 yrs ago)! The baptisms were quite special. The natives rarely show their emotion, however, during the baptisms everyone was crying because they were so happy. It was awesome to see!
After the last meeting Sunday morning, we planned on doing some fun games with the Palawanos. The project owns a large tarp (approximately 70 yards long) which is normally used to dry rice, but this day we used it as a waterslide! None of the natives had ever experienced sliding down a slick plastic surface with soap all over their bodies! It was fantastic! It occupied most of the day followed by a swim at the Tamlang River. It was a great way to end camp meeting.
The end of March brought precious cargo from the States—a Balikbyan box full of veggie food and goodies from our parents. The eight cases of veggie food also serve as a good bargaining tool. For instance, we were almost out of toilet paper last week, so I proposed a trade to one of the other missionaries: a can of big franks for ten rolls of TP! It worked. That’s only one example. There are other times the food has come in handy for more than just eating.
The beginning of March found me in Emrang, a village about a two-hour hike away. Brian Glass, another missionary, has been there since 2009 teaching and nursing. He needed help building a new hut for the two missionaries who are taking his place (Shama Eller and Allie Westermeyer). The main frame of the hut had already been built by the time I arrived, but it still needed walls, more roofing, siding, doors, windows, beds, etc… The job needed to be finished within a week! We hoped the natives would help us finish the job, but they were reluctant to help for a while. The first day I went searching in the jungle for ‘lampungs’ (skinny straight trees). With the advice of a local, I avoided the areas where wild-pig spear-traps were set. It was quite tiring looking for trees in the jungle by myself and having to haul all fifteen trees a quarter-mile to the hut. After three days of minimal help from the locals, Brian and I were desperate. We offered them a big feast of pancit and rice if they would help us finish in two days. Amazingly, over 40 people came out to help and we finished the hut in 2 days! It was awesome to see what God and 30 kilos of rice can do!  Also, while in Emrang, the village leader there taught me how to make an ‘ankep’ (machete sheath). It is made entirely out of bamboo. It isn’t very difficult, but making an ankep out of wood is much more difficult because of all the carving it requires. I will need to find bamboo when I get back to the States. It has become an essential part of life her—I don’t know how I have lived 23 years without it!
Believe it or not, Becca and I have become parents. We have adopted ‘mekansang duruy’ (many little chicks). Becca feeds the small chickens through the holes in our floor every day. Sometimes I think the little chickies eat better than the people around here because Becca feeds them so much. Also, because of her affection for the little chickies, Becca’s new nickname here is ‘duruy’ (chicky).
Last week Becca conquered coconut-tree climbing. She climbed to the top of a 60ft tree (with the safety of some webbing) and touched the coconuts! She is quite ‘mependey’ (skilled). She says it is much more difficult than it looks. She has some practicing to do before she can climb with ease like the locals. Sometimes they will gather all their coconuts (approx. 90 coconuts) in a single day and go to the lowlands to sell them as coconut oil.
Here, in the jungle, there lives a creature call an Ilupian. It is a poisonous centipede that can grow over 10 inches long. When it bites it causes the surrounding tissue to painfully swell, almost cutting off circulation. It has a cousin centipede whose bite is sometimes deadly. So far we have seen about four of these creatures. The picture above is of the largest we have seen (approximately 10 inches). The best way to deal with these is to burn them, because if you cut them you have two problems—one half goes one way, the other half the other way. Thankfully we have not been bitten by any of these.
Speaking of dangerous animals—Kebgen, a village about an eight-hour hike away, experienced food poisoning about a month ago from fish. Four people died from severe vomiting and diarrhea. Thankfully, two people were quickly flown to our clinic from there for IV rehydration. The father and son would have shortly died had they not come promptly.
Other dangers around here are propane ovens. There are two ovens in the whole region—one in our village and one at the George’s house. The one in our village has the bottom rusted out and is no longer working. And the George’s oven exploded on Becca the other day. When she went to light it there was already a build-up of propane inside it and a giant ball of fire filled the kitchen. Fortunately she was not injured—she only got the hairs of her arms and eyebrows singed.
Some cultural tidbits:
One of the natives’ favorite words here is ‘pesy’ (pronounced ‘pussy’). It can mean ‘Of course’ or ‘That’s what I said’ or ‘Duh’ or ‘That’s right.’ In the clinic, sometimes we will repeat what they said or ask the same questions twice and they say ‘pesy,’ like saying ‘uh, duh’. It’s actually pretty funny. We call it getting “pesy’d.”
The natives have a unique way of praying. It sometimes seems that their goal in praying is to see who can pray the longest and quietist. During church, when we have opening prayer, sometimes it lasts for a long time and all you hear is a quiet ‘shshshwhwhshwhsh.’ Some are learning and getting better at praying so that others can hear.
Amazingly, it seems like all the natives here have good voices. They all love singing and do a great job at it.  Guys here don’t have low voices, so it seems like everyone is singing alto and soprano. Sometimes my voice sticks out like a sore thumb (especially early in the morning) because it’s a couple octaves lower than the guys beside me.
It is ‘mengririk’ (chop down the jungle) time around here. The natives go through their fields with a machete and cut down all the brush and trees and then burn it so that they can plant their begas (rice), kumbahang (roots), punti (bananas), etc…However, it has been difficult for natives to burn this year because of the unusually high amount of rainfall. Because of the flooding, natives have been forced to eat a lot of roots. Sometimes they will even eat snails, chickens, dogs, birds, snakes, and fish, basically anything except geckos. During a good year, they can plant rice three times.
Palawano men love to play volleyball. I would like to play with them, but unfortunately they use it to gamble. It also has a completely different technique than American volleyball. They also like to play cards for gambling. Market day—Sunday—is the time when everyone gets together to play volleyball, cards, and buy food from the lowlands.  The people are slowly learning the negative influences of gambling here. Games which they don’t gamble with are basketball (dirt court with bamboo backboards and flat basketballs), kasing (spin tops carved from wood), and piakuy (like kick-ball but with someone’s sandal instead of a ball).
Huts here are made entirely out of things from the jungle—bamboo, small trees, grass, and vine lashings. Because of the high rate of decay, all the homes must be entirely rebuilt every 3-5 years. This somewhat accounts for their lack of making big homes. Most huts here are the size of someone’s small bedroom in the States; as many as 8-10 people can live in that size of a house.
In closing, we are enjoying our time more as we continue to learn the language and establish personal relationships with the natives. We miss family and friends tremendously, however, we will miss the people we have gotten to know here also. As time continues to fly, we think fondly of the memories we have made here and praise God for bringing us to this place and these people. It is definitely not as comfortable as being in America, but we have learned that comfort doesn’t build character as much as a challenge does. We thank you all for your love, prayers, and support. We look forward to seeing you all soon.
Until next time,
Jon & Becca  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Update 5

Special music during church.
Baby Indil on the weigh scale (read story below).
Becca and some of the local girls. They are always asking for their picture to be taken.
Fellow missionaries using the guava tree to get cellphone service.
Becca, Badi, and Naklin making stars.
Jon teaching Wini how to play guitar.
It's pineapple season! 
Jon recovering from malaria hanging out with some guys.
Becca and her new tukew (machete)
Becca on the medical mission trip in the lowlands explaining how to take the medicines.
Becca and the kitties (Gebi and Milo)

Manungang Mapun Ginsan Dimiyu (Good Afternoon to all of you)!
It has been a while since we have been able to update our blog, so we have quite a bit to talk about. We’ll try to start where we left off from our last update.
After Christmas and New Years, things have slowed down a little in the clinic. We are still seeing patients, but instead of the average of about 20/day during the holidays, we are now seeing maybe 10/day. This has enabled us to travel to villages more often and visit with the natives.
A few weeks into January we were excited to receive all the medical supplies we had shipped from America prior to leaving for the Philippines. The clinic is now outfitted with a defibrillator, O2 saturation monitor, suction machine, vascular doppler, and miniature crash cart! Not that these items will be used frequently, but for life-saving situations these supplies will be, well, life-saving.  
We want to report to everyone on the baby mentioned several updates ago whose mom died shortly after birth. The baby girl, Indil, is doing much better after the caretaker (aunt) has been feeding her milk formula from the clinic. She is steadily gaining weight, and it is a joy to see her every week. It is awesome to see such simple treatment save a life!
Another baby girl, named Nathalyn, was in a similar circumstance. She was born last week to parents who were only fourteen years old. The parents were going to just leave the baby somewhere in the jungle to die because they didn’t want it. So, one of the missionaries working in the lowlands, a Filipino woman, has decided to adopt it! Unfortunately, shortly after birth the baby developed sepsis from an infected umbilical cord, so she is now receiving antibiotics at our clinic and looking better each day! It has been fun taking care of so many babies. We’ve certainly never been exposed to such a great number of pediatric patients.
About three weeks ago we had a busy spurt of four inpatients simultaneously. One of the patients was flown in via helicopter from deep in the jungle. She had developed sepsis from falling and landing on a stick. Two other inpatients were an older married couple. They both had malaria pretty bad, and the wife’s sickness was complicated with dysentery and pneumonia. Those three patients recovered in about a week with IV antibiotics and malarial drugs. The fourth patient was being treated for severe malaria and febrile seizures from a temperature of 107°F! That patient also improved after a couple days of treatment.
A couple more medical stories, then we’ll move on to something more interesting for those of you not keen on medical stuff. A guy came to the clinic this week with a deep cut to the foot from a machete. This gave Jon the opportunity to practice his suturing skills again. He enjoys the procedural side of things. He also got to do a finger block and nail removal on a kid whose finger got smashed with an axe. A month ago, Jon went and checked on a patient about a 1.5-hr hike away. We had received reports that he wanted to come to the clinic but couldn’t walk because of his sickness. Once at the village, Jon found the man to have a massively enlarged spleen (extending down to his umbilicus) and an enlarged liver. He was given malarial meds, vitamins, and iron. Now, after a month, the patient’s spleen has reduced in size a little, and he is able to walk around. Unfortunately, there isn’t really anything else to be done except live somewhere where there isn’t malaria.
Jon became a patient a couple weeks ago when he got malaria for the second time. His description of malaria is that it isn’t as uncomfortable or miserable as a severe cold, but it is much more draining. For about five days he laid around and wasn’t able to do much more than go to the bathroom. The disease and anti-malarial drugs makes one feel heavy and dizzy. The locals call it ‘liglinug’ (dizzy) and ‘ulu’ (sick head). During all his down time with malaria, Jon wrote a song, read a couple books, and designed a hut.
Last week, Becca went to the lowlands along with Joha and Leonda to do some medical mission work. Over four days they treated about 600 people with dental and medical problems! It was very busy, but they were able to help a lot of people. Becca recalls prepping a lot of medications and sweating a couple liters. Her favorite part of being in the lowlands was being able to go to the market. She enjoyed watching so many people and seeing a variety of foods. The overwhelming smell of fish and whole roasted pigs weren’t enough to keep her around the market for very long though. After market, they headed back to the mountains.
The whole island has received an unusually high amount of rain this year. There has been extensive flooding in the lowlands and mountains, damaging much of the precious rice crop. Fortunately, the mission farm in the lowlands was not affected as severely as some areas which lost the entire crop. The high amounts of rain (which usually end in Dec/Jan) make the mountainous trails quite slippery. It would be difficult for us to get around without cleats. Amazingly the locals have no problems walking barefoot in the mud. When we missionaries wear our crocs or flip-flocs, going down a hill becomes like a skiing chute. Several times we have fallen victim to the muddy trails, slipping and being of good amusement to the natives.
The student missionaries were in charge of ‘Week of Prayer’ for the school this year. Becca told her first story/object lesson in Palawano, and Jon gave his first ‘mini’ sermon in Palawano. It was a rewarding week concluding with a well-received call for people who want Bible studies. Most all of the students came forward! Please continue to keep these people in your prayers so that this generation of youth will be spiritually strong.
Becca had a great experience two weeks ago with Badi and Naklin (two school girls) making stars (see pic). The locals take a specific type of plant similar to palm leaves and weave it into beautiful stars. Becca really enjoyed learning how to make them. She says it was more challenging than it looks. It takes the natives about a half hour to make one. They then sell it for usually five pesos. The average wage for adults around here is about ten pesos per hour (about 25 cents/hr). Amazingly, most of the natives have everything they need on those meager wages.
Do you remember the story about the kitten named Gebi in our last update? It’s hard to believe, but Jon is now buddies with the little kitty. Also, Gebi has a little brother named Milo who hangs out around our village too. It’s fun to watch them play with each other. They like to chase the chickens and even the dogs! They have become very valuable to us because they kill the rats that make our hut their home. As the locals call it, they are ‘mependay banar’ (very skilled).   
The end of January/beginning of February found us contemplating and praying about where to go to medical school. Through God’s incredible blessings, Jon was accepted to UT Memphis, ETSU Quillen, and Loma Linda medical schools. After a week of prayer and discussion we decided to attend ETSU in Johnson City, TN. We have a lot of peace with this decision and are extremely excited about going to school there. We continue to seek God daily for His guidance and blessings, and thank Him for His incredible goodness to us!
We are having a great experience here and are so thankful God has brought us to Kemantian. We miss everyone dearly and look forward to reuniting with loved-ones again soon. We thank everyone for your love, prayers, and support. Until next time,
Jon & Becca

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Update 4

                                                The whole team!
                                            Jon & Becca in the Pharmacy
                                             The Klinik (clinic)
                                          The 'teteyan' (Palawano: poop house)
                                             Inside our bathroom (teteyan)

                                                     Our Hut

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
It’s hard to believe 2011 is already upon us. Two and a half months have flown by here in Kemantian. We thank God for good health and continued learning. We apologize for the long delay in updating our blog. We haven’t had internet for the last 1.5 months. We hope you enjoy the update! Here are some of our experiences since our last writing:
                Each day we learn a little more about the Palawano culture. As days pass in the clinic our medical language skills are steadily improving, though our knowledge of daily conversation is not at the same level. We are well able to talk to the locals about their illnesses, but our daily conversation skills are still in need of improvement. The more we learn the language the more we understand the Palawanos.
Attire is quite different here. The many layers of clothing on the women are evidence of this. Most of the women wear ankle-length skirts with one or two baggy t-shirts. Sometimes they will even wear pants under their skirts despite the humid conditions. Though modest, nursing babies in public is readily accepted. In contrast to the women, the men often run around shirtless, wear shorts, and some sport loin-cloths. Few of the men or women have footwear, but those who are wealthy have Duralites (rubber sandals). One would think with all the barefooted travelers that there would be a lot of foot injuries, however, I’ve only seen one minor foot injury so far. The locals’ agility on the trails is remarkable. Many of the men can haul up to 100 lbs of food or supplies on their head for hours through steep, slick, muddy trails. And what’s even more amazing is that the women can do almost the same (the average size of the Palawanos is about 5 ft and 100lbs)!
The interaction between genders here is also quite different from America. At church, all the men sit on one side and all the women on the other. Married couples don’t really talk to each other and for that reason you have no idea who is married. To become married, a man typically sees a girl he wants to marry and goes to the father of the girl to ask to marry her. If the father agrees, he will set a price the young man must pay to get the girl (usually paid in pesos along with rice, and/or maybe pigs and goats). Many of the girls are married-off by age 12 to 20-year-old men and start having children as soon as physiologically capable. This explains why one of the locals has 14 children (all single births from one man) and is maybe only forty years old (Adults here don’t know their age). With the advent of birth control provided by the clinic, many of the women are getting relief from the burden of bearing so many children.
Though burdensome, the result of all the childbearing is a bunch of really cute kids running around. By the time the children are done nursing (2-3 years old), they typically fend for themselves. Sometimes the parents will send them to fetch water or pick food, etc. Unfortunately their cuteness does not prevent them from frequent misbehavior.  Punishment from parents is seldom, perpetuating the problem. This is another cultural thing that makes church an interesting weekly experience.
Though the culture has differences from what we are accustomed, the presence of the missionaries over the last fifteen years has made a significant impact. The school children are noticeably more polite and diligent in work than the uneducated ones. The fact that there is no “Please” or “Sorry” in Palawano language is something the missionaries have tried to address, further heightening the level of politeness.  The integrity and mannerisms learned in school and church trickles into families and is making a big difference. They are obviously cleaner, healthier, and more honest than those who have no education or belief in God. The burden of educating and spreading the gospel by the missionaries has been lightened as more natives become old enough to start teaching and preaching themselves. Training natives has enabled the mission project to expand beyond the one local school. So far there are three churches and five schools in the region that reach out to the native Palawano people.
One might think this culture sounds primitive, however, some of the wealthy locals have cell phones and one family even has solar electricity. Hiking a day or two further into the jungle will reveal a more primitive living. One of the educated natives, Niksun by name, moved a day’s hike away and has started a church and school. There, it is common for men to run around in loin-cloths and women are often shirtless. Niksun tells us stories of people who live even further in the jungle (several more days of hiking), many of whom are rebels and have a remote history of cannibalism. So, we feel blessed to live in a place that has somewhat modernized.   
The above is a taste of what we have learned of the culture so far. Here are some more stories:
We bought our first tukew (machete)! We paid 180 pesos for it (approx. 4 USD). Locals make tukews out of whatever scrap-metal they can find. For example, a shock spring from a car can be melted down and molded into a tukew. It will then be tempered through heating in a fire and rapid cooling with water. Our particular tukew is about two feet long and quite sturdy. So far we have used it for cutting the grass and banana trees around our hut and opening niyug (coconut). In addition to the tukew, we also bought a large basket (big enough for Becca to fit in). We paid 250 pesos for it (approx. 6 USD). These items are considered high-price items. Smaller baskets can be bought for 50 pesos (a little over 1 USD). The smaller baskets usually take the local women about a week to make.
Over the last few weeks I have had several firsts at the clinic. I placed my first stitches and performed my first prostate exam! These were great learning experiences. Being here also gives me a feel for what it is like to be on call 24/7. Having 3 inpatients during the last two weeks has been enlightening. Thankfully, Becca, Joha (another nurse here), and myself are able to share the load of checking on the patients at night.
Several  Sabbaths ago I was called to a village 30 minutes away for an older man who had stroke-like symptoms. Once at the village I assessed the man and instructed the natives to carry him down to the clinic. It was pretty amazing watching the eight of them carry their father in a stretcher down the steep slippery trail at a running pace. Over the next week we took care of him. The stroke caused total right-sided paralysis. Amazingly, he could still sit himself up, eat, and talk (a little). We even had him carried to the Christmas school play that occurred during his inpatient stay.
Overlapping the stay of the stroke patient, another inpatient, the son of a local witch doctor, was also here for a week. He came in with severe typhoid and malaria. His neuro status was markedly impaired and he would have died in a short time had he not come to the clinic. During this time, the father became a big help around the clinic. He kept the grass mowed, the front concrete slab clean, and even came to church on Sabbath. When we sent them home after the child improved we prayed that the experience would help the father and his family to have a better perspective for the Christians.
                A month ago some of the missionaries went to the lowlands to get food and supplies. During that time Becca and I were given the responsibility of watching one of the other missionary’s kittens. Innocent though it seems, the experience tested my patience more than anything else so far. The kitten’s name is Gebi (pronounced “Gubby” which means ‘night’ in Palawano). He is a black, two month-old cat. It’s a cute kitty, but it meows so much that it starts to sound like a giant, annoying mosquito. We tried everything; feeding it, holding it, sleeping with it, bathing it, brushing it, playing with it, etc. It would only briefly be quiet while eating and playing. I would lie in bed at night thinking of ways to take out its vocal cords, or create a sound-proof box to keep it in. Needless-to-say, I was very relieved when the other missionaries returned a week later. Also, fortunately, over the last several weeks it has seemed to have matured out of its incessant-meowing stage and we have become friends. It’s fun watching him chase the chickens and even occasionally attacking one of the local dogs ten times his size!
                For Christmas we all got together at the George’s house and had delicious food, watched “It’s A Wonderful Life”, and read Christmas stories. Even though we are far from our families and home, it was a special time. Being with the George’s and other missionaries has helped us have a greater understanding of what it means to be a foreign missionary. It means integrating into the culture God places you, using your talents to the best of your ability, being flexible, pouring your heart into the people, juggling many responsibilities, and trusting in God (important attributes anywhere).
                We think of everyone at home during this holiday season and pray for your health, safety, and spiritual strength. Again, we thank you for your prayers and support. Successful mission projects like this would not be possible without you. Have a great new year, and may your resolution be to know God better this year than ever before.
Happy Holidays,
Jon & Becca