How Could It Happen?

A letter from Cobbie and Dessa Palm, mission co-workers serving in the Philippines

Winter 2023

Write to Cobbie Palm
Write to Dessa Palm
Individuals: Give online to E132192 in honor of Cobbie and Dessa Palm’s ministry
Congregations: Give to D500115 in honor of Cobbie and Dessa Palm’s ministry
Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)

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Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Roman 12:2) 


Dear friends,


We in the Philippines have now just crossed over the one-year mark of having witnessed the unexpected return to the highest elected office of government the son of the late Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. From 1965 until the celebrated non-violent EDSA Revolution 1986 the name Marcos was synonymous with plunder, repression, and political oligarchy.  


As disinformation spreads destroying the hopes of the Peace Talks, the gathering of church people to advocate for its resumption has become tenuous.

It did not seem in the remotest way possible that a direct descendant bearing the same name as the father could ever return to power after the horrific political, economic, and social trauma left by the Marcos legacy in 1986. But then again, the world appears to be playing by rapidly changing rules in the way that minds are molded and shaped in the world today.  


Many have pointed to a continuing deficit in the opportunity to access education and develop the facility to think critically. A World Bank report in 2022 has shown that the Philippines has a learning poverty rate of 91 percent which is among the highest rates in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. A learning poverty rate is determined by the number of 10-year-old pupils who cannot read and understand age-appropriate texts or written materials. A result of deficient learning opportunities.  


But to turn a historical fact from a negative into a positive in a manner that was so widespread and socially pervasive it swept the country leading to an overwhelming electoral victory for Marcos Jr., there is clearly something more going on.  


A recent study on the Philippine midterm elections conducted in a study entitled, “Political Economy of Covert Influence Operations in the 2022 Philippine Elections” has shown the involvement of 1,425 powerful influencer accounts across the platforms of YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter (now X) during the 2022 election season. They have been shown to work beyond just positively promoting a candidate to stepping into uncharted territory aimed at manipulating public opinion through a coordinated spread of biased messages, false information, and attacks on opponents or even toward persons posting dissenting comments.  


Researching and dissecting this phenomenon has been at the heart of much of the work of Nobel Peace Laureate Maria Ressa, whom the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform co-hosted at Silliman University for an illuminating lecture. Maria, who established one of the first online news agencies in the Philippines has been suggesting that we live in dangerous times for truth to prevail in the public sphere. The instruments at the hands of the transgressors who seek to rewrite history and spread disinformation are tremendously efficient and powerful today and show no signs of slowing down.  


As a Peace Advocate, seeking the resumption of the Peace Talks between the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front in the Philippines (NDFP), I have witnessed the disinformation that has rapidly spread which has even made it difficult for us to advance the Peace Process. The equation has now simply become, “To support the Peace Process with the NDFP is to support terrorism.” The manipulation of public opinion has spread far and wide with alarming ease.  


The words of the Apostle Paul above sound a relevant call to us who immerse ourselves in the ministry of advocating ways to peace that are not in the interest of the powers and principalities around us. We may suffer rejection, even threats, but we must continuously be transforming ourselves and the world around us by the renewing of our minds, so that we all may discern what is the will of God.  


Our ministries flourish and survive because there are individuals like yourself who recognize the struggle of correcting historical revisionism and upholding fact over persuasive disinformation. Your prayers, your words of encouragement, and your generous commitment to giving us hope in difficult times are a lifeline that empowers us to carry on.  


Cobbie and Dessa Palm 



Please read this important message from Director of World Mission Rev. Mienda Uriarte

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Matthew 25:34-36

Dear friends,

Great things are happening in World Mission! As you know from the letters you’ve been receiving, our mission co-workers are at the forefront of showing us what Matthew 25 looks like in the U.S. and in the wider world. They are addressing issues related to eradicating systemic poverty, building congregational vitality and dismantling structural racism. Together with our partners, mission co-workers are engaged in life-transforming ministries in 80 countries around the world. Here are just a few examples:

As an education consultant in the Democratic Republic of Congo, José Jones assists the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK) education department in the development, implementation and evaluation of strategic plans to strengthen the church’s primary and secondary education programs for more than 350 schools.

Based in Manila, Rev. Cathy Chang works closely with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and other partners in ministry to engage programs and networks across Asia that advocate for people vulnerable to forced migration and human trafficking.

Nadia Ayoub works alongside our Greek partners as they faithfully hold to the biblical call to welcome the stranger. Nadia serves with Perichoresis, a ministry of the Evangelical Church of Greece that provides housing and support to refugees; most of whom have come to Greece from Arabic-speaking countries.

Joseph Russ strengthens and supports a network of partners working in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to address migration issues in the Northern Triangle. Based on the needs people on the ground identify, Joseph empowers U.S. congregations to engage in advocacy related to Central America and immigration reform.

Revs. Drs. Noah Park and Esther Shin serve as professors at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). ETSC graduates work toward revitalizing congregational ministries in Egypt and work with refugee and peace ministries in various countries in the Middle East.

Please consider giving an extra gift this year to support our mission co-workers as they walk alongside our partners and help shape a more life-giving, equitable and hopeful world!


Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Director of World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give online, visit

Honorary gifts can be made by checking the box and writing the mission co-worker’s name in the comment field online.

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