It's high time I updated you again on what we have been doing. Our Wednesday was bookended by some authentic Filipino experiences. In the morning, we got a taste of Filipino transportation. We caught a trike (basically a motorcycle with a sidecar) to a local wet market. I have my doubts that they envisioned a 6'6'' white male using this means of transportation when it was conceived. My limbs were dangling dangerously in every direction. My weight gave the groaning machine all it could handle going up the hills. A sidecar that could hold three Filipinos comfortably held one large American uncomfortably. And then the wet market. It was filled from end to end with butchers hawking every kind of meat imaginable. There were your standard chicken legs and fish fillets, but then there were pig heads, fish heads, chicken heads, chicken feet, cow tongue, cow tail, cow intestine, squid, and stingray, to name a few. On the other end of our day, we were able to enjoy some Filipino meal with the Kleyns, including squid, oysters, and octopus (which I found surprisingly good).
Between these bookends, the day was filled with a number of meetings. Rev. Kleyn and I joined a Foreign Mission Committee meeting via Skype, which was interesting to participate in from the opposite side of the world. Lee and I also spent a good chunk of time meeting with Rev. Kleyn to discuss the field and their life and labors on it.
Most of the day Thursday was spent working and preparing for upcoming labors. In the evening, we visited in the home of Rev. & Melody Ibe and their boys, and spent some time catching up with them. From there we went to Provident Church for their weekly Bible study, and had the privilege of meeting some of the members of this group. Provident is not yet a part of the denomination here, but is presently one of the main areas where Rev. Kleyn focuses his mission labors. The weekly Bible study is one of the ways he does this. It is less like a Bible study as we might think of it, and more like a class that Rev. Kleyn leads to give instruction in Reformed doctrine. He is presently going through the Belgic Confession, and on Thursday he taught on Art. 21 and the satisfaction of Christ. It was very fitting in an ecclesiastical scene that is dominated by Roman Catholicism and Arminianism. On our way to the Bible study, Rev. Kleyn received word that the mother of one of the members of Provident died. So, after the Bible study, we went to the funeral home for her wake. It was interesting to observe and discuss the different ways of grieving and funeral customs.
In the short time I've been here, a few things have struck me. Here are a few:
- The color of your skin makes you stand out immediately (and even more so if you are two feet taller than most). To some it might mean that you are wealthy. To some it might be intimidating so that they shy away. To others it might mean that you are a professional basketball player.
- Running errands can take a whole day. You need to get your mail? You don't walk to the end of the driveway or to the local post office. You drive to a mall, where a small room is filled with stacks of mail here, there, and everywhere. Thankfully the postal worker knows the system, because it was impossible for me to decipher. You need to go to the bank? Take a number and get in line. You could be there for a while. The small room is packed with people who were there before you. You need your car registration renewed? Make sure you go to the emissions testing center first.
- Traffic. It's constant. I told my wife that it was like being in rush hour traffic in Chicago all the time. At times it seems like all 22 million citizens of Manila are on the road at the same time. Which means that getting anywhere requires a lot of time (and patience).
- Speaking of time, some Filipinos jokingly refer to "Filipino time." If an event is slated to start at 7:30, it's possible that it won't start until 8:00. This may be partly due to traffic, but it also may be due to a different perspective on time.
- If you are offered something to eat, the polite thing to do is to wait a bit before eating it so that you don't leave the impression that you came expecting it.
This is not meant to be a criticism of these differences. It certainly does not mean that the Kleyns complain about these things. Not even a whisper. And it's most certainly not intended to scare anyone away from the field. But I hope it shows that adjusting to the cultural differences can take time. Pray for the Kleyns that they might continue to do so with the same wisdom and tact that they have already shown.
In the love of Christ,
Rev. Joshua Engelsma is pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa and will be assisting Rev. Spronk in writing for the RFPA blog.