A letter from Cobbie Palm serving in the Philippines
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This bowl of fruit is ordinary to the eye as it sits on the table of the Silliman Water Ministry office. The circumstances for the fruit having found its way to the office are extraordinary.
The community of Balili, Valencia, located on the foothills of the Cuernos mountain range in the Philippines, has fallen into dire desperation. The unusually long dry season has depleted their water source. Above the river valley and far from public water lines, they rely on springs that fill cement water boxes as well as rain water as they channel run-off from roofs into drums. Without rain for several months, their sole source of water has been the water boxes that are running dry and are not able to provide enough water for the community.
Rosalina is a mother and community leader in Balili who has organized the women of the community into a task force for water distribution. “Organizing our women, particularly the mothers” she says, “is not difficult because we look into the eyes of our children with aching hearts; they are thirsty, they are hungry, and we feel for them deeply.” Silliman Water Ministry provides water to the task force. This is a project started by Advent Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee. I help to manage the project. Silliman Water produces water on the campus of Silliman University, then sells the water to the campus offices and program units. The resulting income helps to provide clean drinking water to the Women’s Task Force in Balili and other communities in need, in service to God’s mission.
Your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness (2 Corinthians 8:14).
Teddyboy stands proud, certain that he is different from many of his schoolmates in Balili. We find this healthy boy toting two empty water bottles that almost bury him in size. I call out: “Teddyboy kusog!” (Teddy is strong!) Teddyboy runs out to meet us wrestling empty Silliman water bottles each time we pass by his area of the community. He drops the bottles and strikes a dramatic pose with clinched fists, shouting back: “Silliman water!” In a community with unhealthy drinking water the first victims are the children who have little resistance to waterborne diseases. Such maladies are common among Teddyboy’s peers in Balili.
The bowl of fruit is a gift from Teddyboy’s mother. At a time when vegetation is dry and food and water are scarce, this is an extraordinary and precious gift. In her heart is the gratitude that leads her to reach into the little they have and, without words spoken, give to me the bag of fruit. As I look at this fruit on the table in my office, I realize the gratitude reaches all the way to all of you who are taking the time to read this letter. For without you, your prayers, and your generous financial support for the work I do in the Philippines, Teddyboy and the community of Balili might still be living in desperation, untouched and unreached.
Please continue to pray for all involved in this ministry: the people who bottle, sell and buy the water at the University, the women on the Balili water task force, all the families that are benefitting from this life-saving service, all the good folks at Advent Presbyterian in Memphis who set up this project, and those of us who help to manage the Silliman Water Ministry day by day. Please write us with your questions and comments. Please continue to support our work with your financial gifts. Thank you for being part of God’s mission.
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 249
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