June 6, 2009th Year of Our Lord
By God’s grace I plan to labor in the fruitful Philippine fields for the 35th time July 1-24. My first trip in 1997 was made possible by the kind help of Jim McDonald. Craig Meyer (Dickinson, TX) and Kurt Jones (9th & Bliss church, Dumas, TX) now join me for the second time. Both are faithful and talented preachers learning fast about the nature and needs of the Philippine people.
The 90 million Filipino souls are very religious: 90% Catholic; 10% in paganism, denominations, Islam, and general unbelief. The Philippines became a U.S. territory in 1898, learning the English language and many American concepts. After the Japanese occupation during WW II, the Philippines were liberated by the U.S. and became independent July 4, 1946. God has opened wide the door of opportunity for preaching the gospel there!
July 3-5 we will labor with some of our brethren in the Manila area such as the churches at Kapitbahayan (with Ben & Elias Cruz), Makati City (with Elijah Sikat, Jimmy Battung, & Atoy Franco), and others. July 6-9 will be devoted to classes on The Home and Family at Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental where Jim McDonald and I have invested much time through the years. I visited here first in 1997 because the church in West Columbia, TX supported a man there. That good church has sacrificed much in behalf of Dumaguete brethren. Unfortunately, he abandoned his family and brethren last year. The family series will counter some of the damage and strengthen area churches and brethren.
The next two weeks we will be on Mindanao. We will preach in the area of Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur where Ramon Carino works (about 83, still active). Many congregations, preachers, and open doors are in this region. Craig Meyer’s friend Ernie Collado labors near Pagadian City. His sister Eden married Robert Wooten of Baytown, TX. We will visit churches in this area.
Jhun Carpentero followed his deceased father’s footsteps working with the Camaman-an church at Cagayan de Oro City, capital of Misamis Oriental. This city of half a million souls is the Gateway to Northern Mindanao. The church is active and thriving and we know our time here will be fruitful.
For many years Juanito Balbin has preached in southern Mindanao, concentrating at the New Matina church in Davao City, an independent city of about 1 ½ million souls bordering Davao del Sur Province. He conducts preacher training classes and his sons preach: Dudley Ross, Sonni Dave, and W. Connie. We will preach at New Matina and scatter to other venues in the region. I cannot list all the preachers in the area we will see. Denominational preachers attend our studies and some are converted.
Thirty miles east of Davao City is Digos City, Davao del Sur where Julie Notarte has labored through the years. We have hundreds of brethren in deep poverty and many open doors in this area. From here we travel 45 miles east to General Santos City, South Cotabato where Jolly, Johnny, and Jerry Julom preach, along with a host of preachers in this region. We will scatter and visit many places.
Christ commanded, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). Let us labor “while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (Jn. 9:4). Churches and individuals help us to reap the harvest in ripe fields as “laborers together with God” who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:9, 7). Donors receive financial reports (2 Cor. 8:21). Individuals giving $500 or more for such projects as church buildings can write checks to Help A Neighbor for a tax deduction. Write all other checks to Ron Halbrook. Send all donations to my home address. My departure date is July 1.
HALBROOK REPORT: 34th PHILIPPINE TRIP MAR. 30-MAY 4, 2009
“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Ps. 103:1). After every Philippine trip my heart overflows with thanksgiving! First to God, the author of all good. Then, to U.S. brethren who provide funds and pray for us, to Jim McDonald who opened this door of service to me in 1995, and especially to Filipino brethren who labor with us so faithfully. This 34th trip started March 30 and ended May 4. Two dear brethren joined their hearts with mine as co-laborers: Steve Wallace of Fairmont, WV (Mar. 30-Apr. 18) and Harry Osborne of Oklahoma City, OK (Mar. 30-May 1).
In 30 days I taught 90 lessons not counting all the private studies. Since we concentrated on training preachers rather than basic evangelism, there were only 21 baptisms. That lower number may allay the fears of some skeptical Americans who doubt reports of larger numbers on other trips.
The three of us met in Detriot and flew to Manila on March 30, arriving near midnight on the 31st, and went to the domestic airport the next morning to fly to Tuguegarao, Cagayan Province to start the preacher training classes scheduled for April 1-17. We waited all day for our flight to be cleared to go, but bad weather in Tuguegarao finally caused it to be cancelled. After passing through the same trial on the next day, it was necessary to ride a van 12 hours to reach Tuguegarao by 3:00 AM on April 3 and start teaching. Our bodies felt like we had run a marathon before we were able to teach our first classes!
Rody Gumpad, his family, and area saints worked together preparing for these classes and providing for the needs of our students. A few years ago Rody built a small barracks at the back of his house where the men sleep. His family and other saints arose about 4:00 AM each day to begin preparing the day’s meals. Their work is ceaseless and tireless.
Seventeen men enrolled and completed the classes. Each day they arose at 6:00 AM and classes began at 8:00. Rody taught Roy Cogdill’s book on The New Testament Church, Steve taught Old and New Testament surveys, Harry taught Old Testament Prophets and Church History, and I taught The Preacher’s Life & Work and Issues Dividing Brethren. Harry and I divided Denominational Doctrines.
After a supper break, students participated in song leading, prayers, and presenting short sermons which were reviewed and critiqued by the whole class. Also I gave instructions in the use of a reference Bible, Bible concordance, and Bible dictionary. Bible geography was covered by Harry. We finished the day about 8:30-9:00 PM and the students retired to their barracks to study till lights out at 11:00 PM.
Juanito Balbin sent his son Connie B. (“C.B.”) from Davao City in southern Mindanao. Other than the American teachers, C.B. traveled the greatest distance by far to attend, about 1,000 miles. David Quidem and two companions traveled ten hours to join us as sit-in students for several days. They came from a liberal background and are studying their way out of those errors. We studied privately at night.
On Sundays teachers and students scattered to area congregations to participate in the services. On April 5 I spoke at the Metro Centro church where Rody labors. The attendance was 144. My subject was “Elders: Spiritual Leaders” because they were in the process of appointing elders. Harry did some follow up teaching on the same theme the next week. After we left the church appointed elders. I also preached at Minagbag, Isabela Province on “David’s Prayer for Salvation (Ps. 51).”
Students trained in these classes are scattered throughout the Cagayan Province and surrounding provinces preaching the gospel. The next week former students Gerald Ganela and Jonathan Tango took me to the churches at Kinama, Rizal, and to San Pedro in the Kalinga Province. We went to a creek at Kinama to baptize two people, but the water was so shallow the brethren made a makeshift dam of a banana-tree trunk packed on each side with sticks, rocks, and mud. Presto, plenty of water!
On our last day, April 17, the teachers delivered short lessons of admonition and encouragement, and four students expressed appreciation on behalf of the whole group. Harry, Steve, and I flew to Manila after lunch. Steve did his work well and it was a joy to work with him again, but he returned to the U.S. on Saturday. Harry and I went immediately to Cebu City, Cebu to begin the classes set for April 18-30.
This was the first time to hold a two week preacher training class in Cebu City. Jonathan Carino shouldered the job of scouting venues and arranging the details with help from several area brethren. A house was rented where the men could sleep on mats and take their meals, and a function room was rented at a nearby hotel where we could teach the classes. Jonathan was refused in attempting to rent some venues because he is not Roman Catholic. About 90 percent of the population is Catholic.
We followed the same basic format as was used at Tuguegarao except that Jonathan and Lordy Salunga from Tarlac, Tarlac taught classes handled by Rody and Steve earlier. Fifty-nine men from teenage to early 80's enrolled. A few were denominational preachers, whom we baptized in the course of the session. One was a Seventh-Day Adventist who sat on the front row and listened attentively.
Another one of our diligent students named Raquim Miego is a recent convert from a denomination. He supports himself as a taxi driver. He has convinced some of his “pastor” friends that he has found the truth, but they so far will not follow because of the fear of losing their support. He urges them to obey the gospel and trust God’s providence for their daily needs. One night after our classes his home flooded knee-deep from rain, but he was not discouraged. Young in the faith, but strong in faith!
We had trials too. One day Harry and I had to switch class times because he was waiting, and waiting, and waiting...for certain necessary garments to be returned from the laundry. It was a pleasure to work with Harry again, in spite of the trials.
Roy Matta was converted as a result of our past preaching in Cebu City. He had been a Baptist “pastor,” and now he is working to convince his denominational friends. Harry preached with Roy at Mandau on Sunday April 19, while I spoke at the downtown church where Jonathan labors. My subject was “Now I Know That Thou Fearest God (Gen. 22:12)” and about 60 attended. This is a thriving congregation with a good mix of age groups. Jonathan’s son led the singing. The following Sunday Harry preached downtown and I spoke at Mandau on “The Gospel Makes Us Right with God (Rom. 1:16-17).” Roy is a competent man but is struggling because he sacrificed his support to obey the gospel.
On April 27 Lordy’s father-in-law died and he went home to comfort his wife and family. Harry and I scrambled to cover his lessons, working late at nights, but it all worked out. By the end of the week, Lordy’s own father died, bringing grief to his family again. He is a noble soldier of the cross.
In dealing with denominational doctrines, I spent two classes on the Holy Spirit. After the second class, there were so many questions that I skipped a lesson and extended the session for another hour to let the men air their questions. One had been taught that Holy Spirit baptism gives us evangelistic power. Another had been taught it empowers us to overcome sin. Another man was bothered about the danger of demon possession today.
I remember when Fred Ogario was converted from the Baptist church some years ago. He was so determined to learn that he missed some activities of his father’s funeral to attend our studies. He preaches at Talisay City in the Cebu City area. His son Junior was one of our diligent students this time.
Friday May 1 Harry and I returned to Manila exhausted by the physical demands of the past two weeks but exhilarated by the spiritual experiences we shared. He flew home the next day. I stayed Saturday and Sunday to work with two new groups in the Manila area. Edwin and Mona Aguirre are struggling to establish the Floodway church in Pasig among the squatters and street people, the poorest of the poor. I preached the lesson “Jesus Came to Seek and Save the Lost (Lk. 19:10),” and six submitted to baptism. That evening Jimmy Battung had about a dozen guests at his house to study the Bible and I taught for two hours on “The Message of the Bible: Salvation in Jesus Christ.” Sunday I preached “The First Gospel Sermon (Acts 2)” at the Makati City church where Elijah Sikat works with Atoy Franco and Jimmy. Atoy’s wife had open-heart surgery recently and we went by the house to visit, pray, and study with her for a short time. I also met his daughter and we hope to have follow-up studies with them.
None of this work could have been done by Steve, Harry, and I with our Filipino brethren without the moral and financial support of our brethren here at home. I lack adequate words to express the gratitude in my heart for every prayer and every penny offered in support of this work. May God bless each of you, dear brethren, for your fellowship in the gospel of Christ!
In Christian love,