Chapter 39: Clothing Distribution

Early on, when we moved to Enrile, we saw that some people were really low on funds. Their clothing was a main indication of this; not only were the children poorly dressed, but others in the families as well. We recognized a need for clothing for these people, and decided we should tell about this need in our newsletter to the States. We then asked for clothing to be collected for us on behalf of these families. When on furlough in the States, we again shared the needs of these people with the churches we visited. They had set up committees for such purposes, and now called in their services. Wherever we went, clothing was waiting for us. We had all we could handle and learned how to pack each carton very precisely so the maximum number of items could be placed in each one. We marked all that was in each carton on the outside of the carton.

After we had been collecting and sending clothes for a while, we found out about a U.S. Navy program for sending such goods to the Philippines at no cost to the sender. Operation Handclasp was headquartered at San Diego Naval Base, where they would receive cartons of specific size and shape on a space available basis. Legally shipped, they arrived at the Subic Naval Base on Luzon Island. From there, we used our mission funds to pay for shipping to Enrile.

I don’t remember how long we were involved in this work. It was actually my job to sort out these things and prepare them for distribution. It was also my job to find the people who needed them and to give invitations to them. Chuck continued with his work in learning the Itawes language with his language helpers. I was involved in that, too, most of the time.

Now that we had a stack of cartons full of clothing, we needed to determine who most needed the clothes. We decided that if they had electricity in their homes, they were fairly well off, but if not, we would know they really needed help. I walked around town and soon realized I could easily tell who had electricity by the wires going to their homes. In some areas, almost everyone had electricity. However, in other areas, almost no one had it. (Electricity had only recently been brought to Enrile. When we moved there, it was not available, so we used a refrigerator that was powered by kerosene. At night we had to use gas powered lanterns as we had used in Piat. However, it was not long before Enrile had electricity, and of course, we were one of the first to get it.) Anyhow, when there were no wires, I assumed it was because they could not afford power, so as I went on my rounds of the town, I stopped at these places and got the names, ages and sizes of those who were in the household. Then when we got clothing at a later date, I went back and gave each household a piece of paper inviting them to come to our home at a given time on a given date, and told them they could choose one set, a dress or one pair of pants and blouse, or something similar, for each person in their family.

These people had not come to me asking for anything. I had gone to them and given them this invitation to come for clothing. When I had the time, I went out on these walks and gave out these slips, and then as the time and day came, each householder would come to claim his things, usually the woman of the house. She would know the sizes of each in her home and get whatever items she wanted for them. If we had shoes, she got shoes, too. I wrote all that each woman got in a booklet exclusively used for that purpose with the date and time noted, indicating each item she got for each person in her family along with his or her name and age.

Later on, when the mayor said he didn’t like our doing this, I could explain to him that no one had come asking for clothing. He said it made beggars of the people, but I showed him how we had worked it out and how we arrived at the conclusion that they were indeed in need. Also, I told him that they were a gift from Christians in the States that could be sent to the Philippines by Operation Handclasp, and I explained to him about that navy program.

The distribution of clothing also became a big thing to the pastors who were ministering to people in other towns where there was a Church of Christ meeting. I asked the ministers if they would want to have clothing to distribute. I suggested they give it to all in the community that were in need and not limit the clothing to members of their churches. I asked them to prepare a list of the names of people they would give it to. They listed each household as I had done in Enrile with the name, age and sex of each person in the household plus the approximate size of the people involved. If they did that, I would be responsible to prepare a bag of clothing for each household with a plastic bag for each person in the household with his own individual clothing inside. They would be responsible for distributing these to the people whose names were on the packages.

In many cases, the people in these places really appreciated what they received, but in some cases, there were problems of people being envious because they didn’t get what someone else got. Eventually, we discontinued the clothing distribution because of the envy, and we also had less time to do it because of our translation work. But at least we had tried to meet the needs of some of the people.

Along with the clothing, we received material that people could use to make quilts. I asked some ladies in our church in Enrile if they would be interested in learning how to make quilts. Several ladies came, and we all cut squares out together and learned what to do. As they learned, they were able to take them home to work on whenever they had the time. This worked out very nicely and some made beautiful quilts. I taught some of the preachers’ wives how to crochet, and they were able to make caps, afghans and other crocheted things for their tables and chairs or to use as pillow slips. If they did much sewing, they could get other things that I had in my sewing equipment when they needed them. Gradually, these things were stopped, though, as I was involved more and more with the translation work and checking of what we had translated.

There were some things that didn’t stop, though, in the way of benevolence. One lady we learned of was a woman who had apparently had a stroke, since one side of her body was very limited in what she could do with it. She had a little boy named Michael, but her husband had gone to Manila and moved in with another lady when he found out his wife was partially disabled. She had no income, and no way of making money to provide for herself and her son. When we found out about her, we took her on as a project, so as her son went to school, we provided for his needs, their food and other needs as we found out about them. She had a very small bit of property on which she had a very small hut. We helped her to enlarge her home when she needed it. At the present time, she has a cement house, and though small, it is quite adequate for her. Her son grew up, went to work in a bakery in Manila, got married eventually, and finally moved back to live with his mother in Enrile. He had several children by then.

There were others in our congregation who came for various needs. They were widows, generally, who had no real income that we know of. We helped them with medicines, purchasing it ourselves at a special store in Manila. If they needed gasul, which is the gas they use in their stoves, they came to us for help with that. If they needed other things, they asked for money for them, too. Chuck purchased large quantities of corn rice that we also gave to these people. Chuck was very good to give what they needed. If these people were widowers who had no income that we knew of, we helped them, too. The scripture that came to us when we helped these folks is the one in which Jesus said, “As you have done it to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) We could not turn them away. As we had been blessed by our brethren in the States who supported us, we felt we owed this to these people, too, who were in real need.

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