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This excerpt is from The Prince of Sumba, Husband to Many Wives.
Copyright 1998 - 2009 Don Milton All Rights Reserved.
All Copyright Laws Apply

Chapters: [Prologue] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]  [19]  [20]  [21]  [22]  [23]  [24]  [25]  [26]

Chapter 1 - Mission Mindanao

   As our plane circled to touch down, I felt inadequately prepared for my mission. Mindanao was a huge island, larger than many countries. Its population was in the tens of millions and still there were vast areas of uninhabited jungle. It was made up of a little over half Roman Catholics, a quarter Muslims, a tenth Born-agains, and numerous sects*. If there were a place on earth where the pure gospel of our Lord and Savior could cause an instant reaction it was here. I was anxious to see the results. Just then I remembered my grandfather's second prophecy, that I would become a missionary to the Asiatic peoples. My mind and heart collided in the realization that this prophecy was about to be fulfilled.
   "Praise God!" I was thinking half out loud.
   My wife, Mary, read my lips. "Amen!" She concurred.
   Our plane eased across the runway at Cagayan de Oro Airport just as the midday equatorial sun took its place above us. When the door of the plane was opened we were greeted by a burst of heat and humidity. By the time we descended the stairs and walked across the tarmac to the airport lobby I was sweating profusely.
   I took out my handkerchief and wiped my forehead. Well, we were here, Mindanao. I looked across the landing strip and saw nothing familiar except for a few tufts of grass stubbornly poking their way through the cracks in the runway. A water buffalo was yanking them out as he grazed. The field beyond the airport apparently didn't supply a choice enough variety for his tastes. Well, I guess for water buffalo as well as cattle, the grass is always greener; something the Christian world had ignored in recent years.
   At the airport dozens of drivers of various sorts and sizes of vehicles were arguing over fares. By the looks of some of the vehicles, they'd have to pay me to get in. I was glad that we were expected and that our ride would be along soon, but before we had a chance to take a seat in the waiting area, a man approached us.
   "May I be so rude as to bother you?" he asked. That was a curious way of putting it and how could I say no. He continued, "Are you Mr. David?"
   "That's right, and you?"
   "I'm Tony. Pastor sent me. He knew there wouldn't be enough room for us all to fit into my vehicle so pastor and his family are waiting for you back at his house."
   I looked at what Tony had referred to as his vehicle. It was a tricycle. Yes, I said tricycle. His tricycle was a four wheeled contraption with a motorcycle welded into the center. If you can imagine a Chinese rickshaw with four wheels and a motorcycle pulling it instead of a man then you not only have a wild imagination but you're close to visualizing what these actually looked like.
   "Will it be all right with you if we go now?" Tony asked.
   I was trying to figure out a polite way to get out of riding with Tony and to find some safer way to get to the Pastor's house when Mary spoke.
   "Sure Tony, We'd love to. Is this your tricycle?"
   "Yes, my brother-in-law in the States bought it for me," Tony beamed with pride.
   After loading up our luggage we got into Tony's tricycle for the 5 mile ride to the pastor's house. Tony had to shout to be heard over the din of his motorcycle. He would halt mid-sentence as his engine revved then as it glided into the next gear he would begin speaking again.
   "We only have two brown outs per day now. That's what we call our scheduled power outages. We have only enough power to supply most of our needs so we have brownouts."
    Tony then related a story of one missionary who checked into a local hotel during a brownout. Assuming that the power could be out for hours, the missionary climbed the ten flights of stairs to his room. The bell hop came out of the elevator with his baggage just as he arrived. Upon realizing that he'd been allowed to climb the stairs, even though the bellhop knew the power was about to return, he lost his temper in such a fit that the church he'd been sent to wouldn't accept him. The bell hop was simply being polite according to local etiquette. The missionary had told him to bring his baggage up after the power returned and that was exactly what he'd done. He didn't want to insult the intelligence of the missionary by telling him what anyone on Mindanao should have known. Brownouts were part of the landscape. They came and went as consistently as the sun rose and set. The bell hop simply figured the missionary was like other Americans; taking the stairs to keep fit. Some of the things the missionary said to the hotel staff were so personal as to be seen not just as anger but as bigotry so he was called back to the States despite his protestations.
   I was familiar with this missionary. He'd come from the old school that said regardless of the message it was the messenger that counted and if you were a Doctor of Divinity then you must be a messenger of truth. All that mattered was that you had credentials. What you said to those you were preaching to was incidental. Our mission board had taken very seriously the trouble this man had brought upon his denomination and wasn't about to let it happen to ours. Because of this, they leaned heavily on multilingual missionaries such as myself. We were generally more interested in the people we met than our highly educated but language illiterate counterparts. Can you imagine how Americans would receive a foreign missionary who refused to speak English? Yet to this day, most American missionaries who go abroad cannot speak the language of the people to whom they're sent. Instead of spending their time studying the local language, many missionaries spend their free time playing racket ball with their rich English speaking buddies. The people they're sent to evangelize get little more than a Sunday sermon delivered in English. It's the local pastor who ends up delivering the sermon to those who don't speak English.
   I was beginning to enjoy our ride to the pastor's house along that bumpy little highway. We drove through little barangays (communities) that ended just minutes after they'd begun. Each barangay had its own mix of stores. Each store had a sign or banner that told its specialty. One such sign read;
   "We make authentic brand name jeans, you pick the label."
   Apparently trademark infringement laws weren't being enforced here.
   About now I was beginning to feel guilty for having wanted to find another mode of transportation. This certainly wasn't going to be the most dangerous ride I'd ever taken and Tony had been so kind as to pick us up. Besides, being a missionary to remote places was going to entail more dangers than a tricycle ride.
   I never liked holding things in, so I said,
   "Tony, I wanted to let you know how much we appreciate your having come out to the airport to pick us up."
   Before Tony had a chance to respond, an explosion went off behind us. Judging from the way the tricycle careened to the side, we'd been hit. Mary held even more tightly to my now sticky arm. I wasn't sweating as profusely as before but that was because what I'd already sweated just remained on my skin. The humidity was so high that it couldn't evaporate. Luckily the "explosion" was only a flat tire.
   Tony now responded to my thanks,
   "I'm glad to know I can be of service to the Lord's work. I'll just change the tire."
   I noticed the tire Tony was swapping for the flat was no less bald than the one that had just blown. Well, as the locals say, "bahala na," translated, "in God's hands" or "come what may." I knew the wisdom of this saying for things can go at such a slow pace at the equator that an impatient attitude is a sign of either low intelligence or extreme rudeness.
   There was a little sari-sari store at the side of the road where we got the flat and while Tony was changing it we had a soda and snacks. A sari-sari store is a little shack that sells candy, snacks, and drinks. They also sell little packets of soap, shampoo, and other sundries. I always liked these little places where you could get a snack and a drink. They were a great place to hang out and get the local tsismis (gossip). The cost of our soda and pastries was only 15 pesos (30 cents) and Suni, the girl behind the counter, appeared determined to get her wages in conversation. It wasn't every day that an American and his wife stopped by to have a snack. For that matter, it was unlikely that it had ever happened.
   Suni, in sharp contrast to the dilapidated little sari-sari store, looked more like a fashion model than a poor roadside vendor. Her lips were glossed and her fingernails glistened in the sun. When she walked her toes would peek out from her long skirt, revealing their stylish pedicure, then hide themselves again. Her hips swayed each time she came around the corner to put another snack in front of us. I know. Such things are to be far from a missionary's mind but that was why I was so blessed to have Mary, my wife. It seems my youthful drive had never left me. I knew that I must be a married man or face the possibility of fornication and disgrace each time a beauty such as Suni sauntered by.
   Suni's feminine charms were nearly matched by her skills as an interrogator. She wanted to know our whole life story; how long we'd been married, how we'd met each other, whether it was love at first sight and whether we'd been married before. Had Tony not finished changing the tire, the conversation would have continued for hours, if you could call it a conversation. Suni was asking all the questions. In America we tend to think that questions such as these are rude or nosey. In the Philippines they are indications that someone is simply curious about you and no harm is intended. They certainly won't forget any of the things you've told them as so many of us who converse more superficially do.
   Suni was looking at some of the pictures Mary had brought of our family when Mary showed her one of our wedding pictures. Suni exclaimed,
   "Oh, you got him!" then said, "Sorry hah, it's just the dream of every single girl to get their man. You're so blessed!"
   Mary wasn't used to being told that she was blessed to get me. In the States it's the man who's told that he's lucky to have gotten his wife.
   Not wanting Mary to feel slighted, I responded quickly,
   "And I was so blessed to get her! And now I must take her again"
   I took Mary's arm and helped her back into the tricycle to continue our drive to Pastor Sam's house.
   "It must be wonderful to have such a strong husband." Suni shouted as we drove away.
   Wonderful indeed! I thought to myself as I basked in the praise of Suni's comments.
   Mary, having gotten over the unintended insult of being told that she was lucky to have me, shouted to me above the motor of the tricycle,
   "Wouldn't it be nice just to have Tony drive us all over the city getting flats and chatting with people at sari-sari stores?"
   It was as if she'd read my mind. It would be great fun meeting all those people one by one, but next time I wanted to be the interrogator. Suni's longing to have a husband had triggered my curiosity. Wouldn't someone with her beauty and personality have lots of suitors? Maybe she did, but since we hadn't asked, she hadn't told us. I regretted that our conversation had been so lopsided. It seemed a shame that we were the adventurers but had learned so little from our first encounter with one of the locals. I promised myself that next time, such an opportunity wouldn't be wasted.

Purchase your Copy of Prince of Sumba, Husband to Many Wives. Click Here!

Click Here to Go to Chapter 2 - The Arrival

Note: *The other sects include Jehovah's Witnesses who are referred to locally as "Saksi" which, translated, means "witness", Mormons, Aglipayans, Iglesia ni Cristo (a church unique to the Philippines that does not teach salvation by grace) and various indigenous tribes with their own religions. These indigenous tribes are called "Lumads". Get Your Own Copy of Prince of Sumba, Husband to Many Wives. Click Here!

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Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

-- Solomon -- Ecclesiastes 9:16

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