Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Final Report for This Trip

As I left the story in my last report, we made travel arrangements for what is called a “sleeper bus” from Tuguegarao to Manila, leaving Tuesday night and arriving the next morning. You may recall that I had serious doubts about the claims for this to be a “luxury” accommodation with “large and comfortable” berths for each of us on this 9-hour tour (three times that of Gilligan and company’s faithful trip). Nonetheless, it was the only game in town, so we had to take it. Rody and Tessie insisted upon joining us as Rody was afraid for us to make the trip by ourselves. In retrospect, that should have told me something.

As we arrived to the bus facility and I caught the first glimpse of the bus, Chip Foster tapped me and said something to the effect of, “Uh oh, that’s not the bus I looked at yesterday.” It seems that Rody thought it would be best to take this “sleeper bus” that would give us “like a bed” in which to sleep. If the berths were “like a bed,” I somehow missed the likeness. They were made of metal covered with vinyl and the very thinnest veneer of padding. That was the best thing I can say about them. Their length and breadth was barely sufficient for one the size of an average Filipino. Those of you who know me recognize that I do not approximate that size.
To get to the berth, I had to go down an isle that was no more than 18 inches wide! How did I do it? With very great difficulty! When poured into the berth, every side was compressed. Poor Chip, who is taller than I am, practically had his knees in his chin. I figured out that, if I put my briefcase just below my hips with a pillow on top, I could make my legs go up and over then down and stay within the berth. Of course, learning how to fit within the berth did nothing to help with the bone-jarring ride that was constantly bad, often painful and occasionally breath taking! That was not an experience I wish to relive. We arrived in Manila after about 10 hours and were very happy to see the hotel bed.

The news reports I had heard about the APEC summit in Manila and its effect on traffic was not exaggerated. We were able to get into the hotel easily coming from the north, but that is literally as far as one can easily get. The road in front of the hotel that goes by the airport and on towards Pasay is virtually closed. From that point, down Roxas Avenue to the U.S. Embassy, traffic is in gridlock. Rody and Tessie had to use the road past the airport towards the Mall of Asia and Roxas to get to their place in Pasay. They had to get out and walk the rest of the way home because traffic was at a standstill.

A funny story being played on Philippine news cracked me up. It seems a policeman refused to let President Obama’s motorcade pass on a closed road because he “had no authorization” to let him pass. So, the president had to get out of his car and walk about 900 meters to the conference like everyone else. (People in the Philippines are getting angrier by the day at domestic flights cancellations and huge traffic problems associated with the APEC summit and largely perceived as measure forced on them by demands of the Obama administration to address security concerns.) The high level of security is readily evident around our hotel with heavily armed Philippine National Police everywhere. Frankly, I am more at ease seeing them out to deal with any problems that might occur. I have given up on getting out at all tomorrow to do logistical work I had planned earlier.

Chip is due to fly home tomorrow, the Lord willing. Please keep him in your prayers. I will follow on Friday and am very much ready to be home! Thanks again for you support, prayers, encouragement and concern expressed in so many way. May God bless you in His service.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tuguegarao Lectures on Book of Revelation - 5 Baptized

This was my last day of preaching for this trip. Since Chip Foster was still not feeling well, Rody and I had worked out a way we could cover the lectures and then get to the benevolent distribution afterwards. However, our plans got changed for us when I was eating breakfast.

Jonathan Carino called after getting an email from Cebu-Pacific saying the flight that Chip and I were to take on Wednesday had been canceled just as our Tuesday flight was a few days before. That put us into a scramble to arrange for another way to get to Manila. Chip became ill again after he came to the morning session and he had to lie down until lunch. Rody was talking with the brethren affected by the typhoon to let me know about the needs in hopes we could make the process a bit easier for trying to distribute later. Chip was going to help with that task, but was unable.

After lunch, Rody had to take Chip to see what arrangements could be made and I took all lectures with only one break for one song. As for the travel arrangements, we now have reservations for what is called a “sleeper bus” from Tuguegarao that will leave Tuesday evening our time and arrive in Manila the next morning. The trip is usually 12 hours or more by bus, but they claim this one will only be 9 hours as it is a non-stop express. I must admit that, having come over here for the last 15 years, I have my doubts that this will be anything even close to a mode of luxury travel. Philippine roads make any travel on them a jarring experience.

The lectures went very well. The first lesson was an introduction to the book of Revelation that included an overview of the entire book. After one song, I used the rest of the time before lunch to teach on the letters to the seven churches. Rody came in for the latter part of that lesson and extended an invitation. Three responded to be baptized. As they were getting prepared for the baptisms, two more decided to be baptized as well for a total of five.

After lunch, I taught one lesson wherein I told the story of the Apocalypse while using PowerPoint charts to paint the “vision” as best as I could. It took about 40 to 45 minutes. I have found it to be a simple way to get the main, simple lesson across without the confusion of being bogged down in questions about whether there is a historical counterpart to each figure. I do not believe that every figure in the book is intended to represent a parallel person or event in history anymore than every element in a parable was intended to represent something. Apocalyptic literature was used to convey one main thought. In the case of this book, it seems a very plain and straightforward point is depicted – that our Lord and those who serve Him will have victory over any opposition or source of persecution, regardless of how hopeless the situation may seem during a time of deep oppression. After another one-song break, we had a good question/answer session to end our time.

After the lectures, I went immediately into Rody’s house where we set up a table to facilitate the distribution of the benevolence. We were able to give some help every congregation that was asking for assistance due to the destruction brought by the recent typhoon. Some areas are still flooded and unable to get out, but our communication with them and witnesses who had seen those areas let us set aside the amount they believed to be needed as well. Earlier in the day, we found out about a need of which I was unaware and Rody was as well. The local preacher (whom I have known and respected) came with several brothers and sisters from a remote area. They let us know that one faithful brother in Christ died during the typhoon as he was swept away by the river. His wife was left as a widow with nothing and no way to buy their food. When it was told, the brethren present wanted to help this sister and they gave about 3000 pesos (a little over $65) which I thought was pretty good as most of those present were very poor. We were able to extend additional help to her from the funds provided by very generous brethren in the U.S.

I will be sending out a report by email to those who gave in this effort, but the total I received to distribute was $10,200 (which was exchanged to 477,800 Philippine pesos). Two witnesses signed for each portion of the funds to provide a plurality of witnesses to what was given, its purpose and who was to receive the funds. All of the money was distributed to those in need and they were profuse in their thanks and requests that I relate their deep gratitude to the loving brethren in the U.S. who gave to help them in this time of calamity. All were overwhelmed and deeply moved by the level of help from their brothers and sisters across the sea. I also add my deep appreciation for the outpouring of love shown by my brethren in the U.S.

Please keep us in your prayers that we might have safety in our travels. The APEC summit in Manila seems to have the city in near gridlock with many roads closed and a very high level of security evident. I am not sure I will be able to do the logistical work I had planned for Thursday, but will give it a try. Chip and I both are looking forward to flying back home later this week, the Lord willing.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Lord's Day in Tuguegarao

Being the Lord’s Day here, Chip and I were due to be picked up at 8:30am and go to services where he was to do the Bible study and I was to preach in the assembly hour. We were a little late being picked up, but made it to the building in time to get right in to the Bible class. Chip taught from Proverbs 30:24-28 on “Learning from Little Creatures,” focusing mostly on the locust and the spider. He did a good job and made very good application to all. I followed with a lesson from Luke 24 entitled “On the Road to Emmaus.” I dealt with the change seen in the disciples’ thinking from when they started on the road and the radically different mindset they had at the end. We then drew a parallel to our walk in life. An invitation was extended, but there were no visible responses. There were about 140 present for the services.

After the services, we had an excellent lunch with the Gumpad family. It had been a longer time than the normal interval since I had been there, but Tessie has not lost any of her cooking ability! A good time was had by all as we ate, joked and reminisced about past times together. To the Gumpad children and grandchildren, I am known as “Pappa Bear” and we love each other like family. It is always a pleasure to be with them and see their faith, dedication and tender hearts.

Following lunch, I went back to the hotel to work on the lectures for tomorrow and Chip went to preach for the Palca congregation. Rody was going to go with Chip, but I got his son-in-law, Mark, to take Chip and let Rody rest for the afternoon. Rody begrudgingly agreed and took me to the hotel. We had a long talk and he admitted that he is still having a great deal of chest pain. We had a good discussion and I urged him to slow down and mind his health. He works as hard as any preacher I have ever known anywhere in the world, but the work of the Lord in this area needs him around for more years of faithful service.

This evening, Chip has not been feeling well. It may be something that he ate at supper, but we have agreed that he will stay home tomorrow and I will handle the preaching in the lectureship. Please keep him in your prayers that he will fully regain his strength. [Additional note: I just finished going up to check on Chip after completing the report and he told me he has spoken with Lynda, so I will let you know a little more of the problem. Many of you know that Chip has had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery, so I am concerned about him on trips over here. At supper, his face made it obvious that he was not feeling right. I ask him and he said he was feeling very strange, somewhat like when he had a TIA. I immediately called Kathy Forelo (Rody’s daughter who is a medical doctor) asking her to come as soon as possible and then got a wheelchair to take Chip back to the room. After lying down for a little while, his color got better and he was better still in just the short time it took Kathy to get here. His blood pressure was still too high, but coming down. Over Chip’s objections, she insisted with his history on taking him to the hospital for an EKG and monitor his heart for a little while. They gave him a pill to bring the blood pressure down further, monitored him for a while and then released him. Kathy charged me with checking his blood pressure after 30 minutes and it was down in very good range. He was exhausted and ready to sleep and I left him so he could sleep. It has been an eventful evening, but thankfully it seems much better now. Please pray that all will continue to improve.]

Thanks again for your encouragement and prayers!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Romans Class Ends -- Tuguegarao Begins

Friday, November 13, 2015

The last day of class was very difficult for me. After writing the Thursday report, I went to the hotel services to ask if there was a place I could find out if I was running a fever since I was certain that had one. To make a long story short, a doctor staying at the hotel overheard me and went to his room to get one of those hand-held things they use to roll across the head used at doctor’s offices to check temperature. It read 102 and he noted that my lymph nodes were enlarged. After I told him what antibiotics that I had, he agreed that I should take the Cipro which I had already done. Though I felt even worse with increased cold symptoms on Friday morning, we were able to go on with the study and complete it.

We started with Romans 14 in the morning session and covered through Romans 15:13 before breaking for lunch. It was noted that the passage had a long history of abuse by those justifying a non-biblical broadening of fellowship to include doctrinal errors and sinful practices. In order to understand the kind of differences addressed in the passage, we examined the text itself, especially noting Paul’s framing of the differences. They readily saw how the context clearly shows the nature of the differences under consideration were those things wherein (1) no inherent sin was involved in the differing actions, (2) God had received those engaged in both sides of the differing actions, (3) there was liberty to do or not do the practices named, thus, (4) matters that were indifferent to God. We noted the commands to both the “weak” and the “strong” make these conclusions obvious.

In the afternoon session, we studied from Romans 15:14 to the end of the book. We took added time on Romans 15:22-29 wherein the issue of benevolence to the poor saints at Jerusalem in discussed. We noted the obvious conflict with the passage’s teaching and that of those in institutional church that advocate benevolent assistance from the church treasury to saints and alien sinners alike. We also dealt with the closing greetings and admonitions to bring our studies to a close.

Afterwards, the students were given an opportunity to express their thoughts on the week of studies. The comments were all extremely favorable with enthusiastic remarks about their hopes for future studies on other books. Each one expressed both in the class setting and in private comments that they wanted the American brethren who had given to make the classes possible that they appreciated it greatly. It was a very uplifting and edifying week for all of us who had a part in the studies. I also wish to thank all of those who helped make these classes possible. Instead of the 30 we had planned to attend the classes, we ended up having 45 or more daily. This overshot my budget by a little more than $1500, but I believe the benefit was worth the additional cost. Some of the higher costs were also due to higher prices in the aftermath of the recent typhoon that devastated the main rice growing area in the Philippines. I am trying to make funds stretch as far as possible by cutting expenses wherever possible and living on an even tighter budget for the rest of the trip.

Immediately after the end of the classes on Romans, Jonathan and Kristofer Carino joined me in going to receive several MoneyGrams and get all the funds sent for benevolence converted into Philippine pesos since the exchange rate is more favorable in Cebu than in northern Luzon where I was headed. It took a long time and the red tape was frustrating, but we got it done. I had another long night to get the funds set in order and catch up on all of the correspondence that had come in regarding the benevolent relief being sent to brethren so severely affected by the recent typhoon that hit central and northern Luzon.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

After another night with less than 3 hours of sleep, today was given to travel with a flight from Cebu to Manila followed by another to Tuguegarao. Jerome Forelo attended the classes on Romans and accompanied me in the travels of the day. We were at the airport about 7am for a flight to leave a little after 8am. We got in to Tuguegarao after 2pm. Jerome’s wife, Kathy (daughter of Rody Gumpad) and their 2 younger children met us at the airport along with Mark, another son-in-law to Rody. Mark took me to the hotel where I immediately crashed in the bed. I awoke after an hour and a half nap to my fever breaking. I am still a bit washed out, but it is obvious that the antibiotic is taking affect. Kathy Forelo is also a doctor and she confirmed a couple of hours ago that my fever was almost gone. I plan to hit the bed after sending this report out and getting the first full night of sleep for the week!

Thanks again for your prayers and concern! God bless!