Thank you for your many prayers and words of encouragement over the last few weeks. Our trip went incredibly well, and I’m excited to share the highlights with you here. My hope that is, like us, you will rejoice in what God has done.
After a long flight and a short night of sleep, we jumped right into an immediate start to ministry. The first day, we attended a fellowship service of small church, nestled back in the basement of a home. All three of us on the team served in song (Jason), testimony (Doug), and preaching (me). This became the pattern for our ministry while Jason was still with us the first week. The next day, we packed up and headed for our time at the summer camp. This was our central time of ministry together as a team. Over a hundred youth and young professionals came to learn about the Armor of God and how to deal with sin. It was a great time, where I was able to preach five times for the whole camp and teach two classes (based on Ephesians 6:10-20) for the young professionals. The result of the camp was 17 young people trusting in Christ for the first time and 11 people publicly professing their faith in baptism. It was a great time of getting to know the Filipino people and their culture, making friends with local pastors and young people.
Another major part of our trip was visiting with local churches. Some of these were established churches for many years, while others were newly planted, and some were still Bible studies in process of becoming a full church. We visited seven of these churches where I was privileged to preach each time. Each of these stand out as unique because of the opportunities we had there. At one Bible study, a man seriously confused with false teaching by one of the popular cults was willing to discuss the Bible’s true teaching. At another church, we met a young pastor who was just beginning his ministry. He is zealous for God and his word, explaining that he read a passage at least fifty times before he looks at any commentary or begins working on the sermon. (This puts to shame most pastors in the US!) The last church we visited was a new church where the pastor was being commissioned. This church was established through the ministry of the local church planter we support, and I was given the honor of preaching the commissioning sermon and praying for the pastor and his family. Every church provided an opportunity to better know the people and build relationships. All in the all, I preached 27 sermons over the two weeks of the trip.
Not all of those sermons were in churches, though. Twice my sermons involved law enforcement. The first was when I preached in the Pandi Police Station. I preached on “Real Christianity” from 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. It was a fruitful time with two police officers saying they wanted to know more about becoming Christians. The second time, I preached in the Manila City Jail. This is where people awaiting trial stay in the country’s capital city. It was a very rundown place, where we moved pretty freely through the inmate population. This was a little unsettling, but I didn’t think too much about it and preached to about 30 of the inmates who had gathered for the chapel service. Only after we left did the local pastors tell us that the jail administrators didn’t want to let us preach because we were Americans and they feared a hostage situation. This was made worse by the fact that there had big fight that had broken out the week before. When the pastors had asked for extra security (all in the local language, of course, making us completely oblivious!), they sent a couple of the “trusted” inmates with large clubs. One of the pastors told me, “Although you closed your eyes when you prayed at the end of the service, I kept mine open so I could look around and keep an eye on things!” It’s amazing how God plans for and protects his people!
The other major event we were asked to lead was a Pastors conference. There were about 15 local pastors who showed up, some of whom had never before met the local pastor/church-planter we were working with. I preached twice on the nature of pastoral ministry, then gave two workshops—one on a plan for disciple-making and another on dealing with false teachers. Because of the generosity of some Christian publishers and the coordination of the International Outreach division of The Gospel Coalition, we were able to give each pastor three books free of charge. This was a great blessing to them as good books are hard to come by and are always expensive. One of my teammates, Doug, interviewed each of these men for our church’s monthly podcast, Crossway Connected. You will be able to hear these in about a month. We hope that this conference would help establish relationships as the local pastors seek to build an association of Baptist churches in the Balucan province.
There’s so much more I could tell you about the abundant generosity of the people there (who have very little themselves), the sweet fellowship we had with brothers and sisters in Christ, and the always good but sometimes strange food we ate (like Balut and chicken feet). In the next week, more information, video, and pictures will be up at our website, where you can see more of the trip. But more than anything, I want to thank you for your prayerful support. It was evident when we began to have car problems or other difficulties that God was with us and providing for our needs. I’m confident that this was part of his response to your prayers for us!
I hope that we glorified God in this trip as we sought to make him known through the preaching of the gospel of Christ. Please continue to pray that God would bless those efforts and bring fruit that the local pastors can cultivate and harvest for Christ’s kingdom.