Thank you for your many prayers and words of encouragement over the last few weeks while I was serving on a short-term missions trip in the Philippines. Though it had its ups and downs, the trip went really well and much ministry was accomplished. I’m excited to share the highlights with you in this letter, hoping you will you will rejoice in what God has done.
The first Monday morning came way too early after a long flight and a short night of sleep. The day began at 9:00am as I preached at a school graduation event. The entire event went 3 hours (my sermon was only 23 minutes). Afterward we went to a large grocery store where the Christian owner gives his workers an extra hour break if they attend a Bible study. I spoke at two study times back-to-back. That evening, we went to a memorial service for a pastor who had died suddenly, leaving a wife and eight children behind. I was asked to give the sermon and had to write up an outline quickly. Jason Skidmore (one of my teammates) and I slept well that night! Over the next week, Jason and I would visit churches and schools, where I would preach after he gave his testimony and sang. We even visited two police stations and had a late night visit with the governor of the province where I shared the gospel and its implications for our life. One of the benefits of the Filipino culture is an openness to the gospel and a freedom to preach that isn’t found here in the United States. When we would be invited into a school, teachers and students alike would be brought in to listen to the message. At the police stations, all of the personnel were required to listen. The churches we visited were very hospitable. Not only did they welcome us as fellow believers, but they always were generous in providing food after the service. (You’ll never go hungry in the Philippines!)
Late on Saturday of the first week, Doug Brubaker (another teammate) arrived and we geared up for Sunday service with our sister church in the city of Marilou, also called Crossway Christian Church. This is a new church celebrating it’s one year anniversary, which had help starting by our local Filipino partner, Jun Taguinod. We had attended services there last year when I preached the commissioning for the pastor. It was a joy to be with them again and have friendships renewed. (Face-to-face is always better than Facebook!) Several young people were involved leading the music. The pastor’s son—who is also studying for ministry—led the service with Scripture and prayer. Though all talented, I was most impressed by the young people’s evident sincerity and God-centeredness. I preached during the service and afterward, we had a sweet time of lunch of fellowship. It’s so encouraging to see congregations that love the gospel growing and thriving. Thanks to the generosity of The Gospel Coalition’s International Outreach ministry, we were able to take 32 ESV Global Study Bible’s to the church for free. They were a welcome gift!
During the second week, we continued visiting churches, Doug sharing his testimony, Jason singing, and me preaching. All of that came together on the Thursday of the second week when we all preached at a conference for pastors. Last year I was the sole speaker, giving 2 sermons and 2 workshops for about 16 pastors. This year, the number went up to over 50 pastors in attendance. After a local pastor gave a sermon from Hebrews 3-4, Jason preached on the completeness and sufficiency of Scripture from Hebrews 1:1-4. Afterward, I preached twice under the theme of 1 Tim 4:16—“watch your life and doctrine.” Doug preached on the necessity of gospel purity from Gal 1:6-10. Finally, I gave a workshop on expositional preaching, showing why I preach expositionally and how to preach expositionally through books of the Bible. All of the messages were well-received. There was a great time of Q&A after the workshop. It was especially evident from many of the younger pastors that they are serious about their task and crave more training for the task. Again, thanks to the generosity of TGCIO we handed out books to all of the pastors in attendance—Galatians for You by Keller, The Supremacy of God in Preaching by Piper, and Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology by the T4G leadership. The fourth book we gave away was the 9 Marks’ ejournal on the dangers of the prosperity gospel, which we gained special permission to print for this trip. One of the younger guys came up after the event and thanked me for the books we brought. He commented, “These are not the usual kinds of books people give away.”
After that trip highpoint, Jason had to head home. On our way to the airport, Jun’s van broke down on the highway. We spent an hour on the highway at 3:00am while two taxis tried to jump us and we had to MacGuyver a new connection to the alternator. Ahh, mission trips! After some rest, Doug and I went to a wedding that evening. The bride had attended last year’s summer camp and asked me to give the message when she found out I would be in country the day of her wedding. That was incredibly gracious of her and we enjoyed the food and fellowship we had with other pastors and guests in attendance. The groom was a Navy-man and one of the highlights was the military procedures for the events—including the cutting of the cake with his uniform saber!
The final weekend was a blur of activity as we visited two churches and a new Bible study. The week before, we had visited a local group called The Guardians—something similar to the Rotary Club here in the States. It was the first time they had invited in someone to preach to them so I presented a clear gospel message. The response was immediate and overwhelming. They asked for us to come back and begin a weekly Bible study which is what we did. The evening church was one we’d been to before, Christchurch Baptist Fellowship. The church is hosted by a couple who once so poor that they lived in a graveyard. Now own a business making soap which is about to obtain permits for international sales. They love God and want to glorify him with their business. The church meets in their home every Sunday where they provide dinner for those in attendance. We had spent time with them last year and it was great to see them again on this trip.
There’s so much more I could tell you about the abundant generosity of the people there (who have very little themselves), the great time of getting to know our brothers and sisters in Christ, and amazing ways we saw God at work. More than anything, I want to thank you for your prayerful support. All told, was able to speak over 30 times in the two weeks that I was in the Philippines. If lasting fruit comes from those messages it will be given by God in answer to your prayers and in faithfulness to his promises. Furthermore, whenever we began to have engine troubles in our van, health issues, or other difficulties on the trip, it was evident that God was with us and providing for our needs in response to your prayers for us.
I want to leave you with some long-term prayer requests for the advancement of the gospel and the growth of the Church in the Philippines. Please pray for—
- The local church pastors. Many of them have little training or resources. Pray that God provides for their physical needs. More importantly, pray that he keeps them from doctrinal error and provide encouragement for them to persevere in ministry.
- Up and coming pastors. Many of these young men are passionate for theology as much as ministry. Pray that these two are wed in helpful ways as they avoid errors of the past and give themselves fully to shepherding God’s flock.
- Openness to the gospel. Unlike so many countries, the gospel moves freely in the country, even among schools and government offices. Pray that it would continue to hit the minds and hearts of men and women who need to hear of Christ, and that God would grant them faith that leads to repentance and life.
- Follow up to decisions. Through our ministry efforts, approximately 80 people prayed to receive Christ. Pray for the pastors doing follow up work to have discernment as to the understanding of those who prayed as well as patience and diligence in the follow up work of disciple-making.
- Ministry partnerships. Ask God to strengthen the partnerships among churches in the Philippines as well as among churches there and here in the US. Especially pray for the Great Commission Baptist Association as they support church planters and try to encourage cooperation and fellowship among pastors.
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.