Trip to the Philippines, May 5-June 12
After having had only grandsons (five) for several years, my wife and I were blessed with two granddaughters! Our youngest son's wife gave birth to our first granddaughter in March and our youngest daughter gave birth to our second April 24, then I had to take leave of them to fly to the Philippines, May 5! This trip occupied 39 days and took me from northernmost Luzon to southern Mindanao. We traveled thousands of miles and spoke to hundreds of people. I helped in five "preacher seminars" which were attended by 250-270 preachers and spoke at or visited in at least 48 different congregations. Through the travels of all who were together on this trip, 152 souls were baptized into Christ, including at least one Pentecostal preacher. At least two new congregations were begun.
David Maxson, a young preacher from Vernon, Alabama, traveled with me the first two weeks of this trip. David is a fine young man and I was much impressed with his love for the Lord and for lost souls. I appreciated his companionship and labors. David experienced a personal tragedy while there: his wife had a miscarriage and he was not able to be with her during her ordeal. Courageously she urged him not to come home and so David continued until his planned departure to the States. Ken Marrs arrived in Manila May 17 and from the 19th until June 12 he and I were together in many places preaching the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
David and I arrived in Manila on Tuesday night, May 6.
Before I disembarked, I was told by the stewardess that all my luggage had been left behind in San Francisco! This would have been distressful indeed but I had prepared for such an eventuality I had carried sufficient clothes (and lessons for my first week's activities) with me in my "carry-on" so I suffered no real inconvenience. By next evening my luggage had safely arrived and delivered to the home of Ben Cruz and was waiting for me when I arrived back in Manila later in the week.
The Preaching Begins
About 20 brethren were on hand to greet us when we disembarked our plane and had gone through customs. We spent the night with Ben and the next morning David and I separated for a short while he (accompanied by Mel Tacbad, a dear friend of mine) flew to Tuguegarao where he spent the next three days preaching to churches in that area, working with Rody Gumpad. He desired to survey for himself the situation in Cagayan that he might report to different brethren about problems that have been in that region. I also left Manila early that morning to spend time in Infanta, Quezon. I preached that night in Infanta and the next day at Denehigan and Real. It was a joy to see the brethren in Denehigan again. A couple of years ago I had visited this seacoast fishing village and witnessed the events which led to the beginning of the congregation, hearing the confessions of some fifteen who desired to obey the gospel. The sea was too rough to baptize in that day but so soon as able, brethren there completed the task. The brethren have built a small "chapel" and now number about 20 baptized believers. Several helped in the beginning of the congregation: Noel and Noli Villamor; Aurelio Ruanto, Manny Villalobos and Renalto Ignacio. Bibles and songbooks have been provided by American brethren for the congregation. Friday, May 9, I returned to Manila and preached in an area call "the squatters."
People in this area live in dire poverty and are what the name implies: squatters, building temporary houses from whatever material might be available to them. About eighteen of these have obeyed the gospel and now worship with the Kapitbahayan church in Novotas.
David was scheduled to return to Manila on Friday but missed his plane and did not arrive until next day. Our first Sunday in the Philippines David and I worshiped with three congregations. I had visited two of these before and so David spoke twice that morning. At the afternoon I spoke in Bulucan where Jaime Bobis preaches. There was a full house and several were baptized. Jaime is one of the most capable of the Filipino preachers and divides his time on the Lord's day preaching to two different congregations, traveling several hours to Laguna province to help a congregation there.
Visiting and Preaching in Mindoro
Monday, May 12, David and I departed for Mindoro. Several brethren accompanied us to help carry 500 hymnbooks that had been printed for these brethren. We traveled from Manila to Batangas, then took a ferry across to Mindoro, a journey of a couple of hours. It is a memorable journey to travel in such a way: one sees the beauty of the ocean; the many islands and islets in the near or far distance; to view the seaport of Calipan and to watch the young boys who almost invariably swim out to meet the ferry, hoping some will toss some pesos into the water for them to dive for. Many of these are mere children, looking to be no more than six or so. But, they always seem to recover whatever is tossed into the ocean!
Calipan, Mindoro is the home of brother D. Menor, long-time gospel preacher and one of the pioneers of the work in the island. Brother Menor is still alive but very feeble. Mindoro is also the home of Elesio Sikat, a faithful preacher who lives in Aurora, a village about one and one-half hours from Calipan. About 25 preachers from all over the island had gathered at Elesios' home where from Mon-day night until Thursday David and I (as well as some Filipino preachers) preached the gospel. There are about seven-teen different churches in the island and Bibles and hymnbooks were given to the brethren. I dealt with the "one-Covenant" teaching which has troubled this island greatly. We believe much good was done with all those present. Again, a few were baptized. On Thursday our company returned to Manila.
Friday, May 16, we traveled northward. Through the courtesy of Fred Agulto who furnished us the use of his jeep, we passed through Angeles City onward northwest through Tarlac into the province of Pangasinang. We had been asked by Fertinand (Andong) Corpus and Larry Guillermo to come visit an area where "Andong" had been teaching his relatives. No church yet existed there but the two were hopeful that many would obey. David and I were questioned about an hour on various items and I then preached. Fifteen confessed their faith in Christ but be-cause of the drought there was no near place to baptize.
Since it was nearly dark, their baptisms were delayed until next morning when arrangements could be made to get them to the water. We understand (but were not able to confirm) that another seven were baptized the following Lord's Day the beginning of another congregation. Saturday and Sunday (17, 18) David was with Lordy Salunga and brethren in the Tarlac, Angeles City area while I was with the brethren in Resurrection, home of Hilario Wanasen. Several brethren from Baguio City, La Union and Ilocos Sur came for the services that day. Andrew Gawe who now preaches in California, but who was back in the Philippines for a few months, was there with his wife as well as the Jaime Veronas (Jaime is one of the elders of one of the Baguio City churches). Several preachers were there for Pangasinang. Fred and I returned to Manila late that afternoon.
Brother Marrs arrived in Manila on Saturday (May 18) and how good it was to see him! On Sunday Ken and I both spoke for the Kapitbahayan church, then Ken went to visit Mario Padearugao and brethren at the leper colony. Mario is himself a leper and is in the last stages of this dread disease. He is spending his last days concerned about the well being of his two small sons and the future of the congregation there after his death. He does need help and interested brethren can write him at: 1427 Tala Metro Manila, ROP. While Ken was at the leper colony, I was having an entirely new experience: speaking at a deaf congregation. Not knowing sign language, I wrote my sermon on the board and then observed these brethren as they "sang," prayed, and communed. The preacher for the congregation is Antonio (Tony) Hornedo. Through the efforts of Virgilio La Rosa, aided by Cecilio Galusmo, the congregation was restored from liberalism some years ago. Brother La Rosa's ill health limits him some in his interaction with these brethren, but Cecilio continues to help in whatever way he can. Most of the members are young and unmarried although I observed one married couple with a small child.
Preaching in Northern Luzon
David returned to the States on the 19th and Ken and I boarded a plane that carried us to Tuguegarao, Cagayan. The problems are great in that region, stemming from charges of misuse of funds against one of the prominent preachers in the area. Ken and I tried to work with both the "accused" and the "accusers," preaching for each and spending nights with each. On Monday night the brethren agreed they would let the past be past, forgive each other and work together, but the peace is a very fragile one. We can only pray that it will "hold." We preached on the 20th in Tuguegarao and baptized about 20 that day. Most of these were people who had been convinced by Domingo Dangiwan, a preacher whom I had baptized in 1995. Domingo's story is an interesting one and will be the subject of one of the "Profiles" I occasionally submit to the GOT. On Wednesday and Thursday, May 21, 22), Ken and I were in a "seminar" in Ilagan, Isabela. All in all, about 25 preachers attended this seminar. We met our greatest resistance here to our teaching on the "one-covenant" but by no means are all people in this area converted to the doctrine. Many, many recognize the error of it and oppose it. We met several new preachers in Ilagan, two of whom were formerly associated with "one-cup" brethren. Both have renounced that position and the congregation of one of them has equally renounced it. The second preacher had preached in Abra but after his change, moved to the distant province of Quirino.
Friday, May 23, Rody Gumpad offered to carry Ken and me to meet certain Ilocos brethren in northern Cagayan and we accepted his offer. We arrived about mid-morning at Carrigan (I believe this is the correct spelling) and found a wedding in progress. After the wedding both Ken and I spoke and there were 10-12 baptisms. These were left in the hands of local brethren to immerse and our Ilocos company traveled westward to the Ilocos region. It was good to see these dear brethren: Venerando Mangrubang, Rolando Azurin, Egdon Sabio, Mat Sibayan and his son, also Mat. There were others also whose names do not presently come to mind. For the next week Ken and I were separated: first he worked in Ilocos Norte with Vic Domingo and a company of brethren with him; I went Ilocos Sur and worked with Mat Sibayan and a company of brethren with him. Then, we changed places. A total of 55 were baptized the seven days we were in the region. On the Lord's day I spoke four times: two of these were in the Laoag City and Sinait churches, one congregation met in the provincial jail (!) in Vigan and the fourth time I spoke in a new location where brethren have just begun a new "study group" in their joint efforts. Ken and I concluded the week together with a seminar for preachers at Sinait (about 70 attended) and the day was a day of great rejoicing for it was a day of reconciliation for some of the brethren who had been estranged for a long time.
Preaching on Mindinao
Ken and I had been scheduled to depart the Laoag City airport on Friday, May 30 for Manila where we would change planes and go to Davao City, southern Mindanao. But the plane schedule was changed no plane made a Friday trip. Since Mindanao brethren already had many schedules for us for Saturday and were expecting us on Friday, Ken and I caught a bus from Ilocos Sur for Manila. Bidding these dear brethren good-bye, we departed late Thursday afternoon and arrived in early morning, being accompanied by Mat Sibayan, Jr. who saw that we were safely carried from the bus depot to the air terminal. Mat had a difficult time finding a taxi driver in Manila who was willing to carry us and all our baggage. When he finally did, the taxi simultaneously developed a "dead battery" and ran out of gas! Luckily it was "down hill" to a gas station and once fuel was in the car, a good pushing by Mat and the station attendants got the vehicle going fast enough to start the motor. Mat left us at the air terminal and we prepared to wait for the evening flight to Davao City. However, an earlier one opened up and we took it; prepared to spend several hours waiting in Davao City for brethren to come "fetch us." But, one brother had come hours early to greet us, so with his help we procured a taxi and he carried us to the home of Juanito Balbin. We arrived there and found several brethren waiting for the time to come to go to the airport to pick us up. They were greatly surprised and, I think somewhat chagrined. But we told them profusely they were not at fault for not meeting us recounting the happenings of the past several hours. After visiting with many of the brethren gathered there, we were carried to our "motel," the "Down-Under." I thought at first the name came from the fact that the motel was "down-under" a hill but later came to the conclusion that it was an allusion to Australia since a "displaced Australian" was its owner. I never really learned for certain.
Again in this region Ken and I separated and each of us visited with a different group of brethren. We stayed five days in Davao, visiting in many of the remote villages and meeting many of the "hinderland" preachers for our first time. We visited Kidapawan, the home of Romulus Agduma (now deceased), a pioneer preacher of the region. Brethren at Kidapawan have a large building and about 50 still worship here although they suffered for a time for no preacher was working regularly with them. The day we were there we visited with and tried to comfort the wife of the caretaker of the building. He had died and it would be several days before his burial, although he had already been dead about ten days. We spoke at a rural congregation near Kidapawan and met a brother who, having heard we were coming but not knowing exactly when, came a week early that he might greet us. We had our most baptisms at one time in this place, about 23. On the way to the river we passed through a rubber plantation, a new experience. Since it had been more than a month since I had had a haircut, I was getting shaggy indeed and visited a local barber. He didn't cut my hair the way my barber usually does but I couldn't complain: he charged me 15 pesos to which I added a 5 peso tip all amounting to approximately 80 cents! We were in rebel Muslim territory and the exchange between the warring Muslims and "Christians" continue. Recent letters from both Juanito Balbin and Ben Libertino tell of the conflict and the great losses of life suffered both by rebels and those supportive of the Philip-pine government. Brethren in at least three towns suffer greatly and certainly are objects of our compassion and help. Our preacher seminar ended our stay here with 55 preachers attending.
Ken and I flew on Thursday, June 5 to Pagadian City for our final seminar. One small plane flies daily from Cebu City to Pagadian City and it was necessary that we spend the night in Cebu City. Our hotel was the Pension Hotel and once we were situated in a room, we sought for a place to eat and found it in a Kentucky Fried Chicken across the street from our lodging. We were to fly early the next morning at 7 or 8 to Pagadian City, a flight of about an hour. Once we were on the ground there, we saw the smiling faces and heard the shouted greetings of our brethren! Our host was Jun Apatan but the seminar would not be-gin until Monday and so from Friday until Monday noon Ken I separated again, preaching in different places. There were nine men and two women traveling in the hired jeep my company traveled in. The roads were rough, it was hot and there was no air-conditioning. During the next three and one-half days I saw and experienced many new places and things. The poverty of these people never ceases to amaze me. That first day I preached for a congregation whose poverty is graphically pictured in the snapshot I took of their building and "preacher's home" I don't believe many preachers here could "talk their wives" into moving into this "parsonage"! That night we spent the night in Malangus, a seaport across from Margos. Our host fed us roasted pig and many other delicious things and early next morning we prepared to board the ferry to cross this finger of the sea to Margos. We waited while the ferry unlade it cargo and saw several large tuna taken off. Then I watched as the ship's laborers hoisted our jeep abroad. I "held my breath" but nothing eventful happened. While we waited to board, I watched a man wash his "fighting cock" with soap, rinsing him with water, then nearly submerging him in a barrel of water (at the cock's protest, naturally) then he rinsed himself in the same water he washed his rooster in. Oh well, some Americans eat after their pets so I suppose there's not much difference. I crossed across a swinging bridge over a river to preach in a neat church building whose congregation had been meeting for 25 years.
Tuesday and Wednesday were the last two days of being with brethren and the seminar at Pagadian City proved to be a grand finale! The building was packed and on Monday night we thrilled to some of the most edifying singing to be heard anywhere. The seminar itself brought preachers from all parts of the region, fully 80 or 90, but many others were in attendance. About 160 people were present for these services. Our lessons were well received but once finished there came the painful moment when Ken handed me his "red kitchen" (as Filipino brethren call it) his suitcase that he carried his food in, along with his china pot to heat water for coffee and soup. He introduced me to the Philippine work, carrying me there in February 1993. Together we have made four trips, have laughed, cried, and agonized over the lot of brethren there. I knew this was likely his last trip, but having him give me his suitcase underscored the finality of it. Even as I write these words I choke back tears, for his absence will be both a loss to the Filipino brethren and more especially to me. Filipino Christians never have had a better friend than Ken Mans.
Our plane departed Pagadian City about four in the afternoon. About 50 preachers and brethren went with us to the airport to bid us farewell. We arrive in Manila later that night, spent the night in the Bayview Hotel and next morning, (because we had depleted nearly all our funds) hunted for a cheap place to eat. We found it at "Wendy's" and the breakfast was among the best we had ever eaten. We left the Islands behind us about 11 AM, but not the dear brethren: we carry them always in our heart. The work goes on.
Problems are there, problems which will not be solved by one or a hundred men, nor will they likely be solved in our life time. But, despite the many negatives, my Savior's words ring in my ears: "Lift up your eyes unto fields that are white unto harvest," "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel," "A great and effectual door is opened ... and there are many adversaries." And I came home, resolved to do more, if I can. I have resigned local work here in Marshall, effective January 1, 1998. I will then relinquish my personal support, Betty and I will live permanently in Lufkin, and I will give myself to doing more for the work of our Lord in the Philippines.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 22 p.