Philippines & Taiwan
As you may have seen on social media, James and I kicked off the trip with a journey to Cagayan de Oro, Mindanao, where WildFire Philippines has been working the past four summers.
We spent most of our time catching up with the two parts of the Higa-onon tribe (which we are part of - see the wrap up of the summer to find out how). The community in which we spent a large amount of our time, installing the sanitation system and clean water pump is doing very well indeed. The community toilets, shower room & water pump are getting a lot of use and are still in perfect working order. They are having such an impact that on Saturday evenings a community health team invites people from other communities to attend a seminar hosted on the church grounds; they make use of the fledgling community centre's amenities as an example of what people should be doing in their own community!
The momentum gathered from during our summer trip alongside the practical expressions of the kingdom of God has led to large church growth, including the men that helped us build who previously had no connection to the church and would not call themselves followers of Jesus. The church is now in need of a new way of meeting on a Sunday as one service in one building is far too crammed! -
The fruits of our investment into pastor Mario's family is a joy to see. From making 100 pesos (£1.60) per day selling rice cakes - to feed nine people - the family now have an up and running chicken rearing business and have a number of pigs for their little piggery. Our hope is that through continuing to apply good biblical principles they will continue to demonstrate a life lived well and in doing so point to the goodness of God in a way that the local community can see touch, smell & taste.
Plans really are rattling forward with the other part of the tribe too! We now have a number of them being trained in the principles of permaculture. Our friends Micoh (father of my godson) & Remondje have been working with the tribe on establishing a new eco-tourism working village in their ancestral domain. This is super exciting as it will provide sustainable food sources for the community as well as model good stewardship of the earth to other higa-onons as well as external visitors.
Alongside the eco-tourism working village the tribe plan to have a traditional higa-onon 'receiving house' on the outskirts of the city. The hope is that this will provide a point of trade with the city for traditional crafts as well as fresh produce and, as the name implies, receive tribal people from the mountains with business in the city and receive eco-tourists ahead of their journey up to the mountains; a long trek! The land for the receiving house it's self isn't the easiest place to get to either - but datu (chief) Kulutan rocketed up there in his flip flops!
Interestingly, the tribal chiefs allowed me to have some sand from the hidden falls in their ancestral domain (no one has ever taken any away before and I've been asked to keep it exclusively for the use of me and my family). My hope is that Freya & I can have our wedding rings cast in this sand!
Whilst with the tribe, we had the pleasure of seeing how Micoh & Remondje are facilitating access to some of the benefits of the city with a medical team visit! Forty doctors & dentists met with around 250 of the tribe who had travelled down from the mountains to give medical care which many will have never received before.
Following our time in CDO we headed back to Luzon to spend time learning how to install bio-gas sanitation systems! Basically, take your poo, or the poo of your pigs, cows, chickens or koala bear and indeed any garden waste - then digest it in a giant man-made stomach to earn yourself a free gas supply and the best organic fertiliser known to man!
We were rearing to go, super excited to learn and craft something that will provide sanitation, renewable energy and a blooming garden/veggie patch/farm (serious kingdom of God stuff) - our energy began to dwindle as we sat at Manila Terminal 3 for four and a half hours before checking into a hotel in downtown Pasay!
Turns out we'd been forgotten - and not just our arrival time but our arrival full stop! Two days later, a number of emails, various phone conversations, and the most expensive taxi ride I've ever purchased we made it to the farm we were meant to be at! People were rather confused and unprepared for more people to be joining them, but join them we did!
The team had been there for three weeks already digging and prepping; this week was due to be the installation phase and first run of producing fuel. Due to some miscommunication and set backs the team had got to a point at which they would leave the project without fuel-generation and return to it in January. We arrived in time to do some rendering, waterproofing and a heck load of soil moving! It was heavy work but actually quite good fun, which was much needed amid the frustration.
After two nights we headed back down from the mountains to spend 3 nights back in civilisation. Turns out we didn't learn too much new; however we did learn that what we already know, from our own research and from A level biology (work hard at school kids) had left us pretty clued up. We also now have the added benefit of knowing a United Nations certified sustainable development consultant who is happy to talk us through any future plans with bio-gas technology or indeed any other projects such as permaculture or water use! Great news for our future work with the tribes in Mindanao and anything we get started back home. So an incredibly frustrating trip but not a total waste at all, we even got a bit of altitude training in during the experience (being on the world digging championships)! Oh, and we learned that lemongrass is good for keeping snakes away from you when sleeping on/in a mountain jungle!
Dreaming Together in Taiwan
Once we had cleaned up and got a couple of nights decent sleep we boarded a plane giving us a short hop over to Taiwan. Despite only being a stone's throw (relatively speaking) from the Philippines - Taiwan is a world apart and somewhat of an anomaly in Asia. We managed to spend a good amount of time getting to know Taiwanese history which really is fascinating and the way it impacts current international relations was hammered home by Donald Trump's phone call to Taiwan as we were leaving!
To compliment this good dose of history we were also able to sample the best food in the world - I'm not exaggerating! I'm fairly well travelled and grew up with the tastes of the nations but Taiwan is in a different class. Our hosts made sure we got to all the food hotspots inducing what is commonly regarded as the best restaurant in Asia as well as the famous Taipei night markets.
So, alongside James & I having a jolly, we had a great time debriefing the bio-gas experience and looking at how we can continue to build relationships around the world that will facilitate the move toward sustainable development. Together with the KKi Asia directors and some of the guys we'd worked with on the biogas project we're sensing from the Lord that, alongside learning and implementing sustainable projects ourselves, there is a need to be training teams all over the world to implement this stuff in their schools and outreaches as well as for the local church to be pioneering this in their local community. The church should be at the forefront of intentional shifts in culture - when we're not we're in serious danger of mimicking the trends of the world - at which point we become unrecognisable as the bride of Christ. Sustainable development is creation care and good stewardship but it also directly addresses poverty through regeneration of waste into energy & even economic empowerment; of course there are also educational and other facets which can be tied in to any projects such as bio-gas, permaculture or aquaponics but that's for another blog!
Anyway, after that brief interlude of rant - the upshot is that we're committing to being in relationship around this drive for sustainability and even travelling to help teach and implement projects in the various nations in which we have influence!
Having time to talk over sumptuous food and wanderings around Taipei gave us the opportunity to talk about strategy for our movement over the coming season. The Asian region are in a very similar place to us in the UK. A need to move away from endless programmes and 'doing' to being more intentional in resourcing people and imparting values. Our WildFire movement has caught many people's imagination and we've had a long list of invites to host weekends alongside various local churches and communities as well as cracking on and providing mission taster weekends and trips for families. These times have been life changing for families and individuals across the nation and world, however what we see very little of is multiplication; people experiencing what we've been carrying and then running with it themselves. People, of course, leave living life more missionally but struggle to then gather other people around them and equip them to do likewise. The Lord has been revealing to us that our equipping of people to carry this stuff must be much deeper. There needs to be a depth of understanding of the values that drive what we do - some people have attempted to replicate an event they have been part of and made a mess of it because the activities have taken a short-cut on the underlying values and thus missed their heart and intention - this has led to events and activities actually being destructive rather than constructive for the kingdom!
During this next season we know we need to shift gear! We're working on writing and creating many more resources such as seven books exploring the values of KKi and a blog to sit alongside the KKi website - check it out here. We'll be shifting from big events to much smaller times of community and family living the kingdom in everyday life and a more intense and intentional discipleship of a few people and families who can then replicate what we do.
Tim, who leads the Asian region of the network teaches a lot on the role of the Husband & the Father in the family (of course he also models this extremely well). We had long talks about the deficit of good fathering in modern culture and the need for men to step up to being good husbands and fathers. As you can imagine, if you've been following my recent life events, this was a rich and important time for me! The shift from being a single guy championing families living missionally and the idea of the church as extended family to being a husband and father figure championing the same is incredibly exciting but I am also aware that I have many deficiencies - so, please do pray for me - and if you're an older, wiser, husband/father like Tim, keep modelling life well so guys like me can learn and then multiply the same into the next generation!