|Corruption in the Philippines|
(from the feature editor)
Through the support of brethren and the blessings of our Lord this writer was able to take part in a preaching effort in the Philippines in March and April of this year. My coworkers for this trip were Ron Halbrook and his son, David, of Louisville, KY, and Don Hastings of Zephyr Hills, FL.
It is only right to start out by writing a little about our brethren there. They showed us great kindness and hospitality, and helped us in almost every way imaginable. The sacrifices brethren, especially preachers, make for the Gospel is exemplary. There is much more interest in the Gospel in the Philippines than in any place to which I have been. This was manifested in at least two ways: 1) There were around 130 baptisms in response to our efforts to preach the Gospel before my departure (Ron and David stayed for 2 and a half more weeks and a further 170 responded.); [Editor's Note: Contrast this to what a native preacher says about conversion rates. I have been told similar rates by other native preachers in face-to-face conversations. Now consider: how do visitors to a country, who do not speak the native tongue are able to gain such a great response in so little time?] 2) There was great interest shown by brethren there in spiritual things. The attendance at the lectures we held in 4 places on Luzon was large and brethren were happy to sit for 6-7 hours hearing the Gospel preached. They were also interested in learning and studying the Bible's teaching on various current issues.
Ron Halbrook deserves a lot of credit for the work he did in arranging our schedule while we were there. We were used so much that one feared being used up! However, we were there to work and all of us were happy with what we were able to do (2 Cor. 12:15). The preparation necessary for such an effort on Ron's part had to be considerable.
We started out in Manila, holding lectures at the church where brother Ben Cruz labors.
A large number of brethren, mostly preachers, came from other places or parts of the city. In the evenings we would go out to churches in other parts of the city or nearby cities to preach. One of these churches was in Cavite. The church was meeting in the front room of a brother's small home. The room was full and people were at the windows and door, some with pen and paper taking notes.
On Friday, March 23, we packed up and headed for the Cordon area in central Luzon where we stayed in the home of brother Domi Jacob and his wife, Leah. Our stay there was both pleasant and profitable. There are many churches in the area and brother Jacob did his best to take us to many of them. We preached at a wide variety of places and were able to both reach lost souls and, we believe, help brethren. The "Mutual Edification" brethren (or "ME brethren" ) who bind the belief that only one cup can be used in the Lord's Supper as well as other false teachings have been active in the Philippines and we were able to do some teaching in refutation of their errors. In several places we encountered brethren who have had contact with brother Jim Puterbaugh. He teaches both the "one covenant" doctrine and that Christians can eat blood today (a practice relevant in the Philippines due to the popularity of several dishes containing blood). It was interesting to learn from brethren there of their challenging his teaching on their own. We taught lessons dealing with his errors at several places during our time on Luzon.
One place, the church in Santo Domingo, gave a snapshot of what we saw many times during our stay in the Philippines: I spoke with a very impressive and dedicated preacher, assisted by his faithful wife, both involved in teaching the Gospel, he generally, she to children. The humble, open sided meeting place was packed with probably 75-100 souls. They asked for literature to help in their teaching and we are working on getting it to them.
On March 26 we went to Tuguegarao, where we were the guests of Rody and Tess Gumpad, and their children until the 30th. The following day, Tuesday the 27, was a big day. Each of us was taken by a different brother to preach at different churches in the morning and afternoon. Total number of baptisms for the day was 30. That evening, we answered Bible questions on the television program that Rody hosts. Wednesday the 28th started two days of lectures at the church where Rody preaches in Tuguegarao. We dealt with some of the same subjects we had dealt with in previous places, some additional material pertinent to things facing brethren there, and general topics as well. While I do not think any of us counted, there were probably 50-75 preachers in the audience at these lectures. On the last day, after the final sermon, we stood around for a long time talking, exchanging addresses - and there was so much picture taking one would have thought a we dding was taking place!
On March 30th we were up early and on our way to hold a one day lectureship for the church that meets in Pamplona, several hours to the north. This was probably the largest audience to which we preached while in the Philippines. The estimates ran anywhere from 400 to 700 people. David and Don preached in the morning, while Ron and I preached in the afternoon. Many in the audience were poor tribal people from hills round about. There were 14 baptisms that day. The brethren showed us much kindness. We left there in the late afternoon and spent the night in a motel in northern Luzon.
On Saturday, March 31, we were all taken to different churches to preach. I think that it was on this day that we baptized 26 people all told. We spent the night in Escroda at the house of Vic and Yolanta Domingo, which is not far from the city of Laoag. We all preached in different places on Sunday. Two days of lectures began in Laoag on Monday, April 2.
The lectures at the church building in Laoag were another highlight in our work on Luzon. The church house has three floors and things were arranged perfectly for the format the brethren had chosen: The ladies met for a class on the first floor; the men, mainly preachers, met on the middle floor; the young people were on the top floor. We got a count of the young people's class; there were around 110 in attendance. We each took turns preaching to the different groups. There were three sessions in the morning and three in the afternoon, so each of us got a bye during either the a.m. or p.m. session. We were all encouraged, once more, by the interest in spiritual things shown by the brethren and, once more, there was a long good bye, but it was not the last good bye there.
The next day and a half all of us once more went in different directions to preach. There were 15 baptisms. About 25 brethren gave us a big wave off at the bus station around noon on April 5th. It was all very heart warming.
Mat Sibayan, Sr., has labored for many years in this area and had good influence for the Lord's cause. It was a blessing to meet him and the many other preachers we met there.
A 12 hour bus ride brought us back to Manila around 1 a.m. on April 6. Later that day, Don flew home to the U.S. and the rest of us caught a flight to northern Leyte. It was touching to have a good number of brethren from Leyte meet our plane, even though we were not scheduled to preach on that island. They had made a large banner and fastened it to side of the bus in which they were riding, welcoming us by name to their island! From the airport a van brought us to William Lagan's house in San Joquine, Samar. My wife and I have supported brother Lagan in his work for a number of years and it was good to finally meet him face to face. He has only recently moved to Samar and that island has not received the attention that other Philippine islands have received in the past. Hence, the work there is still small. We held lectures there Saturday, Sunday afternoon and Monday. A total of seven were baptized and several preachers from Leyte were in attendance, which is over six hours away by bus. Brother and sister Lagan took good care of us. It was very pleasant to visit in their home.
We left Samar for Manila on Tuesday, April 10, where we spent the night. The next day we were picked up by Lordy Salunga and taken to Angeles City, near Clark AFB, where we held lectures the next day. That evening, after the lecture session was over, Ben Crews brought me back to Manila from where I flew home the next day (4/13).
It was great to work with Ron, Don and David. Likewise, it was great to work in a place with such obvious interest in the Gospel among such supportive, encouraging brethren. My hope is that I can one day return to work in the Philippines again.