Monday, September 29, 2014

Final Report for This Trip

After reporting on the last day of lectures in northern Luzon, I had a day of travel on Friday, flying from Tuguegarao to Manila. With a good night’s sleep, it was another day of travel from Manila to Angeles City. However, Saturday’s travel was by bus — always an interesting journey here in the Philippines. The traffic in Manila was unusually heavy, especially for a Saturday. So, the trip took about an hour and a half more than normal. Upon arriving Angeles City, Lordy Salunga picked me up. We went for a quick supper and he took me to the hotel where I prepared for preaching the next day.

On the Lord’s day, I preached a two-part sermon on “The Blood of Christ and the Salvation of the Sinner” which I preached at home a few weeks ago. Here, I did the first part during the Bible class and the second during the assembly. There was a denominational lady present that they have been teaching. There were no visible responses. Immediately after the services, Lordy took me back to catch a bus as their schedule was very busy. The trip took far less time to get back to Manila — the shortest trip between Angeles and Manila I have ever had.

Today (Monday), I was taken by Ely Ebeunga to the maximum security prison in Muntinlupa to meet Kathy and get a document needed for Willie’s release, then go to another government office in Manila for another document needed. After some delay, it appears the needed documents have now been satisfied. Please keep this matter in your prayers that he may soon be released.

Tomorrow morning, I fly out on my way back home, the Lord willing. If I counted correctly in reviewing my reports, there have been 12 souls baptized into Christ during this two-week effort. I have talked with Jonathan Carino today with preliminary plans for another trip to the Visayas starting in early November. With my illness over the past several months, I am far behind in meeting invitations to preach. This trip answered commitments that were 2 years old. The Lord willing, the next trip will answer requests from denominational preachers and denominational churches that have asked us to come for several months to over a year. The field is indeed white to harvest! I am thankful to God for His blessings to allow me to take part in the work again. I am also thankful to each of you for helping to support and encourage this work. Without you, it would not be possible and I cannot adequately express my thanks for your help. God bless!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Two Baptized in Piat, Cagayan

Our last day of preaching in northern Luzon was with the Aquib church in Piat, Cagayan. (The path to the building requires a bit of a climb.) Brother Dennis Yuson preaches with the congregation. Dennis is a very faithful man who has served the Lord with great zeal and sacrifice all of the time that I have known him. He has recently lost all of his support because it was all coming from a congregation that has helped for many years, but is unable to continue. He is now in great need, but continues an exemplary work.

After a period of singing, I gave the first lesson on “Salvation and the Seed - God’s Word.” It was a fundamental lesson showing that the gospel of Christ is where we must go for all authority in religious practice today. Since Piat is one of the biggest strongholds for Catholicism in the Philippines, I thought that was the best place to start our studies for the day. Jerome Forelo summarized the lesson into Tagalog, which is the national language. Rody followed with a lesson on “Heed God’s Warnings.” At the end of the lesson, he extended an invitation and two young ladies responded to confess their faith and be baptized into Christ.

Following the lunch break, I preached on “If I Obey the Gospel, I Will…” It was a very fundamental, first principles lesson on the plan of salvation. Edgar Licodini summarized the lesson into the Ilocono dialect which is spoken by many in this area. Rody ended the studies for the day with a lesson from James 4 on “This Is Your Life.” After that lesson, he again extended the invitation, but there were no more visible responses.

It was so extremely hot today and we felt totally washed out by about 4pm when the meeting ended. Both Rody and I are also having a great deal of problems with our voices and a bothersome cough. I will be happy to sleep in a little tomorrow as my flight to Manila does not depart until about 1pm. Rody and Tessie say they will also enjoy the rest. How Rody does this week after week in an almost continuous motion of preaching in so many places is beyond me. He and Tessie have my admiration for all they do in the kingdom!

We ended the day with a final meal at the Gumpad’s home. To their children and grandchildren, I am “Papa Bear” and I enjoy the time with them so very much. One of Mark and Joy’s children is a girl named for my Leslie! It was a good way to end our work together.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Four Baptized in Gattaran

Our venue for Wednesday was the building of the Lapogan congregation in Gattaran, Cagayan. Brother Joben Jocobo, who was a former student in a Preacher Training Program at Tuguegarao, is preaching there along with his good father, Celso. Celso has been a steady influence for good for a number of years along with his faithful wife, Florencia. Joben has been one of the shining star to go through the PTP and has done much good in the cause of Christ together with his good wife, Miriam.

The morning session started with my sermon on “Repentance” which focused on the nature of true repentance as seen in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. Rody summarized the lesson briefly, then preached a lesson on “Repeating Naaman’s Mistakes” from 2 Kings 5:1-14. It noted the things which did not bring cleansing to Naaman and paralleled those things with mistakes man can make in religious matters which will not result in the cleansing of their souls. At the end of the lesson, Rody extended the invitation and four responded to be baptized.

After lunch, I presented an extended lesson that examined “Baptism in the New Testament vs Denominational Baptism.” We started with the principles on baptism introduced in the baptism of John, then looked at the baptism of the Great Commission as it was carried out in the book of Acts, and ended by seeing how baptism was viewed in the epistles as Christians looked back on their baptism. Rody summarized the lesson in the dialect and extended another invitation, but none responded at that time.

We are about to have the Wednesday evening Bible study at Tuguegarao and I have been asked to teach on Psalm 127. So, I will close for now and get ready. Again, I am very thankful for your interest in this work and for your prayers. God bless!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Two Baptized in Tuguegarao Studies

Today’s venue was the building of the Metro Tuguegarao congregation where we had an all-day Bible study. The announced purpose was for preachers and their wives in the area to come for studies directed at helping and encouraging them. However, as is often the case, others came besides just preachers and their spouses. Several non-Christians came as well, so I changed the plan for the lessons to adjust to that need in the afternoon.

The morning began with a lengthy period of singing before the studies began. Rody led the congregation in a very spirited way and all were encouraged by the gathering of numerous brothers and sisters who lifted their voices together in praise to God. I the preached a lesson on “The Life of Joseph: Characteristics of Faithfulness.” It was especially aimed at discussing the needs of preachers and their families to give priority to faithfully delivering the word of God, living lives of purity, forgiving others, forsaking vengeance, depending on God’s providence and looking to our hope of a heavenly reward. After the lesson, Rody summarized in the dialect because several present did not know English. I the preached on “How Does Love Act? - Essentials of Bible Love.” This lesson was taken from Romans 12:9-13. Rody also summarized it in the dialect before we dismissed for lunch.

Since the morning session had gone to 1pm, we had only time for one lesson and summary in the afternoon. So, after some more congregational singing, I preached on “The Blood of Christ and the Salvation of Sinners.” The lesson examine how blood was required for remission of sins, but the blood of animals under the old law could not take away sins. But the blood of Jesus Christ provided a price of sufficient value to forgive the sins of all men. The conclusion showed how we come in contact with the blood of Christ and are forgiven of our sins when we are baptized into the death of Christ. Rody summarized the lesson again and extended the invitation. Two precious souls responded and were baptized into Christ, rising to walk in a new life free from sin!

Thank you again for your continued interest in this work and your prayers on our behalf. God bless!

Monday, September 22, 2014

One Responds in Rizal, Kalinga

Our Monday began with a drive of about one hour to work with the Centro Rizal church which is in the province of Kalinga. Brother Geronimo Ganela preaches regularly with this congregation. While we had to pass the same rough highway as yesterday, the building is very near the highway, so we avoided the pothole tour experienced yesterday. For this, I am very grateful!

The day’s meeting began with the singing of numerous songs, many in the dialect, and then the preaching. Rody began with a lesson on “Problems Facing the Church.” I followed with a lesson on the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) showing it is the foundation of the gospel message, not a correction of misunderstandings about the old law. We noted in some detail how the gospel differs in purpose, nature and substance from the law of Moses. We ended by making application to how a misunderstanding of the Sermon on the Mount has led many in denominations to believe we are still under that law and justify their religious practices on the basis of that law. We noted the same problem with those among brethren who have abused this passage in an effort to teach their “One Eternal Covenant” theories as well as false teaching on divorce and remarriage.

After lunch, we had numerous songs and one sermon. I preached on “Grace, Faith and Works: Is Obedience Essential to Salvation?” It was a first principles lesson showing how grace, faith and works obedience come together in God’s plan for our salvation. After the lesson, brother Geronimo Ganela extended the invitation and Ben Vistro led a song of invitation. One man responded to the Lord’s call, confessed his faith and was baptized into Christ.

Thank you again for your prayers and support. God bless!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday in Tuguegarao and Kalinga

Our Lord’s Day labors began at the Metro congregation in Tuguegarao. Rody taught the Bible class. Since it was mostly in their dialect, I was not able to understand enough to give a synopsis. Our worship period followed a very short break. The singing for today was in English as were several of the prayers. I preached on “Striving Together for the Faith” from Philippians 1:27-30. There seemed to be very good attention and interest, but there were no visible responses to the gospel invitation.

After eating another fantastic meal cooked by Tessie and the girls, we were on the road again to Rizal, Kalinga. Brother Rolando Agpoon preaches with the Tagapan congregation there. To get to their place, you must leave the main road and go for about 15 to 20 minutes on a dirt road that had many huge potholes due to the recent typhoons. My back felt every one of them… twice — going and coming back! :-)

They had delayed their worship until 2pm for us to join them. By that time, it was sweltering with not even a stirring of a breeze. Rody did the Bible class in their dialect. At the end of it, he was so drenched with sweat he went to change his shirt in the car. Their worship was all in the dialect except for my sermon. I spoke on “Lessons Learned Too Late” and they seemed to fully understand it despite me preaching in English. At the invitation, there were no responses.

After visiting and having snacks with Rolando, his wife and some of the family in their home, we returned to Tuguegarao. After another great meal at the Gumpad’s home, I returned to my hotel to get ready for tomorrow. The Lord willing, we will again be in Rizal, Kalinga, but working with another congregation where brother Geronimo Genela preaches.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Preaching in Isabela

Please excuse the absence of reports for the past few days. I could not send them due to a lack of internet connection over the past few days. My last time to be able to connect was when I was in Manila on Wednesday. I am again in Tuguegarao where we have a connection and I hope we have resolved the problem which prevented logging in to the wifi here.

Thursday was a day of travel, but not an ordinary one. Rody, Tessie and I were to depart Manila at 11:15am for our one-hour flight to Tuguegarao. About noon, we were informed our plane was diverted to Zamboanga, but assured another was coming soon for our flight. Two hours later, we were told that plane was had mechanical problems. At about 2:15pm, we were loaded on buses to take us to the plane at an auxiliary gate. (In other words, it was sitting out on the tarmac). After waiting in buses on the tarmac for over half an hour, we got on an unbelievably hot plane. After much sweat, we began to taxi towards our take-off runway, but soon stopped. After some time, we were informed the computers were “malfunctioning” so we would have to board another plane. So, we went back to the spot on the tarmac, waited in a hot plane for a while, got on buses again, took a long ride to another hot plane parked at another spot on the tarmac, and boarded a third plane. After more than 5 hours of delay, we were finally able to leave. You may wonder what compensation you get after such a delay. The answer: one cup of Ramon noodles, but you have to provide the hot water! Ah, the joys of luxury travel!
Friday, we traveled over three hours south to Quirino where Sammie Greneta preaches with the Saguday congregation. The effects of a recent typhoon Were evident in several places as some crops were destroyed and we experienced intermittent rain and wind from another typhoon coming towards northern Luzon at that time. It rained on and off at the venue throughout the day, but the attendance and interest were very good. I started the day by preaching on “Salvation and Saul.” Rody followed with a lesson answering several aspects of the premillennial doctrine. (The brethren there had asked Rody to speak on that subject since several Pentecostals had been invited and they were very trouble about that doctrine.) After lunch, I spoke on “Let Us Not Grow Weary” from Galatians 6:7-9. It was a lesson I had been asked to preach to encourage brethren not to lose heart in their service to God and to show all the greatness of the hope we have in a heavenly home which should give us a reason to continue a life of faith no matter the cost. Rody concluded the day with a sermon on the Lord’s church and how it differs from denominationalism. He ended by extending the invitation and two responded immediately to be baptized into Christ with another deciding to be baptized after a short question/answer period.

After the dismissal, we spent a long time talking with Kathy Pastor, Willie’s wife, concerning what we learned on Wednesday and discussing plans for her to follow-up on his papers to assure the best possible chance for his release from prison in the very near future. Several individual brethren provided funds for me to use at my discretion and I used them to help Kathy have the funds needed to travel to and within Manila so as to do the vital follow-up for Willie’s release. The Lord willing, I will join her and others on Monday, September 30 to show interest in his case again at the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

After spending the night at a small hotel in a city between on venue on Friday and the one for Saturday, we traveled about two hours to the place for preaching today. It was in Roxas, Isabela where Danny Dangalan preaches. Our venue was on the fourth floor of a hotel in spacious function room. Of course, there was no elevator, so it was up the very steep, small stair we go. Since the effects of the typhoon were getting a little worse as we were further north than the previous day, the wind was a little stronger, but the rain was diminished. It made for less heat in the room which had no air conditioning. To start, I preached on “God’s Use of Prophets,” a lesson on inspiration. Rody followed with a lesson that combined two or three of his lessons, closing with an invitation. None obeyed the gospel at that time. Since it was only a half-day lecture, we start back to Tuguegarao after eating some lunch and arrived safely about two hours later.

Tomorrow, we will be preaching with the Metro Tuguegarao congregation in the morning and traveling to Palca in the afternoon, the Lord willing. Thank you again for your interest in the work of the Lord here in the Philippines.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Report for Wednesday

The trip started out on Monday with an early flight to Minneapolis. After a 5-hour layover, I made the connection to Tokyo. It was the smoothest flight into Tokyo that I have ever experienced! After clearing Japanese security, I connected with the flight to Manila which arrived about 10pm Tuedsay, local time (9am on Tues. CDST). The early arrival allowed me to call Leslie and let her know I arrived safely before she started teaching her ladies’ class at home.

My Wednesday was a very full day. Rody Gumpad and Ely Ebuenga met me at the hotel with a taxi they had contracted to go to the prison to see Willie. As most of you know, Willie Pastor is a preacher of the gospel who was imprisoned for actions which were clearly in self-defense as well as saving other innocent life from one armed with a gun. However, the family of the perpetrator has a great deal of money and a great injustice was done. Despite such injustice, Willie has faithfully preached the gospel in the prison system and has baptized over 500 by the last count I had. We were able to visit Willie and as well as some officials to express our hope that he would soon be released.

As I write this note, it is early Thursday morning here. The lack of sleep finally caught up with me last night and I fell asleep about 7pm. I had intended to write this report last night, but was so exhausted that I could not stay up to eat or write. So, here I am at 4am rested and ready to go! Rody, Tessie and I are due to fly to Tuguegarao later this morning. However, a typhoon is moving in that direction, so we are not sure if the plane will be able to leave today or whether we might have to take the bus to get up there. Please pray that the plane will be able to make the trip! The 12 to 14 hour bus ride up there is not a desirable way to travel. Having done it several times before, I would appreciate not having to do it again!

Thank you so much for your support and interest in this work! Without interested brethren who sacrifice and pray for these efforts, I would not have the opportunity and honor of taking part in this vital work. With ever place we go and ever work undertaken, I am always mindful of your sacrifices and prayers on our behalf. God bless!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Distribution of Benevolence — Bogo, Cebu & Northern Negros


We had a little later start Saturday morning with a 6:30am start for the two and a half hour drive to the north end of Cebu Island where we met our brethren in Bogo. Our van driver was another of the NASCAR audition variety. We went on the wrong side of the road, off the road, within inches of other vehicles (on every side), riding bumpers, playing chicken and a host of other terrorizing feats that left me close to several coronaries. Nevertheless, we made it safely. On the way, we again saw the great devastation that Yolanda brought to the area. The damage done was roughly comparable to Ormoc, but northern Cebu has not gotten the attention from the international media like Leyte. Just as in Leyte, however, the assistance of the Philippine government is non-existent.

The brethren from four different churches in the Bogo area had gathered at a hotel where we have held lectures several times. The church in central Bogo City also meets in one of its function rooms each Lord’s Day. We found a corner of the lobby where we could get aside and discuss the needs present. Not all of the members of the Libertad and Libjo churches were able to come due to the distance, but the benevolent help was put into the hands of faithful brethren from those churches for delivery to each member. The recipients signed for the amount given and the purposes for which it was intended. The same was also done with those from the other congregations within Bogo receiving benevolence where most of the members were present.

The average in the Bogo area was that about two thirds of the homes were either destroyed or damaged, the majority being damage rather than destruction. In Leyte, virtually every house was affected, with the vast majority being destroyed. Yet, the benevolent funds needed were not that different due to the much larger number of brethren in and around Bogo. The church in Libjo alone has 72 members, with a much larger attendance due to the number of smaller children who have not yet obeyed the gospel. The need for food continues to be great in the area as well. The brethren expressed great gratitude to all of those brethren in the U.S. who had sacrificed so much to help them.

One quick point might be good to add here. One of the brethren with whom we spoke today was immediately familiar to me, but not as a brother in Christ. When I came to Cebu last August for some lectures with denominational people, Fredricko was a Baptist preacher very vocal in his opposition to our teaching on the necessity of water baptism for the remission of sins. In the question/answer session, I pressed him after reading 1 Peter 3:21 as to whether he could say "Amen" to the passage. He said that he could not and we suggested to him that there is something wrong in our beliefs if we cannot say "Amen" to the reading of any passage. When I saw him this time, he told me that he was so disturbed by what he heard in that one day that he could not sleep and did not return the next day. It bothered him so much that he could not escape the clear teaching of Scripture and its refutation of his belief in the "faith only" doctrine. Within a few days, Jonathan Carino baptized him into Christ at the beginning of September! Praise God for the power and clarity of His word!

We returned straight from Bogo to the airport in Cebu City where we caught a flight to Bacolod. Jack Jaco and Shem Tagapan met us there. We crammed all of our bags and all 4 of us (plus the driver) into a small taxi, then proceeded to the hotel.  The other brethren and I then went our separate ways so we could all finish work that had to be done and preparations for the work on the Lord’s Day.


We left the hotel at 7:30am on Sunday so we could be at Victorias City by the 8:30am start of their services. They usually begin the worship at 7am, but delayed to make things easier on us. I preached the lesson for this morning on “Breaking Temptation’s Hold” and the local brethren led in the remainder of the worship.

After services, we left immediately for Escalante City to meet with the brethren of several congregations about their needs. This is where things got interesting. Jack had not understood my question when I asked how many churches had needs in that area which we needed to address. He said there were three, but thought I was asking about only those in Escalante City itself. After a couple of hours where we discussed and provided for the needs of those congregations, I thought we were ready to go, but it was obvious several others were waiting to talk with me. As it turned out, those from15 different churches had needs to present as a result of much damage done to our brethren on
northern Negros. So, I sat in the same chair for 8 hours straight, without a break of any kind, in order to discuss the needs presented and attempt to meet the essential cases that we could meet. I was not aware of the extent of damage done in this region until I came here today. We could not meet all of the needs presented, but did what we could to discern the cases of the most pressing actual ones. Again, the brethren left with much gratitude for the benevolent help extended. We were so late leaving Escalante that we could not get to Bacolod in time to address the needs of two congregations there. Since I had had nothing to eat since the 6am breakfast and no break from the work, my mind was exhausted and I could not have continued anyway. Brethren from those churches will meet us tomorrow morning.

As happened on my November trip, the internet connection at the hotel in Bacolod is weak and sometimes totally down. Such was the case last night when I could not get it to stay connected long enough to send the emailed report. All attempts to do anything with posting on the blog were totally hopeless. So, I am attempting to send two reports at the same time tonight.

Thank you again for your very loving help sent to these brethren in need. May God bless your every effort in His service.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Distribution of Benevolence - Tacloban

Our morning again started very early at 4:30am which meant a wake-up time of about 3am. The short night left Jonathan with only one hour of sleep and me with about three hours. Our 6am departure on the flight to Tacloban meant we had to be at the airport at 5am. We have decided these are not the hours for a couple of old men!

The flight to Tacloban was on a prop plane and was only about 45 minutes in length. Upon arrival, the level of damage was immediately obvious. The hangers that were at the airport are no longer present. The terminal building is missing a whole wall of glass that used to enclose it on the side towards the gates. The inside is gutted of all walls, ceiling and fixtures. Temporary plywood dividers mark off the various areas. Before leaving the airport, I fell off an unmarked step that was cracked and took a tumble onto the pavement. My left hand was scrapped and my left ankle turned. As I got up and started walking, I just had to laugh at how I must look walking with a bad right hip and a strained left ankle, limping on both legs in blood-stained pants. No serious damage, but a graceful entrance it was not!

Driving out of the airport towards the meeting place of the Scandinavian Village congregation in Tacloban took us by a large part of the total destruction of this city. Though I have visited and preached in Tacloban numerous times, I could not recognize the city at all. There are tents, bare modular units, military-looking shelters and other temporary dwellings provided by the U.S. and the U.N. — which actually means the U.S. has provided the vast bulk of all of it. Various nations from around the world have sent in heavy equipment to help with cleanup, so progress is apparent, but very slow due to the vast devastation.

There is truly no way to describe in words or even in pictures the level of destruction in this city. When you see a full-size ship sitting where buildings were, a good distance from the water, it makes clear the power of the storm surge that leveled much of the city. Though Ormoc was the worst destruction I had ever seen to that point, what I saw in Tacloban made Ormoc look good. As we went through what used to be a densely populated area in the city with the sea in view, we could not help but think how many thousands died in that very area.

There is far more construction activity apparent in Tacloban than was evident in Ormoc. At first, you see there are very flimsy structures of aged material that you see and wonder how it could have survived. But on closer look, it becomes clear that they have been recently put together from remnants of buildings destroyed in the typhoon.

When we got to the village where Nilo Zabala lives and labors (across a bridge of coconut trunks), brethren from that congregation as well as those from Abuyog and several churches on Samar had gathered. We got right to work trying to find out the needs that existed since we only had about 3 or 4 hours before we had to leave and fly back to Cebu.

Most families in the church at Tacloban had totally lost their houses. Some are now living in places providing little to no protection from the elements. We were able to relate assistance from the generous gifts of many brethren in America. As in San Vicente the previous day,funds were given to buy construction materials to start building shelters where homes were destroyed and to do essential repairs to houses badly damaged. Let me be clear that we did not provide funds sufficient to fully rebuild a finished house. Our purpose was pure benevolence — helping with materials to provide a shell structure to protect from the element with the brethren doing the necessary labor. There was also a continuing need for food. The same process was repeated to address the needs of the smaller congregation in Abuyog.

The homes of the brethren in Samar were not severely damaged, but they were in great need of food since their needs had not been addressed in any way since the typhoon. There is a large number of brethren on Samar and we recognized that their need for food was very serious, needing to be addressed immediately. All of the brothers and sisters in these places were overflowing with thanks to their American brethren who had provided these things. They asked me to express their deep gratitude!

When we got back to Cebu, we went to the bank where we redeemed the remainder of the MoneyGrams. By my rough computations, the funds provided by many of you will be sufficient to meet the needs that can be addressed at this time on Leyte, Samar, northern Cebu and northern Negros. This is where the bulk of the destruction was done by Yolanda. In some of those areas, there are a large number of our brethren, while in other areas the number is much smaller as the work there is very new.

After many years of little results on Leyte, the Lord’s work has grown at a very fast pace over the last two years. Much of the reason for that has to do with three preachers who are earnestly spreading the gospel — Nilo Zabala, Juanito Esquadra and Willie Pelino. The work of a very zealous man, Manuel Epilogo, converted about two years ago has also been extremely fruitful. Beyond the benevolent need, there is a great need for support of Nilo Zabala, Juanito Esquadra and Willie Pelino who are effectively doing the work, though not receiving enough support to adequately provide for their families. With the recent calamity and its illustration the temporary nature of this life, it is an ideal time to further press the saving gospel of Christ and the eternal salvation available by His grace to those who obey His will.

Thanks again for all of your help in material and spiritual assistance. I wish you could all see firsthand the faces of these brethren who are in great need, but made to rejoice and feel the love of brethren who have reached across the globe to help them because of the bond we all share in Christ Jesus. May God bless you richly for making this all possible!