Heartbreak and Hope

The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; 
he saves those who have lost all hope.
– Psalm 34:18 (Good News Translation)

It has been a little over a year since we've sent an update. This is well overdue, and there is a lot we could cover; in this newsletter we are choosing to highlight three specific areas on the region. Please join us in praying for the people of Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. The stories from these areas are heartbreaking; but they highlight the very reason we are here to serve - all are in need of the hope of Christ.

 Highlighting the Headlines:

Pray for Myanmar, a nation suffering in the midst of a military coup and civil unrest.
Pray for Papua New Guinea and our Nazarene Hospital, now seeing their first Covid cases and anticipating rapid spread of disease and widespread fear.
Pray for the Philippines, with a surge in case numbers, a weak medical system, and intense lockdown.
Pray for Helpers in the Field, for Miko, the newly-appointed Philippines-Micronesia Field Treasurer, and also for the Goossens (pronounced GO-sens) Family as they anticipate moving to Manila to help with finance. There are also many across our region who have left for Home Assignment or other reasons, and are awaiting an opportunity to return to their country of service.



On February 1 in Myanmar, as a new session of Parliament was about to open after a general election, there was a military coup. Since then there have been ongoing protests, which have been met with military opposition, from restrictions such as curfews and cutting off internet access, to more violent tactics such as arrest, imprisonment, and open fire. The air is filled with the sounds of gunshots, explosions, and cries of mourning. Hundreds have been killed, including children and many youth. Some of our seminary graduates have suffered. Many have fled for refuge, only to flee again when they are no longer safe. Many are scared to go outside even for essentials. In the midst of the pandemic, medical facilities are limited. It is a desperate situation. In a primarily Buddhist nation, our Brothers and Sisters need our prayers for strength and courage to offer the hope and peace of Christ to those around them. This Friday, April 9 (beginning at 10pm local time/11am EST), youth from the Southeast Asia Field are hosting an online prayer vigil for the people of Myanmar, staying up all night to pray for those who are suffering from fear through the night. Particularly in times of intense darkness, the Light has more potential for intensity as well. 
Respiratory Infection Ward at Kudjip Hospital
Papua New Guinea

The Nazarene Hospital in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (where our family began and where our boys were born, a place dear to our hearts) anticipated the effects of the Pandemic for eleven months. Last month they saw their first Covid-positive patient. The hospital staff have mobilized and counted the cost. For missionaries, that cost was sacrificed on an altar before they left home; for the national staff, it was a more difficult commitment. But what a privilege to see them commit to serve no matter the cost, to see them minister to patients trusting the Lord for His care and offering hope and healing in Jesus' name.

Thankfully, the hospital was not inundated with a large number of cases immediately, but they have seen a gradual increase. That start has helped the staff be more prepared and confident in caring for patients. The rural, village environment presents challenges for dealing with a highly contagious disease like Covid. The hospital is not fully equipped like a first-world hospital, but they are using the resources and knowledge they have to move forward. Pray for wisdom and protection for the hospital staff. Pray for efficient provision of the Covid vaccine, scheduled to be available to front line workers mid-May.

Pray for the people to be well-informed as the hospital staff has been. Like everywhere else, it is so easy for rumors and false information to spread. Pray that the people will follow health protocols that will keep them safe - even when those protocols (wearing masks, social distancing, changing market practices) go against cultural norms. Many are now afraid to come to the hospital for other needs, such as cancer treatments or receiving routine medication; many women are choosing to deliver babies at home rather than coming to the hospital. Pray that those who need help would be able to get to the hospital.

A glimpse into our corner of the city

The Philippines

The Philippines has had the longest-running, tightest quarantine/lockdown in the world. Many Filipinos do not have the indoor and outdoor space that we are blessed with. Many children here are caught in webs of human trafficking (particularly online sex trafficking) and abuse - and they have been trapped in unsafe environments for the last year. The Church of the Nazarene continues to partner with International Justice Mission by providing counseling and a safe place for those who have been rescued from these devastating situations. Pray with us for the stamina of the people, and also for the government here, for wisdom as they make decisions that affect the health and well-being of all ages of the population in various ways.

There is now a Phlippines Covid variant, which has caused a dramatic spike in case numbers, and revealed the weaknesses of the medical infrastructure. Hospital facilities and their staff are over-taxed and fatigued. They are at capacity (and beyond). After a year of lockdown, it is heartbreaking to see case numbers surging to new highs, and to hear stories - not just statistics - about people dying in triage tents outside the hospital, unable to get a bed. Beyond that, others are dying of more treatable diseases because they never gain access to overcrowded medical facilities. Vaccines are not readily available and not being distributed efficiently. The tight level of lockdown we experienced initially in 2020 has been reinstated, which means the poor will suffer when they are not be able to work and provide for their families. There seems to be little hope for the masses of people living in the overpopulated metropolis of Manila. But we are grateful for the emphasis on compassion in the Nazarene Church, caring for both physical and spiritual needs. We are also thankful for the opportunity to serve alongside other organizations and believers with a common goal, which means the ministry is multiplied.

Our Last 12 Months at a Glance

The last twelve months for us have definitely had some unanticipated twists and turns. The last time we wrote, we had recovered from a threatened volcanic eruption (ironically, it is now threatening again a year later); Scot had made a quick trip back to the US and unexpectedly said goodbye to his father in his first 12 hours there; and we were battening down for a season of quarantine at the onset of the Covid pandemic.

In the last year, all seven of us got sick with Covid symptoms and recovered, though we were never tested (testing wasn't widely available enough at that time here). The children have been doing school online for the last year; one of the five switched to homeschool in January. Audrey started kindergarten and has had the incredible blessing of a special-needs-experienced teacher who has visited our house twice a week to work with her. We missed our scheduled Home Assignment in the US. We rewired our house so that it is now much, much safer. (There were many bare, rat-chewed wires, and it looked like rat's nest; thankfully all the wires are now in neat rows tucked safely into rat-proof PVC pipes.) We were able to get away for 2-3 days a couple of times on school breaks, to a nearby Airbnb. The children were not allowed out of our subdivision from March until August. Then we were able to access their school campus for exercise, signing up for one-hour time slots. That access has now ceased (along with Audrey's teacher's visits) and we are homebound once again. We've grown accustomed to wearing masks and face shields whenever we go out, as is required by law. As many of you can probably relate, in some ways the last year has been full and heavy; in other ways, not a lot has happened!

We appreciate your prayers for our family; as we looked out over the city on Easter Sunday, our hearts were broken for our neighbors here and in other parts of our region. While this has not been an easy place to weather the "Covid Storm", we are grateful the Lord has us here. We are grateful to see the needs, to play a part in what the Lord is doing, and to be heartbroken and changed. Join us in praying for these areas that are heavy on our hearts in these days of uncertainty.

Help on the Horizon?
For a year and a half, Scot has held two full-time mission-critical finance positions. It has been exhausting. Miko has now been appointed as the new field treasurer for the Philippines-Micronesia Field. Pray with us for this transition, which will be tricky to navigate as Scot will begin training him during this tight lockdown. Pray also for the Goossens (GO-sens) family. Randy and Joani and their children (Emma, Lexi, and Ethan) are planning to join us here later this year to assist Scot with finances, while Joani continues to serve as the Melanesia-South Pacific Field Treasurer. God has been providing each step of their journey as they have left Fiji and are now in the US on Home Assignment; there are still a lot of things to accomplish in the next few months as we wait also to see if they will be able to enter the Philippines during a time of heavy travel restrictions.

Home Assignment 2021?
We had anticipated that we would go back to the US this year for our Home Assignment. However, the Philippines tends to close its borders frequently and with little notice. International travel is quite complicated these days, and with our visas expiring in September, we could very easily get stuck in the US for an indefinite amount of time if we were to go back. So, as cases here rise and restrictions tighten again (after loosening a little over the last 6 months), we will likely stay here again this year and forego our Home Assignment. It has been a long haul, and some days it feels like there is no light in the tunnel. But shifting our perspective outside our own four walls, we are quickly reminded why we are here. We are grateful and humbled to serve obediently where the Lord has called us.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:15-18


In the US: 1146 Countryside Dr., Washington Court House, OH 43160
In the Philippines: APNTS, Ortigas Ave. Ext., Kaytikling, Taytay, Rizal 1920 Philippines 

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Riggins on Mission · APNTS · Ortigas Ave. Ext., Kaytikling · Taytay, Rizal 1920 · Philippines

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