THE DAVAO RIVER
After a year of prayer and "blood, sweat, and tears," an 80-meter footbridge now stands in the heart of the Matigsalug land. This great act of love and sacrifice was completed and ceremonially opened May 7, 2002.
The tribes are very grateful, and said that this is something that would bridge them to the future. Each year this river has been claiming the lives of both children and adults as it becomes swift and dangerous during the winter season. The tribal people will now be able to cross over to get their produce easily, and their children can go to school. The government and our TMFI staff will also have easier access to the people and will not jeopardize their lives delivering basic services.
TMFI wishes to send its grateful appreciation to all the individuals and churches that took part in this project. Thanks to those individuals and churches from Manila, Cebu and those of our friends abroad. We would like to specially mention Christ, the Living Stone Fellowship in Manila, the Springs of Life in Sunnyvale, California, The Vail Bible Church in Colorado, The Valley Christian Fellowship in Victoria, the church in Minlaton, South Australia and the Abundant Life Fellowship Church in Tauranga, New Zealand.
Thanks for your prayers and support.
Like Joseph Chonko, who helped kicked off the project but died in a snow boarding accident two months before the project started "... your gifts to the poor have came up as a memorial offering before God." (Acts 10:4).
A Team from Colorado Helps Build the Bridge
Most people around the world take a small bridge for granted. But for the indigenous peoples of the mountainous regions of the southern Philippines, a bridge can save many lives.
Each year, both children and adults drown in rivers that must be crossed in order to access food, school houses, and other things. TMFI had been raising money for some time to complete a bridge over the Davao river which claimed lives every year. The final completion of this bridge was a tremendous blessing.
TMFI took a team from Colorado who helped build this bridge which now stands in Gumitan. "We had a grand time," said Pio Arce, who helped lead the team. The team was there for 3 days, but put in a couple weeks of work in the humid heat.
For all who participated, it was really exciting to see the bridge take form. There were 15 who came from Colorado to help. The army also came along to ferry supplies by helicopters. The army presence was also because of the on-going measles epidemic which is taking the lives of a lot of children. Some of the children were brought to hospitals. During the visit there were four kids who died.
One of the team members who came was Charlotte Chonko, the sister of Joseph Chonko who Pio Arce had met previously. Joseph was the team's inspiration for making the trip. He died tragically while snowboarding in Vales, Colorado at the age of 28. He had contributed a substantial amount to help kick off the project and had wanted to help in the construction. His friends came on his behalf. "This bridge was Joseph's dream," said Charlotte of her brother. She received a token of appreciation form the natives.
As the team began work, the foundation and the pillars of the bridge were already standing. TMFI asked the help of the Philippine Army to airlift steel cables and heavy equipment and materials. With the help of the team, the bridge was completed before the monsoon season started in June or July.
The team of volunteers from Vail, Colorado came April 30 and joined the local counterpart in constructing the bridge. The visit was filled with activities. There was a medical team on-going while the team was busy at the bridge. Army choppers ferried our supplies medicines and lots of rice for the people. Andry Lim, TMFI's founder and former chairman, and his wife were able to visit the area aboard the chopper.
The measles epidemic made such a noise that the city health office was put on the spot. It ended up on the national news. Sadly, about 20 kids were dead by the time it was under control.
Tribal Mission Foundation International is sending its grateful appreciation to all the individuals and churches that took part in this project. Thanks to those individuals and churches from Manila, Cebu and those of our friends abroad. We would like to specially mention Christ, the Living Stone Fellowship in Manila, the Springs of Life in Sunnyvale, California, The Vail Bible Church in Colorado, The Valley Christian Fellowship in Victoria, the church in Minlaton, South Australia and the Abundant Life Fellowship in Tauranga, New Zealand.
Thanks for your prayers and support.
JOSEPH CHONKO, 28, DIES IN A SNOWBOARDING ACCIDENT IN EAST VALE, COLORADO
Joseph Chonko was a good friend of Pio Arce, TMFI's former communication and media director. A supporter and associate of TMFI, Chonko had contributed a substantial amount to kick off the Davao River Bridge Project which was completed and ceremonially opened May 7, 2002. He was planning on attending the ceremonial opening and was even going to help with some of the construction, if he could. At the age of 28, he died in January, 2001 in a snowboarding accident in the backcountry of East Vail, Colorado, U.S. Pio was in Colorado visiting with Joseph just one week before the accident (see photo in the upper left).
Friends of Chonko say he was an experienced snowboarder and very knowledgeable about backcountry safety. Officials who recovered his body say that he had been wearing all the appropriate safety equipment.
At first it was thought he had been the victim of an avalanche, common in that area. Others thought he had fallen into a "terrain trap" (an area of dead trees and other debris which is covered by snow and thus creating a "trap"). To fall into such a "trap" would mean suffocating under several feet of snow.
East Vail rescuers recovering Chonko's body.
Later however it was revealed that there had been no struggle in the snow, and an autopsy showed that heart failure was most likely the cause of death. Chonko had a rare heart condition from childhood that affects young men in their 20's. One doctor believes Chonko suffered a quick and fatal heart attack while snowboarding and was unconscious before he even hit the snow.
Although it may not have saved him, the incident is a good lesson for all - NEVER ski or snowboard alone, no matter how experienced one is.
Chonko was an active member of his Christian church in East Vail and had acquired many friends from the men's ministry he was involved with. He will be missed by all. A saddened Pio Arce said of him, "he had great potential for the mission field."
Inspired by Joseph, a team from Colorado traveled to Davao in May, 2001 to help build the bridge. Charlotte, Joseph's sister went as well and received a token of appreciation from the people there.
Thank-you for your support Joseph, and we praise God you knew Jesus Christ as your Savior.