In last year’s September-October prayer letter, we told the story of three blind pastors. We had planned to tell of three more blind pastors in our next prayer letter but then the typhoon hit in November. Here is the story of those three pastors; the first is Jonathan Aspera:
My name is Jonathan Aspera, pastor of Bethany Covenant Baptist Church in San Dionisio, Iloilo. I have been blind for many years.
I was born into a poor family yet my parents worked hard to provide a way for me to go to school. I had great plans for my life, but they did not include the Lord. I finished my automotive vocational course but I was not content. I worked as a security guard for a while at one of the largest universities in Manila. One year later however, my blood sugar and blood pressure went sky high, and that’s why I became blind.
I became very discouraged. All my dreams and plans vanished. I was always thinking about my four children. I kept asking myself, “How can I be a good father to them and provide for them financially now that I am blind? How can I raise them?”
One day someone invited me to join a Bible study. That is how I got saved—I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and then I was baptized. This church (started by Michael Balinas, a graduate of Iloilo Baptist College) offered a night class for lay people. It was a great opportunity for me and I graduated from that Bible Institute. I had a great desire to be used by God. I started a pioneering work in my home place. It was hard for me to travel from place to place, because of my blindness, but I thank God for giving me a wonderful wife who loves me and helps me with the ministry. My wife reads the Bible to me. Then afterwards I ask her to write the spiritual lessons I’ve learned. Then she reads it out loud to me over and over, so I can memorize it. Then on Sunday preach the Word of God to my church people.
Yet God gave me a burden to do even more for Him—to train men to be pastors through a Bible institute. That year I trained two laymen. I taught them every night about Bible doctrine and other subjects. These men have helped me so much in the ministry. They help me in Bible study, Sunday school, soul winning, song leading, and so on. I have a plan to train more men to start pioneering works in some villages and I want to train more of my members to be soul winners. My wife is my partner in soul winning every week. We go to three different places.
God has given us some faithful church members who have provided our needs. My family and I also raise ducks. I work with the police in our town by teaching values and I want to start a school ministry.
Brother Jonathan’s church met under trees or in different homes, until the day God graciously provided a church building. Brother Jonathan spends three days a week soul winning and three days a week conducting Bible studies! Besides sending students to Iloilo Baptist College, he is still training married men to be pastors in his own Bible Institute.
Another blind preacher, Brother Wilfren Cabanas, became blind as a child when he contracted measles. His mother abandoned him. He grew up in a mountain village with his grandmother, who brought him to church each week. They would walk two kilometers, up and down the hills to get there. Another IBC graduate, Billy Caalem, started a Bible College in the mountains of Leon. Brother Cabanas asked Brother Caalem if he would accept him as a student, even though he was blind. Brother Caalem said yes! Brother Cabanas was so happy!
It wasn’t easy for him, as you can imagine, but he finally graduated. He is now assisting a pastor in that area.
I suppose, like anyone who has lost their sight, his great desire would be to see again. However, he said if this is not possible, he’s willing to accept it. He said that way, when he reaches Heaven someday, the first face he will see will be that of his Savior.
The third pastor, Joben Bigot, was born in 1976 in Isabela, Negros, to a poor family. His father was a farmer and they had 10 children. One day while in elementary school, Joben bumped his head and became unconscious. Later he lost most of his sight. In spite of that he continued with his schooling until he graduated. He received Christ as his Savior when he was 15. Every summer he would go to the youth camp held by IBC and he would always surrender to go to Bible College. He arrived in Iloilo City in 1994. He was an outstanding student and worked hard in teaching children during the Saturday Bible classes and in conducting Home Bible studies. He also worked in the prison ministry. Even though he often had painful headaches, he studied hard. He graduated in 1998 and started his first ministry in his home place. Later he started a second church, New Life Fundamental Baptist Church in Hinigaran. His sight became worse until he became totally blind, but he became even more dedicated to his work. He brought young people to camp every summer, encouraging them to serve the Lord in full time Christian service.
Brother Joben’s life is a great blessing to many preachers on Negros Island. He is passionate in serving the Lord and in his love for people. He never complains and has no regrets simply stating that all things work together for good, and that God has a purpose and plan for each and every life.
News & Prayer Requests
On May 25th we had our annual Veterans of World War II and Armed Forces of the Philippines Appreciation Day at Iloilo Baptist Church. There were 11 veterans of WW II present, all of whom were 90-years-old or more with the exception of an 88-year-old veteran who joined the rebel movement when he was only 16 years old.
Three soldiers who were injured were honored. For the first time we honored a soldier who had been killed by the insurgents here in the Philippines. He was 23-years-old, the only son of his parents who were also present. The father has been in the army for 27 years and he and his wife were touched as you can see in the picture. The mother received Christ as her Savior.
Seventeen members of the Philippine National Police attended including 15 who helped with the flag ceremony, our local police chief and the Public Affairs Officer. Becky led one of the lady officers to Christ.
The pastors and churches are slowly recovering from the devastating effects of the typhoon and I do not believe they will ever forget so many of you who have helped. I thought that the effects of the typhoon would hinder the starting of new churches by the graduates of Iloilo Baptist College and the men they have trained but so far the Lord is still blessing. For that I’m very grateful, as that is our main ministry.
I had planned to write about the radio ministry but hope to do that in the next newsletter. On May 28th we celebrated our first year anniversary as a station.
Becky and I would like to thank those of you who sent cards for her 60th birthday, and our 41st anniversary June 3rd. We have included a picture of me and our grandson Landon (son of our daughter Rachel and son-in-law, Matt deQuina, who work in the Faith Baptist Church, Oak Creek, Wisconsin).
Please pray for the family and church of Pastor Filizardo delos Reyes, who died in an accident. He was in the second graduating class of IBC in 1983 and for 31 years he served as a pastor. He started several churches. He was fruitful, faithful, had had a wonderful spirit.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rick & Becky Martin