Preaching Trip to the Philippine Islands
January - February 1996
On January 2, 1996 R.J. Stevens and I met in the San Francisco International Airport to fly together for a preaching trip in the Philippine Islands. R.J. had flown from the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport while I had flown from Houston Intercontinental. We were to be joined in Manila by Ken Mans of Camino, California and Jerral Kay of Bentonville, Arkansas later that week. Flight from San Francisco via Seoul Korea took approximately 16 hours of flying time. We arrived in Manila Wednesday about 8:30 P.M.
Preparation For This Trip
Many months had been spent preparing for the trip: individuals who would go, places for preaching, scheduling itineraries and preparing material to either send ahead or carry with us. Through the permission of Maurice Barnett, 300 of his two volume sets on the doctrines and errors of Jehovah's Witnesses had been copied and mailed via "M" Bag. Copying this material had taken long weeks and thanks are due many people: first to brother Barnett for his per-mission to reproduce this material for benefit of Filipino preachers; second to Dan and Karen Eddins (faithful Christians at the Loop 287 Church of Christ, Lufkin, Texas) who opened their print shop and allowed me permission to come and go as I pleased yet accepted no financial reimbursement for my extensive use of their equipment; to the Fourth and Groesbeck church in Lufkin, Texas who paid for printing this material and to David and Perry Weaks who bound the material into books. Several weeks were spent so that special postal bags, called "M" Bags, of the material might be sent ahead to different regions to wait for distribution upon our arrival there. By early October the final bags of this material were on their way to seven or eight different locations. And, with the single exception of Davao City, Mindanao, all of the bags did arrive.
Once "M" Bags of the Jehovah's Witnesses' material had been shipped, attention was shifted toward writing and printing four different tracts to be given to brethren. Some areas were troubled by the "one-cup issue" so a tract was prepared for that. A tract on "The New Birth" was written and the English copy was translated into Tagalog and Cebuano. Then two other tracts dealing with the "two covenants" and "Five Questions About the Church" were written and printed. When we completed our work more than 8500 different tracts had been printed for use of the brethren. Brethren in both the Loop 287 church in Lufkin, Texas and the Austin Street church in Marshall, Texas had spent much time assembling these tracts together for me.
In addition to the foregoing material, books, concordances, dictionaries and other study helps were purchased for the brethren's use.
Preaching In Manila
Manila is the heart of the Philippines. Estimates of the greater Manila population range from 9-11 million. As one surveys this teeming mass of humanity, he wonders whether any even "near accurate" counting could ever be made of its people. There are many congregations in the metro area, but none would likely have attendance of more than 100. Some, in the more distant stretches of the city, have a small building but none (to my knowledge) of the congregations in the heart of the city owns their building. This is a hindrance to the work but due to the poverty of the members and the high price of both land and buildings, it is not likely to be altered any time soon, although the Santa Mesa church will soon meet in a second floor of a building that will be-long to them. Even so, the structure is very small and will be able to accommodate little more than 40-50 folks.
When we arrived wearily in Manila on January 3 and had gone through customs, both R.J. and I struggled with our many boxes and pieces of luggage. However, once we were outside the terminal all this passed into the hands of the 25-30 waiting brethren. We spent the night in the home of Ben and Delores Cruz and the following morning began a two day seminar for Manila area preachers. R.J. had pre-pared material for teaching music and song directing to the many Filipino preachers who attended the various seminars he helped with. For the brethren in all the places we went, this was one of the highlights of this trip. Two, three, and some times four hours a day were spent by R.J. as he helped Filipinos learn more about pitching and directing songs. and, immediate improvement was apparent! Filipinos will be blessed for years by the short visit R.J. was able to make to their nation in January 1996.
In addition to R.J.'s music instructions, I spoke to the upward of 70 brethren who attended on a variety of subjects: the inspiration of the Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, the New Testament Church, and exhortative lessons to preachers and brethren for unity, moral purity, and zeal in promoting the gospel of Christ.
Our seminar with the brethren ended on Friday. Saturday and Sunday were spent in preaching to Manila area congregations. Saturday R.J. and I preached at the Cubao congregation where Roman "Roger" Wanasen preaches. Because "mutual-edification" preachers from the States have made overtures to many Filipino preachers and have been received by brother Wanasen, I spoke on the errors of these brethren informing Filipino brethren of their peculiar views on evangelists, elders, and mutual-edification. These brethren are the remnants of the "no located preacher" positions of the late Carl Ketcherside and are making extensive effort to gain a foothold among faithful brethren. The modern preachers of this movement deny that they share all the views of brother Ketcherside that he defended in debate with various brethren (G.K. Wallace, et. al.), but they never identified any area of difference they had with Ketcherside's early views and (so far as we could determine from reading their material) they parrot the same "old errors" of yesteryear: "evangelistic oversight," preachers being "sent" by elders, "no-located" evangelists where there are elders, and contention for "mutual-edification" (every male member taking his turn at teaching, etc.). These doctrines wrought much havoc among brethren in the 1940s and 'S0s and are a potential threat to the Philippine work. Any preacher going there needs to be aware of the danger and be prepared to warn brethren there what a viper they are receiving into their breasts when they receive these preachers. Brother Wanasen avers he does not believe their doctrines but he receives these men and aids them to make contact with many other unsuspecting Filipino brethren.
Sunday, January 7, R.J. spoke to brethren at Kapitbahayan and I spoke to the Pasay church and to brethren at the Leper Colony. There we met for the first time M.C. (Mario) Paderugao who preaches for these brethren and whose own health has greatly deteriorated. Brethren there indicated that brother Paderguao is in the last stages of this horrible disease. Relief was given to these brethren, supplied by American churches and brethren.
One of the greatest needs in the Manila area is funds to preach on the radio. Because of higher costs in the metropolitan area, radio time will be more expensive, but even so time should be available for $200 a month. With a population of 9-15 million, there is tremendous potential for good that a radio program in Metro-Manila could do. And Ben Cruz is an effective, convincing preacher to do such a work.
Ilocos Norte And Sur
Ken Mans and Jerral Kay arrived on Thursday and Fri-day (January 4, 5) respectively. Ken visited in the Angeles City area, joined by Jerral on Saturday. Both returned to Manila on Saturday night and spoke with the Cubao congregation where R.J. and I had preached the day before. On Monday, January 8 these two brethren left Manila to spend a week in the Cagayan region, working with Rody Gumpad and brethren in that region. R.J. and I left Manila the same morning for the Ilocos region where we spent the next five days. The four of us would rendezvous in Resurreccion, Pangisinan for a seminar there a week later.
Air flight from Manila to Laoag, Ilocos Norte took about 45 minutes, a radical contrast to the 8-10 hours required to make the same trip by bus. About 30 Ilocos preachers were on hand at the airport to greet us. Four days of hectic activities were spent here as R.J. and I visited and preached in different churches, conducting also a seminar for area preachers. About 65 preachers attended the seminar with attendance ranging upward to 100. During the total six weeks we were in the islands, about 420 preachers attended the eleven or twelve seminars we held on six different is-lands.
Basically, R.J. and I spoke to preachers as brethren and Jerral conducted lectureships for congregations (in two in-stances) in central regions where brethren from many congregations converged together. Over 700 people attended their Sinait (Ilocos Sur) lectureship.
When we disembarked the plane in Laoag City, we were in one of the most active and growing areas of all the Philippines so far as brethren are concerned. Two other regions have enthusiasm and growth similar to what these brethren experience: the Cagayan valley region of Northeast Luzon and the Pagadian City region of Mindanao. In the two provinces of Ilocos (Norte and Sur) there are over 100 churches and 2,000-3,000 Christians. Materno Sibayan, Sr. has been in this region for over 20 years and he (along with Vic Domingo) have been pioneers in this work of northwest Luzon.
There are many other preachers here and a host of able, younger ones. The key to the work in the region is the `joint efforts" these brethren conduct. Five or six preachers go into a new region where there are no Christians and at-tempt to set up studies in the villages. From this develops in due time another congregation. A couple of years ago I accompanied a team of these brethren as they were making initial efforts into a fishing village on the South China Sea. First, they met resistance, particularly from one of the matriarchs of the village. "Auntie" (as she was called by the folks there) was a Catholic and she discouraged the residents from hearing the preachers. Because so many of these were her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, etc., she was an effective deterrent to the gospel. But, soon "Auntie" began to listen and to encourage those she had once discouraged. Baptisms began to result, but not "Auntie"!
On our May 1995 trip to the village and after "Auntie" had once more turned down the gospel invitation, Egdon Sabio (one of the most able of the preachers of the area, a dear friend of mine, and a "favorite" with "Auntie") asked her, "Auntie, do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God?" Her answer was quick and perceptive. "I am not going to answer that question, for I know what you will do. You will carry me out into the South China Sea and baptize me." This January when R.J. went to the same fishing village and preached, "Auntie" heard the gospel again. This time she was willing to confess, "I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God," and was subsequently baptized. Her obedience will open the way for many more in her family to follow her example. Another congregation scarcely two years old now meets in "Auntie's" village. One of the preachers of the group preaches for it every Sunday and the brethren will move on to other areas to plant another congregation.
Being with brother Sibayan is always a joyful experience. He is the preacher and one of the elders of the Laoag City congregation, as well as preacher for the congregation in Sinait. This congregation is in the process of building a building and our seminar was held in the open space of what will ultimately be a block building. The roof is completed, giving protection from the rain and sun. One of the greatest needs of this area is for either a congregation or some brethren to provide funds for a radio program that might be aired from Laoag City for the whole region. Is there not some congregation who would provide $100-$150a month so that the message could be magnified throughout this region?
It was in the Bocos region that we began to baptize people and here our four day stint was concluded. Fifty-nine souls had confessed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and been baptized into him.
Umangan, Resurreccion, Pangasinan
R.J. and I had agreed with Ken and Jerral that we would meet for one seminar together at Resurreccion in Pangasinan. This is the home of Roger Wanasen and his father Hilario preaches for the congregation here. We desired to hold a preacher seminar here so that we might deal extensively with the errors of the "mutual-edification" brethren in the region that had received them. Brother Hilario was agree-able that we should come and accordingly made plans for the seminar. Many preachers from the region converged in this rural congregation and three days were spent dealing both with the errors of these brethren and other instructive teaching. R.J. continued his instructions in music; Ken, Jerral, and I spoke on a variety of matters.
Roger Salviejo had come to Sinait to get R.J. and myself on Friday, January 12. The seminar was scheduled to begin on Monday the 15th. Roger works with a number of congregations in this region and on the day of our arrival received notice of the loss of his support, quite a blow to him. He is totally without support and we believe he is a good man. Any congregation or individual able to support him would be appreciated. In the days "in-between" our arrival and the seminar R.J. visited with some of the area churches with Bert Enastacion while I visited and preached for congregations in the company of Roger Salviejo. One of these visited was a congregation that just a year ago was Pentecostal. Its preacher, Oliver Resurrecion, had been baptized when Ron Halbrook and I had preached in the Cagayan Valley region in May 1995. When Oliver returned home, he began to preach to his people, baptizing many of them and during this visit another five or six were baptized. Bibles and song books were given to this new congregation. On the Sunday prior to our Resurreccion seminar I preached in the home congregation of Donnie Arcega where about 90 adults were in attendance and 19 were baptized in a swimming pool. Donnie is a fine young man, struggling hard to maintain two or three congregations, burdened down with many responsibilities and greatly under-supported. He receives only $100 each month and needs another $100-$150 to even begin to make "ends meet." Is there some individual interested in helping this sound young man in his work?
The seminar at Resurreccion was attended by about 90 preachers. The final result of it is yet to be determined, but brethren have material and knowledge of the doctrine of the "no-located preacher" brethren and can make their own decisions. (More to come.)
Guardian of Truth XL: 9 p. 18-20