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This excerpt is from The Prince of Sumba, Husband to Many Wives.
Copyright 1998 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 3 - Humble Adobo

   Pastor Sam's house was built into the side of a hill. The large foyer opened up to an expansive living room. Four huge plate windows framed a postcard view of the harbor. The dining area was equally spacious and had both hillside and harbor views. The floors were made of oversized rectangular cuts of marble.
   Upon entering, I could see the maids moving about the giant pantry on the other side of the kitchen. This was the first pastor I'd ever visited who had such accommodations, not to mention servants. He could see we were in awe of his home so he took us on a tour. There was a master suite, a sewing room, a den and 12 very small bedrooms, each furnished with a bed and a desk. There were also a few guestrooms that resembled the master suite. I noticed that every room had mahogany panels covering the walls. The only seams I could make out were at the corners where the panels joined.
   Sam responded to my obvious curiosity,
   "The man who owned this home before it was given to the church built it as a wedding gift for his wife. They'd planned to have lots of children, just like Jacob. Unfortunately, he and his wife were unable to have children and after a few years of living here they could no longer stand to be reminded of it by the empty rooms. Every one of those single cut panels of mahogany you've been admiring were put together with love. The entire home was a gift of love. It's such a shame that they were unable to fill it with the fruit of that love. As a matter of fact, I keep telling my wife, Sarisa, that she must bear me children again soon. This house was given to the church with the stipulation that they can't put a pastor out of it as long as his wife is pregnant or before their youngest reaches his first birthday. Mortgage security." Sam smiled broadly.
   "Now let me get this straight." I said, now intrigued. "You and Sarisa keep popping out kids and this house is yours, no matter what? No monthly payments? No landlord? That's a good way to make sure all the rooms get filled. How many children do you have so far?"
   "Only four, we have eight to go before the home is paid off."
   "Paid off?"
   "Yes, that's the last stipulation the owner made in giving this house to the church. If the pastor who lives in it fills all twelve rooms with his own children then the house is his!"
   "I would love to meet the man who gave this home to the church. He must have interesting thoughts. Who is he?"
   "Nobody knows. It was given anonymously. Every rich barren couple in town is suspect."
   "Wait a minute Sam," Mary protested, "You just told us the couple lived here for a while. How is it that none of the neighbors know who they are."
   "Neighbors? Twenty years ago, when this home was built, there were no neighbors. All of the homes you see around here are built on land leased from the church. Mr. Tigas gave this home, along with the entire hillside, to the church before any other homes were built."
   "But you just said it was Mr. Tigas," Mary protested.
   "Well, we do know his name and there are dozens of families by that name living in the area but every one of them lives up to their name."
   "Lives up to their name?"
   Mary was now beginning to suspect Pastor Sam was teasing her.
   Pastor Sam clarified,
   "The meaning of tigas is hard, some say hard, as in hard headed. Mary, I don't want you to think I'm kidding because I'm not. I know it sounds strange but surely there are donors in your country who wish to remain anonymous. What if one of their names was Smith or Jones? Would you have any idea who they were?"
   "Well, you're right about that. It's just that Ish is such a kidder that I thought the two of you might have conspired to make up some unbelievable story so that you could have fun making me believe it."
   "Mary," I interrupted, "I'll get you my dictionary. Tigas does mean hard and it's obvious there would be many families that go by that name here since the name of this barangay is Tigas."
   "Okay, okay, I believe you. It's such a nice story to believe anyway. Well, not so nice for the couple that couldn't have kids but it's nice the way it's turning out for you folks."
   I hadn't conspired with Sam as Mary had suspected. I was as fascinated by his story as she was. Such a story; a man who actually wanted a dozen children. This would never have been believed in the States. The government schools had so brain washed the children into believing there was a population problem that people actually believed you could have too many children. Too many children! Hah! The Bible says, "Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them."[1] As for Mindanao, it was still a place where families were large and where many children were rightly considered a blessing. The story of Mr. & Mrs. Tigas was an especially fitting tale. I knew that if Sam were really kidding he'd tell us at dinner. To think how many American couples would never get this house given the same situation. Could you even pay them to have more than a few kids? What a wretched people indeed would consider blessings a curse![2] I was glad this mission would give me time to reflect on the prospects of a mission to my own people. A people that had begun to see the government as the provider, instead of understanding how greatly the Lord blesses us for He created us.[3]
   To Sam and Sarisa, having a dozen kids had always been a dream and now with Sam's position as pastor of Tigas View Church of the Bible they would be rewarded for living their godly dream.
   Sam walked us back to the living room where Sarisa had laid out a tray of pastries, tea, and coffee.
   "I hope you don't mind if I leave you for a while. I have some things to prepare for tonight's meeting. See you in a bit." Sam excused himself to go to his study.
   Mary and I were left alone in this immaculately kept living room while the maids went about getting everything ready for our dinner with the church board.
   Then I smelled it, a stench! I whispered to Mary,
   "Do you smell that?"
   She sniffed,
   "Eww, what is it!"
   We both sniffed again to try to determine the location of the smell, then Mary looked at me with one of those crooked little expressions she gets. She leaned over and whispered,
   "It's you!"
   She was right. It was me! My body had not yet accustomed itself to the tropical climate. I guess you could say my clothes were beginning to ferment. Fortunately, Tony had left our bags sitting next to the door and I got out a change of clothes. I hurried to one of their many bathrooms and showered. Intay, one of the maids, walked by the bathroom just as I was coming out. I was wearing my clean change of clothing and was no longer ashamed, so I asked her help.
   "Excuse me, could you be so kind as to put my dirty clothes in the wash?"
   She squatted next to the clothes, poked them with one end of her broom stick and said,
   Apparently she'd been watching when Mary and I had discovered the smell. Sisiw, one of the other maids, went into the bathroom and knelt down next to Intay to help her. She held the dust pan while Intay pushed my clothes in with her broom stick. Pretending that my clothes carried some contagious disease, she yanked her fingers back and squealed when the clothes nearly touched them. Both maids now looked up at me, repeating in unison the new word they'd learned,
   In their scrunched down positions they now fell backwards laughing. I couldn't help but laugh with them.
   "I'm Ish." I said as I reached down with both hands to help them up to their feet.
   "I'm Intay and this is Sisiw."
   Sisiw matter-of-factly lifted up my arm now and sniffed my armpit.
   "Ah, much better. Your wives will be very happy now. Ah, sorry sir, I mean your wife will be very happy now."
   Sisiw's faux pas made them giggle all the more.
   "Please just call me Ish."
   I wasn't sure whether Sisiw was kidding with the 'wives' comment or if it really was a slip of the tongue.
   I remembered the missionary who was sent home for insulting the hotel clerk. I said a silent prayer for him right then that he'd stop taking the little things in life too seriously and start enjoying life's blessings.[4] How wonderful it is when the help can make fun without fearing for their jobs. My request to take my clothes to the laundry had become an introduction to a pair of adorable young ladies.
   The members of the church board and their wives arrived a bit late, 'Philippine time' they called it. Pastor Sam even joked,
   "Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Filipino as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."[5]
   We had a tasty meal but Mary and I were suffering a bit too much from jet lag to enjoy it. Tony took us to the apartment that had been arranged for us a little sooner than planned since we were starting to nod off during the meal. We hadn't meant to be rude to the church board but thirty six hours without sleep is a bit much even if you are a missionary.
   Tony had his tricycle ready for the short drive to our apartment. We arrived at what we expected would be our home for the next few months, or more. He put all of our stuff just inside the door; four balikbayan boxes containing all the possessions we felt necessary to start out our new life.[6] Mary had crammed everything she could into those boxes. She'd brought our best china and silverware, even bed sheets that she'd gotten on sale the day before we left. Only a Filipino can imagine how much can be packed into one of those balikbayan boxes.
   I thanked Tony and gave him some money,
   "Para sa mga gastos sa eskwela ng bata ninyo. Ugali namin ito eh, tanggapin niyo. [It's for the expense of your children's education. It's our custom, accept it.]
   Tony was so surprised, hearing me for the first time speak his native tongue, that all he could do was say,
   "Salamat po, salamat. [Thank you sir, thank you.]"
   It was the least we could do considering he'd forfeited a day's wage to cater to our transportation needs. I knew that if I'd directly offered to pay him that he would have refused it.
   Now Tony rattled off something so fast in his dialect that I understood just one part; he'd be back Sunday morning to take us to church.
   Mary and I were both so excited to unpack that as soon as Tony left we started to sort through our stuff. Mary set out to prepare our bedroom and to tidy up the bathroom while I put the rest of our belongings in place. We had barely enough energy left after unpacking to brush our teeth.
   Mary was out the moment she laid down. I lay there, awake and alone for the first time since we'd arrived. I pondered. My vision of Mindanao had been one of grass huts and coconut palms blowing in the wind. Cagayan de Oro was so different from my expectations. It was a large metropolis, an industrial hub, and Sam's church was more prosperous than I'd expected. For what reason had the Lord brought me here? Had I closed my eyes to the obvious or was my lack of vision a work of the Lord? Was He closing my eyes to something that He would show me only when I was ready? I dozed off, unaware of how wide the Lord was indeed going to open my eyes.

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Click Here to Go to Chapter 4 - Sisters in Need

[1] Psalms 127:5
Happy [is] the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
[2] Revelation 3:17
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
[3] Genesis 1:27&128a
So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them and God blessed them.
[4] James 5:16
Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
[5] 2 Peter 3:8
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
[6] A balikbayan box is a card board box that measures approximately 22X22X22 inches and is carried by nearly every Filipino who returns to the Philippines. A family of five can carry 10 such boxes which can weigh a total of 700 pounds! It's not unusual to witness frantic Filipinos at the airport, packing and repacking their balikbayan boxes to bring them under the limit of 70 pounds per box.

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A wise old teacher with many wives was once asked to answer a question for the wife of one of his monogamous students. Believing he could stump the teacher, the monogamous student read his wife's question for the entire class to hear. "Is it not true, teacher, that your wives are always bickering with one another? And that they argue about which one shall prepare your dinner?" "That is absolutely true," said the wise teacher. Then he asked the student, "And who does your wife bicker with? And who does she argue with over who should prepare your dinner?" Penned by Pastor Don Milton Dec. 1998 or earlier.

-- Pastor Don Milton--

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