By Wilbert Garingo Enostacion
In 1988, this writer published a directory of churches in the Philippines which sought to be Christians only were opposed to any change on any New Testament (NT) Pattern, and adhere to the stand on purity of doctrines as taught by Christ and propagated by the apostles, seeking to please God rather than men. It had a record of 199 local congregations throughout the country in 12 regions, in 28 cities, in 79 provinces and in 50 million people. Though this directory was not a complete list of all churches of Christ opposed to liberalism, yet about 50 percent of all existing churches were listed. This was, however, the first attempt to list churches loyal to the Lord from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The gospel in the Philippines had its beginning during the war between the Americans and Spaniards (note, the Philippine Islands were under Spanish rule for 400 years). When the Americans came in the 1898 to 1900s, there were true Christians among those soldiers who came to convert natives, not by guns, but by the gospel of our Lord (note again, the gospel has been sown in the land for 90 years now). Churches were established in some parts of the nation; they grew by the mercy of God and multiplied in number. No one knows, however, how strong these churches were, but the fact is they grew in faith and in number.
In the early 30s, a more accurate record says that, an American missionary named George Benson was on board a ship on his way to China; the ship met a great typhoon, and sought refuge in an island near Mindoro, in southern Philippines. The white man, embarked and went to preach to some natives. A man named, brother Adap, was the first convert to the Lord. After the departure of this white teacher, though limited in scriptural knowledge, Adap preached and was able to convert a young man, who unknowingly would soon become a well-known preacher; the young man’s name was Diosdado P. Menor, of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. Menor toured the nation and converted not one, but hundreds, if not thousands of lost souls to the fold of God. Though now advanced in years, he still holds the beacon and preaches to anyone whenever opportunity demands.
In those years from the 30s to the 50s, churches of Christ in the nation did not know of any issues that divided churches. The dividing issues came after 1955. Some U.S. missionaries came to preach the gospel and oversee some native works; this sparked the issues of division. One of the early native preachers first to notice such departures from the Pattern, was Romulo Agduma of Cotabato in far flung town of Mindanao; later on Victorio R. Tibayan of Southern Tagalog region also recognized the error. They stood opposed to all changes in N.T. church doctrines and practices, calling for book, chapter and verse for every doctrine and practice, especially the support of institutions from the church treasury, the sponsoring church method of organization, and general benevolence to the public. Many other native Christians followed their calls for “return” to the N.T. Pattern from Mindanao to Luzon. A great battle of debates was held in some quarters of the country. Anti-ism was the plea! Anti to all unscriptural practices swept strong and was alive!
The controversy over the issues gained support from churches and individual Christians. News of its fights against liberalism reached the USA. American brethren found comfort to hear that struggles to stand on God’s pure N.T. Pattern were ringing far and near throughout the world to defend the truth against these unscriptural innovations of churches who claimed to be Christians. American liberal missionaries had long been in the nation; they had “planted” the seed of liberalism; Bible colleges were established in Luzon and Mindanao (now, they boast of their 6 training schools for sowers of errors). Ralph Brashears, a former U.S. pilot bomber during World War II, came back in 1947 and founded a Bible school in Tayug, Pangasinan; which later became well-known as the Philippine Bible College when it moved to Baguio City in the early 50s. Meanwhile, in Zamboanga City, a certain U.S. missionary, surnamed Hamilton, founded a school in 1950; later on it was known to be Zamboanga Bible College during the tenure of another U.S. missionary, Ray MayHue, where this writer schooled in 1964.
The Fight and Support
Those who have known the fights for truth and error know that very few are willing to stand with them for the Lord. Many are spectators, and are just seeing whoever wins the battle to later enjoy the blessings of those who won. They are hesitant and unwilling to jump into the bowl of fights! They are the critics-cowards-opportunists!
It was in the early 60s that the U.S. started to pour support to worthy, sound and faithful preachers in the land. In 1970, there was a great debate that was recorded in the annals of Philippine history for truth against error between J.T. Smith and Filipino debater, Eusebio Lacuata in M’lang, Cotabato. Not that the Filipino liberals were more vulnerable than their American cohorts; however, American liberals in the Philippines were cowards to face any debate even to this very day, so Lacauata took the flag.
From that time on, many native preachers were awaken from deep sleep of error and went out from liberalism (including WGE). A team of American preachers started to fly to the nation on a series of lectures starting in 1970. These includes: Roy E. Cogdill, Cecil Willis, Connie W. Adams, J.T. Smith, James P. Needham, Dudley Ross Spears, Earl Robertson, Larry Ray Hafley, Leslie and Roy Diestelkamp, Jady Copeland, Frank Butler, Keith Burnett, William (‘Bill’) Battles, Wallace H. Little, Arnold Granke, Jr., Paul Casebolt, James C. Puterbaugh, Hiram Hutto, Leo Plyler, Ben Shropshire, Bob Buchanon, Harold Trimble, Donald Wilson, Carl Main, Lowell D. Williams, Howard Jones, Rick Lanning, Vernon Love, Walter D. Bunnell, Jerry Parks, John Humphries and possibly others inadvertently omitted.
Many congregations that were established before the war are now dead. If these exist and have kept the faith, they are still struggling. The main reason was this: they don’t have full-time workers to work with them. The work for the Lord would have filled the 50 million people with God’s teachings, had workers in the past obtained enough support. However, it was shocking even to know the reason behind such declining assistance from U.S. churches had happened.
Connie W. Adams reveals the fact of the matter, he wrote: “There was a time, a few years ago, when you could write a letter, an article, or make a speech about the work in some corner of the world where you had personal contact, and brethren were eager to help. Not any more! I notice a continually lessening interest in supporting men in foreign lands in the last few years. Some churches have been badly burned with men who turned out to be unsound in faith, immoral in personal life, or so cantankerous in inter-personal relations with brethren that were left with no choice but to stop supporting them” (Searching the Scriptures, Vol. 28, No. 11, Nov. 1987).
True enough, it can be testified, that in the past decades, a mere letter of endorsement to some U.S. churches for Filipino preachers’ support and a check was expected to come within 30 days. But some native preachers abused such trust and confidence, and committed mistakes; so preachers coming their ways, suffer such tremendous blockage. Adams further wrote: “Those of us who have stuck our necks out to help a brother in a far-away place are sometimes made to feel as though we had a knife stuck in our backs by the very ones we have worked the hardest to help. It not only leaves egg on our faces, it seriously tarnishes our credibility. The next time we go to bat to help a brother, however deserving he may be, our appeals are taken much less seriously (emp. mine, wge). The end result is that we find harder and harder to support foreign workers” (Ibid.).
At present, we can see many good preachers who have gone to secular jobs and have departed the preaching field, unloading the “yoke” (Matt. 11:28-30) of coverting lost souls due to lack of financial support for their families.
Many no longer burn their heads under the heat of the sun, or walk miles and miles or pass a day without food for the Lord. It is clear that many lost “fires” and courage due to the wrongdoings committed by their predecessors, and the “blanket condemnation” employed by some U.S. churches; it’s a Damocles sword that hangs over their heads! Nonetheless, not only in this land such apostate deeds happen, but even in America and other parts of the world. We can see records of some U.S. preachers who turned out to be unsound in faith, unfaithful in the Lord’s service, many committed the sin of immorality, deception, and basically all evils; yet, there were those who remain unstained by such sins (2 Tim. 2:20-21), and “meet for the Master’s use.”
A Great Appeal
We, preachers in this third generation, plead to all U.S. brethren, open once again your loving arms to our needs and remove the “blanket condemnation” from us that “all Filipino preachers are liars!” Brethren, “do not burn the house because of some rats,” let’s help together find those rats and burn them!
Let “bygones be bygones”; when God forgives, he forgets (Heb. 8:12). Let’s join hands again, like the great days of old, where a single letter of recommendation is enough to find support, and churches are eager to assist. We are now in the last decade of the 20th century; the gospel in the Philippines depends on the hands of God’s workers today; “for we are laborers together with God” (1 Cor. 3:9). Huge works need to be done and accomplished; many preachers, both young and old alike, possess great abilities of disseminating God’s saving gospel, but could not do it to the full strength of their capabilities for lack of financial support as God demands it (1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:8). Many are wanting to be full-time warriors of God, but lack warfare to go into battles for truth against error, crushing down speculation and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
Its time again to “look into the field, for they are white ready to harvest” (Jn. 4:35). Truly, let us sound again the battle cry of the Lord: “The harvest, truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:35-38). Who among you brethren, dear readers, will be the first one to send “reapers” into the field? Many are crying, “Here, am I, send me!” Who will act first? If you can help, please write me at: P.O. Box 09, San Fernando 2500, La Union Philippines. I can put you in contact with these faithful men, sound in faith and teachings; if the church where you worship will help assist in preaching the word, or if you will do so, contact me. Its our prayer to our heavenly Father up above. Amen!
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 7, pp. 198-199
April 5, 1990