Part 13 - Philippines Journey: our final stop and the day we leave Leyte

19 September 2015

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.
We ride through the dark of night to the adjoining town, knowing they have not received any help yet.  We have only 60 sacks of relief goods left.  Each package contains enough food for a family to survive for a few days.  This was all we had to give, but we were hoping it would help provided sustenance until larger relief groups could reach these outskirting cities.  As Mace bravely told people - "that is the whole reason we went.  There existed plenty of money to donate, but no one available to distribute supplies.  That is why we spent $10,000 combined to make this trip and help with the distribution."

We finally reach Tolosa, though my eyes are hardly staying open.  These days have been so long and fatiguing, with little sustenance to support our efforts.  We drive to the LDS chapel in Tolosa.  Also the only building left standing.  There were many families that had taken refuge in this church, and they welcomed us with open arms.

Once we entered the building, we realized there were dozens of large families staying here.  Children were running and playing everywhere, and all the rooms were packed with adults.  It felt so good to be with so many protected people.  Everyone was in such high spirits.

Our crew was utterly exhausted from the day, so we quickly set up a little corner of the room for us to eat a small meal, and then we began medically assisting all who were in this building.  I remembered a bag of lollipops my neighbor donated to me before this trip, so I went out amongst all the children and gave them suckers one-by-one.  They all swarmed me, eager to receive a treat.

While ZEDRU was cleaning wounds and offering medicine to the people, Mace had laid out our tiny Delta red blankets on the tile floor where we would be sleeping.  Children were running and playing all around.  But as soon as the suckers were all passed out, I joined Mace on the blankets.  We felt so relieved and happy to be able to sit down and rest and be amongst so many people!  We laughed about what a sight this was.  Our thin little pieces of fabric on the tile floor serving as our bedding; eating only small amounts of ramen, rice, and sardines everyday; and children stepping on my hair as I laid their on the hard tile.  In our hearts, we felt so much joy and happiness.  But we knew these circumstances would be utterly intolerable back home, so we couldn't stop laughing.  I fell asleep almost instantly.  The loud shrieks of the children, the bright lights overhead.  There I laid in the middle of the chapel floor, sleeping soundly.

Mace told me the next morning that the team had stayed up late to discuss what our plans were for the next day.  He laughed because I didn't wake up once despite kids jumping over me, and I was even sleeping under a leak in the roof that dripped on me all night long and drenched my clothes.  That's how exhausted I was.

But Mace told me the conversation the team had.  Because we had distributed all the goods we had remaining to the survivors of Tolosa, and our additional goods had not arrived, we didn't have much to keep us going.  The team decided it would be best to return to Cebu to restock.  As was the case with this whole trip, I hardly ever knew what was happening; I just went along with the plans as they came.  It was a grand adventure to never know what was next!

The next morning, I am awakened by the alarm of someone on the team.  It was still pitch black outside, and I learn from Mace that it is 4 am, and it is time to go.  

We pack up with the small lights we have, with the Filipino refugees sleeping all around.  I fell asleep amidst such commotion, but at some point, everyone had winded down and now they were all fast asleep.  I mention to Mace that my clothes are all wet.  He laughs at me for sleeping all night in a puddle and not even noticing.  

By 5 am, we are out on the streets with all our belongings, where a bus has been arranged to come pick us up.  The thing about Mom Beth is she just makes things happen somehow.  Mace and I spent a good deal of time talking about her leadership and how well she knows how to get things in order, and how well the rest of the team obeys and follows her lead.

As we sat on the side of the road and waited, only being able to see each other because of our headlamps, I finally thought about just how racked I was.  I was starving, dehydrated, sunburned, also had the chills from being wet all the time, entirely enervated and exhausted.  This short mission to the island of Leyte was entirely emotionally and physically draining!

Finally, headlights came around the corner.  Our bus had arrived.  We had much less gear to tote this time.  We all climbed on the bus to begin the four-hour ride back to the port.  As we rode along the bumpy road, I watched the jungle out the window.  Mace sat next to me, and we evaluated the last five days in the Philippines.  What a crazy adventure so far!  We both felt like we should be staying and serving more.  Our time was so short!  Mom Beth told us that even if our body's felt like they could give more, we needed to be aware that our emotional faculties could only handle about three days of being amongst such conditions. 

We stopped at the port for a nice meal.  Our first nice, full meal in three days.  We gorged on chicken and vegetables.  It all felt so good and soothing.  Our bodies finally getting the nourishment they so desperately needed. 

Mace, Preston, and I tried to decide our next move.  We were going to ride with the crew back to Cebu, where they would then return to Manila for their rejected supplies.  Walter had to go home to go back to work.  So that left Mace, Preston, and myself free to decide what was next for us.  We talked about Michael's offer to come back and assist the Salvation Army in Tanauan.  But given what Mom Beth said about letting your emotional faculties rest for a few days before coming back to the destroyed island, we decided to see what relief opportunities we could assist with back in Cebu.   We decided to return to Cebu and rest for a few days.

We climbed about the ship that would take us back to Cebu.  Mace and I leaned over the railings as the boat pulled away and discussed how meaningful that work had been.  The rest of the world had faded away - our problem stresses.  All that existed was our desire to serve and assist.   

Then we laid down on the bunk beds on the ship.  I pulled out my CPA books, knowing I had a test in a couple weeks.  But in no time, we were all asleep.  

All of our senses were filled with such peace.  Never have I been apart of such a grand adventure, just planning moment-by-moment, yet yielding such great impact.  I've never witnessed so many consecutive miracles.  So much divine support, divine guidance, divine peace. 

It was an experience that I will assuredly never forget.

Upward and onward,

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