Roy E. Cogdill
In 1957 Brother Jady Copeland subscribed for the Gospel Guardian and had it sent to R. B. Agduma, who now lives in M'Lang Cotobato, Mindanao Island, and is the preacher where the lectureship was held. He was provoked to study for himself the issues of the sponsoring church type of cooperation and the building and maintenance of human institutions and societies by churches of Christ through which to do their work of benevolence, etc. He became convinced that they both violated New Testament principles and notified the liberal church supporting him that he could not accept any more of their support. He has stood like a "stone wall" in opposition to all kinds of liberalism and error. The liberal brethren, led by American "missionaries," have shown a great deal of enmity toward Brother Agduma and have made almost every kind of an ugly and slanderous charge against him that they could think of, but he remains unshaken in his convictions and has fought them to a standstill by means of the printed page and in every way open to him. Through his writing and personal teaching he has been the means not only of converting many members but also many of the preachers from liberalism to the simple New Testament pattern of Christianity. His work and influence have been felt in the southernmost Island of Mindanao and throughout the Philippines.
Brother Wallace Little, now residing , in Marshall, Texas, but formerly in the air force and stationed in the Philippines, has had a great influence through his teaching and encouragement of many brethren while he was there and by correspondence with them since leaving. He has done a lot to enlist support from American churches for those who are devoting their time to preaching and the confidence placed in his judgment and recommendations by American brethren has not been misplaced. Other service-men that have been stationed over there have strengthened the forces of truth and this has been no little factor in the progress made.
The need for more support for preachers is very apparent. The average Filipino has a very meager income. We do not know how to be grateful enough in this country for what we have. People on the average in our ghettos, who are doing so much rabble rousing and complaining, should recognize that they are well off compared to the average Filipino. They are barely able to sustain themselves and their families. I understand that the average income per year in the Islands is about $175.00. Inflation is rapidly worsening over there and their Peso has been tremendously devalued. Just a few weeks before we went over there the rate of exchange was 3.9 Pesos for one American dollar but when we were there the rate of exchange was 6.25 Pesos for one dollar.
Many of the preachers are not adequately supported. They do not need to be overpaid but they do need enough to sustain their families and pay the actual operating costs sustained in the work of preaching. American preachers are accustomed to the church furnishing the facilities and supplies and expenses incurred in carrying on their work, but the average Filipino preacher must pay for most of this out of his own support because of the weakness of the cause in many places and the poverty of the people in general. There are exceptions, of course, but this is the general rule and should be taken into consideration by American churches that undertake the support of preachers. The Filipino preacher, with an exception or two, has no means of conveyance except public transportation. Most of them ride whatever means of conveyance is available and pay their own fare and preach at several places and teach in the communities during the week.
Some of them working with smaller groups have to rent a large enough place for their families and also to furnish the brethren a place to meet. This increases their cost of living. Whatever they do in the way of tract circulation, bulletins, etc., must often be done out of their own pocket and most of them have no equipment with which to work in this field.
From the best I could judge from the information I gained while over there, the minimum support for a preacher with any family at all should be $100 in American money per month. This amount would sustain a family of say four so that the preacher could give his entire time to the work, meet the expense of doing his work, and not be strained or limited too much in the amount of work he would be able to do. If he has a larger family, then, of course, he would need more support. If he does any publication work or circulates a paper or bulletin, then he needs enough to provide him with the means of doing so. For instance, Brother Agduma is an effective writer. He has put out several sizable books on the current issues with reprints of articles from American bulletins and papers as well as with some of his own clear and pointed writing. This has been very effective. He needs a small offset press and enough support to buy paper, pay postage, etc., so that he could circulate at least an eight page paper each month among all the brethren on the Islands. It would not take a great amount but it needs to be provided to enable him to do the work, and it would be far reaching in its influence as his writings and publications have already been powerful in their influence. Such a means of teaching in the hands of men like Tibayan and Agduma would be powerful in their results. The time is now for the field is ripe and people are receptive.
There are several young men, capable of teaching public schools, who are preaching the Gospel full-time with considerably less support than their needs require and justify. One with four children devoting full-time to the work is presently receiving only $52.50 per month. Several who want to devote fulltime and are capable of doing effective work because of education and training have no support at all. Some of the men with larger families are in need of a more generous amount to enable them to educate their children and provide for their families. Circumstances are difficult for brethren to know and judge who have not been over there. If what information Brother Willis and I obtained concerning the situation can be of any help to brethren over here in determining whom they should support and what his needs are, we will be glad to give that information and get more from those who are worthy of confidence. We certainly do not wish, however, to be put in the position of being judges or exercising any control over any situation of any kind. We just want to help get a more effective work done and accomplish more good.
American books are expensive enough over here but they are prohibitive to the average Filipino preacher. Even good Bibles are expensive enough to be almost prohibitive. Most of them cannot afford even a nice Bible. Two of them admired the Bibles Brother Willis and I had with us so much, we gave them to them. They have no money to afford the books that would help them tremendously in their study of the scriptures. Most of them can read and understand English well enough to profit by any good book. Brother Willis and I have some money left over from what the churches contributed toward our trip that we have the consent of the churches to use to send some good books to a list of preachers over there. We intend to use it, as far as it will go, for that purpose. Many others could be sent and would make a real contribution to a good purpose if more funds were available. Good reference work's to aid in their Bible study would be put to a good use.
In addition to the need of good books for the preachers, there is a need for song books for various congregations. It takes a laboring man two days hard work to make enough money to pay for a song book. They sing out of our American song books with an additional mimeographed booklet containing the words in their dialect to some of our songs. If there are churches that have replaced or changed their books and have some used books in good condition, even though the backs may need some repair, that would be willing to send these books to congregations needing them, we will be glad to furnish the names of congregations that need books.
Then there is the need for communion sets. Some churches may have discarded their communion sets when they would serve the purpose of some of the Filipino congregations very acceptably. If you have such a set or part of a set that you would be willing to mail to some church in the Islands, we will also be glad to furnish you the name and address of a church that would be very glad to get it.
Other Opportunities to Help in This Work
Several of the Filipino brethren have written since our return urging that some American preachers be sent to work regularly in the Islands. If this were done, there would need to be at least two or more to work in different sections, one in Luzon and another at least in Mindanao. If some men were to go who would work with and through the native preachers in the right way, encouraging and strengthening them, perhaps a great deal of good could be done. There are any number of young men who would like to spend their lives preaching the gospel. Several of them talked to us about it. Three of them are very anxious to come to Florida College to study to equip themselves to preach. As a general practice this might not be wise for when they come they want to stay in this country so often. However, I think if arrangements could be made for these and finances provided by individuals, it would not be so with them. Others would take advantage of Bible schools held at strategic points to instruct and train preachers. That would be a very fine way of helping in this work. It would assist the native Filipino to carry on the work of the Lord among his own people.
If any of them were brought over here for training, it would need to be with the specific understanding and condition that they would go back to their own people to preach the gospel. Two such young men are Reuben Agduma, son of R. B. Agduma, who wants to come to prepare himself to help his father. He not only wants to further his education to prepare himself to preach but he wants to learn how to operate an offset printing press so as to be able to help out in spreading the truth by the printed page when he goes back. His friend and another fine young man who wants to come with him is Dado Villaneuva. We hope to be able to arrange for these and maybe another to come as soon as possible. These young men are sober, of good character, good appearance, and dedicated hearts and I believe worthy of the help of someone in the position to enable them to come to this country and get the education they need to do the work they want to do. They are willing to work all of their expenses out that they can but will need considerable help.
The very least thing that American churches should do is see to it that these Filipino brethren who are making a fight for the truth receive all of the help, encouragement, and support they need to help them do the most effective work possible and the time to help them is now. There should be a period of lectures or intensive Bible study conducted in cooperation with them, such as we had this year at M'Lang, at least once each year and it should be done both in Mindanao Island and on Luzon. They are several hundred miles apart and many of the preachers in one section would not be able financially to attend such a session in the other part of the country. By having a similar program in both sections the study and profit would be available to all. A program like we bad at M'Lang is of untold benefit to those preachers who attend as well as the brethren in general. It furthers their knowledge and understanding of the truth, encourages them to standstrongly in opposition to error, and inspires all the brethren who attend to serve the Lord with greater fidelity and courage.
I am grateful for the opportunity I had to go this year and have a part in the work that we were able to do and I thank God for the backing of my home congregation, Par Avenue, Orlando, Florida, the Mt. View Church, San Bernardino, Calif., the church at Montebello, Calif., the church at Sciotoville, Ohio, and a congregation made up of American service men in Japan (U. S. Navy Security Group Activity, Kamiseya, Japan), all of whom had a part in my personal expense and support and in making it possible for us to send the books we are sending to the Filipino preachers. I earnestly hope and pray that the work among these brethren may continue to prosper and grow and I want to help and encourage it in every way I can.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 44, pp. 3-6
September 17, 1970