In this report we want to share the stories of two pastors who God is using to train pastors.
Shem Barena was saved at the age of 12, and surrendered his life to God that same day. Several years later a student of Iloilo Baptist College named Rex Galfo (now a missionary in Indonesia), visited the Barena home and told Shem about Iloilo Baptist College and the things he could accomplish for God there. An intense desire to serve God grew in Shem’s heart and he came to Bible school. He told us he immediately noticed the church carried a burden for the lost—not only in Iloilo City—but also for the world. He loved the motto, “The church with a heart for everyone,” so he got involved with the different ministries. He was active in the school ministry, prison ministry, extension Bible classes on Saturdays, held for children in the slums, and he had a jeepney route to bring people to church. He said he really benefitted from being involved in those ministries because when he started his own church, he also started those same ministries.
Shem went through some tough times financially. He worked hard and sacrificed much. He drove a tri-sikad (bike with side card used as a taxi) during times between his classes and ministries.
Brother Shem was well prepared when he graduated in 1994 because of the struggles he endured in Bible College. He started Grace Baptist Church in Tabu Ilog, Negros, and it grew rapidly. Like many graduates, Brother Shem started his church under some trees.
About two years after starting his church Brother Barena became very ill. His doctor thought his kidneys were failing. It got so bad that everyone thought he would die. Brother Barena thought so too. We waited for news of his death but God had other plans. Some believe Brother Barena’s doctor simply made a wrong diagnoses. We believe however, that God answered prayer and healed him! Brother Barena says he has learned that trials make you stronger. He started a Bible Institute to train several married men for the ministry. After three years his first graduate, Jerry Filizardo, started a church! By God’s grace, within a few years, Brother Barena and his men started five churches on Negros Island. Pastor Jerry also started a Bible Institute. In 2001 Brother Filizardo was thrilled as he had his first graduation with two graduates going into the ministry.
In 2005 Brother Barena started a full time Bible school for young people. The Lord has blessed the school. His goal is to see these young people go out and start churches like the married men in his Bible Institute. It was a blessing this past March to have Brother Barena as our speaker at the 34th Commencement exercises of Iloilo Baptist College.
One of the married men Brother Barena trained is Leomar Villacampa. After he graduated he went to the island of Mindanao to help a pastor for a while. Here is his testimony:
“Mindanao is noted as the land of terrorists like the Abu Sayaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). When I went there I met a faithful servant of God, over 60 years old, named Pastor Galfo Tellano. We worked with him for six years. Pastor Tellano received many threats but he would just continue on doing God’s work, regardless. On November 19, 2003, Pastor Tellano preached his last message on I Corinthians chapter 7. It was the midweek service. Suddenly, a man ran up to Pastor Tellano and shot him in the head. My wife and two sons and all the other members sat in stunned disbelief. Blood was everywhere. The assassin ran out and two church members ran after him. He was never found. Meanwhile we brought our beloved Pastor to the hospital, but he was already dead. For many days our family didn’t leave our house. We were experiencing great trauma from this brutal and senseless killing of a wonderful man of God. The NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) told us the group responsible for the murder was planning to kill others in Brother Tellano’s group, especially his successor—which was me. They strongly advised me and my family to leave the area as we would not be safe there.”
Through several seemingly miraculous events, the Lord led Pastor Villacampa to start a church in Guimaras Island. He was greatly burdened for this place he described as “wholly given to pagan worship.” It is famous for the fact that they actually crucify people during Easter, and people come from around the world to see it. He began training men to be pastors in his nighttime Bible Institute.
Two years ago Brother Villacampa started a Bible College for young people. The Lord has blessed this school. One thing I like about these Bible schools is their emphasis on practical ministries for the students. Here is a testimony of one of Pastor Villacampa’s students:
“I am Elsa Gamuza of Alaguisoc, Jordan, Guimaras. My family were devoted Roman Catholics. We performed every ritual but God didn’t like for my family to stay that way. He used someone from a Baptist Church that taught us the plan of salvation. I accepted Christ as my Savior. I know I am saved and I am saved to serve. God has an assignment for me that cannot be done by anyone else. I don’t want to just be saved—I want to be HIS servant. I enrolled at Faith Community Baptist Institute of Jordan, Guimaras under the leadership of Pastor Leomar Villacampa. When my family and friends knew I enrolled they started to deride me. I heard insulting words and they scorned me. But God said in HIS Word “My grace is sufficient for me.” He is our refuge, a very present help in trouble. Now I am still in Bible school. I teach the extension Bible Classes. I teach the children every Saturday and bring them to church on Sunday. I am happy seeing people getting saved and growing in Christ!”
Please continue to pray for the pastors here in the Philippines who are sacrificially serving the Lord to reach people with the Gospel.
NEWS & PRAYER REQUESTS
This past summer was full of camps and other activities. One of the encouraging developments is that quite a few graduates are organizing their own camps. This includes many of the pastors who have Bible colleges. In the past year three more graduates have started Bible colleges including Dennis Dialing in Mindanao, Leo Gardosa in Negros, and Lamberto Delgado in Capiz Province.
This past May 24th our church had its annual day for honoring veterans and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Three soldiers who have been killed in action in recent years were honored and remembered. Their families were here and were honored and thanked as well. About 50 members of the Philippine Army attended, and 13 soldiers who had been wounded were recognized and honored. About 30 veterans were honored including six who were 90 years old or older—they had served in World War II. During that war, 1,421 men died fighting the Japanese on our island. Several soldiers received Christ as Savior along with the wife of one of the soldiers who died. 13 police officers also attended. The person who helped us start this day was a W.W. II veteran and now an American citizen, Ricardo Hechanova.
Ricardo Hechanova was taken as a prisoner of war while he was fighting and taken to the camp where the survivors of the Bataan death march stayed. He became the officer in charge of burial duty and planned the burials and kept the records of all who were buried. He says he buried about 6,000 Americans and 20,000 Filipinos. He said the most he ever buried in one day was 496 soldiers. He felt so sorry for the young American soldiers he buried who died so far away from home, defending the freedom of another country. He claimed it was very hard on the soldiers who helped with the burials. They could hardly keep up with the work of digging the graves so they would dig very long trenches and then bury the soldiers, covering them up with a very thin layer of dirt. The next day they would continue to put bodies on top of them. At first the dogs would come out at night and try to dig up bodies. The Japanese allowed them to post guards to keep the dogs away.
Mr. Hechanova would stay up at night in his little hut with a candle. He would try to accurately write down the details of the men he buried. One night he said it was raining and he heard someone banging on the door. He thought it must have been the Japanese but when he held the candle up he saw it was a solider covered in mud. The soldier acted like he was crazy. He had been buried alive. When it rained he woke up. There were no doctors who would pronounce the soldiers dead and they just assumed a soldier was dead and buried them. It’s sad to hear these stories and what these men had to go through. They deserve to be honored.
In closing let us say “Thank you!” for helping this ministry and praying for us. We are very grateful!
Sincerely in Christ,
Rick & Becky Martin