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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