By P. J. Casebolt
For the past several years I have watched the Lord’s work in the Philippine Islands with special interest, since I spent several months there at the close of World War II. About three years ago I began making plans to return,. after having received an invitation from brethren there to preach the gospel in their country. During the month of April, 1977, those plans were translated into reality. Others will make a more detailed report, but I would like to share my impressions of the work there with all who may be interested.
Originally, Brother Wallace Little and I planned to go this year. Later, he had the opportunity to go for an extended stay, so preceded tme by about two months. Keith Burnett also decided to go, but had returned to the U.S. by the time I arrived in the Philippines. Meantime, Brother James Puterbaugh was invited to teach some classes designed especially for preachers, and decided to spend about one year with the Filipino brethren for this purpose.
“I Lie Not” (2 Cor. 11:31). I have often wondered why Paul had to make this statement several times in his epistles. Would not the brethren believe an apostle of Christ? I think I understand his position a little better now. I hesitate to tell brethren some of the things which I saw, heard, felt, did, and some of the things done to me, for fear they will not believe me. If I tell in detail about some of the hardships experienced by Filipino brethren and the Americans who go there to preach, some will think I am complaining. If I tell about the remarkable growth of the Lord’s work in that country, some may think I am boasting. All I can say is, “I lie not.” Those who know me will believe me; those who do not will just have to go and see for themselves.
“We Thanked God, And Took Courage” (Acts 28:15). Regardless of how self-disciplined one may be, there is always a feeling of loneliness when loved ones are left behind, and the uncertainty of a venture lies ahead. There is nothing quite like a Filipino welcome to make one feel that his efforts are not in vain. Even when we know the Lord is with us as He has promised, the sight of faithful brethren brings a lump to the throat and tears to the eyes. With all our conveniences here in America, we feel so self-sufficient that the companionship of good brethren is not appreciated, I fear. Maybe a few hardships would cause us to depend on God and our good brethren a little more.
“I Know Thy Poverty” (Rev. 2:9). I only know of one brother in the Philippines who owns an automobile, or has access to one. It is an old model (1962), and the good brother put it at our disposal while we were in the Manila area. Most places of worship I visited were of bamboo or rough wood frame, open at the sides, with thatched roof and dirt floors. But, the brethren are rich in faith, zeal, and self-sacrifice. Their main concern, and ours, is not for comfortable places of worship, but for the well-being of the inward man. Both we and they are emphasizing the preaching of the gospel above all else. Let those of us in our comfortable buildings make certain that some do not “rise up in judgment” and condemn us (Mt. 12:41,42).
“Fellowship In The Gospel” (Phil. 1:3-7). May God bless those who have had fellowship with us in the preaching of the gospel. In my own case, I did not have to beg brethren to support the gospel. They asked me to let them participate in the work, when they heard I wanted to go. There are many places where the gospel needs to be preached, but I can say to those who have had a part in the Philippine work that they have done well to communicate with those who preach the gospel there.
“God That Giveth The Increase” (1 Cor. 3:7). There are many able preachers of the gospel in the Philippines. Two of these, Brethren Tibayan and Hayuhay, traveled with us extensively, Others prepared the ground, helped to sow the seed, and watered that which had been sown. About two hundred and thirty souls were baptized into Christ as a result of our combined efforts. I say about because people are obeying the gospel and congregations are being established at such a rate that it is impossible to keep an accurate count. Several liberal brethren confessed error, including one preacher. One debate was conducted, and arrangements are being made for two more. We made a special effort in our sermons to strengthen the brethren in the faith. It is a wonderful experience to lose track of the number being baptized, and not to wonder who is responsible for their obedience. God gave the increase, so give him the glory through Christ and the church. (Eph. 3:21).
“I Have Somewhat Against Thee” (Rev. 2:4). The Filipino brethren are not perfect. Neither were the Ephesian brethren. Nor, are we American brethren perfect. Some American preachers are not without fault in matters of doctrine and morals. The same standard applies to all. We tried to apply this same measure to our Filipino brethren (2 Cor. 10:13, 14). They want, and for the most part, appreciate our help. We learned of some who had sinned in word or in deed, and tried to help them make corrections. But, these were few in number indeed, compared to those who are making a sincere effort to save their souls and go to heaven.
“A Second Benefit” (2 Cor. 1:15). Many are benefitted directly and indirectly by their involvement in the Philippine work. The Filipino brethren are encouraged. The preachers who go are better because they went, and should be of more benefit to the brethren when they return home. Congregations and individuals who have fellowship in the work are encouraged. Others may be provoked to good works by these examples, and God is glorified (2 Cor. 9:2, 13).
But, I believe there is a second benefit if we will pursue it. I was personally able to make several contacts on the plane while traveling to and from the Philippines, that resulted in prospects to be pursued here in the United States. Many Filipinos or their relatives live in America, and many of our fellow travelers on these flights were in the process of going home or visiting friends and relatives. Most will gladly give you their own name and address, or that of a friend or relative. They seem to appreciate a tract or any other information concerning the Lord’s church. Maybe we can convert our neighbor through contacts that began ten thousand miles away.
“I Give My Advice” (2 Cor. 8:10). Having spent several months in the Philippine Islands, I was not a complete stranger to the people and their customs. I feel I know them better now, and am better acquainted with the situation there pertaining to the Lord’s work. Others also have valuable information and advice, including the Filipino brethren themselves. Here is mine:
The day has passed when American preachers can visit all the churches in the Philippines on one trip. We need to try concentrating on definite areas, which generally would mean islands. We need to emphasize the training of Filipino brethren to carry on the work, which is being done. Not every American preacher is suited for this work. Any who would think it is a vacation, or a short-cut to fame and prominence will do themselves and the work there a favor by staying home. One needs to be prepared mentally and physically for this effort. To those who are faithful, able, suited for this kind of work, and invited by the Filipino brethren, I say “Go.” If I can be of any help to those who would contemplate going, or to congregations interested in sending someone, I will do what I can. May the gospel have free course, and be received in all the world, as it appears to have been in the Philippines.
Truth Magazine XXI: 31, pp. 492-493
August 11, 1977