I forgot to mention that during the trip to San Quentin during the day we held a lesson with pastor in the afternoon following our naps. The students gathered on benches in a yard along one of the main roads leading through town. It was quite a sight to be reading Scripture and discussing it in the open air while people walked by with their caribou, cows, flocks of geese and chickens, or carrying loads in kettles strung by a bamboo rod across their shoulders! We’re not in Seattle anymore! People would stop to listen for a while and then carry on with their work. The lesson was on the various soils discussed by the Lord in the gospel of Matthew. Marben had the students read the passages and discuss them from their understanding. He then asked me to explain what the passages meant as I understood them. The student was then asked to state the soil they believe they were in. Surprisingly, the young students felt they were in stony soil but in the process of working their way out.
Friday evening we packed up the band instruments and sound system to head for Suso Beach. This is a large area with five villages and it stretches across the highway from the Philippine Sea where we did baptizing on my previous trips, to inland villages which are on rivers! On this trip we went inland to a big village in Suso. Since it was Friday evening, there was no shortage of young people present. We set up in an open area near a sponsor’s house. This village was not open to us a year ago because the “warlord” would not allow Christians in. Then Amy, Bishop Marben’s wife, walked to the village to personally visit with him and eventually brought him to Jesus! Now he is open to all our meetings and has invited us anytime. This evening he was at the meeting and gave food as a gift! It was a fun service with so many young people present. Set among five or six block houses with bamboo walls, among beautiful tropical flowers and plants, the benches were pulled into the clearing along with our plastic chairs. A light was suspended from an animal shed and, along with the porch light, gave us our “stage” with the band-- consisting of drum set (six drums, four cymbals) a bass, a keyboard, and two electric guitars-- set up in the porch,! The meeting began in prayer and then Jesus songs and dancing. Marben had five teens give their personal testimonies! Then we had worship music, and I spoke. This is followed by an altar call by Marben while I rested and then I anointed all the new believers and those repenting and returning to Jesus. Then I bless the children and the young pastors serve plates of “Chinese noodles with veggies”--their version of spaghetti! Marben says we already have over 300 applicants for baptism from the week’s programs! It seems surreal to be here in a jungle surrounded by so many who obviously adore our Lord and proclaim Him publicly wherever you go. Marben has graduated over 300 pastors now in his two-year pastoral program. There were only 36 when I was here in 2008! He has the graduates teaching the new ones and will have over 600 new pastors by 2012! It is an awesome sight! About 10 young male candidates (18-25 years old) live in the church, and they prepare their own meals, do chores and roll away their belongings and sleeping cots in the day so you do not even know they are here! They cook their meals on a propane camp stove outside my room and they wash dishes in the tiny bathroom. There is a lot going on here. Each night about five or six motorcycles are brought in for safe keeping and are put right outside my door. In addition, there are four or five female candidates here too and they sleep in room next to mine. We are in a very busy church building!
Saturday was billed as a day off to rest for Sunday. But then at 11 a.m. we had a pastors’ meeting and luncheon. The new pastor candidates prepared the meal and meeting for the rest of us. It was very nice with a buffet line set in the sanctuary. This was a “going away” party as well since Amy was leaving on Friday to fly to USA on an immigrant visa. She will have six months to apply for USA citizenship if she wishes. She will stay with oldest daughter Laura who lives in Maryland. (Via “Skype”, Laura was at our party!) Marben has a pending application too but he must get clearances from the 17 countries he has visited before he can exercise his visa. This is in process but will probably take a year or two.
The pastors’ meeting and luncheon was followed at 5 p.m. by Youth Group. I preached at both. Then at 9 p.m. there was a candidates; class for applicants to become pastors. Marben requested that I address them as a missionary. There were about 25 present. Each time I finish I go back to my room where it is air-conditioned, thinking I am done and then another program pops up. But I can always say, “No,” if it gets to be too much. Marben naps in the afternoon most days to make up for his short evening sleep. I find it hard to nap with so much going on.
Sunday was very busy. At 4:30 a.m. was the program for shop keepers so they could go set up for Sunday sales. It is a regular church service. Next at 9 a.m. we packed everything and went to Langalang, a small village, and set up service in a park area with a stage area. It was a full communion service and program. Then we went to a home for lunch. It was fun to see them use the same paper containers at lunch as we do in Seattle for spaghetti feeds! From there we went back to Suso Beach as one of the children had a birthday we needed to celebrate. We held the afternoon service there followed by the birthday party and then lunch. It was spaghetti but not as you know it. Noodles and tomato sauce and tiny slivers of spam. No cheese. It was served with slices of white bread (no butter).
Sunday evening we took everything to Barangay Canaraba, a very poor village on a river. This is the poorest village here. It floods each spring so no crops survive and the houses are minimal with few belongings. This is where Marben gives most of the Caleb contributions we send. During the meeting he announced he had received the 17 boxes of medicines we shipped in November. Michelle, his daughter who is a doctor, inventoried all of the medicines and they were being set aside for the entire village to use through the Caleb Clinic free of charge. The people were deeply moved.
Because there are so many children there, I preached a different message. I spoke on the ten plagues of Egypt and acted out each of the Egyptian gods being mocked by each plague. The kids loved it as we “moo’ed” the cow-headed god Hathor and “hopped” at the frog-head god Hacket. The message was “not to mess with our one true God!” And, the plagues were not random choices but rather addressed each of the pagan gods of the Egyptians. Everyone seemed to love it and we had big response in repenting and salvation altar calls. This was followed by a villager named Henry who was obviously into the wrong spirits. We prayed for him before leaving, the first drunk of this journey to try to interrupt a service
Monday was a day of rest, a time to laundry and catch up on my writing. Tuesday we had the pleasure of presenting a sewing machine to Frankie, one of the cousins of Connie Phillips residing in a village near here. She and her husband were very thrilled to receive the refurbished machine, one of seven Connie sent to the Philippines.
Tuesday evening we went to attend a wake for the father-in-law of one of the pastors, Ophelia. We packed up the gear and the musical instruments and moved our evangelism equipment to a small house in Barangay Suso where the family was waiting. As is the custom here in the Philippines, the deceased was laid in a refrigerated open coffin in the living room. We set up canopies to cover the guests from the heat and the band played Christian songs. There was a short time of worship and then I presented and offered condolences to the family. A collection was taken for their expenses to which Caleb gave one hundred dollars. Refreshments were served consisting of the traditional octopus soup and bread, and RC cola.
We returned home by midnight and I was in bed by 1:30 a.m.and up at 7 a,m. for a big day. Wednesday was the 22nd birthday of Jojo, the drum player. We took our equipment in the Jeepney to his house in Suso, in a different area. While there, we met his parents, three sisters and many friends. His father is the owner of the Jeepney which we rented. All he asks is that we pay the diesel fuel and that Jojo does the driving. For lunch they served spaghetti and a fish dish. To accommodate me, Jojo’s father picked fresh guava off the tree and prepared it for my lunch and gave me three more for dinner later! We had a great party.
Returning to the church, I cooled down by a sponge bath as it was very hot. All we have is a bucket of water for “bathing” as there is no shower or bath in the church. A tiled room is set aside for privacy and the curtain drawn to advise others when you are using the room.
Wednesday evening was a very big event. We returned to Barangay Valentine out in the bush, about an hour’s drive from Santa Maria. I had not been back to the village since my accident where I fell off the motorcycle in 2009. Marben said this village is now 90% Christian whereas in 2009 there were very few believers the village. After our evangelism that year his pastors made a point of visiting every household of this former communist village. He said a big part of their coming to Christ was the drought in 2010 which left them with no crops. He said the Caleb LBC boxes of food we sent from Seattle were mostly distributed here in the name of Caleb Ministries! This coupled with the work of his young pastors has made the village a stronghold and staging area for bringing more remote villages to the knowledge of Christ!
Wednesday evening we had a big turnout with nearly everyone in the village gathered about the small yard,on the street, and in the gardens surrounding the small house where we set up our equipment. The pastors began with singing and going house to house inviting people to the program. Within an hour the gathering place was packed. The message was anointed and the response was heartfelt. After the meeting, several of the people came up to find out if I was fully recovered from my accident of 2009, clearly an historical event in the annals of Barangay Valentine! This tiny village is a stronghold in the mountains for future expansion. The family hosting Caleb is resolute in spreading the gospel in their valley.
Thursday in the morning we packed and journeyed to Lasong. The Barangay was a first visit and an enjoyable one. We celebrated a birthday, had two christenings and held an evening service. After the worship songs, the leaders opened the microphone for testimonies, wanting to “take the pulse” of this village. One girl about 16 told how she was orphaned four years ago. She said her aunt and uncle, who are preachers, have given her a home but they are poor and depend on Caleb gifts to make it! Another young girl testified her father died a year ago. She is struggling and asked me help in paying for high school. (We will work that out!)
Preaching from the porch, it was very hot and people kept coming up giving me towels to wipe off the sweat as I continued preaching. The subject I chose was “Living Waters” which seemed oddly appropriate. Again I was stung by bees. They say the bees are attracted because I perspire so much but it cannot be helped. All antiperspirants fail at about 85 degrees and we are well beyond that!
Back at the church we held a going away celebration for Amy Lagmay. She has a six-month immigration visa from the USA and left for Baltimore where the oldest Lagmay girl lives. Marben will follow in a few months if Amy adjusts and likes it there. Marben left me “in charge” as he escorted Amy to Manila to catch the flight. He will return in two days……
Friday we went out to Barangay Tubok to christen a baby. This was about an hour’s drive in the Jeepney down a very bad road. I hit my head on the roof of the Jeepney at one point, giving me a sizable goose-egg! Once at the village I was told it was a full service and not just the dedication of a baby. I improvised and we held the service and had lunch. Then they told me we were staying for the evening service as well and not returning to the church in between services! Surprise! So I constructed a sermon in the afternoon and all went well. It was a great venue in a grove of banana trees atop a hill. The family grows tobacco for a living and harvests bananas as well. It is a newer village and again new to Marben’s ministry. It was very funny when I was leaning on a tree to take a photo and a hen flew out all upset as it was her nest!
Saturday I was asked to speak to the monthly women’s fellowship for three hours! I asked Marben before he left what I should say or talk about. He said “just impress them!” I told him “In 71 years I have never ‘impressed a lady’…what makes you think I can do it in three hours!” But it worked out well as I asked three or four ladies to give their testimonies and then I filled in the last 15 minutes! We had a good time of fellowship.
Sunday was Market Service at 4:30 a.m. at the church. Then at 10 a.m. we went to St. Esteban Barangay Church. This is atop a hill and quite a climb. I repeated the same message at both services as few attended both events. The topic was Hebrews 9:1-5.
We rested until leaving for another service at 7 p.m.
Sunday evening service was in Barangay Ambaogan out in the mountains. It is again very poor. The people survived last spring on Caleb stores shipped from Burien! Most of the children have Caleb clothes and blankets. We received a very warm reception there, as you can imagine. We installed two pastors for the village before leaving. My message was on “Having Nothing to Fear.”
Monday was a rest day and laundry. Tuesday was pastors’ conference all day. I spoke three times. The first message was to “Step Up to Serve God, Submit, and ask Him to Search You.” The second was on “Testing by God” and the third was on “God’s Special Relationship Forged at Mt. Sinai.”
Wednesday was awesome as we went to the beach at Nalvo. Themessage for that service was the calling of Timothy as a disciple. The people responded to the message and many were repeatedly slain in the Spirit! They would go under in the Spirit, rise up and then go back. It was awesome with the Spirit working for a full hour after the first anointing. Many elderly and onlookers were eventually affected. One man clearly had the cancer healed in his cheek. You could actually see it shrinking! Following the service we stopped off at a wake on our way home, and gave a small teaching there.
Thursday was a called fast with a big service in a new location, Barangay Mayngenen Norte which was on the main roadway. Chickens nested in the tree above and the family was making vinegar from sugarcane, sending out a sweet aroma. I spoke on “Gethsemane and the Night Watch.” It was very effective. One elderly woman retreated inside as I was anointing people so I told her I would wait until she came out. She did and I anointed her and she was crying over and over. Then an elderly man motioned to me and I went to his hut and anointed him. It was very moving!
This is Friday and we are dedicating a child this morning at St. Esteban (up the hill again). Then I will go to Candon City for several days to visit a Bible College. The dedication went well and I spoke on the Parable of the 10 Virgins. We had lunch of goat stew and rice. From there, we journeyed to Candon City where I met with Pastor Barcalo and his family, my hosts for the next three days. Their home is very modern and spotless and quite a challenge as the floors are all polished tile, each at a different level with small steps. Also, doorways are way too short for me,posing much hazard but we are working it out. Friday evening we traveled to Soyo where I preached in a former 7th Day Adventist Church just taken over by the Bible College. The electricity went out, making it a challenge but we carried on in candlelight and flashlights. I told how Caleb Ministries was founded and some early history and events. It was enthusiastically received and during the anointing one lady gave up her crutch as she fell under the anointing. We returned to Candon City at 11 p.m. for a short night as we leave again Saturday morning at 7 a.m. for another venue.