A letter from Cobbie and Dessa Palm on home leave from the Philippines
Seeing Both Sides
They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. Matthew 2:9
The light of the star on that Christmas Eve some 2,000 years ago pointed to the manger and illumined the night. The light defined the place where the newborn Jesus lay and lit up the night sky for all to see through the darkness the sacred place where Jesus lay.
Christmas is a time to reflect on the light of the star that points to the purpose of our ministry but also lights up the world for us to be reminded of the people and places that have made our life and ministry meaningful and inspiring. We send this Christmas greeting to you because you are one of these special people.
The year 2012 was a year shared by time both in the Philippines, where we are assigned, and in the United States, engaging with churches and individuals that have journeyed with us in our ministry. We are now more aware that the locus of mission must be on both sides; that both sides need the gift of mission; that both are inspired by knowing more about the other through stories, images and feelings that lead to a deeper understanding of their mission relationships.
In the city of Dumaguete, Koko our parrot and Shiloh our labrador retriever continue to be the source of our home entertainment and much joy. They can never get enough loving and when they don’t, we hear about it in chorus.
Dessa has turned our home into a theater center as the success of the Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA) has stretched and pulled the young people to many new places and responsibilities. As our province had been declared a hotspot for human trafficking, YATTA has resolved to be part of responding to the issue creatively by addressing youth vulnerability and lack of awareness. They launched a project called Youth Think and Act, which drew young people from difficult family and social circumstances to a program that focused group discussions to surface youth concerns, an inform-ance that promoted youth capacity to make good choices, and workshops that combined life skills, awareness, values, and creative skills. The project also mentored two youth groups and a public high school that produced and organized a festival of original teen advocacy plays that were performed in the park and other public spaces.
Cobbie turned his energies to four projects that have divided his time but inspired his creativity. First, Silliman University assigned him to oversee the Silliman Water Ministry, which is a project reaching out to communities in need of clean drinking water. The project has been a valuable support to relief efforts during the flooding and earthquake this past year while generating awareness of the dire environmental situation of our planet. Second, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) with the Divinity School of Silliman University endorsed Cobbie developing and facilitating the Evangelistic and Revival Preaching seminars as continuing education for church workers. This is a project that brings learning to practicing church workers in their respective regions throughout the country, retooling them for this day, when communicating the gospel demands new approaches, skills and technology. Third, Silliman University Church, the Bantayan Bible Study Cluster and the UCCP have drawn Cobbie into a project of developing sustainability and self-reliance for small rural churches. With Lamdas Church as the pilot project site, Cobbie has worked to facilitate assistance with agricultural and management skills from Silliman University, and the development of the pilot project is proving to be very promising. Finally, a last piece in Cobbie’s ministry is his involvement with the Peace Talks in the Philippines to resolve an armed conflict that has waged on for more than 40 years between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and revolutionary forces represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). In support of the Peace Talks the churches—Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical—have forged the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) to mobilize their respective constituents in the Philippines to encourage and advance the peace talks with mass support.
Later in the year we travelled to the other side, where Presbyterian churches throughout the U.S.A. are involved in mission. We have come to a deeper appreciation that as an extension of their ministry into the world, they long to know more about the work of Presbyterian World Mission, and we have felt their passion and enthusiasm come alive with the renewal of relationships through the visits we have made to their churches. Beginning in October of this past year, we had a wonderful opportunity to journey throughout the United States. It began in Dallas, Texas, where Dessa was a keynote speaker at the PC(USA) World Mission conference called Dallas II. Then there were invitations for us to visit churches in Juneau and Barrow in Alaska, Seattle in Washington, New York City, Oneonta in upstate New York, Swarthmore in Pennsylvania, Louisville in Kentucky, Cordova in Tennessee, Chevy Chase in Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
The visits were inspiring and full of surprises. There were reunions with individuals and churches that have partnered with us over several years and also new acquaintances with individuals and churches that only now have come to know us. The names of all the wonderful people who extended themselves and made special arrangements are etched in our hearts.
We are now in Bethesda, Maryland, spending the Christmas holidays with Cobbie’s parents, his sisters and their families. The holidays with family remind us of the hands that always reach out with love. The Philippines has been central to our family time this year. This Christmas we celebrated the launching of a book written by Cobbie’s mother, Louise, called Calesa Diaries, which tells the story of their years in the Philippines, and earlier this year a significant portion of the family gathered in the Philippines to celebrate the graduation of Cobbie’s sister Eleanor’s son Sam from Silliman University.
We are inspired by the amazing things we have learned through this past year and the love that we have received this Christmas, and we pray that it has been the same for you in your life. May the New Year renew in us all God’s love, compassion and hope to give out to the world
Cobbie and Dessa Quesada-Palm
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 211
Read more about Cobbie and Dessa Palm's ministry