Philippine Report (IV)
After a week in Baguio City we returned to Manila and made our plans to go to Mindinao. We left Manila at 5:50 a. m. on Saturday, April 15. Davao City was our destination which we, reached in a little less than two hours flying on Philippine Air Unes Coach. There were about 10 or 12 brethren there to meet us. They had rented a jeepney and traveled some 60 miles to meet us. The trip home made their journey over 100 miles. Those who have never ridden over the roads of Mindinao in a jeep cannot appreciate how much was involved in these brethren making such a long trip. The roads are barely passable in some places and in others very dangerous. Gangsters and bandits still roam the countryside in Mindinao.
We rode for a little over six hours in the jeepney, stopping often for repairs and water. At one point we all had to dismount and walk across a weak bridge. All along the journey the roads were hot and dusty, but we finally arrived in MLang, Cotabato. Due to the early rising and the length of our trip we were exhausted. We stayed in MLang at a hotel that Saturday night and worshipped with the brethren in M*Lang the next morning. About 60 were present for both Bible study and worship. I taught the class and Brother Needham preached.
After dinner we rented another jeepney for the trip to Lambayong. We were scheduled for our first series of classes and speeches in Lambayong. Lambayong is about a three hour ride from MLang, over the same kind of roads just described. It is in the center of a large Muslim population. The brethren there live in the constant expectation of an outbreak of hostilities between the Ilongo tribe and the Muslim tribe. It is an age-old feud that is being politically exploited today, but nonetheless, a very present danger to many of our brethren. Some of them have had to evacuate their homes as a result of hostilities breaking out. Within 6 kilometers (about 4 miles) of the new building in Lambayong where the brethren worship, thirty native houses were burned out during hostilities and violence. A Muslim was ambushed in his house on the first night of our stay in Lambayong. Brother Needham was speaking at the time we heard the gunshot. It is a place of violence and danger at the present time. In the face of this our brethren are still carrying on New Testament Christianity though sometimes faced with great danger.
We arrived at near 5:30 p. m. Our trip was greatly delayed by some repair work that was being done to a bridge along our way. The storms last year had swollen the streams to the point that many of the bridges were weakened. We waited at least and hour and a half for the repairs to be made. Needless to say, our patience got one of its many workouts.
The journey from MLang to Lambayong takes one through the heart of the Muslim territory. While many stories of violence may be somewhat exaggerated, we observed that there is at least quite some basis for such stories. Every Muslim male we saw on the way was armed with a knife-a long knife. We were told that all of them were also armed with firearms. I did not doubt a word of it. Just here let me clarify something that is often reported in our newspapers. The news media often refers to the "Muslim-Christian" wars. Actually they mean the "Muslim-Ilongo" wars. The Ilongos are a tribe and so are the Muslims. The word "Christian" is erroneously used by most reporters.
In Lambayong, we had the largest assemblies gathered for our lessons. Both of us confined ourselves to teaching about preachers and their work during the day sessions. Each session, like everywhere we taught, was followed by a question and answer forum. Again, we found that the preachers present were very well read and studious. Some of the questions they asked were quite difficult to deal with. Jim and I tried to deal with their problems in the light of the Bible. We feel that much good was the result. Several preachers confessed to wrong-doings. Lest there be some speculative embellishing of that statement, let me hasten to say that there are some irregularities, but most of them present were the result of a lack of knowledge rather than rank dishonesty. There are (or were) some problems of dishonesty we found but these have, for the most part, been exposed and remedied. This is not to excuse such, but by way of explanation it should be remembered that many times American congregations have been remiss in checking closely into the work they support. It is no comfort, but the conservative brethren are certainly not alone in this problem. Should any of our institutional brethren want to make much ado out of this, they will find they are living in a glass house.
After several (20, I think) baptisms, we went back to MLang for our last series of lessons. Many of the brethren who attended in Lambayong came for the classes at MLang. Again we stayed in the hotel in MLang. We had stayed in a native house in Lambayong and were graciously treated by the aunt and uncle of Brother Virgilio Villaneuva, local preacher in Lambayong. They gave us every kind consideration they knew how to give and treated us in the very best possible way.
There were new faces that greeted us in MLang. Brethren who were not able to come to Lambayong came to MLang. The lectures began on April 21 and closed the following Sunday afternoon. While the largest assemblies gatheredat Lambayong, we probably had more preachers at MLang then we did anywhere in our trip. There were at least 70 present for the entire series of lessons. We baptized several in MLang, including two preachers from the Christian Missionary Alliance. In all, there were 63 baptisms dining our trip, five of them being preachers of denominational groups. Having done the work we wanted to do, we left a day or so early for our return to Manila and our trip back home.
We left Manila on April 27. 1 cannot tell you what emotions filled me as I left. It was a great experience. For the most part, in fact the greatest part by far, the preachers who stand for the truth in the Philippine Islands are the most dedicated and sincere people you will find anywhere in the world. I have no way to adequately express my gratitude to all concerned, but here goes a try. First I am thankful to God that our long trip was both successful and safe. I am thankful to have a family that could do without me for over a month. I am thankful for a companion like James Needham. He is, in every way, a devoted worker for the Lord and His cause. I am thankful to all who helped me sending finances with- which to make the trip. I am thankful to Rodi Tan, Victorio Tibayan and Andrew Gawe who more or less took the lead in looking after us while we were on Luzon. I am thankful to all who met us at the Davao airport and to Romulo Agduma for the same treatment while we were on Mindinao. To all who had a part, prayer or interest in the work, I am eternally grateful.
Next week will be my last installment in this series of articles. In it I want to make a small evaluation of the work here and offer a few suggestions to all that are interested in the work among Christians in the Philippines. I hope you will be looking for the article.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 39, pp. 6-8