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An Inconvenient Year

A Letter from Cobbie and Dessa Palm, serving in the Philippines

December 2020

Write to Cobbie Palm
Write to Dessa Quesada-Palm

Individuals: Give online to E200393 for Cobbie and Dessa Palm’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D506901 for Cobbie and Dessa Palm’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)

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“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” -Luke 2:4-5

Dear friends,

The Advent Season of 2020 will draw the curtain on an inconvenient year for the worldwide community. This has been a year like no other, when a global pandemic has turned our routine lives upside down.

Advent this year will be different from years past. We will continue to live in physical isolation from one another, fearing a life-threatening crisis. As we prepare for our Savior Jesus’ birth, we are brought intimately closer to the social conditions that existed at that time. Although the authorities that govern our lives are different than those that ruled the people of Israel when Jesus was born, the powerful today are as ready to destroy the lives of the vulnerable as King Herod was.

This year has been markedly different in a country that prepares for Christmas as early as the months of the year that end with the suffix “ber,” namely, September to December. September, October, and November passed with few Christmas lights and decorations on the streets and in homes. Department stores would normally have been decorated with glittering tinsel and red ribbons. Familiar Christmas songs would have been played over and over again on their sound system. But not this year.

Our ministries are in the process of making the adjustments to cope with the crisis at hand. Nothing has been as it once was. Both of us are learning to adapt to online virtual meetings, worship, teaching, and preaching.

A giant parol (Filipino Christmas Star) made of local agricultural materials. Photo by Hersley Ven Casero.

Dessa’s work with the youth ministry has been hampered by the local quarantine protocols prohibiting minors from venturing outside their immediate community and gathering in large numbers. Because of this, her work with the Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA) has not met or conducted workshops as an entire group since March. Instead, she works with smaller clusters of youth. The youth also participate in online activities. Since, however, most YATTA’s members do not have access to the internet at home and rely on their unstable phone data, YATTA leaders support the youth by sending them “load” (data) so that they can participate.

Cobbie’s work with the Silliman Water Ministry has been hindered by the continued COVID-19 National Protocol of no face-to-face classes in all schools. Classes have moved to online classrooms. There are presently no students on the campus, and many of our University offices are working on a skeletal schedule. Silliman Water Ministry’s self-reliance business model mandates that it set aside income it makes from campus sales of clean water to the dormitories, cafeteria, faculty, and administrative offices to support clean water distribution to the mission areas. Since there are presently no students on the campus, and many of our university offices are working on a skeletal schedule, we have found ourselves with a growing deficit. Without the 9,000+ students on campus, our income has dropped significantly. However, it would be unethical to abandon the mission areas that continue to need clean water, particularly for the infants and younger children who have not yet developed the antibodies to ward off bacteria and amoebas in their available water sources.

The Advent Story of Jesus reminds us that Herod did not have the last word. The community’s careful and creative initiatives around Jesus, and later Jesus himself, overcame the crisis and changed the world.

In the same way, careful and creative initiatives are moving us forward in our ministries. Signs of hope can be seen in Dessa’s work. Currently, YATTA is creatively engaged in a project to promote sustainable fishing. Radio plugs highlighting domestic violence, rape, and human trafficking have replaced larger theater productions. Smaller plays detailing the impact of the pandemic on the youth as well as a campaign encouraging positive discipline are in the works.

Signs of hope are also emerging in Cobbie’s work. Small general stores are offering to sell Silliman Water to the community to support the mission areas in need of clean water. Slowly the ministry is making its way back to self-reliance. Cobbie is also learning how to maximize virtual platforms to infuse more creativity and dynamism into online preaching and teaching.

We cannot fully understand the challenges you are facing, yet we know that you face similar challenges and complications. We pray for you. We pray for strength and God’s guidance as we navigate these days. During this time of crisis, we must stand together in empathy for one another. We must hold each other up in prayer. We must remember that we are preparing for the birth of a Savior who was born during a time of crisis and who rose to give us new life.

Our ministries here have been deeply blessed by your compassion, support, and generosity. More than ever, at this time, we must hold on to the faith that together we will rise through this moment of global crisis and that with God, who was born in a time of crisis, we will see the beginning of a new day of healing, renewal, and transformation throughout the world.

May your Christmas be beautiful and hopeful,

Cobbie and Dessa Palm
Mission co-workers in the Philippines

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