I stared out of the window as the bus drove me to my first area. It was October or November of 2003, and after spending the night at the mission office, we, the greenies – noob wasn’t a word back then, were set-out with our “trainors” to do what we were assigned to do: preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as full-time missionaries.
The journey has become lonely, despite there were seven other missionaries with me. The three to four hour travel from Davao City to Sta. Josefa in Agusan Del Sur waned my excitement I felt at the beginning of the trip. As the sun set there were less houses and people on the highway we were passing.
By the time the bus arrived at our stop, it was already night time. Four of us boarded down while the other four missionaries had another hour of travel or so. We were in an intersection where the only light we had was the lamppost. There were no houses around, only the dark silhouette of a mountain that greeted us in our arrival. Looking back, it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere.
We split ways with the other two missionaries (our district leader and his companion), who were going to another municipal town called Trento. We rode a tricycle that took us up on the mountain. It was a quiet night. As far as I could tell there was no one else in the road. Lampposts kept our way illuminated like lonely sentinels. I noticed a few houses along the way but as we were in a provincial area they were few and far apart.
To be honest, I was happy when we passed a gasoline station in an intersection leading to our apartment. Seeing the bright lighted signage, I could not help thinking, At last! Civilization.
But we were brought again to darkness after making a turn in the intersection, and as a boy who grew up in the city I thought how lonely this place if that was the only establishment this town had.
We stopped across an empty lot that I found the next day was a rice field. We took my bags and crossed a dirt path leading to my new home for a few months. At that time there weren’t much people outside and I later learned that many – who were farmers – sleep early in the evening, part due to work, part due that many households do not have electricity.
The house we were renting had two rooms, a bathroom, kitchen, and a patio which was typical of houses in the province. It seemed like all houses in rural areas always have a patio in front.
The companions I had during my two year service say I’m very adaptive, and I guess it had worked well with me that first night in my first area and to the coming days afterwards. Buses with signboards written “Cubao” (a city in Manila) always pass through the highway and I had heard stories of homesick missionaries getting on those buses to come home.
I don’t remember what had happened the rest of that night. I think I felt homesick but I knew I didn’t cry. I had shed all of my tears in the Missionary Training Center.
I just knew I was assigned in this area; and that my work was about to begin the next day.