Friday, February 3, 2012

Trip Reports

The following blog posts were originally email reports were sent during Jerry Riess' trip to the Philippines in 2011.Traveling to many rural villages, these posts tell of his trip. It chronicles 61 days of outreach, ministry, and details of his time spent there. These reports were sent when he had time from the base camp in Santa Maria. 

'A' marks Santa Maria in relation to the rest of the country

Santa Maria and surrounding area

Report Three from the Philippines 2011


Saturday was the First Anniversary Service of Living Waters Church in the village we visited. It was a very poor village but everyone turned out for the celebration. I preached two hours--much to my surprise! It was the testimony of how I  accepted Jesus. They asked many questions afterwards and insisted somehow I return for another visit...

Saturday afternoon we rested as Sunday was very busy. It began with service in Candon Living Water Church, the home to the Bible College we support there, and the mother church to 48 congregations. They are very proud of being a Caleb Church and proudly display the library of books we have sent. The books can be used at the church but not checked out.

From there, we went to Candon City Radio to broadcast a 30-minute program and then to a mountain village called “Pancake” for the evening service. We returned at 11 p.m. to the house to eat dinner and be fed to the mosquitos. It was an exhausting day.

Monday, Marben brought me back  to Santa Maria where we rested and packed for the 11-day journey into the mountains. I will probably be out of communication range for the next 11 days as it is very remote in the mountains. We are going into an area where the gospel has not been preached. Marben has been sending in Caleb gifts from our boxes in preparation for this journey.

I have now preached 40 sermons in 22 days, only two being repeats. I have a cold but otherwise feel great and excited!  Please keep up your prayers!

We arrived at Baoyan Village atop a mountain in Abra District at 11:30 a.m., having left Santa Maria at 5:30 a.m., in an effort to beat the heat. The journey was magical, going up the rugged mountain roads which are often gravel or plowed dirt. Passing through many small villages, Marben took time to introduce me to many Caleb pastors. Clearly the presence of our gifts is clearly felt in this area of the globe.

At one rest stop for coffee at Penro, I asked to use toilet but discovered you could not enter if you are over four feet tall! Physically not possible! All furniture and doorways and ceilings are for shorter people here. The coffee was good but the cup very hot and the lady serving noticed and rushed to a cupboard, climbed up on bottom drawers and reached a saucer, rushed to wash it and then gave it to me just as I finished the coffee. They try very hard to please here.

Each of the pastors were very excited to meet me and wished us to stay but we had a busy schedule. The villages grow rice, tobacco or conr on terraced lands. The vegetation shifts from dense jungle to arid land with each turn of the road--huge vines and palms alternating with cactus and flowering trees. The view is spectacular and the ride in the tough jeep like something out of Disneyland!  Caribou and wild birds are visible  along the way as well as  mosquitos and big flies!

There are seven young pastors with us, three ladies and four gentlemen for music and setup for the evangelisms. They are great sports and earned the trip by their work in the Bible classes.
I was sitting in the yard of the church/residence of the local pastor, surrounded by kids curious about my laptop, along with about 20 chickens, a pig, and pigmy goats. The family makes wooden furniture for a living. We have stopped at a mountain village called Baoyan and are visiting Pastor Deborah who has been trying to found a church here two years. The village is very small and remote. After supper of boiled egg, tomatoes, papaya, and rice and fish, we go to the tiny church and set up for the service.  Earlier, I played Bill Gaither videos on my laptop as some rested and others watched. Church was small but fun. Most were children so I tailored the message “Calling of Timothy as a Disciple” to the audience. One young boy darts in and out wearing a Mariners-Griffey shirt but I could not get his photo. The tiny church seats perhaps 30 people and has a “lace curtain” for its altar centerpiece--very, very basic and simple structure. A big brown spider approached me, about the size of a silver dollar. I asked Marben if they bite and he said, “Only when hungry.”  I moved away!  The pastor and adults were very grateful that we stayed and preached in their village, saying that no missionaries had ever been there before! The mayor gave us a gift of a loaf of bread as a special thank you. Most adults are not believers in this area but about 12 came to the church and received Jesus. Deborah and her husband were very encouraged.

About 10 p.m. we headed out in our Jeep and one motorcycle, still headed for Bolinda. The roads became treacherous with boulders, mudslides, big potholes, wide ruts, and even creeks to forge. An hour later we stopped for the evening bunking at a home of friends of Marben, sleeping on the tile floor and blankets.  In the morning they fed us eel, fish and rice--I had a boiled egg, sliced tomato and coffee. The hardboiled egg, sliced tomatoes and papaya have become routine for my meals three times a day with addition of two boiled hot dogs or hard-fried pork or hard-fried chicken legs. Everyone here eats fish and they have no idea what to give me so this is what they settled on. Marben also tells them no spices--not even salt--so it is very bland. 
This morning Marben telephoned several contacts for an additional jeep as we have too much gear to forge the next river.  He is a sight standing on the roof for cell phone signals! Finally, help is promised by 2 p.m. so we are at rest for the morning.

I feel like an old Indiana Jones with a Bible! This is truly an astounding journey Jesus has brought me on. Help does arrive in the form of change of plans. We leave the jeep and the motorcycle for several days and travel up this mountain by local Jeepney. Around 8 a.m., two Jeepney transports arrive in the village, one destined for our site. We are loaded aboard through “windows,” and the back door, and stuff was strapped on the roof. Our five boys ride among pigs, chickens, boxes, burlap sacks and whatever else you can imagine. I am opposite Marben on the bench at the back door. Our feet are resting on live chickens strapped together on the floor in bundles, with our luggage atop them in our laps. Many parcels are simply tossed in up to window level and passengers just climb in whatever window has any room! Packed in, pigs are raised in baskets to the roof just outside my opening. My head is too high so I have to keep it cocked to the left or hit roof girders! I find a small opening above the door frame just big enough to stick my head when bumps occur, which is nearly constant! Occasionally, fresh eggs are “laid” and roll out beneath our feet, most breaking in the process. My suitcase is looks like it nested in scrambled eggs!  The road is awesome, hugging mountain curves and crossing several rivers along the way with water lapping at the side of the Jeepney fully 18 inches high at the sides. Our jeep would not have made it! The ‘bus’ is packed inside and out, atop and on front, with two baskets of live pigs hanging from rear doorway.  The vehicle kicks up dust storms which roll in through the openings, covering us like a blanket. No one warned me to cover my nose so I swallow and breathe dust for hours, coughing it up for two days!  It is an awesome and magical ride, rivaling anything Disneyland ever had!   Arriving at the village of Tami, Marben says luggage stays here but we go on for another night and will return. I hastily retrieve meds for the night and get back on the bench in the bus, this time less crowded. We go another 45 minutes up the mountain to the furthest inland village, Danak, or “goat sacrifice!” Here, we climb several tiers of ladders and steps to reach the uppermost home, belonging to our host, the pastor. Houses are arranged something like a Navajo hillside village. Chickens and goats and pigs abound. We are welcomed and feel exhausted. Two buckets of water arrive for cleaning up and then we rest for the afternoon in a large, plain living area. I am given two benches put together as a bed and the others are given bedrolls. Dinner is rice, coffee and more rice, with or without fish sauce.  The pastor arrives and thanks us for the many Caleb gifts Marben has forwarded. (This happens repeatedly at each church!)

At 8 p.m.we climb our last two staircases to the church which is atop the mountain.  The stairs are high and have no bannisters so the boys help me along.  People start arriving as the music starts and people come from literally everywhere on the mountain. The place is packed by 8:30 p.m.with campfires at the doors as it is very cold for the locals. All are bundled up except me! I decide to give my testimony, thinking I will never live to climb those steps again. The Holy Spirit anoints the meeting and I end up speaking two hours! I was amazed as it seems much shorter. We anoint many who come forward and then return to the house to sleep in the big room.  About 6 a.m. I get up to find several other local pastors trying to convince Marben to have us stay over. It is not possible so by 10 a.m. we are packed and on the bus back to Amti to meet up with our luggage and stay two nights. Our home is a house built in trees and on pillars like a big tree house. It belongs to the family of Malee, the young pastor taking care of me. Marben and I share a little room with the boys in the hallway and the girls in the cooking area. The bathroom is across the street and up the hill in a short unlit basement.  I am served Vienna sausages, corn and rice for my meals as all else is fish. As dinner is served, many locals come to visit. It turns out Marben’s grandfather evangelized this village as his first and as a base for taking the mountains.  He was a legend, coming on horseback and bringing spices and salt as a gift. The locals were headhunters which made me question the spices thing!  They turned from Christ in the last 50 years because communist rebels attacked the church membership in particular. Now, Marben wants to reestablish the church of his grandfather, who is affectionately known as “The Lion of the Mountains” by locals.

For our meeting, the Barangay Leader (mayor) has set aside an open field as the church is too small. A contingent of the Philippine army has volunteered to clear and prepare the field for us. In the afternoon, a group arrived from our last village, having walked the mountain trail to bring us a gift of red rice and to hear me preach again.  At 8 p.m. they took me to the field and some military brought me water and a chair to wait.  We started at 9 p.m. and the field is packed! It’s the largest crowd I have seen yet on this trip.  After the music and worship, I preached on Restoration and Deuteronomy 30:4-16. Marben was then moved to give his personal testimony for the military present. Many were anointed. In closing, the commander of the unit came over and told me his men felt my message was “directly from God” and they were extremely moved! We were ecstatic of course. Our work was worth the endeavor! The Barangay Leader joined to sing two hymns with our musicians and then presented us gifts of food (fish and bread).  The next day Marben and the pastors visited homes as I rested. The rare air and heat were slowing me as physically I became exhausted.  That evening we preached in the local church which was full! During the anointing many were slain the spirit, even myself while anointing others! We returned and ate a very late dinner Saturday night. One lady said she thought she was older than me, being 75 but they cannot find the house she was born in to prove it. (Births are registered by writing on the walls when it happens.) They are all amazed at my stamina, but I feel like I am barely functioning. 

On Sunday as we were packing to leave, the locals  lined up out on the stairway with offerings and gifts of foods, rice, and vegetables. We finally get on the bus and return to our Jeepney and motorcycles we had left three days ago. From there, we headed across the mountain to Luba, a city I have been in previously. This is a rebel city where I stayed in 2009, but in a different area. Luba has four Caleb churches and we will also travel five hours away to a second one tomorrow as we are a day behind already.

The next morning we awoke to learn the rebels attacked and won control of Amti the very morning we left! The Philippine Army contingent that helped us has withdrawn into the mountains. Our timing could not have been closer!  The journey from Amti was beautiful in the mountains but rugged in the valleys as there are few maintained roads here.  At Luba we are greeted by the pastor of the church we are due in on Sunday but he came straight ahead as the road to Mambo where we were due Saturday is flooded. We stayed at the Luba pastor’s house two nights, Saturday and Sunday, holding two services Saturday and three on Sunday so neighboring villages can walk in. Communication is by shortwave radio as cell phones have no signal here. The pastor’s house is central for the shortwave reporting, including rebel locations and supply needs of eight villages up here. The Saturday service had many healings and the mid-day Sunday service was like a “Rave” with so many young coming to see our band. Sunday night we commissioned the two local pastors and then had their congregations surround them and hug them as they prayed. One inebriated man tried to escape and I stopped him at the door and explained this was his pastor and he had responsibility to support him. The man went back in and I stood OVER HIM as he thanked the pastor. They hugged and then both thanked me for making him stay!

We have requested a Jeepney ride into and out of this area as our supplies are heavy for two bikes and one small jeep but the companies refuse to come with rebels so active. Saturday services went well, but I fell over some who were slain in the spirit, trying to reach others. My left knee has been very painful but I continued on. We packed it in heat (no ice here!) and Sunday I used hydrocodone tablets for the pain.   The preaching and healings were incredible and we are overwhelmed at the pleas to stay longer. But Monday morning we must move on to keep our schedule and avoid confrontations with the advancing rebels.  Three of our men ride the hood of the jeep as lookouts for road hazards and human hazards. I expressed concerns for the young pastors in the event rebels locate us, but he confides that the father of one is a rebel leader so we face little true danger!
Crossing one of several rivers, we lose footing and must push the jeep out with help. I am escorted across as the mighty vehicle is freed. Arriving at Tuba, another city in outback Abra, we stayed at the home of an Assemblies of God pastor. Service is at 7 p.m. and it is interesting to see how many arrive here in this remote hillside! There are eight Caleb churches here and each pastor has visited me asking for more toys, medicines, food and other such assistance. They are so grateful for what we have done here.

Everywhere we go they have received CALEB goods from Marben over the last three years. Nearly every village knows of Caleb and loves us! It is incredible up here in these remote hills to hear our work has gratified so many.

The Assemblies of God Church in Mewagan (Part of Tubo which has eight villages) is pastored by a woman. They provide a large room with concrete floor and a bamboo mat for our bed.   We hold a “rocking” service in the sanctuary that night and the next morning I am given a “bed” and basket of fruit--apples and pineapples and such!  Marben is elated as his relatives pioneered the work here. Since the roads are closed to Supo, this was our last stop on the mountain and Marben is disappointed. No Jeepneys will come and our little jeep will not cross that river! We packed to leave and then an old banged up Jeepney arrived, sent from Supo!  It is so short I must lean over inside. The 45-minute ride was agony as we literally drove up the river in places like a tractor across the rocks! We finally arrived at Supo and the oldest Assemblies of God church known in these mountains. It is majestic in its size but barely clinging to the hillside!  I was NOT permitted on the outside deck as it is too shaky! A very old pastor greeted us and was quite excited to have our visit. He was one of those involved in building this church many years ago. Marben’s ancestors were very prominent in this village and were instrumental in starting the work.  Service began and I gave my testimony after worship time and then the Spirit hit with a force I have literally not seen often! All within reach are slain at once.  Marben grabbed four young men by their hands and crossed the hands and I simply toucedh the top hand and all four were down!   It was clear that five men were bent on disrupting us. I went to the tallest who was  standing firmly with legs planted like concrete and arms folded defiantly. I touched his ear and over he went. He was sitting on the floor and I said, “Who else is with you here trying to defy the Spirit?” He pointed to four others. I told them the last time anyone tried that they were left “barking” on the floor until they wet themselves! The five immediately got up and left!  We then continued praying and one lady was healed of paralysis as she “danced” with Marben! I estimate that 85 to 90 of about 110 people were slain and were lain across the floor. The old pastor was sitting on the platform just weeping with joy. One lady said no one had visited since 1978 and the pastor said they had not held an altar call as long as he could remember! Marben was weeping as he said he had never seen the Spirit work in this village in his many years of visits. It was incredible, awesome and so inspiring. This is the village Marben wanted to reach most of all and it was clearly reached and transformed.

The bumpy trip back to our camp at Mewagan took longer as the river had risen in the four hours since our coming but we finally made it.  Following breakfast, we set out to leave the outposts of Abra Mountains. God sent us a gift--a councilman in Mewagan came in the morning to offer help of his 4-wheel drive jeep to drive us across the rivers. Now, with two jeeps and the motorbike the nine of us and our gear made it readily. We headed now to the less dangerous area of Abra where Cynthia Leppago and Heart of God Fellowship are situated. During the journey, the brake on the left rear of our Jeep gave out, making it slow travelling but we arrived at Cynthia’s around 2 p.m. She served us lunch, gave us place to rest, and then dinner. We were scheduled to do the service that evening and the next at Lagongilong (the nearest town) but Cynthia reported they did not permit visitors in their church.  Since  arrangements had not been made by her in advance, we decided then to head back to Santa Maria that night so that we might repair the Jeep.  When we stopped at Bangued, the Mt. Zion Sanctuary invited us to return the next evening for a program so we went back.

Report Two from the Philippines 2011


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.   

Report One from the Philippines 2011

Part One

My first journey to the Philippines utilizing Hawaiian Airlines was indeed an adventure. Originally scheduled to fly out on January 9 Seattle to Honolulu and then on to Manila, the airline later changed my reservation to accommodate their needs by moving my flight up to January 8 from Seattle to Honolulu with an overnight stay in Honolulu at their expense. I agreed to this change. However, when I attempted to check in online as required by the airline, I was listed as a domestic flight Seattle- Honolulu and surcharged fifty-five dollars for two pieces of luggage! Two pieces of luggage travel free on international flights. The food was terrible on the flight and they charged extra for the single movie they showed, use of any headphones (including your own), and for snacks.

Upon arrival in Honolulu, they acknowledged their error and gave me a card to contact for a refund of the luggage charge.  They then delivered me to a hotel for the night which was located on the perimeter of the airfield. The hotel offered no food services except Tuesdays through Thursdays. This being Saturday night, I was left to the broken vending machine and a small microwave in my room. Sunday morning I returned to the airport where the Hawaiian Airlines (I recommend anyone traveling internationally carry a bankroll of $5-$20s), but I found that Hawaiian Air only accepts credit cards for conveniences on their airline.

When you consider the distances traveled, the bargain fare, and the purpose of my trip-- these are inconveniences that are to be tolerated. Airport customs is difficult at either site which I was grateful. I arrived on time in Manila at 6:30 pm local time on Monday, having crossed the international dateline and was able to locate my baggage with no problem.

I was met by Bishop Marben Lagmay outside the airport and he and his niece Melaee hailed a taxi for our trip to the bus terminal. The local bus terminal is an experience one does not easily forget.  It consists of an all-too-small  tarmac upon which waltz large commuter buses, taxi cabs, motorcycles, bicycles, motorized tricycles, pedestrians, vendors, and those anxiously awaiting the un-posted arrival of their buses. Add to this a very muggy 90°, an open-air Mr. Donut stand, and a vendor selling rice and fish from buckets straddling a pole across his shoulders, and you have a good idea of what a four-hour wait is like.

When the bus does arrive, the ticket price is based upon the seat you select. Marben graciously elects to buy the two front seats at a higher price because they are larger and recline. This works well when you are five feet tall, which is the size these seats are designed for. (I am 6’2tall!)  Everything in the Philippines is intended for shorter people than I. We arrived at Santa Maria at 2:30 am and I was given time to rest until the next evening.

My accommodations consisted of a converted storage room situated in the back of the Elohim Covenant Community Church. Marben and his wife live here as well as do several other pastoral students. There is but one small restroom. Our meals are prepared by Marben’s wife Amy with the help of  others, and we dine on a table set up in the sanctuary area, Sometimes there are as few as two or three people eating, and on other occasions twenty or more. The food is generally rice and several types of fish, but, to accommodate my allergy to seafood,  they are preparing chicken and lots of vegetables.

Tuesday evening marked our first outreach. We were invited to barangay Ag Agrao, a small village situated on the Abra River about eight miles away. Marben sold the Honda van which we had used for previous occasions, so he rented the use of a small Jeepney vehicle.  Jeepney does not afford enough leg space for me so I must duck and climb in the back with the band equipment and band members!

Arriving at the barangay about 7 p.m., we found it to be very dark and began our work by stringing lights in the trees from nearby houses. Plastic chairs were assembled in the yard among wooden chairs and benches from the area houses. Most of the homes are modest--two or three rooms, constructed from combinations of concrete, cement blocks, bamboo, and corrugated steel roofing.

Ag Agrao was the first barangay (barangay means village) I visited in 2007 so it was fitting to start this journey at the same point. Most of the people remembered me so that it was obvious my personal testimony would be repetitious. The program began about 8:30 p.m.with the pastoral team  leading people in songs and then eventually in worship. At that point I was introduced and Marben translated for me. It is an amazing thing to find yourself in the jungles of the Philippines surrounded by huge towering ferns, palm trees, lush tropical growth, in the heat of  the night, speaking to about 150 people who do not know about Jesus. They are  really receptive as I preach on events in Romania, Jerusalem, and Seattle, conveying my understanding of our loving God! Using my sermon which I call “Four Meals,” I tell them how much God loves them. At the end, Marben gives an altar call to which nearly everyone responds. I anoint those receiving Christ and they are counseled by the pastors.  Then I bless the children and pray for those who are ill. We then break camp and store much of the equipment in the village since we are returning there the next day for a communion service.
Wednesday we borrowed a car and drove to Santa Cruz for a funeral service of a man recently killed by a drunk driver. They were waiting at the cemetery for our arrival as we became the last car in the funeral procession due to the poor road conditions and travel delays. The PNP (Philippine National Police) had several road blocks in the area.

Marben and I delivered messages and comforted the family as best we could. It was a unique sight peculiar to this area of the world to see the bereaved widow stuffed by the family into a motorcycle-tricycle with several others and then carted off screaming in agony. Marben said the services were held too soon by custom here and she was simply not ready. I was appalled at the method but marveled at the efficiency with which she was taken away. There were perhaps two to three hundred mourners there as he was only 51. The drunk driver worked for a delivery company (not LBC) so the funeral line included a number of vans from the company to pay their respects. 

We returned to Santa Maria and rested from the heat until 7 p.m. Then we piled into the Jeepney and headed back to Ag Agrao for a second service and communion.  At this service we commissioned Auntie Cora as the pastor for this village and we recognized her five assistants.  I preached again and we followed this with communion. It was a very touching and moving ceremony as the village came together as a church for the first time. The trip back included moving all of our equipment back into the Jeepney, which meant a very crowded vehicle. I shared my space with the drums.

Thursday was a very long and hard day. We headed for barangay San Quentin which is located in Abra Province but can only be reached by canoe. The equipment was loaded in the Jeepney, atop the Jeepney, and in several motorcycle-tricycles. We headed off at 8 a.m. and an hour later and through three roadblocks, we reached the river. From there, everything was ferried across on pontoon canoes to the other side. Getting into the canoe itself was a problem as my legs are simply not strong enough and fold under, even if I can get them high enough to get in.  We decided the best method was my sitting on the bow and sliding back….but we made it!   Once on the other side they let me ride on the cart pulled by the caribou as the village is about two miles inland uphill. I felt somewhat a spectacle coming into town that way but everyone accepted it in good humor.
In the morning we held a christening service for a one-year-old named Harry, and celebrated his birthday.  It was a good service but short due to the heat. The church had poor ventilation and was severely warm so we adjourned to the family’s home for a celebration meal (fish, fish, rice, bread, pop, marshmallows and tiny hotdogs on a stick). The hostess was upset she had nothing for me but she had no way to know I am allergic to fish.  By dinner she located cabbage salad with carrots and a pork chop.

We napped for the afternoon in a shady area on bamboo racks. Then, in the evening lights were strung from the house and we set up service in the yard of the host family.  During the last trip here we did the service on an outdoor basketball court and were plagued by bees! Again the bees returned!

Following worship time, I preached on Deuteronomy 30:5-15, one of my favorites. I clearly was preaching an anointed message as I had strength, power, and a moving message including much I had never shared before. In the middle of it, I was stung by a bee on my hand.  I said “OUCH!” pulled out the stinger with my teeth and spit it out, and kept on talking!  Later, Marben was stung in the leg. It hurts!  But the message got out and the Lord was indeed glorified. I am in awe constantly how He gives us just enough power when we need it! 
My ride back down to the boat via caribou was accompanied by a parade of villagers wishing me well and calling for us to come back. We engineered me onto the canoe, back across the river, and into the Jeepney. It was very crowded but we were full of joy!