By Wallace H. Little
Due to the time spent by many Filipino preachers preparing for and being with the visiting American brethren, Dudley R. Spears and James P. Needham, my mail from that nation has been sharply reduced during the last few months. Nevertheless what I have received has been a real source of joy. Consider some of this information.
The news of baptisms is always exciting. Juanito Balbin working with Bro. M. Enoch reported: eight baptized on 6 May, fourteen on 19 May, five on 21 May, one on 26 May and finally four more on 28 May. This was all done by these brethren in and around the city of Kidapawan in a series of public teaching opportunities. Pablo Dayao wrote of six baptized and fourteen liberal brethren restored to the truth on the institutional error in Binalonan, Pagasinan. These renounced their former practices, left the groups where they were worshipping and placed membership with faithful churches. Bro. Miparanum in Buug, Zamboanga del sur mentioned two in his most recent letter while L. Sendil reported four in Margosatubig, Zamboanga del sur. Castorio Gamit in Angeles City listed five recently baptized there.
I have letters from several brethren since Needham and Spears completed their preaching trip to that nation. These had accounts of twenty in Lambayong and another eleven in MLang baptized by the visiting American preachers.
Romulo B. Agduma
In an earlier report I gave a brief biographical sketch of Castorio F. Gamit of Angeles City, Luzon. Now I want to do the same thing with Romulo B. Agduma, of MLang, Cotabato, Mindanao. Few men have done as much for the cause of Christ there, stood as long under fierce persecution with no help but His and created as much of a favorable climate to teach truth to liberal brethren as Bro. Agduma.
He was born on 5 September 1928 in Luzon, and moved with his family to the island of Mindanao when he was nine. His parents, sisters and brothers are all Christians. He himself was immersed into Christ in 1943. During World War 11 Christians there endured many afflictions. In addition to those imposed directly by the Japanese, these occupying authorities permitted the Muslims to do pretty much as they desired to the Christians. Saints had many problems with worship also, meeting in open fields, under trees or wherever they could avoid being molested. With grape juice unavailable, they resorted to using the juice of the vine itself.
Bro. Agdumas education is limited but both be and the fine woman he married completed the now-defunct Zamboanga Bible College. They were married on 7 April 1950, the evening of their graduation. Bro. Agduma then began preaching in earnest, although at that time he was without outside support. For a number of years he and his wife provided for their material needs by tailoring and farming until a rat-infestation in that area destroyed its economy and drove many businesses including theirs into ruin. In 1954 his support was picked up by brethren in the United States. Since then his experience has been considerable, preaching in lectureships and meetings as well as in local work. He wrote extensively both in pamphlets and personal correspondence. As a result, a small group of brethren pulled off from liberal churches and began meeting in MLang, with Bro. Agduma as the regular preacher. It was during this period his son and three daughters were born.
It was also during this time he began to question the Scripturalness of some of the beliefs and practices of Christians there, including himself. As far back as 1954 he started opposing some facets of institutionalism. Later he wrote the church supporting him requesting a copy of Bro. J. D. Thomass book We Be Brethren. Jady W. Copeland was the preacher there. Instead of the book, Jady subscribed to the Gospel Guardian for him. It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this. However, as significant as it was, I want to make it clear that with the Bible as his only guide, Bro. Agduma had already stood against some of the unscriptural practices of both Filipino preachers and the so-called American “missionaries.” The thrust of his study from the Guardian was to organize and firm UP his ideas, and come to a depth of understanding of the problems. For a time, liberal Filipino brethren continued using him in lectureships and meetings, hoping to get him back. They pleaded with him to stop teaching this “anti doctrine” lest, they said, “Our support in the States be affected.”
At this point Agdunia was, also partially supported by a liberal church in Harlington, Texas. He wrote, asking them to stop their support, unable to continue accepting their money in good conscience. Brethren, that took faith and courage especially there! By this, the liberals understood he was totally serious. Persecution began in earnest He was blocked out of the pulpits of half the churches which formerly used him, and the remaining ones were those smaller and struggling (isnt it ever so?), and virtually cut off and alone in his fight. Bro. Agduma is a prolific writer. His, letters often run eight to ten single-spaced pages. He used this talent and his tremendous drive during these years. The results abundantly show just how effective one man can be, if he trusts the Lord and puts his heart into His work. I doubt a single preacher on Mindanao today learned the truth on the institutional apostasy from any other than him personally or someone taught by him. The cause of Christ there owes much to Gods work through the efforts of this good man.
The liberals then resorted to carnality, reducing themselves to the same level of tactics men in error always embrace when they find truth against them. In the many attempts to stop him, these refused to acknowledge the real issues, and sought to ruin his reputation through false ones. He was labeled “anti,” reported to brethren in the U.S. as unworthy of support, became the object of gossip accusing him of living with a woman not his wife and was even undermined at the church supporting him. However, Jesse G. Jenkins was the preacher there at that time, and he effectively refuted the lies being circulated against Agduma. One blatantly materialistic effort was made to “buy him back” with an offer of higher support than he was receiving. As the fight became hotter, he was completely cut off from most Filipino brethren in 1966 by being “disfellowshipped” by many churches. No one ever bothered to explain how a church could disfellowship one who was never a member of it. His mail was intercepted and sometimes confiscated. I came into contact with him in the latter part of 1966 and since, have done what I could to encourage him. Through him I have also contacted other preachers in that nation standing for truth, and some assistance has been provided them.
Romulo B. Agdums influence among faithful Christians there is considerable, and rightly so. He started opposing the institutional apostasy by himself when he was a very young preacher. Although by no means old now, he continued his opposition to this evil without faltering from the beginning, for many years now, in spite of the roughest sort of persecution by brethren. Today while he no longer has to right the good fight of faith by himself, his fight is as strong as it was then.
Bro. Agduma is a man in whom all may place the utmost confidence. His integrity is above question. He has been tried and proven in fire. I do not know of a man there in whom I have any greater trust.
All who have written concerning the recent preaching trip of the two American preachers spoke very highly of them and their work. Juanito Balbins comment was as nearly typical as any, when he said, in part, “. . . We were very much benefited by the coming and teaching of Bro. Needham and Spears. No amount of money would value their coming. . . .” Several made specific mention of the pointedness of their lessons, their urging to continue living as proper examples before brethren and others and their urging to correct misconduct as soon as it occurs. There is little doubt immense good resulted from this visit, part of which cannot be assessed for some time. I am personally very grateful for their work there, and the reception accorded them by Filipino brethren. Their trip, its success and their safe return is the answer to many prayers.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 45, pp. 10-11
September 21, 1972