|Corruption in the Philippines|
CHANGES I HAVE SEEN IN THE PHILIPPINES
It has now been ten years since my first preaching trip to the Philippines. It was four years from my last trip until this last one April 23-May 31, 01. Brother McDonald asked me to write an article on the changes that I have observed here in that ten years.
There have been changes all across the board: spiritually, economically, physically and socially. The Philippines are slowly moving out of the third world class. That said, there is still a long ways to go especially in certain locations, but they have come so far it is the promise I see.
On the economic side I see signs of more prosperity. A few years ago you would rarely see a van such as a Toyota. Now there are several vans on the streets and roads. In 1996 I never saw a cell phone that I recall. Now they are everywhere, and they are using them. They are like a new toy. Remember most of these people never had a telephone at all. TV's are more numerous. In fact they are not unusual at all in the cities. Most hotels have them in the rooms. More brethren have autos or small motorcycles. These are a great asset to their work. Their houses and meeting houses in many areas are improved. Many new high rise buildings are going up in the cities--especially Manila. There are new roads and new bridges in some places--I mean good ones. Manila and Cebu City are becoming modern in their central areas despite their grievous, smelly slum areas which are slowly giving way. Prosperity is on the rise despite many hardships.
On the physical side I see other signs of change. In 1992 I recall making the observation that "You don't see any fat Filipinos." That is no longer true. People are eating more and better. In 1992 my son and I carried and drank only bottled water. It was available in a few places but nobody was buying or using it. We risked it and pointed out the unsanitariness and potential health risks of having their CR's (comfort rooms--rest rooms) and wells so very close together. Typhoid was not uncommon. They have not moved these , but now the use of bottled water is wide spread, both in homes and businesses, and sickness is down. Brethren are dressing better especially in the cities. McDonalds and Burger King are there now and very popular. You did not find these a few years ago. They are welcomed by Americans also as they are a true taste of home with all ingredients imported and duplicated. Prices are very low due to lower costs, notably labor. They also have Cindy's and Jollibee's as competitors. They are welcome also. The towns are being kept cleaner. Seems the women get up with a broom in their hand. They are sweeping inside and outside early and late. Calesas (small carts pulled by small horses as a means of income) are fewer than before. Transportation is improving. In the remote areas, except for private vehicles, the jeepney is still the only way to go. They are rough, crowded, slow and haul everything that anybody wants to haul including animals. They are packed: inside, outside and on top as many as can hang on. Fortunately we were able to hire a private vehicle most of the time although these are not always dependable. If they break down you just abandon them and wait on the side of the road until a jeepney comes by and get on it.
On the social side I have only been associated with the brethren. I am happy to note how they are growing in grace and culture and refinement. Often it is evident that they know and would like to do better, but they are so tied by their poverty. To me that makes every bitter thing sweet. They are trying, and they WILL get there. They manifest that they cannot do enough to care for you or to make you comfortable when you come to their "humble place' as they say. They know we have left all creature comforts and conveniences behind to come to them with the gospel, and they prize our Bible lessons. I don't look at the dirt floors or the windowless openings in their shuttered walls. Even though the toilet was a hole in the ground, and we leaned out a window to brush our teeth in our coffee cup, I love them--their hunger for the truth, their sincerity dims all other considerations.
Before it was a common and ugly thing that I am very happy to say that I saw very little of this trip: That is , men stopping to relieve themselves whenever and almost wherever they wished (and the women sometimes taunting them to "turn around"). Whether I was brave or foolish I told them if they did not want to be a third world country they should not act like one. They are acting less offensively now and that is good. They are learning and learning brings change--Knowledge is power you know. Much improvement needs to be made on the infrastructures of the country widespread..
On the spiritual side I see the greatest and most important changes of all, and for that I am so thankful. Brethren are growing in knowledge and ability rapidly. They are growing in their public abilities and confidence. The number of new converts is absolutely amazing and is ever growing. Oh, that we could duplicate this in America !
New congregations are multiplying rapidly. Many denominational are being converted along with many members of their congregations--sometimes all of them--including bringing their building with them and just changing the sign on it. How long since you saw this in our country? The empty hollowness of the sound of error is so manifest to them when they hear the solid sound of authority and Bible truth it is obvious and new and sweet to them and they change right away. It is so unusual to me it is almost scary. All they need is to be invited to come and hear. And they come and hear – preachers and all.
Brethren are becoming so much more aware of how important and necessary it is to maintain a loving, harmonious, edifying relationship between themselves for the church to prosper. As in America, problems are there, but they are being managed, resolved and quality controlled without enduring damage. Most brethren there have real convictions and stand fast for the truth. Many labor without support and have done so for years. Some have cried for years for just a little support, but nobody has heard--still they keep on working and will keep on working. Newly converted (past two years to the present) denominational preachers have sacrificed everything monetarily to buy the truth and are happy in the confidence that with the truth they have more than they ever had before.
Yes, God has some precious jewels on this earth, and I can tell you that some of them are in the Philippines. I encourage congregations and individuals to support good workers over there. I strongly recommend however, that they inquire of someone who may know before they invest. Nowhere can we get or do so much for so little. Give them a hand.
In the quiet of our room sometimes Jim will ask me, "Ken, Do you think we are wasting our time? Do you think we are making a difference?" I answer, " Jim, look back nine years when you first came here, look around you. Do you see any difference? Ask the brethren all over the country, and you will never question the worth of this labor."
Keep your eyes on the church in the Philippines. It has a real future.
Ken Marrs 2001 firstname.lastname@example.org
[Editor's note: Found on Ken Marrs' now defunct website: http://www.ourhouseusa.com/KenMarrs/Changes.htm retrieved on 10 Dec 2005 17:51:00 GMT]