Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
Greetings to you in the name of the Lord. As you know, from March 17 through April 5 Rick Sparks, Wade Stanley, and myself traveled to the Philippines with the help of your support. The following is a synopsis of that trip.
The primary purpose of the trip was to back up Bro. Wanasen concerning the Lord's plan for leadership in the church. We arrived at a general approach where Wade would teach on the work of evangelists, I would teach about the church's responsibility to send men to do the work of an evangelist, and Rick dealt with elders, their qualifications and function. In some places this was well received. Others listened and seemed to give serious consideration. In a few places, I think the lessons were received hesitantly or not at all. Throughout the trip, Roman Wanasen and Jun Tobias accompanied us. The itinerary was set for four islands: Panay, Leyte, Cebu, and Mindoro. On the last few days we met with three churches in the Manila area and the church at Resurrection (Roman's home congregation) and Macabebe (the place where Arsenio Wanasen lives).
The church at Passi City (Panay island) was our first stop. We were received with much hospitality. Actually, this was very common among all places we visited. The congregation at Passi City had been a Baptist church but was converted to the simplicity of following Christ. After our lessons, Joel Gonzales, a pillar in that church, was particularly interested and accompanied us the next day for the sake of learning more. Subsequently a schedule was made with Roman to do some follow-up. For me, this was one of the high points of the trip.
We visited seven congregations on Panay island. One place in particular had been having some internal troubles. We really didn't want to get in the middle of it, but it emerged after the lessons, during the time of discussion. There was a fair amount of animosity between a couple of older men. Bro. Gonzales was very effective in helping to settle the problem and heartfelt apologies were given. It was remarked upon more than once that they could see the value of following the Lord's plan for having elders.
We made our way to Leyte. We visited seven congregations, if I counted correctly. A sister by the name of Charisse Saavedra opened her home to us for the entirety of our stay in Leyte. She and a couple named Demz and Gift Apolinaria provided our transportation. There were two congregations we met with, where the leaders really weren't interested in what we had to teach. A church at San Vincente received us with a great deal of warmth and seemed interested. There were varying shades of inquiry among these churches. I wouldn't say that we were of no effect on Leyte, but there wasn't the marked notice which we received on Panay. In all of these congregations there was always a great degree of hospitality. This is the Filipino way.
On Saturday night we crossed to Cebu island by ferry. In the morning we were met by Reul Eroma, a brother from a congregation in Consolation. Consolation is a suburb to the north of Cebu City. As in so many places, the congregation met in a pole barn type structure built on the property of a generous member. Brother Ruel took us to his home, where we were able to freshen up for the day. I was impressed with this man. He had come from a congregation that had been broken up by some problems. He was among those who were trying to repair the damages and bring back souls to meet in Spirit and Truth. He was very interested in the subject of scriptural leadership. During the morning Lord's Day service, we kept our lessons on matters of living for the Lord. There were some baptisms that afternoon. (These were as a result of the church's efforts, not so much because we were there.) Later in the day, the church met again for a concerted session about church government. After our lessons were completed, there was extensive discussion. In particular, there was a strong focus on the qualification for elders. It was a particularly fulfilling day. Roger has since scheduled another meeting with them for further follow-up.
We returned to Manila on Monday, and rested a little. That evening we made our way to Batangas, a city on the southern region of Luzon, to catch a ferry to Mindoro island. We boarded early Tuesday morning, and arrived at the Abra De Ilog ferry terminal, a very beautiful site. Not many miles down the road we came to some of the poorest of people, referred to as "indigenous". We met a brother Jun Rodillas along the road and went to this congregation. For me, it was one of those moments were I felt that everything had to be distilled down to the minimal and most effective thing possible. How much was understood even after translation. . . I do not know, but there was a lot of smiling. There was even more smiling when we were able to share the generosity given by you brethren here in the States. We purchased rice, sugar, and coffee and they were very happy to receive these things. (This was under the advisement of Bro. Rodillas.)
All in all we visited four congregations on Mindoro. Two of which were in farming communities. Two of these were churches among the indigenous people. Charles Ross and I had visited these churches in 2013. A marked difference was especially seen among the one of the indigenous churches in particular. The previous visit to this one was difficult, inasmuch as the congregation seemed very depressed. Usually among the Filipinos there is cheerfulness. But not there. There were no smiles, or any show of enthusiasm. However, this time was markedly different. Bro, Rolly Nemenio and his wife, Mila have been working with this church. There was much cheerfulness, and good will. The day we visited there were even four baptisms, fruit of Bro. Rolly's labors. Bro. Rolly and Bro. Rodillas are to be commended for their patient work with these "indigenous". Again we shared the good will from American churches by giving money for the purchase of rice and medicine. Also we shared with a brother Leoncion to aid in medical expenses for his heart condition.
We had an unusual request. A relative of Bro. Rolly invited us to speak at the congregation which was a "Pentecostal" denomination. They had a lady pastor and a band. It was an uncomfortable feeling to stand while they opened with their praise service. After Wade gave his lesson, some papers were handed to him with requests for us to address the matter of instrumental music and women being leaders (such as pastors and evangelists) in the church. We presented these things from the Bible and let it be received as it may. It should be noted that among the Filipinos it is not unusual for an entire congregation to leave its denominational affiliation for the sake of belonging to the Lord.
Our next round of meetings was on the island of Luzon, where we met with old friends at Resurrection, and Macabebe on Saturday. On Sunday we attended the Bagong Silang church where Roger's family meets. A lady who is a housekeeper for Doris and Roger was baptized along with her husband on that Lord's Day. We also met with the Greenville church later that afternoon.
The last meeting was on Monday, with the Caloocon church. There were a number of preachers in attendance for the express purpose of listening to what we had to present on the matter of church government. The reception was friendly, and it seemed there were some pointed observations that indicated they understood what we had to say. How much influence our presentations had upon them, is hard to say. It was one of those "time will tell" moments.
It was a pleasure to work and travel with Rick and Wade, as well as our old friends Roger and Jun Tobias. By the grace of God we were able to serve a good purpose for the sake helping some of these congregations to follow the Lord's plan and pattern for His church. Also by the grace of God, we were able to share from your bounty, aid for matters of health, crops, and diet. We were received with hospitality at many places, and followed Bro. Roger's suggestion that a gift be given to these hosts. He emphasized this was not to pay for our stay but rather a show of appreciation. Often, the sacrifices of our hosts were deep. So some of your generosity was applied in this way, as well as purchasing fuel and other travel expenses during the trip. The funds that were left were submitted to Roger for the sake of buying Bibles.
Thanks to the Lord for the opportunity to do this type of work. The sharing of fellowship is not according to the boundaries of nations, but the Kingdom of the Lord is throughout all nations. And thanks to you brethren for your kind generosity. Blessings of peace and comfort of hope to you all. The following is a PowerPoint presentation of the places and people we were among.
Your brother in Christ,
"Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith - to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen." Romans 16:25-27