Life in Canada has officially started now with our kids off to school. They have been eagerly anticipating this day well before we even told them we were headed for Canada. It blessed us to see them warmly welcomed and already connect well with the small community at Heritage Christian School in Kelowna.
Our family is overdue for a little routine and calm! The last few months for our family have been a little out of the ordinary insane. As challenging as the months were leading up to our departure from Philippines, it was incredible to witness God lead and protect us. Our family was in close proximity to the ongoing war in Marawi and escalating terrorism. The last few weeks before leaving my kids were starting to feel a little anxious. Arriving in Manila one of them said, “Papa it feels so good to be safe and know there is no chance of being kidnapped.”
In under a month we managed to juggle making two big moves from both Cagayan de Oro city and from the ministry base at Hope for the Island in Siargao. Over the last 2 years we have been back and forth each month residing in both these places. I am amazed at the favour we met in the face of what could have been obstacles too great to overcome. Preparing Hope for the Island and our family for this big of a transition in less than a month and under the circumstances, was nothing short of a miracle. Along the way we would stop in the moment as a family to pray and thank God for each situation we saw God working in. It was a great way to recognize God’s provision and help restore perspective in the midst of the chaos. We found ourselves rejoicing in the trials and came out on the other side stronger and with a renewed confidence in the power and realness of God!
The first few weeks on Canadian soil have kept us on the steady pace of craziness (seems to be the only way our family rolls!) After a warm welcome at the airport and a couple of nights rest at a friend’s place, an opportunity to attend a 5 day Christian family camp came our way. Can’t say I would recommend this under similar circumstances, but not a bad choice when you don’t have a place to stay until the end of the month! After the jet lag and wide eyed culture shock wore off a little, we settled in well to the flow of camp activities. In many ways it was great for us to have fun as a family and to quiet our minds and hearts. It was a blessing to have a week to not think about what we left behind nor all the unknowns ahead of us. We were also ministered to through some solid Biblical teaching. Those who have walked closely with us through the years know that each return visit in the past comes with a deep longing to be fed. One of the things I look most forward to as we establish ourselves here is to develop relationships we can be sharpened in. We are excited to get out and find a community of believers to grow in Christ and share life with.
The day finally arrived to move into the place we will potentially rent over the next 4 months. It felt so good to empty out our bags we have been living out of for months and to settle in. The excitement however came to an abrupt halt when we saw a cloud of smoke rising through the trees just beyond the property. We discovered a forest fire that started just off the road. It quickly spread upland with the strong winds. With years of typhoon and other calamity experience under our belt, our family went into game mode. Together with the owners, we were able to do what we could to protect the property and move the animals before the forced evacuation. In the process Jenn broke her toe loading horses to the trailer but as usual she carried on smiling and positive. We got away with our important documents and a few clothing items we were able to throw into our borrowed car. Thankfully some great friends welcomed us into their home while water bombers and firefighters worked around the clock to save homes and lives. After praying and casting our burden before the Lord, we all had a good laugh as we contemplated how interesting our lives are. No such thing as normal in our vocabulary. We went from escaping war and turmoil in Philippines to escaping fires!
With the fires contained at least in the critical spots, we were able to return to our rental the other day. It was a relief to settle into this incredibly beautiful place near to the city but surrounded with dense forest and a creek. This short term rental came as an answer to the prayer request I shared in our last update. Being around nature was what my mind and body desperately longed for. Although we have been in a polluted big city for the last 2 years, the majority of our 20 years in Philippines has been on a small undeveloped tropical island. Living for so many years surrounded by jungle and the wild unpredictable weather off the Pacific, it’s no wonder I feel most connected and at home in nature.
Two months before we left the Philippines the President declared martial law and the city of Marawi was laid siege to by ISIS affiliated terrorist groups. By the hand and grace of God we were out of the country and able to watch developments from afar. We were on a planned 1 month mission trip through Malaysia as a family. This was a low budget trip with hostel only accommodations and a backpacker travel itinerary. We were eager to serve and learn about history, culture and religion. It was great exposure for Makana and Brison that led to some great conversations and growth. The highlight of the trip came at the end. It was an experience like no other. Even our teenage kids who were raised on a remote rustic island found the experience challenging to say the least. Our family spent 10 incredible days deep in the heart of the Borneo rain forest with the Penan people. I first discovered these special people when I was searching for communities where we could serve. I was fascinated to read about a nomadic people who solely survived and flourished on the forest until being forced into settled communities and now suffer poverty and disease as a result. It was shocking to read articles describing some of the atrocities the Penan have gone through. They have been mocked for being uncivilized and given no rights while they watch their home in the forest being wiped out at an alarming rate. Large scale commercial logging and plantation companies together with an ambivalent government are responsible for decimating the Penan. I was amazed when I discovered one lone tour group that organizes trips into this area. They warn that it is only for the adventurous who are willing to rough it and can handle the physical demands. Of course i signed our family up!!! The purpose of these organized trips is to help the Penan people generate income as they attempt to survive out of their element. Money was not a concern before but they now find themselves lost and hopelessly dependent on a foreign oppressive system. Little did we know that God was the one who ordained for us to step foot in a world that would forever impact us. Over the course of the next couple weeks I will attempt to put into words what we feel God is leading us to walk out in faith with and how it beautifully connects with both Hope for the Island Philippines and us now being in Canada!! Your prayer support is greatly appreciated as we pray for God’s wisdom and guidance and formulate our ministry plan! Please also pray as we continue to work out the logistics of becoming a resident in a new place.
Thanks to each and everyone of you who have been on this journey with us. Some of you have been along for the ride well before missions ever penetrated our hearts and others of you have partnered with us through the years. We have all tasted and seen that God is indeed good and faithful! God truly does amazing things when we make ourselves available to Him and obeys His word. With great joy I look forward to what He has in store as we continue our missions journey. We live a life not by what we can see or work out on our own, but with confident and secure faith in a living true God!
Please feel free to ask questions and we will answer those in a video in our next detailed update 🙂
Our family finds our self in need of a few things as we settle in. Those in the BC area may have some of these things not in use for sale or give away. Click her to see list
Feel free to email us at email@example.com or text (204) 915-7209
Derek Van Ryckeghem