Preaching in the Philippines (II)
Connie W. Adams
Two Lecture Programs and a Debate in Mindanao
It is about 700 miles from Manila to Ozamis City on the northern shores of Mindanao. It took all day to get there, for we had a long layover on the island of Cebu. We were accompanied in all our travels through the islands by Victorio R. Tibayan, Castorio F. Gamit of Angeles City and Isabela Hayuhay of Pasay. We came to respect these brethren very highly and feel that we know them well, having virtually lived together for a month. Their good humor, even when we were all bone tired, their helpful deeds and innumerable Bible discussions, together with the good natured ribbing which is always in evidence when brethren are together for so long - these things more and more served to endear them to us.
Pagadian City Lectures-May 6-9
We landed at Ozamis on an unpaved strip carved out of a cocoanut grove. We were met by about 20 or 25 brethren who had come 100 miles to meet us. Most of the brethren returned to Pagadian in a hired jeepney (a jeep made into a miniature bus). The rest of us started out in a car which was destined to have a number of breakdowns. I have never been on a rougher road than that. What kept the tires from blowing out is yet a mystery. It took us from 4:30 in the afternoon until 10: 15 that night to travel 100 miles by car. Once, while we were out to push the car, I spotted by moonlight a huge water buffalo grazing about ten feet right behind J. T. Smith who was bent over leaning his weight into pushing the car. Upon advising him of the presence of that creature, it was practically worth the entire trip to catch the expression on his face and subsequent maneuvers when he turned to see. I am afraid that those horns are getting longer with each telling!
We were in the company of Eduardo Ramiro, the capable young preacher at Pagadian City. He and the brethren there had arranged a very tight schedule of lectures beginning at 8 A.M. the following morning. With a little time out for noon and evening meals which were taken at the house of a brother Vicente, the program continued until well into the night. Both of us spoke three times a day. There was a two hour open forum each afternoon and the honor of fielding the questions was tendered to the two American brethren. Subject matter ranged from first principles to the nature, work and organization of the church.
The lectures were held in the new meeting house of the church there. It still lacked a floor, except for packed dirt and rock. They yet need about $300 to complete the building. The benches were sturdy boards with no backs. I never heard anyone complain of the hard seats either. Perhaps it was a streak of meanness in me, but I secretly longed for some of my brethren who complain if the preacher speaks over 30 minutes when he is seated in an air conditioned building on a comfortable pew.
We were privileged to hear a number of the Filipino preachers speak. Some of them spoke in one dialect and some in others. Two or three of them spoke in English, for their particular dialect was not understood by most present. English proved to be the common denominator in most cases, though we tried to speak slowly and distinctly. Some of the men were average speakers while some were exceptional. The three brethren who accompanied us did exceptionally well and quickly won the appreciation of all. Brethren came from several provinces of Mindanao. By Sunday morning there were over 200 present. Twelve were baptized and one liberal preacher renounced his error publicly.
Mlang Debate and Lectures May 11-16
We made a nine hour boat trip across the bay to Cotabato City where we continued by bus to M'Lang. A boat trip in the Philippines is a memorable experience. Every boat we were on was crowded. People carry pigs, chickens, and other such items. There are the ever-present vendors selling everything from coffee to balut (a boiled duck egg, when the duck is about two weeks away from hatching). Large signs warn passengers to beware of pickpockets. We left Cotabato, City by bus while it was yet dark. The conductor was heavily armed, there were passengers with guns and we were stopped several times at military check points. There had been much trouble the week before in that area. Everyone was relieved when dawn broke.
M'Lang is the home of Romulo B. Agduma, who for about 15 years has been opposing the practices of the liberals in the islands. He attended their school at Baguio City and was once identified with them. He publishes a paper called the Gospel Preacher, mailed monthly and sometimes consisting of as many as 70 or 75 mimeographed pages. It has been a hard hitting paper and has done much to teach Filipino brethren the truth on the issues of institutionalism and the sponsoring church. For this reason, he is held in contempt by the liberals who have done everything they can to destroy his work and reputation. I have found out one thing about liberals in the Philippines - whether American missionaries or the native variety - they are not overly concerned with telling the truth. And they are cowards besides. American missionaries were in M'Lang the week just before the debate and returned for some public lectures in the open park the week (in fact, the day) after we left. But they could not come during the week of the debate and left poor Lacuata to flounder in his own sauce, which is exactly what he did.
Agduma is about 40 and very able. He has as clear a grasp of the issue as any man we met. He is highly respected by the faithful brethren in those parts and has been a benefactor of many when they were in need. The crowd grew to over 300 during the week and most of those took their meals at the home of the Agdumas. By Friday of that week, over ten one hundred pound sacks of rice had been consumed. Roasted pig was served several times. At all places there was much rice, bananas in abundance and a number of dishes strange to our taste served. The brethren seemed to be conscious of our problem with the difference in food and went out of their way to provide things they thought we would enjoy. No two preachers ever received more royal treatment than we.
Of course, the atmosphere among the brethren in M'Lang was one of excited anticipation over the coming debate. Arrangements were made for lectures throughout the daytime with the debate each night, May 11-14. The lectures were well attended. Again, in addition to speaking several times U. T. did not speak in the lectures until the debate ended), it was my pleasure to hear a number of Filipino preachers. I was much impressed with their ability and general knowledge of the truth.
Eusebio M. Lacuata is a man of 61, having preached for a number of years. Before that he was a teacher. He speaks fluent English. He is slight in frame and rather weak in voice. His general bearing was pleasant and the debate was conducted on a high plane with good humor prevailing for the most part. His moderator was a brother Allegra. The liberals boasted before the debate that they were going to bring members in by the truckload. That turned out to be nothing but talk. Except for a few interested brethren who really wanted to study and learn, the only liberals who came were a few preachers and their families who came with Lacuata each night. In fact, there seemed to be some confusion generated as to exactly when the debate would begin and end. How many this kept away, I cannot say.
The first two nights Lacuata affirmed that in benevolence the church treasury may be used to relieve non-members. His argument was that in passages where the book has been addressed to the church, that the use of the plural word "you" always means the church acting collectively. He used I Thes. 3:12; 5:14-15; 2 Cor. 9:13; and Gal. 6: 10 to prove his point. J. T. exploded his rule on the plural "you" by showing him passages where the plural "you" was used where obviously collective church action could not be involved. For instance in I Thes. 4:3, the plural "you" was used in the injunction to abstain from fornication. In Gal. 6:12 the plural "you" refers to their being circumcised. J. T. showed the difference in the church universal, the church distributive and the church collective and pointed out that the latter was what the debate was about. On 2 Cor. 9:13, J. T. pointed out that whoever the "tall" of the passage included, they were able to pray. Lacuata then attempted to prove that sinners could pray. He used Mt. 5:16 to prove it and J. T. chided him for using a passage addressed to Jews who were at that time children of God to prove that a sinner could pray. J. T. pointed out that in each case of collective church action in benevolence, the church relieved saints. Lacuata had much to say about adding the word "only" and paralleled it to the sectarians adding "only" to faith. J. T. asked him if he baptized believers only and if he taught that we should sing only.
The last two nights Lacuata affirmed that in benevolence and evangelism one church could send funds through another church to the field of work. On benevolence he tried to make Jerusalem the sponsor for the Judean relief of Acts 11:27-30. He argued that Jerusalem was the only church in Judea with elders at that time. But he could not find a passage which even said Jerusalem had elders until Acts 15. From Acts 14:23, J.T. asked if the apostles had a different order for the churches of Asia than they did for the churches in Judea. Lacuata said the elders were not really over the money. J. T. accused him of teaching that they just looked at it and then sent it right back over the same road over which it had already passed to get it to the places where they needed it.
On the last night he tried to merge Phil 4:15-16 with 2 Cor. 11: 8 and make Philippi the sponsoring church for the support of Paul in Corinth. Of course, J. T. pointed out that these were two different occasions. In Phil. 4 the support was sent to Paul in Thessalonica by Epaphroditus. In 2 Cor. II more than one church sent to him in Corinth by several messengers as indicated in verse 9. He took the same position on Philippi that he did on Jerusalem. The elders did not have the oversight of the money and J.T. pressed him as to what they were doing with it. This became rather humorous with the audience.
The truth was clearly upheld and error exposed. I predict that the liberals will claim a great victory. Even Lacuata's time keeper in the debate told us that Lacuata was not proving his argument in the debate. Further, on Sunday after the debate ended, two preachers came forward, renounced the errors of the liberals and made a stand for the truth, including one preacher who had been working with Allegra, the moderator for Lacuata. I have just received word that in Kidapawan, about 40 miles from M'Lang, two more preachers publicly acknowledged their error the following Sunday, and counting them that makes 13 members in Kidapawan who have left the liberals since the debate. I am convinced there will be others. I hope the liberals will think about these facts when they report their great victory.
During the lectures at M'Lang there were 15 baptized into Christ in addition to those repudiating error. The cause is perhaps stronger in Mindanao than other areas of the Philippines. There are any numbers of able preachers, many of whom have been preaching for years without any support, in spite of the fact the liberals are telling that the "antis" are buying preachers. What with? They have said we were dying on the vine. They tell this lie not only in America, but have spread it throughout the Philippines. We are just a poor, bedraggled handful, just about to close down, to hear them tell it. But lo, and behold, we are "buying" their preachers! And may I ask, if their charge is true, what that tells about the quality of converts they have been making, that they can be swayed with money. I wonder if the American missionaries who are making this charge would like to tell the Philippine brethren how much salary they are receiving? The liberals seem to have a very low opinion of the caliber of the Filipino brethren. No wonder they are in trouble with them. The liberals are in deep trouble in Mindanao and they know it.
In fact, they are in trouble throughout the islands. I have the names and addresses of 75 conservative preachers in the islands and there are at least 25 others, or more, whose names and addresses I did not secure. Many of these men are working without any support from the churches. Others have inadequate support. A few are well supported according the native economy. I, for one, do not intend to let the liberals get by with the unjust charges they have been making along this line. They are lying when they tell it, and I am persuaded that they know they are. Oh yes, there have been some inconsistencies in the lives of a few men who have renounced the liberal cause. These are not approved by right thinking brethren. But I might remind the liberal brethren who have hovered about Baguio that they are mighty vulnerable on this subject and they might do well not to open that Pandora's Box for it contains many interesting relics.
We are thankful to God for the honest hearts in Mindanao who were willing to accept the truth and serve the Lord. We pray God's blessings on the faithful work being done there.
Next week - The Work on Mindoro and at Angeles City and a summary of the situation and needs in the Philippines.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 35, pp. 9-13