Preaching Trip to the Philippine Islands
January - February 1996
The city of Cebu is the second largest city of the Philip-pines with about 1.2 million inhabitants. Ken and I had left Palawan on February 1st and arrived at the International airport about 8 PM that night.
Cipriano Carpentero and Wilfredo Samadol were on hand to greet us, along with another two or three preachers. We initially had scheduled a few days on Leyte but thought we had canceled it. That's what we thought! We had scarcely gathered our gear and greeted waiting brethren before we were informed that we had passage on a ferry that night to Ormoc City, Leyte. The ride would take approximately six hours. But, the brethren were solicitous for our rest and had been able to reserve one of two crude cabins where we could sleep. The slow ferry crawled from Cebu to Leyte with cots and sleeping passengers on every hand. Still we were able to get some sleep to our surprise. We traveled from Ormoc City to Bay Bay, about 50 kilometers south. During the next couple of days we preached to a dozen or so of the preachers of the area and then returned by fast ferry to Cebu on Sunday evening, but not without seeing our schedule changed again. The preacher arranging our pas-sage found out that by delaying our trip to Cebu for a couple of hours we would have time to preach at his place. In the Philippines one soon learns to adjust.
We arrived back in Cebu about 9:30 p.m. Jonathan Carino was on hand to greet us. He preaches for the only congregation in Cebu proper and the congregation is very small, meeting in rented quarters.
He had made arrangements with a facility to house and feed the preachers that would come for a set sum and there would be an assembly room thrown in as well. This arrangement worked very well for us. In fact we enjoyed the set up in Cebu and the teaching as much as in any place we visited. Twenty-four preachers consistently attended the seminar and some old wounds between the preachers were mended with all agreeing to work in harmony for the sake of our dear Savior.
Davao City, Mindanao
Web left Cebu on Tuesday, February 5, bound for Davao City. Brethren there had scheduled some preaching for us in remote areas which we deemed too critical for us to get to. We had been warned of the region before arriving there and since the U.S. Government does not presently grant visas into Mindanao because of the various factions of rebels, we were unwilling to venture into territories that were critical. We read, on our way home to the States, that the Muslims were recruiting 200 fresh volunteers each month from the region. Brethren who attended the seminar said that safety could not be assured in the region. There were about 30 preachers in attendance in Davao City. Some were men of whom we had heard before. Emilio Lumupay was our host at Toril and we stayed in his home. Other preachers including Juanito Balbin, Joy and Juli Nortarte, and Wilfredo Canas all came at least once to the lectures. There are many churches in the region and some very promising young men.
Our last seminar was scheduled at Pagadian City and it was a fitting climax for our trip. We had flown from Davao to Cebu to Pagadian and were greeted by many brethren. Jun Apatan was the host and preacher for the Hilltop congregation and he had made great preparations for the seminar. There were at least 100 preachers in attendance and, with wives and other brethren, numbers grew to 150. Brethren came from remote and distant regions and some even were there from Ipil, the city where radical Muslim rebels massacred about 50 folk in March, 1995. We found brethren here generally working in harmony and we were impressed by the work of brother Jun. The Hilltop congregation has a building that seats 100 and, unlike most other Filipino congregations, has services twice on the Lord's day. Jun is a good man but inadequately supported. He is capable of doing so much good and needs to be fully sup-ported to be able to give himself to the work he needs to do. One of the most tearful partings we experienced was in Pagadian City. In three days time we had passed from strangers to close brethren in the Lord. Brother Jun called us all into his dwelling (15 or more crowded in) that blessings of our Father might be invoked upon us. Then the group sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." Brother Jun could not sing for weeping. Nor could I. How wonderful; how close; how deep bonds in our Savior be-come in such a short while. Ere we left their midst we had brethren singing from memory a song R.J. taught their Luzon brethren to sing: "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me!"
At least 40 preachers and others traveled with us to the airport to say good-bye. We sadly bade farewell to Cipriano Carpentero and Wilfredo Samadol who had been our guides for nearly two weeks. Brothers and sisters whose names we did not know were openly weeping when we passed through security separating us from them. Truly we could sing "Bless be the tie that binds." And, as our eyes looked back upon these our dear brethren so unlike us in color, and physical blessings, we could not help but think: "Of one the Lord hath made the race, Through one has come the fall. Where sin has gone must go His grace, The gospel is for all. The blessed gospel is for all the gospel is for all. Where sin has gone, must go His grace, the gospel is for all."
I dare not close without calling attention to the needs of our Filipino brethren. First, there is the need all over the islands for visits from faithful American preachers who can go and stay for two, three or four weeks teaching preachers and visiting in the churches. American preachers need to go preach, to become acquainted with the work presently going on, to encourage Filipino brethren to plant the cause in other regions, and to be edified themselves. The enthusiasm gained from surveying the work going on over there will fill preachers with a zeal to return home and attempt to duplicate here what they see over there. There is a crying need for individuals and congregations to help preachers in various regions air the gospel on radio. Some programs already are aired with (in most instances) excellent results. In the Metro Manila area some brethren plead for help to put the word on TV. There are many widows and orphans who need help and American Christians can find nothing more satisfying and rewarding than practicing pure religion (James 1:27). What a blessing is both given and received by Christians here ex-tending helping hands to needy widows there, "staying with them" while their children grow up and helping them to send the brighter minds on to college.
Tracts by the thousands need to be sent. Filipino brethren had this sad comment, "Liberal churches are willing to flood us with tracts but faithful brethren send none or very few." Young preachers need to be "adopted" by Christians who can help supply them tools to equip them to preach as well as some occasional money for fare to preach in some of the churches that are open to them. Hymn books in their dialect need to be provided. Last, and perhaps most important of all, is the need to give support to native men who can preach the gospel to their own people better than anyone else! We met literally scores of men who have been preaching for many years without a single cent of support. They need help, if for nothing more than transportation fare to get them to congregations they otherwise would be unable to go to.
Ken and I had set aside a few unscheduled days at the end of our trip, but the nearer we came to that time the more we desired to set up our departure date to leave as quickly as possible. We had spent 45 full days and we determined to schedule nothing more. We called to reschedule our return and it was then I discovered my return ticket from Manila to San Francisco was missing. It was necessary that we cancel a couple of days in Mindanao to return to Manila to clear up the matter. We departed from Pagadian City for Manila on Wednesday, February 15th.
Thursday morning was spent in the United Airlines Ticket office clearing up the problem regarding my ticket. This was done speedily and without charge (to my relief) and our flight was set for Saturday, February 17. We worshiped with brethren at Kapitbahayan on Thursday night and heard Jimmy Bobbis, Ben Cruz's son-in-law, teach the class. We met additional preachers with whom we were not acquainted who also live and preach in metro-Manila. These preachers (about 15 in all) had been separated from other brethren for 19-20 years but now have determined to work with their other brethren. In some instances, existing congregations very near each other will merge. We rejoiced for these results and pray for a lasting union. At 11:30 a.m., Saturday, February 17 we lifted off from Philippine soil for our long journey home. Fifteen preachers traveled to Ninoy Aquino International Airport to see us off. Ken, Jerral and I had preached in eleven seminars, R.J. had instructed 150-175 Filipino preachers in the art of song directing, and all of us had preached in many congregations dozens of times, to hundreds of aliens and thousands of brethren including at least 420 different preachers. Two hundred twenty-six souls had been baptized including four denominational preachers, new congregations begun, bright hopes for the conversion of two Disciples of Christ groups were shining since their preacher had been baptized, renouncing that denomination. We had passed out hundreds of Bibles and thousands of tracts and provided 2,500 hymn books to brethren in two different dialects. We witnessed heart-warming reconciliation of preachers who had been alienated from each other for many years, rejoiced at the scores of new preachers emerging, and saw the visible growth in congregations since our last visit. Truly, there is a "great and effectual door" opened in the Philippines but we are sobered by the fact that there are also "many adversaries." My own personal note of thanks to the dozens of Christians and congregations who helped to make possible such a memorable journey. May God bless each and every one who has seen the need for preaching the gospel not only in the Philippines but in all places in this world of ours where there are lost people who need to be saved!
Guardian of Truth XL: 12 p. 10-11