April 12, 2013
Dear Praying Friends,
Last month, down in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao, a Baptist pastor named Rey Debarbo, his wife, and two of their daughters, ages 14 and 8, were heading home on a motorcycle from a birthday party when unidentified gunmen opened fire with automatic rifles. Police at the scene recovered more than 30 shell casings. The sole survivor in the family, their daughter Kate, age 16, is coping with the loss of her parents and siblings and is now living with an aunt (see picture above left). Muslims are assumed to be behind this but witnesses are afraid to speak out.
Mila Sanchez, another family member, shared how the massacre is a great loss to the ministry.
"He (Pastor Rey) planted churches among the tribes in remote places in the mountains. Every Sunday, he traveled three hours on his motorbike to teach the Word of God to the people there. It is very difficult to accept what has happened, but their death has inspired us to share the Gospel to more people."
I have been in communication with Kate and tried to get her to come up to our Youth Conference, but it didn’t work out. Hopefully, we can be of help to her in the future. Please keep her & her extended family in your prayers.
"My father never stopped telling us how good God is," Kate said. "I have accepted what happened to my family. I am happy for them because I know where they are -- in Heaven with the Lord."
While meeting with our alumni this week, one of my pastor friends, Felizardo Galarpe, shared his testimony with me:
“I was born in a very poor family. My father was a laborer and my mother a housekeeper. I had nine brothers and one sister. We were all devoted Catholics. My mother died from bone cancer when I was ten years old. I loved my mother so much and could not accept that she had passed away. I was hopeless. I felt no one could defend me when our father got drunk. He was always drunk after my mother died. He had no time for us. We his eleven children suffered from hunger. In order for us to eat regularly we worked at a farm picking fruit. All of my brothers left one by one to find better jobs until I was the only one left with my father. When I was 16, I decided to leave my father too, because I couldn’t take his drunkenness anymore. I found a job as a caretaker and cook at the public market. I quickly started earning money everyday. I had many friends, and through them I learned how to get drunk, smoke & use drugs. We would drink wine and get into trouble with other groups of guys who were also drunk. The owner of the kiosks in the markets would get angry with me because I would fall asleep there. Sometimes I’d wake up in jail. I had very long hair, smelled of alcohol and was malnourished.
Thankfully, I have a Christian friend who was concerned for me. He invited me to church, and I would always refuse & make up many excuses. April 12, 1988 their church was holding a revival. So that I wouldn’t refuse, he bought a bottle of wine for me so I would come. I accepted his invitation! The preacher spoke about Hell, and I felt afraid. He talked about the rich man. I thought about the things I’ve done. It came to the point when I asked myself, that if I died, where would I go? I was convicted. That night I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.
One day, I was visiting my brother in Iloilo and met some Christians who were conducting a Bible study at my aunt’s house. They invited me to attend a Youth Conference at Iloilo Baptist Church. I decided to attend with the motive of finding a girlfriend. When I arrived at IBC, I saw the ladies wearing long skirts. I sat in the back and observed all the people. They are so different than any other people I had ever met. The music and singing started and I felt as if I was floating in the air. I couldn’t express my feelings. As the preaching began, I was encouraged. I surrendered my life to full-time Christian service.
I enrolled in Bible school in 1990. I t was difficult for me, and I had to make many sacrifices. I decided to drop out. I was so discouraged. I went home, but Pastor Mario Genada visited me and encouraged me to finish my studies. He reminded me how God is good to me. Many times I wanted to quit again, but one night Pastor Rick Martin received word that I wanted to leave again. He gave me many encouraging words based from the Word of God. I stayed, and praise God I finished my Pastoral studies in March 1994. I am now an ambassador of Christ, a pastor of Fundamental Baptist Church, in the mountains of Dingle. I thank the Lord for Pastor Rick Martin, and his family for dedicating their lives in serving God here in the Philippines. To God be the glory!”
For more information about Felizardo and the pastors supported by Global Baptist Church Planters, please visit http://www.globalbaptist.net
Thank you so much for your faithful prayers and encouragement to our family and ministry.
I would like to tell you about my friend, Pastor Hermando Abelitado, who was suddenly killed a few days before Christmas. Brother Cruz, as his friends knew him, a graduate of Iloilo Baptist College, was an encouragement to everyone. He was a faithful and fruitful servant of God.
He came to IBC in 1980. I challenged the students to go to their Christian friends and family, and encourage them to come to Bible College. One young man went to his home on the island of Mindanao, and talked to Hermando and another friend. Both came to IBC, and all three became pastors.
While Brother Cruz was in school his job was to teach guitar to some of the students, as well as clean the auditorium. He would often bring as many as 60 children to Sunday school. After graduating he started a church in the central part of Iloilo Province and named it the Good Tidings Baptist Church. Before long he noticed a nomadic tribe of Ati people (the native Filipino, as they’re called here) who had settled outside the village. The Lord burdened his heart to start a church for them and the Lord blessed his labor. He named the new church Hilltop Baptist Church.
Becky and I went to visit him in 1985 along with several of our church members. Becky’s parents were here for a visit and they went with us. We walked about a mile up the mountain and the only one who didn’t complain was our then six-year-old son Ricky but that was because he got to ride a pony up the mountain.
I remember the smiling faces looking down on us as we climbed up. Their shyness was overcome with joy and excitement over their visitors. Many of the children ran away in fright but were fascinated with Ricky and his blonde hair. I looked around at our church members and they had tears running down their faces. The Ati are a very poor and sometimes despised people. I can’t describe the condition of their houses and clothes yet these baby Christians were very happy.
They were proud of their Hilltop Baptist Church even though it was very simple with bamboo rails to sit on and a dirt floor, which by the way, was much nicer than any of their homes. Our church helped with materials and the church members did all the labor. We were so touched that many of these poor people had sacrificially donated chickens and rice to feed us. Some of the men speared some large lizards for us to eat.
For 28 years Brother Cruz started churches in that area. He started a Bible Institute for married men and for most of those years he pastored two churches at the same time.
Many villages in the Philippines are small with little to no transportation so churches are limited to reaching those within walking distance of the church. Pastors who have initiative have a vision to start churches in the villages in these areas by training men and often pastoring two churches at the same time. Brother Cruz was 25 when he started his first church and 51 when he started his last one—another church for the Ati—two years before his Home-going.
Last year when our orchestra played at a large high school in the town of Passi, I invited Brother Cruz to preach because he was great with young people. He was always being asked to preach for special occasions by pastors, especially youth camps.
In October 2011, Brother Cruz was one of the speakers at our Pastors & Workers Conference, probably the highlight of the year. He was very funny but also serious about God’s work. When Brother Cruz would speak at one of our events we knew something good was going to happen because he had God’s Hand upon his life.
On Saturday, December 22, he was preparing for Christmas Sunday at his church. They were expecting a lot of visitors. Brother Cruz went to pick up some things for the special service. Around
noon he was standing at the side of the road and a man driving a large truck, who had fallen asleep, hit and killed Pastor Cruz instantly. Missionary Sam Heidenreich, who lives nearby, was a great help to Pastor Cruz’ family, for which I am extremely grateful.
As we were starting our visitation meeting that Saturday, I was stunned when I received the news. Brother Cruz was more than just another graduate of IBC, he was a close friend. I remember a time when I really needed a friend to help me with an extremely difficult and complicated problem and the Lord used him to help me. I owed him a lot.
That night alone in my room, I couldn’t keep back the tears. My grandson, T.J., walked in and asked why I was crying and I told him. He said, “It’s ok. You’ll see him again in Heaven someday. When Grandma dies, I’ll see her again, and when Daddy dies, I’ll see him again, and when Mama dies I’ll see her again in Heaven.” Then he stopped. He didn’t say anything about seeing me in Heaven! Like he wasn’t too sure about that!
Brother Cruz’ death came five days before our annual Christmas Alumni Meeting. We held a memorial service for Brother Cruz. It started at 8:30 and ended past noon. We asked several pastor friends to tell their memories of Brother Cruz. Many told funny stories, and they told how he had touched so many lives. We laughed and we cried. Brother Cruz was a practical joker and often used humor to get close to people and win their hearts.
The next day his body was taken to Passi, where his new church was. The funeral was held several days later and there were about 600 people there. The church is small so most had to stand outside. After it was over we slowly made our way to the cemetery, near his other church. There we again gave thanks to God for his life. It was fitting that he was buried in the church of the Ati, a group of people that few people care about.
Brother Cruz was always smiling, always encouraging. I was just one of many who benefitted from his great spirit. You’d never think he ever had a problem but the truth is he had many trials. He lost a four-year-old daughter a few years ago. His youngest son almost died on three occasions. Once I went to visit his little boy in the hospital. There was Brother Cruz, tears in his eyes, but a smile on his face. I’ll never forget the grace of God so evident in his life. Please pray for his dear wife and children.
NEWS & PRAYER REQUESTS
Much has happened since our last prayer letter regarding the progress of opening an FM radio station in Iloilo City. It seems as though the Lord has opened many doors and helped us through some of the legal requirements, which will allow us to start soon. Not only that, a generous donation was given to buy the equipment needed to operate the station. We are very grateful to God and the donor for this investment.
Also, we have been able to start training people from Iloilo Baptist Church who will operate the station. Gene Sharp, who has started many radio stations all over the world, recently spent six days here training some of the workers here (see photo). If you would like to listen to Brother Sharp’s station that he started in Ohio, get on cleanair.fm. Please pray for the following:
*Bro. Sharp as he probably will be shipping the tower from the USA to install here.
*Continued training of the broadcasters and permit for the station. Lord willing Bro. Sharp will be coming back in a few months to help.
*Expenses to help fly two men to the Philippines to install the tower. We are building soundproof rooms for the station. We have the building but the broadcast rooms need to be finished.
For many years radio in the Philippines has had a larger listening audience than TV. We hope to broadcast 18 hours a day. There is no Christian radio station on this island of 4,000,000 people.
Thank you so much for your faithful support. We don’t take it for granted. We are so grateful for it and for your prayers.
Sincerely in Christ,
PS: Those of you who receive a paper copy of our prayer letter and would rather receive our prayer letter through email, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is: martinsibc.jimdo.com.
April 15, 2012
Dear Praying Friends,
Three weeks ago TJ fell and hit his head on the pavement while playing with some friends. Thirty minutes later he began vomiting all over our living room, so we thought it prudent to take him to the hospital where we spent the night, an unforgettable experience. A neurologist ordered x-rays and a CT scan. There wasn’t any serious damage, although we were told that should he have seizures later on, the fall could be behind it. TJ took it easy for a week, and we are now back to roughhousing. Below is a picture of him giving his grandpa a check-up with his doctor toys that he said he needed when he was discharged.
Iloilo Baptist College had its 31st graduation last month. We’ll miss those who finished college but are glad to see them start new churches or serve in other ministries. The church and college staff have been busy recruiting since graduation, through Youth Conference, and will continue to do so until classes start again in June. I went to places where I wondered if I was the first foreigner to ever be there. Pictured above are some of the young people who’ve enrolled in recent weeks. They are products of your faithful support, and we ask for your prayers for them, as they will likely face hardships over the next four years.
Our ministry family lost two servants just a few days apart last month:
Nilo Bayan graduated from our college in 1995 and started a church in Mindanao, where he reached many people. He died of liver failure, leaving behind a wife and two sons. He was forty years old.
Joebert Macna sang in the choir on Graduation Night, witnessed to a visitor, and then went to a friend’s reception where he posed for this picture. He collapsed a few minutes later and was taken to a hospital and declared dead on arrival. He had drowned in his own blood. We learned he had a history of tuberculosis before he came to Bible college. A doctor had told Joebert’s father that he wouldn’t live long, but Joebert replied that he would survive because he wanted to go to Bible college. Joebert joined us at IBC for three years before he was taken at twenty-two. He wanted to pastor. Joebert came from a broken family; his mother left when he was fifteen, leaving his father to raise eight children alone. We presented Joebert’s father with an honorary diploma from the college because Joebert Macna wanted to be a pastor.
We heard some amazing testimonies about Joebert at the memorial service (pictures below), and many students gathered around his casket to pray and make decisions.
Thank you for your prayers for the Bayan and Macna families and for your support of the ministry here.
Ricky Martin with Brandie, T.J., & Ava
In this prayer letter I want to tell you about some of the opportunities here in the Philippines, and include a challenge, especially to young people.
Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes for the fields are ripe for harvest.” Those words make me think of the Philippines. As I look out on my field each day I am constantly amazed. Doors are open everywhere for preaching the Gospel. When you come to the Philippines you will find out that a lot of people will listen to you.
Perhaps the greatest opportunity is reaching students in the public schools. The Philippines is unique in that the constitution guarantees the right of religious groups to teach their religion in the public schools. In some schools the principal will allow you to speak to the entire student body. Others allow you to go back each week and go room to room, giving out the Gospel and teaching how to grow in Christ, once they accept Him as Saviour. The principals decide the schedule that is given and the way you relate to the principal makes a difference.
Recently I spoke at a large high school in Passi City. The principal invited our church orchestra to play for the students and in between the songs I spoke about the message of the songs and also introduced them to the different instruments. Pastor Hermando Abelitado, one of our graduates who recently started a church in that city, was allowed to preach the Gospel and many students received Christ as Saviour. Some of the students got saved before the program started as our workers talked to them in groups. It was exciting to see the responsive young people.
Many of the pastors go to the public schools often. The IBC graduates on the islands of Panay and Negros are divided up into five groups. Last month those pastors went into about 300 different schools. You can see how open the door is and that door is open across this country for those who would come here and take the opportunity.
A new opportunity is going into the precincts of the Philippine National Police. The response has been very encouraging. In our last prayer letter I mentioned that over 120 graduates are involved in this program. In our region of the country the Philippine National Police have made a way for any religious group to minister to the men and women from the PNP. At our local precinct about a quarter of a mile from our church, I recently spoke to the 25 policemen before they went out on patrol. They are a great group of men. The PCR (Public Community Relations) officer later invited some of the staff of IBC to speak in the different neighborhoods when he goes there for meetings to educate the people about law enforcement. They also have feeding programs for the poor. A lot of people go to those meetings. Most weeks two of our men go with the police and speak about the Lord Jesus Christ.
We invited a couple of officers to our Christmas Program for street kids and the officers were touched by what they saw. The next Sunday one of the officers helped our workers bring over 200 first time visitors to our Christmas Musical! Soul winners dealt with many of them.
Last month the regional director of the Bureau of Fire Protection asked us to send a pastor to speak to all the firemen. Two pastors on our staff went and (see photos below) spoke about our Savior and got a very good response. Two weeks ago the church had its 8th annual Fireman’s Appreciation Night and we had the privilege of honoring a fireman who died last year, while fighting a fire. The family, and 60 firemen came and the Lord opened the hearts of some of them to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. On that night our new police precinct commander of Jaro came. He told me he had wanted to come to one of the services for a while. One of our men led him to Christ and he made a public profession to the church at that service. It was really a blessing. I got to talk to him for a long time after the service and found out he has a great desire to learn more about the Bible. He asked me to speak at a meeting with about 1,000 mothers at the Jaro Plaza the following Saturday. He asked me to speak to them about the Bible!
In mid January on a Sunday night, over 500 homes were destroyed by a fire; leaving 2,500 people homeless. Since that day we have had over 400 victims of that fire come to our church and many received Christ as Saviour.
The Social Services Department here in the Philippines is really different. Quite a few of their workers are not only concerned with the physical needs of those they try to help, but also their spiritual needs. Every couple of months someone from that department will bring a group of maybe 25 to 50 people to visit our church so they can hear the Word of God preached and visit a place where people love them.
During the great destruction of Typhoon Frank in 2008, I saw many police officers, firemen, social workers, and other government officials who lost their homes, out helping others. In many cases, the government workers lost more than the people they were helping. I think God has used many of these public servants; they have been put in a position where they can help others hear the Gospel.
I could go on and on. There are opportunities to preach the Gospel in homes. If you look around, it’s not too hard to find a family that will allow you to come into their home and teach the Bible and tell them how they can make sure they are going to Heaven. All around this island and others, pastors and Christian workers are holding Bible studies in houses, offices, and other places.
You can get involved in soul winning on the streets or evangelistic meetings with Gospel films and preaching. Every year graduates of Iloilo Baptist College hold over 200 meetings like this. There are unlimited opportunities to start churches and even Bible colleges. I still can’t believe God gave me the great privilege and honor to start one! I’m not saying it is easy to work here. It is easy to get frustrated with certain things, but the truth is, there are many opportunities. I’ve seen missionaries who have reached so many people in these islands because they walked through these open doors.
Having said that, let me ask: If the Philippines (and other countries) are open and missionaries have almost unlimited opportunities, then why aren’t more men and women going to the foreign mission field?
Maybe there is a misconception that there are so many missionaries in these open countries that there isn’t a need for any more. What is the truth? When Becky and I came to the Philippines in 1977, there were about 200 independent Baptist missionaries here. A few years after that a survey said there were 196. Today there are about 100. The most recent survey I know of says there are less than 100. In 1977 the population of the Philippines was a little over 45 million. In 2011 the population was about 93 million. In other words we are trying to reach twice as many people with half the number of missionaries.
It may be that young people in America are not being challenged as they once were or it’s because America’s economy is so bad. The past 3-4 years have been very difficult for churches in the USA. That is true in this country too—yet they are aggressively sending out more Filipino foreign missionaries who are starting churches and Bible colleges. Or the reason may simply be that there aren’t enough people who are willing to go.
I want to thank those who are praying for the Lord’s work here and for those of you who are sacrificially giving to help spread the Gospel. The Bible says that fruit that comes from what we give to reach others will be put on our account (Philippians 4:16-17).
Let me close by challenging young people. The day I spoke at our local Police Precinct in Jaro, I noticed a group of high school students, about 30 of them, who were taking a tour of the station. Their teacher told me she wanted them to see what the police do and also the consequences of crime. The precinct commander asked me if I would mind if the students joined the police to hear me speak. As I began to speak I told the students that I had come to speak to the police but decided to direct most of my remarks to the students.
I mentioned that the real heroes in this country were not the rock singers, the movie stars, or the sports stars, but the men like the police who each day, go out and risk their lives to protect their freedom that they enjoy. Two days later an officer from that precinct went out to serve a warrant of arrest. When he did, several men grabbed him, took his gun, and shot him five times, killing him. A few weeks later I attend the burial. This officer was 31 years old. He was still single as he was supporting his mother, who was a widow. His father had been murdered in his own home when he was very young and he decided when he grew up he wanted to be a police officer. He was a very good officer according to the precinct commander.
There were many policemen at the funeral and a large crowd of people at the cemetery. The Iloilo City Police chief asked me to pray and they gave him a gun salute followed by the playing of Taps. The policemen folded the Philippine flag and presented it to the mother. Lastly, they removed three medals from the uniform of the dead officer and presented them to the mother. She wept many tears at that cemetery. She was sad but she knew that her son loved her and loved his country.
Young people, when you die and stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Lord begins to pass out the crowns, will you be one of those to receive a crown to lay at His feet? Are you willing to give your life wholly to reach people
so they can be free from the bondage of sin? The doors are still open here in the Philippines. Would you be willing to go and help reap this harvest while there is still time?
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