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Editors' note: Dan Johanson, a 21-year-old Presbyterian and Bay Area native, left California in June to become a missionary in the Philippines for 18 months.

Blast Philippines Bureau

QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES -- I'm living in a large boarding house with about 50 other people -- mostly families with small children. I share a room with another Christian man who works in the area. The surrounding area is heavily populated with "squatters." These families are the poorest of the poor -- a difficult sight to see everyday.

My living conditions offer everything I need, and nothing that you would find in a normal American home. God is providing the environment in which my ministry can be most effective. To live as an "American" would set me apart from the common folk. To live as they live is an invaluable experience, and helps earn approval among the natives.

Weather is warm and rainy, but comfortable. The rainy season is approaching -- their equivalent of winter, but it doesn't feel like winter when it's 95 degrees outside!

The food is, well, hard for me to digest. It took a few days for my stomach to hold much down. I think it's a combination of the different water, and the bugs in the fish. Yes, evidently there are bugs in some of the fish that aren't harmful to your body. Tell that to my stomach! I enjoy the rice that we have three times a day, but I've been visiting the local McDonalds for some variety. There is bottled water and American food available here for me to eat. Fresh milk is hard to find -- heat treated milk that can sit on the shelf for years is sold in all the stores.

I'm working with two other Americans at the University of the Philippines. Today we will meet the incoming freshman at their orientation. Public high schools graduate their seniors at the age of fifteen or sixteen, so these incoming freshmen will be about that age. The school year is just starting now that summer is over. Our ultimate goal is to befriend the students and to help them start a relationship with Christ; to equip the students with knowledge and understanding of the Bible. Then they are able to return to their province to teach others about Christ.

I joined the University of the Philippines Mountaineering Club. They have lots of activities: camping, hiking and rock climbing. It will be a fun way to see more of the mountain area around Manila. We recently went to a lake with a volcano in the middle of it. It sticks out of the water about 200 feet.