|Corruption in the Philippines|
Date: Monday, June 07, 1999 12:47 PM
I'm forwarding you an e-mail we received about the Philippines... could
Hope you and your family are well -- when is that baby due? Have I
March 24 - April 30, 1999 Earl Mitchell (elder, Downtown Church of Christ, Rogers, AR) and Ron Halbrook (evangelist, Hebron Ln. Church of Christ, Shepherdsville, KY) traveled and preached in the Philippine Islands. We concentrated on edifying Filipino preachers and were impressed with their hunger to learn God's Word. 258 souls were baptized, denominational preachers were converted, and new congregations began.
Filipino brethren are largely responsible for this harvest of souls, but it was a joy to share with them in these labors. God gives the increase through the power of the gospel (1 Cor. 3:6-9). Much work remains to be done. The laborers truly are few in view of the great harvest which continues (Matt. 9:37-38).
This was Ron's fourth Philippine trip; he plans to continue going each year, the Lord willing. In addition to teaching God's Word, Ron hopes to provide a communication bridge between U.S. & Filipino brethren. Earl wanted to see the Philippine work firsthand because the Downtown church in Rogers, AR is supporting several Filipino preachers.
We visited many places on the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Cebu, and Negros. There was a massive outpouring of generosity by U.S. brethren in 1998 to relieve some of the suffering caused by a general drought which continued for nine to ten months. Jim McDonald of Lufkin, TX and Ron served as messengers to carry most of this benevolence in July of 1998. Ron and Earl were anxious to learn more about what has happened since that time.
The Philippines is a third-world economy and we understand there always are needs there. We were glad to see good rice crops growing and being Harvested on Luzon, Cebu, and Negros. The drought has been broken. In fact, early rains this year are causing some hardships. U.S. brethren cannot relieve all the needs all the time in the Philippines, and to attempt to do so would create an unhealthy dependence on us. When there are grave emergencies, we must do what we can to relieve the suffering of God's people. In this way, God blesses both givers and receivers. Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
There is a great emergency at this time on Mindanao. While at Midsayap, Earl and Ron got updated information on benevolence needs from five reputable preachers: Juanito Balbin, Jessy Julom, Ben Libertino, Emilio Lumapay, and Julie Notarte. They report the 1998 funds were properly distributed, with few complaints, but conditions are worse now for many brethren than in 1998. Rains ended the drought, but the first two plantings of crops were destroyed by locusts. We saw pictures of fields stripped bare to the ground! Rats ate the third planting. In addition to these woes, fighting between the Philippine army and Muslim and communist rebels has forced many brethren to evacuate their homelands with no means of feeding their families.
The results are widespread starvation and sickness, especially among the mountain peoples. At least sixty have died (Nov.'98-Apr.'99). The five men we interviewed said they had not sounded a general alarm because they were afraid U.S. brethren might tire of hearing their appeals after last year's drought. One preacher died while we were at Digos and a dying girl's life was saved when she was brought from the mountains. Almost 7,000 saints were aided on Mindanao in the 1998 distribution. The crop destructions affect everyone in some degree, but the brethren agree that saints in the mountain areas are in the most desperate need.
On June 18, 1999 Jim McDonald (P.O. Box 155032, Lufkin, TX; phone 409-637-0229) will leave for Mindanao to serve as a messenger for brethren wishing to send help. Checks from churches and individuals should be made out to Philippine Relief and sent to him as soon as possible. He will be joined by Jim Everett (P.O. Box 864, Cedar Park, TX; phone 512-219-6816). A special effort is being made to reach the mountain brethren who are suffering and dying. The funds will be delivered to the churches so that brethren can buy food and medicines.
If Earl or Ron can answer any questions, please contact us (Earl's phone is 501-636-3575; Ron's phone is 502-955-1748). Let each do what he can. Time is short.
In Christian love, Earl Mitchell and Ron Halbrook
Yours is the second version of this story that I have received. The original one (by Jim McDonald) was even worse than the one you sent. By "worse", I mean more full of lies, deception, and misinformation. I do not mean to accuse Jim McDonald or Ron Halbrook, but rather the Filipinos who are deceiving these brethren. The only thing I will say against Jim and Ron is that they allow themselves to be deceived. Let me elaborate.
The situation in Mindanao is not as bad as they pretend. The government is at peace with the muslims, and the communists have never been a big threat in Mindanao. So the part about brethren having to flee is just a lie.
There were some problems with rats and locusts, but the papers here clearly state that the affected people were "mountain tribals". By definition here "tribals" refers to indigenous people who live by their own laws, customs, language, and religion. There can be no Christians among the tribals because Christianity is not a native religion. If a tribal is converted, he or she must leave the tribe. In all the six years I have been here, I have only heard of less than a dozen tribals who have been converted.
Are there pictures of the devastation? Sure you can get a picture out of almost any newspaper or travel up to the mountains and take a few pictures yourself.
The distribution of money last year by Halbrook and McDonald was the biggest waste of the Lord's money I ever heard of. In Mindanao many call it the Great Motorcycle Benevolence because almost all of the preachers suddenly bought motorcycles after Halbrook and McDonald left. Ron and Jim claim the money was accounted for, but I have here an example of the receipts given out. The accountability is non-existent. They gave out multiple receipts for the same distribution. They also said the drought was widespread when in fact the drought only seriously affected Mindanao and Palawan, and even there it only affted the rural people who farm. Yet all of the money was distributed to urban churches and less than a fourth was distributed in Mindanao and Palawan. Many churches divided over how to distribute the benevolence. Ron and Jim say they have never heard of that, but that is because they only listen to the preachers and not the members.
That brings up the problem with Ron and Jim claiming to know what is going on over here and "providing a communication bridge". They only spend a few weeks here in a year. They travel everywhere during that time. They do not really know anyone here nor do they know any work here. I have been here for more than six years (excepting 6 months working with the Filipina sisters in Hong Kong), and I do not claim to know as much about the work here as they claim, but I do know a lot more about the work here in Luzon and about Filipino preachers in general. Jim and Ron have no understanding of any local languages where I can understand one language well and another slightly, besides that my wife is fluent since she is a Filipina.
So I guess I have gotten carried away, but this stuff really can irritate. I hate seeing good people waste the Lord's money. My advice is stay away from it and warn others to stay away. Jim is claiming he will honestly distribute the money he raises in less than two days. Impossible! He will just give the money to the same dishonest men who reported to him and they will provide whatever receipts McDonald requires even if they have to fake the receipts.
I'm sorry to be such a pessimist. There are good honest souls in need, but massive benevolence in the hands of incompetent men will not solve any problems, only cause more division, and we know what God said about divisive men.
If you or anyone you know wants more information about any of this, feel free to ask.
Yours in Him,
PS If you want to forward this to anyone feel free to do so.
PPS Baby is due at the end of August or early September.