A Letter from Cobbie and Dessa Palm, serving in the Philippines
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… I was thirsty and you gave me drink. Matthew 25:35
Early on the morning of Friday, March 2, the SolarPure was packed onto the Silliman Water Ministry truck and boarded onto a ferry to Dapitan. The journey began over the calm sea toward Mindanao, and we disembarked at the Port of Dapitan. We had been advised to take the southern route over the mountains and around the bottom of the Iligan Bay. Unpredictable as Philippine weather can be, the skies in the mountains turned dark grey, and an intense rainstorm pounded our truck, soaking through the protective cover, forcing us to repack and dry our valuable cargo and a clothes change for the back-riding members of the Silliman Water team.
The journey was an adventure, and the destination was the Iligan campus of Dansalan College, where students and faculty, mostly evacuees from Marawi, Mindanao, have relocated due to the devastating six-month war that occupied, burned and left Dansalan College in Marawi unusable. Our mission was to respond to an expressed need for clean drinking water.
On May 23, 2017, an ISIS-influenced group of Islamic rebels commenced occupation of the City of Marawi by storming strategic government offices and taking control of the police station, forcing a mass exodus of people from the city. As the Armed Forces of the Philippines began to battle back to retake control of the city, the rebels set ablaze select institutions, including Dansalan College. The battle that followed further pillaged the campus, leaving it in a state of calamity.
Beginning as Madrasah High School in 1941, Dansalan College was a noble project of the American Congregational Church, and most notably a vision of Rev. Dr. Frank Laubach, who had a passion for Christian-Muslim relations. Through the work of succeeding missionaries and Filipino leaders, the high school evolved into Dansalan College, which had a student body of more than 2000 when the war broke out.
Dansalan College President Dr. Fedelinda Tawagon wrote to Silliman University President Dr. Ben S. Malayang III to inquire about the SolarPure, a mobile solar-powered water purifier constructed and produced by Silliman Water Ministry. Dansalan College and Silliman University are partners through the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. The request was met by a positive response from Silliman’s president because of generous support from Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, a partner church of Silliman Water Ministry that had raised the funds for Silliman Water Ministry to build a SolarPure unit for relief and rehabilitation.
Martial law is in effect in Mindanao, and the unusual cargo of a solar water purifier was questioned at every check point. Military personnel in full battle gear at the checkpoints required us to pull our vehicle over to the side of the road so they could walk around us and make a thorough investigation of our cargo. Negotiating our way through became an art form, which despite the delays, never derailed our purpose. At 4:30 pm, we finally pulled into the campus of Dansalan College in Iligan. It had been a 10-hour journey. The evacuation campus of Dansalan College in Iligan was in a remote rural area, with only one three-story building providing the classrooms for all the courses. The departure from the City of Dansalan has reduced the student body considerably.
The turnover early the next morning was both beautiful and stressful. There were students, faculty and members of the Board of Trustees who had come to witness the occasion. It was beautiful to be received so warmly by Dr. Tawagon and the kind students and staff of Dansalan College. And it was beautiful to know that we could respond to the urgent need for clean water because a partner church across the world in Louisville, Kentucky, responded and trusted the mission.
The situation became stressful when Dr. Tawagon, unaware that the SolarPure was not yet prepared, requested that the Silliman Water team immediately turn on and start using the SolarPure so all could witness this Silliman creation. She pointed to a well in the ground in which we should place our intake hose so all present could see and taste the clean water. Because of the shortness of preparation time and the early morning turnover, the SolarPure was not yet prepared for use. It was with great fear and trembling that — without the proper preparation — we would now have to turn on the SolarPure and present results.
We prepared what we could and dropped the hose into the well. My heart was beating nervously. The SolarPure was turned on, and to my great relief, clean water flowed abundantly up from the well through the purifier and out into the waiting bottles and glasses. Everyone in the small crowd of 50 people was given a taste.
Clean drinking water is now flowing at the Dansalan College campus. Indeed, God always makes a way when there seems to be no way!
Partnerships and mission do change lives. Thank you for your prayers and support of the work of mission in the Philippines. Our work is only possible here because of your support. Please continue to keep us in your hearts.
Carlton “Cobbie” Palm and Dessa Quesada-Palm in the Philippines
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Tags: army, clean water, Dapitan, exodus, Fedelinda Tawagon, Iligan Bay, ISIS, Marawi, martial law, Matthew 25:35, Mindanao, rebels, Silliam Water Ministry, SolarPure, sustainability, war
Tags: Cobbie and Dessa Palm
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