Our Preaching Trip to the Philippines (III)

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Early on the morning of May 20th, Brother Cogdill and I left Manila by Philippine Airlines for the southern island of Mindanao. Brother Catorio Gamit of Angeles City accompanied us. It is about a three hour flight from Manila to Davao City, Mindanao.

With its large Moslem population, Mindanao in many ways resembles an Arabic country. The Filipino Moslems are called "Moors" or "Moros." The Moslems vow they will kill anyone who even tries to convert a "Moro." The Catholics make no effort to proselytize among them.

We were met at Davao City airport by two capable preachers, Juanito Balbin (and his wife) and Rodrigo Diego (and his daughter). We went by taxi from the airport to the central bus station in Davao City. For our sake, it's a good thing that these brethren met us, or we never would have gotten on the bus. When the bus stops, a mad rush is made to get on it. It is no time for courtesy and chivalry, if you intend to get on the bus. It seemed to me that after the bus was loaded, they put on about thirty4ive more passengers.

The bus ride from Davao City to M'lang is quite a long one--well over 100 miles. Most of the road is unpaved and very rough. As we began crossing the island from East to West on our way to M'lang, we passed through mountains about 8000 ft. tall. It was a very beautiful and scenic drive. The bus ride from Davao to M'lang would do many Americans good. If you have any kinks in your spine, I guarantee you that ride will shake them out. On the other hand, if you have no kinks in your spine, you probably will have after that ride. But we enjoyed it.

About eight miles before we got to M'lang, we had to get off the bus and go by Jeepney the remaining distance. The "Jeepneys" are U.S. military surplus vehicles (many of world War II vintage) which have been quipped to carry passengers---sometimes as many as 20 at a time. It had rained, and Brother Cogdill, who got the privilege of sitting in the front seat, got splattered a hit.

Certainly one of the highlights of our Philippine trip was the five-day lecture program at M'laug. It had only been planned for four days, but since we arrived on Wednesday in time for a Wednesday night service, and many others also had arrived early, the lecture series was started one night early. Brother Cogdill and I both spoke Wednesday night. Just the thought of that would frighten many American brethren who have heard us one at a time!

One of the things that thrilled my soul was the eagerness with which the Filipino brethren listened. Before we had arrived, we had instructed the Filipino brethren to arrange our speaking schedule. I must confess that when I saw the schedule for M'lang, I shuddered a little. There were five speeches planned each morning, with three minute intervals. The sessions began at 7: 30 A.M. There were two sermons in the afternoon, plus a two hour "Open Forum" session, which often stretched beyond the two hour allotted time. Then there was a three hour service at night.

Frankly, I thought Brother Agdmna had tried to jam too much speaking into the schedule, and I tried to advise him so before the program began. But I found out later that he knew the interest of his brethren better than did I. I feel that the Filipino brethren enjoyed every minute of the ten or eleven hours of speaking each day.

On one occasion when one of the older Filipino brethren became so engrossed in the presentation of a sermon that he was oblivious to time, and was shocked when he~ learned that his time had expired, the audience spontaneously and as one voice, insisted that he go on and finish his sermon, which he did. No one seemed to be in a big hurry to get away.

At the M'lang lectures, there were more than thirty faithful preachers in attendance.
The quality of and the conviction of the Filipino preachers were most encouraging facets of the work in the islands to me. I think the 50 or so preachers whom we contacted while in the Philippines would correspond favorably with any 50 preachers we have assemble from a cross-section of out American preaching brethren. Of course, some were abler than others. But I did not hear any preachers speak who were not good speakers.

Fortunately for the Cause of Christ, the preachers are for the most part well trained academically. Many of them were former professional people. It reminded me of the circumstances during the Restoration Movement in this country a hundred years ago. Many of our ablest preachers a century ago were "drop-outs" from the secular professions. They gave up medicine, law, school teaching, and in a few instances politics, in order to become preachers.

Such is the case in the Philippines. Many of the preachers have been school teachers. We met two experienced school teachers who have been teaching school and preaching part-time for many years and who now want to begin full-time preaching. They both (Benjamin Libertino and Euseo Sikat) seemed to be able men, and would be an asset to the Cause of Christ as full-time gospel workers.

The subjects discussed (which had been chosen by the M'lang brethren) at the M'lang lectures were the same kinds of subjects that brethren would expect to hear in such a lecture program in this country. We heard lessons on "How to Identify The Church of Christ in the New Testament,"

"The Church in Prophecy and Its Establishment,'' "The Nature of the Church,... The Church yrs. Denominationalism," "Salvation and Church Membership," "The Divine Organization of the Church," "Church Work in Evangelism and Edification, Scriptural Name, Teaching, and Worship," "God's Plan for Unity," "The Sin of Division,... The Discipline of the Church," "Present Church Apostasy: Its Causes, and Who Are To Be Blamed?", "What Are the Real Issues of the Present Controversy?", "Institutionalism: (Church Supported Human Institutions)", "The Mission of the Church {Work and Function)," "Church Finances: (How Obtained and Proper and Scriptural Use)," "The Eldership: Church Autonomy and Independence," "Individual Action vs. Church Action, Modern Day Liberalism," "The New Testament Pattern of Church Cooperation, .... Church Benevolence: For Whom It Is Responsible."

In addition to these subjects, there were about a dozen sermons presented in which the speaker was left free to choose his own subject. Brother Cogdill and I spoke about a dozen times during this lecture program. The Filipino brethren had also expected Brother Harold Comer to be present, as he traveled home from Australia. But he could not come, and Brother Cogdill and I shared Brother Corner's assignments.

The able handling of the subjects assigned was the thing that most encouraged me about the Cause of Christ on Mindanao. In Brother Agduma's article about the lecture program (found elsewhere in this issue), he made reference to several experienced liberal preachers who came to try to dominate the "Open Forum" period. It did not take me very long to find out that the faithful Filipino brethren did not need my help (or that of Brother Cogdill) in handling any argument or quibble which these liberal brethren presented. I do not recollect any occasion when any liberal was so soundly and completely thrashed as were those who spoke at the M'lang "Open Forum," and I think they knew it too!

Several times, while in the Philippines, inquiries were made as to whether some conservative American preachers could be sent over there. My impression was that these faithful brethren have done quite well without any American preachers (except the liberal ones). The faithful Filipino brethren have capably withstood alone the liberal American preachers who have unfairly Ireated them in their widely circulated journals. So far as I know, Brother Cogdill and I were the first American preachers who opposed centralized control and church-supported human institutions to go among these brethren. There had been two or three military people there who had stood firmly for the faith--perhaps there were others, but I only know of two or three.

I came away feeling that these Filipino brethren no more needed an American preacher to lean on than we American brethren need a Filipino preacher to hold up our hands. I do think that periodic preaching trips by Americans among the Philippine churches might be helpful, and informative to the American churches that are helping to support preachers there. About $100 per month will support a preacher in most places in the Philippines, though size of family and local economic and inflationary conditions must be considered. I might add that an enormous inflation has occurred there within the past three months. The value of their money has decreased nearly 50 per cent within a three month period.

If I were an elder in a church which was in position to consider supplying a few hundred dollars a month in preacher support elsewhere, I believe I would prefer right now to support several Filipino preachers full-time than one American partially. This is not to minimize any needy place in America right now, but I make this statement simply to emphasize the ripeness (in my judgment) of the fields in the Philippines. Faithful and able men are on the field. Many are receptive to the gospel. To illustrate: while we were there, 28 were baptized in the places where we went. Of course, Brother Cogdill and I did not convert these people, though I immersed a goodly number of them. Filipino Christians converted them. But the point I am making is that 28 were converted in two weeks. Where else do you know of that many being converted in a comparable time?

Each church and each eldership will have to decide for themselves where to spend the Lord's money committed to their trust. But I might suggest that the faithful brethren in the Philippines will put it to good use in preaching the gospel. There are experienced preachers who have been entirely without support for three years. Many who have stood firmly for the truth have been cut off from support that has come to them before. So the need is there. If any church would like information regarding particular brethren who need support, I will be glad to supply what information I have on hand.

After five delightful and fruitful days in M'lang, we left on a minibus {with more than 20 other brethren) for Cotabato City. Cotahato City is on the West side of Mindanao. So we had crossed the entire island from East to West. At Cotabato City we boarded a plane to Zamboanga, which is on the southernmost tip of Mindanao. At Zamboanga a school has been conducted for 18 years, but announcement has been made that it will not reopen this fall, and the property is "For Sale." Brother Castorio Gamit also accompanied us to Zamboanga, as did also Brother Eduardo Ramfro of Pagadian City. Brother Ramfro is a well-trained and able young preacher. Formerly, he had taught in the school at Zamboanga, but he was discharged after one year because he firmly contended for the whole Truth regarding the work and organization of the church.

Several of the preachers asked that their support be discontinued when their con-became so taught that they could not conscience continue to accept money a sponsoring church, or from a church. About 15 to 20 preachers are by faithful churches, but there are probably that many more who need support.

These brethren have endured every kind of that liberalism could heap upon them. One preacher questioned me about how many faithful churches there were in the States. He seemed astonished when I told him about the number of churches in different cities. One preacher told me that he had been told that there were "only three anti churches in America."

The churches on Mindanao seem to be blessed with some able and faithful teachers. They do not have some of the difficult problems that beset churches in large population centers. A suitable meeting place is more easily attained, and there is more law and order than in the chaos of some of the big cities. It is my opinion that if the brethren on Mindanao never saw another American, or never heard from another American Christian, the Cause of Truth would go marching right on there.

After spending just one night at Zamboanga, we returned to Manila on May 26th. At 3:30 A.M. the next morning we had to leave for a preaching trip to Oriental Mindora, which will be discussed in another article to follow.


August 13, 1970