Philippines ’93

By P.J. Casebolt

This report is labeled ’93” to distinguish it from earlier reports on the Philippine work which I made in 1977 and 1984. Others will be making reports on their journeys to different parts of the islands.

Since three other American preachers were visiting congregations on the northern part of Luzon, I decided to direct my efforts southward. Brother Dannie Jarlego traveled with me from the time I arrived on February 17, to the time of my departure on March 29. On Luzon, we visited congregations in the Metro Manila area, at Infanta/Real, and at Mercedes in Camarines Norte. A possible trip to Iriga was aborted because of the erupting volcano, Mt. Mayon.

On Mindoro, we visited congregations at Villa Celestial, Libertad, and Pulosahi in the southern area of Roxas. From there we traveled northward to Victoria, Alcate, Aurora, Evangelista, Calaguimay (San Isidro), and Calapan.

On the island of Palawan, we visited Brooke’s Point, Sarasa, Samariniana, Locon, and Inogbon. On the way back to the airport town of Puerto Princesa, we visited congregations at Aramayan, Nara, and Plaridel. We spent two days preaching in Puerto Princesa with morning, afternoon, and evening assemblies.

On the central Visayan islands of Negros and Cebu, we visited congregations at Bacolod (Minoyan), and Cebu City. There is now a congrgation meeting in the home of brother Bob Small at Cebu. Bob is carrying on his work in China from his home in Cebu, while also helping the work in the Philippines as he has opportunity.

On the island of Mindanao, we visited three congregations in Davao City, and at Savoy and Bansilan in Davao del Sur. Because of the bombing at Zamboanga City air-port terminal, and for efficiency’s sake, we aborted our flight to Zamboanga, and took the bus/ferry across Mindanao to Pagadian. From there we traveled to Sampoli in Zamboanga del Sur, and preached four times in the meeting there.

After returning to Manila, we traveled south by bus to Mercedes in Camarines Norte, and preached there March 22-24. I preached my final sermon at Tondo (Manila), on March 28, and left for home on the 29th. I preached at 35 different congregations, visited briefly with brethren at two or three other places, including the leper colony congregation at Tala, near Manila. I was able to preach 53 times, and there were 53 baptisms. But I would hasten to add that the Filipino brethren had already planted the seed, did the groundwork, and did the actual baptizing. With the exception of one man whom I personally baptized in 1984, all of the baptizing has been done by Filipino preachers in meetings where I have preached. I think this practice would be a good explanation/commentary of 1 Corinthians 1:13-17.

Besides the opportunities to preach the gospel, I was able to minister to the physical needs (food/shelter/medical treatment) of several dozen saints at different locations. On one occasion alone, 22 congregations were represented in a meeting where benevolent aid was distributed. Members from at least a half-dozen of these congregations had been driven from their homes and lands by the communist rebel group known as the New People’s Army (NPA). By individual contributions from brethren in the states, I was able to act as messenger and administer this relief to needy saints. The first century apostolic pattern of sending directly to the source of need, whether in benevolence or evangelism, still works best in the 20th century (cf. Acts 11:27-30; Phil. 4:15, 16).

In spite of plans which had to be changed or aborted, my time and financial resources were used efficiently and effectively. I only spent two nights in what could be called a hotel by any stretching of American standards, and even there I shaved in cold water. I had three warm-water showers in six weeks, and from the time I left home on February 16, I shaved in cold water until I got back to the airport in Detroit on March 29. When in the Manila area, I stayed in the home of brother Jarlego, and we stayed in the homes of our Filipino brethren during our travels (with the exception mentioned above, and two nights spent in the home of brother Small in Cebu). And the only reason we stayed in the hotel at Bacolod was because the Filipino preacher did not receive our telegram, and was not at the airport to meet us. And we spent one night on a ferry boat, as you always do between Cotabato and Pagadian Cities.

God knows I am not murmuring or complaining. The Filipino brethren always gave us the best they had (or what they thought was the best), the Lord gave me physical strength and the opportunity to make the trip, and in my limited way I can only thank the American brethren who sent me, the Filipino brethren who received me, and render both thanks and praise to God through Jesus Christ. No earthly being benefited from this effort more than did I, and both time and words fail me to tell the whole story. Only the judgment can complete the account, and for that I gladly wait.


American vs. Filipino

I am reluctant to write anything which would erect or emphasize any real or imagined barriers between Filipino and American brethren. The relationship between Americans and Filipinos dates back almost 100 years. As far as the Lord’s church is concerned, I know of no other nation which is supporting the cause of Christ in the Philippines. Whatever spiritual relationship there is, it must of necessity be between Americans and Filipinos. To ignore this relationship would rob both people of valued privileges and opportunities.

After commending some of the seven churches of Asia, the Lord would add, “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee” (Rv. 2:4). I have “somewhat” against both American and Filipino brethren, and for that matter, I even have somewhat against myself for failures in word and/or deed. Some of these matters need to be addressed on a personal, case-by-case basis, on both sides of the ocean. But I think some of our conflicts in culture and Bible principles can be aired publicly for the benefit and improvement of all concerned. We have nothing to hide from brethren in either country, and those of us who act as messengers/mutual contacts need to continually examine ourselves and make whatever corrections or improvements are possible.

All who are personally involved in the Philippine work recognize the two terms “Filipino time” and “American time.” And we are not talking about the approximate 12-hour difference in solar time. Americans who go to the Philip-pines are on a strict schedule of arrival and departure, and the time in between must be allocated accordingly.

Filipinos live in a culture where time is not of primary significance, ,and for very good reasons. The transportation systems of our two countries are as different as daylight and dark. Americans rush here and there to maintain schedules, and our highways and airways, along with our personal and public vehicles of transportation permit such a practice. Filipinos depend mostly on public transportation, and most buses, taxis, and ferries are filled beyond description. If a Filipino doesn’t catch one bus or taxi, he waits for another. If it doesn’t come today it will come tomorrow, next week, or next month. And the Filipino has time to wait. He cannot change the system, nor can a few American preachers change the system. But we can adjust to it.

Filipinos have a habit of saying, “Plenty of time,” and I have missed several planes, buses, and ferries because they will not check a schedule in time. I have had vehicles run out of fuel because the drivers (and the brethren who contracted the vehicle), would not fill up the tank with fuel and prepare for such an eventuality. This isn’t just a matter of culture or custom, this is a direct violation of such passages of Matthew 25:1-13 and Romans 12:11. And you wouldn’t have to leave America to find folks who live both their material and spiritual lives by this principle of procrastination.

But while Filipinos cannot change their transportation system, or prevent flat tires, they can try to adjust to such things, or at least when visiting Americans have a schedule to keep. Even when schedules are made, Filipino brethren do not always allow for flat tires, eating, summarizing sermons, baptisms, or impromptu side trips to visit another congregation or some brother needing support or benevolence.

American preaches can help by not trying to crowd too much into one trip, acquainting themselves with the geography of their travels, insisting on a written schedule, and then insisting that the schedule be followed. Two Filipino preachers told me that we Americans need to do more “insisting” and I have done this until I am ashamed of myself, but sometimes we Americans do not understand what we are asking of the Filipino brethren. They cannot change centuries of culture and geographical expressions of creation in a month’s time, and sometimes we are not aware of extra expenses involved in our requests.

Often, the problem of benevolence vs. preaching/edification presents a barrier between Filipinos and Americans. Special benevolent efforts have been conducted on behalf of the Philippines, and sometimes a mission has the twofold purpose of preaching the gospel and relieving needy saints. But sometimes the visiting preacher is so overwhelmed by demands made on his time and financial resources for benevolent purposes that he has no time left to preach. Moses could not satisfy all of the pleas for help among his Israelite brethren (Exod. 18:13-26), and Peter and the apostles could not satisfy all the demands made on their time for purely benevolent reasons (Acts 6:1-4). And while some Filipino preachers have abused the benevolent issue, there is a real and continuing problem in the Philippines with respect to drought, typhoons, volcanoes, hunger, food, shelter, and clothing. And their problem needs to become our opportunity, to the extent of our ability.

Yes, preaching and spiritual things need to take precedence over material things when there is a conflict (Matt. 6:33; 2 Cor. 4:16). But we need to understand the predicament of some Filipino brethren and the preachers being sup-ported in that country. How does a Filipino preacher decide between using his often meager support for bus fare to go preach in the next bario and the immediate medical or food needs of his own family or needy brethren? And if he asks for additional help he is often rebuked for making such a request.

Every culture has its characteristics, some good and some bad. I am as ashamed of some American habits as Filipinos may be of some among their own people. But when we become Christians, we need to subject our native cultures and traditions to the law of Christ, and allow it to make us better people. And if God’s people cannot remove or ad-just to cultural barriers, it is their own fault, and not the fault of the Christ or his gospel which has called them into the family of God (Gal. 3:26-29).

American preachers have been guilty of poor management, immorality, teaching false doctrine, and sowing “discord among brethren,” yet we condone or wink at such things on this side of the ocean while using similar things as an excuse to cut off all support and encouragement to our brethren in the Philippines (and possibly other countries).

We need to continue investigating and communicating with those who are personally involved in the Philippine work. It is not the work of a few Americans and Filipinos, it is the Lord’s work. Some of us have taxed our physical and mental capacities to the utmost, and taken on extra correspondence and financial obligations, but we do so gladly for the rewards involved. And may God bless every American and Filipino brother or congregation who/which has had a part in that effort. To God be the glory.

As a final thought, let me emphasize the good which has been done in the Philippines by such publications as Searching the Scriptures and Guardian of Truth (formerly Truth Magazine). I know that some have used the addresses of congregations listed in those publications as a means of asking (or begging) for financial support, but I also know of much good that has been done by the teaching contained in these papers. And I trust that even this and similar reports can be used for good on both sides of the ocean.

Bear in mind that subscription rates for foreign countries are much higher than in the continental United States. And if a subscription expires, no Filipino or publication can stand the financial burden of that subscription for long. But I will guarantee you this one thing: any paper sent to the Philip-pines will be read, reread, and passed on for someone else to read. Maybe we could subscribe for someone, and check with the various editors/business offices to see if someone is on the mailing list. I could supply editors with some prospective names/addresses, but I don’t want to become a national clearing house for such an effort. I already have whole file cabinet full of Philippine correspondence, stacks of letters yet to be filed, and the letters from my last trip are just now beginning to arrive. But I will do what I can for the Lord’s work, which knows no national boundaries.

And if in the process I can keep a few more Filipinos and Americans (including myself) out of hell and help them on their way to heaven, I’ll be thankful now and for eternity. And unless the Lord has something better for us to do, we can rehearse it all after we have entered “in through the gates into the city.”

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 11, p. 19-21
June 3, 1993