Racial Justice Resources

The Intricate Art of God’s Mission

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

July 2019

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Write to Dessa Quesada-Palm

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“I planted the seed, Apollos watered, but God has been making it grow.”
1 Corinthians 3:6

In the rural hills near Valencia, a small city in the Philippines, a community that has struggled with contaminated water and poverty is finding its way toward health and hope. The hand of God is at work here, and as a supporter of Presbyterian World Mission, you are playing a role in this community’s path toward a better life. Thank you very much for your help.

Silliman Water Ministry, a partnership project of Silliman University and the PC(USA) that I help manage, entered this village’s story when a team was traveling to a neighboring community to distribute clean water and look into the development of waste management initiatives. We took a mountain road that we usually don’t travel and came upon a tiny store attached to a house, where we hoped to get a cool drink of water.

A woman came out and said, “We do not have water, but we have Coke and Sprite.” She explained, “Water now is dangerous to drink, so we drink Coke.” A conversation began, and we explained the Silliman Water Ministry, a service arm of Presbyterian-founded Silliman University. We told her we could provide clean drinking water if the community would commit to working on the solid waste, sanitation and wastewater that is destroying their water.

Emma at her home. Photo: Cobbie Palm

“My name is Emma,” she said, “and I can arrange for the village to come together and show you our solid waste, sanitation and wastewater here.” We returned after a week, met with the village and walked around the area to find what we had expected: as in so many rural communities, proper solid waste disposal and sanitation is a problem. As we met with the community, we agreed that restoring clean drinking water is possible if we work together to deal with the solid waste and sanitation problems that contaminate the village water source. We proceeded to give suggestions and guidelines on recycling and rechanneling wastewater away from the water sources.

Emma, a mother of three, is one of the many women in the Philippines who work the land harvesting coconuts and vegetables while her husband offers his days to local sugarcane planters and harvesters. On a good day, there is enough food on the table for the family, and they can sell some of the food they grow to buy other necessities.

To make ends meet, Emma took a job on another island as a dishwasher during the low season for harvesting. She was hired by a school that was hosting a sports festival. There she observed a group creating decorations for the festival’s closing celebration. She was suddenly struck with awe and interest in the use of paper, glue and plastics to create flowers, balls and other objects. Each day, she watched the group and practiced the techniques in her quarters at night. She got the hang of it and was excited to return home to create pieces of art using her newfound skills.

After our meeting with the community, we returned the next week with our first delivery of water and to check on the development of their clean-up initiatives. As we sat outside, Emma came out with a vase and flowers of different shapes and colors made from recycled paper and plastics saying, “This I can make from the solid-waste scraps of paper and plastic we are throwing away.” As I looked at her beautiful work of art, I saw God’s hand weaving together the pieces of this mission. The threads of this mission fabric include an accident of observing at a school, an accident that we drifted to Emma’s place and an accident that she found a way to recycle solid waste into a source of new income for the village.

Emma creating her art. Photo: Cobbie Palm

Emma now trains other village women in this art of flower and vase making, and the Silliman Water Ministry has been cultivating their income-generating potential by helping them market their creations. By the grace of God’s accident, there is new life and hope in this village — the community is giving more care to the recovery of their clean water while generating a little income from the new art shared by Emma.

In communities across the globe, Presbyterian mission co-workers are serving alongside global partners in ministries that are transforming lives in the name of Jesus Christ. I am privileged to be counted among these people who have been commissioned by our church to work in every region of the world. We and our colleagues are grateful for people like you whose prayers and financial support enable us to answer God’s call to international service.

Your ongoing support is needed to continue to serve alongside global partners in ministries that are meeting urgent needs. You can join with mission co-workers and global partners to help people experience the fullness of life Christ wants for them. We need your help and partnership.

Faithfully yours,

Cobbie Palm


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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