Raymond Spoon: A life spent in mission work

By: Charity Ogoti

Many students at Andrews Academy see Mr. Spoon, the building supervisor, working constantly to keep Andrews Academy a neat place. Others, who have jobs at the school as teachers’ assistants, get the opportunity to work side by side with Mr. Spoon. However, only a few actually know that Mr. Spoon was involved in missionary work before he began working at the academy.

For more than nine years, Raymond Spoon was involved in mission work. He spent more than six years on the island of Palawan, Philippines, and then another three years in the deep jungles of Papua New Guinea.

In 1991, Spoon, his wife Dawn, and his daughter Amber, went to the Philippines to start a new project in the mountains. Their main goals were to teach the Palawano people about God, meet their health needs, teach them about agriculture, and to start a school.

When they first arrived, they weren’t very familiar with the language. However, they were lucky to meet someone who spoke English and served as their guide.

In Palawan, the people were animist, meaning that they believed that there were spirits inhabiting different areas in their village like trees, and woods. They were very fearful of the spirits and believed that if  it was misty and they were outside, they would ran back to the house if they heard the call of a certain bird. As a result, it was Spoon’s calling to comfort the people and tell them they shouldn’t be afraid because God was with them. Spoon says that once the people saw that God was strong and powerful, they accepted the message. Spoon said they had two baptisms between 1995-96, and in 1998 there were 15 baptized church members.

Spoon and his wife also needed to meet the health needs of the Palawano people. When they first arrived, Spoon says that there was a 50% mortality rate because the people drank unsanitary water from the creeks; the same water they used to wash their clothes, utensils, and also to bathe. If someone was to catch a disease from this water, it was 95% fatal without medication. On one occasion, Spoon says a man came to them with a swollen tongue and his wife had to check to see if it was malignant or nonmalignant. The man could barely speak or swallow. His wife gave the man ibuprofen to prevent inflammation, and asked him to come back in a week or two for more medication. Usually, when asked to come, he says, the people would fail to return. However, after about two months, this man came back, thanking them for healing him, because he could now talk and swallow.

Another goal of theirs was to teach the people about agriculture and contour farming. Spoon says that the Palawano’s way of farming was slash and burn, meaning they cut down and burned off existing vegetation before new seeds were sown. However, he says, this was not sustainable because erosion and landslides would occur. As a result, he taught the people how to correctly plow and how to plant their beans and rice. On top of that, he adds, many of the people suffered from malnutrition because they didn’t eat any other foods but cassava, which was not very nutritious. Together, Spoon and his wife taught the people to rotate their meals.

At the end of Spoon and his family’s work, he says he was almost fluent in Palawanun and he can still recall some of the phrases he had learned. What was ironic, he says, is that upon returning to the states, his daughters were more fluent in Palawanun than in English.

“The most challenging thing about staying in the Philippines,” Spoon says, “was when my family members got sick with Malaria and almost died. Amber, my oldest daughter, spent weeks in the hospital with stage four Malaria and it was so severe. It was nearly as bad as having stage four cancer because there wasn’t so much hope to survival.”

“Even so, I recommend going to mission work because it turns your focus away from depending on temporary things, to depending on God. You begin to see how Satan is working in those peoples’ lives to turn their focus away from God, which is different from what your accustomed to at home. You begin to see how people struggle between good and evil. And then its really exciting to see God working on your behalf to change their hearts. As we were in Palawan, the Palawano people opened their hearts and began to trust us. My family and I always prayed they could see that it was really God who was working for them.”

In July of this year, Spoon plans on going back to the Philippines for two weeks because there will be a reunion for all the missionaries who worked there.

 

 

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