You never know how God will work and what you will learn when you go on a mission trip. This mission trip was no exception.
After a thirty-eight hour plane ride I arrived in Davao City, Philippines. It was good to exit the plane and see Pastor Melchor and Mercy Magbanua. He pastors the Kitcharao Baptist Church in Kitcharao, Philippines, in the Agusan Rainforest. They are good friends.
From the airport we went to the bus station for the eight-hour bus ride to Kitcharao. Upon arriving in Kitcharao, I quickly unpacked and got some sleep. The night was short, but adequate. The Sunday morning worship service began at 10:00 a.m. I preached. There were three that made decisions. Pastor Melchor counseled them and began the follow-up. Melchor and Mercy are not only committed to doing evangelism, but also to the follow-up. As they have often told me, failing to do the follow-up is committing spiritual abortion.
On Monday, we spent the morning visiting the local Barangay officials and the town Mayor. It is always good to visit these folks as they can pave the way for everything you want to do during the week. It also adds creditability to the events when you get the Mayor’s approval and then he helps send out publicity as he Tweets everyone in town who has a cell phone. That’s about everyone.
After lunch we went door-to-door witnessing and handing out tracts. We then moved to the Regional High School and started throwing softball. In a few moments some players arrived and we played some and did some coaching. Afterwards, we shared the Gospel and invited them to the film showing on Tuesday night.
Tuesday saw more door-to-door witnessing and tract distribution. That afternoon, some of the boys from the Regional High School Baseball/Softball team came back to ask if we could go and play ball. However, they insisted on my leading a Bible study for them before we played. The boys were very interested in how they can grow in their Christian lives. We had a good time in the Word and then played ball. Never had guys insist on a Bible study before ball practice.
That evening for the film showing, we set up the projector and screen between the city market and bus station. This strategic placement helped gather a good size crowd. We were showing the DVD, “Life of Christ.” It is from the Gospel of Luke. At the end we gave an invitation and nine people came forward. One of them was a tribal man from one of the surrounding mountains. We think he is the first person to accept Christ from his village. Pray for him and for a church to be planted in his village.
Wednesday saw door-to-door witnessing in the morning and ball playing and sharing Christ in the afternoon. One of the unexpected fun things that happened was drinking Coconut milk and eating the meat. One of the men in the church climbed up a Coconut tree and chopped several coconuts down. Then he cut a hole in them to drink the milk and then broke the coconuts in half so the meat could be spooned out. It was filling, tasty, and loaded with calories.
Thursday was our last day in Kitcharao. It was packed full. Melchor and Mercy had scheduled the S.H.A.R.E Ministry Livelihood Skills Training and the Pastors and Workers Workshop, both, for that day.
I led the Pastor and Workers’ Workshop. We met under a tent by the church building. Twelve pastors and workers were in attendance. I taught on “Pursuing Holiness in Your Personal Life” and led a workshop on “Reaching Your Community Through Sports.” Both workshops were well received as I could tell by the questions they asked and by the attention they gave to what was said.
Mercy and Racquel led the S.H.A.R.E. Livelihood Skills Training. They taught pizza making, bread making, and two other cooking skills. At the end of the presentations Racquel took about 20 minutes and shared the Gospel with the ladies in attendance. At the end she asked them all to bow their heads and close their eyes. She then asked for those who wanted to follow Christ to raise their hands. Twenty-eight women did so.
Racquel, Mercy, Melchor and I were so excited. It is always super good to see people begin to follow Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
That evening, or last evening in Kitcharao, we packed and got ready to head back to Davao the next day. It is always hard to leave anyplace during a mission trip. Especially here, as Mercy was our helper in our home most of the years we were in Davao, as missionaries. We raised her and got her though college. It’s good to see someone you put so much into, now an adult and following Jesus. Thank you Lord.
On Friday, we headed back to Davao for the last three days. Saturday we were to roam around the city and do some souvenir shopping. Sunday I was to preach in one of “my boys" churches, where he is Pastor. On Monday, we will eat lunch with Mrs. Braga, a long time friend, and the Mayor of Davao, Rodrigo Duterte. He is another long time friend and is running for President of the Philippines.
All went as planned. It was a lot of fun to preach at Vic’s church on Sunday. He was one of my language teachers when Barbara and I were missionaries and he also was one of my softball players on the Baptist Student Ministry team. All in all, there are eleven of my former ball players who are now Pastors and seven who are currently missionaries.
At the church there were several of our “spiritual kids” in attendance, those we had won to Christ and/or discipled. They are all are now married, with kids, and following Jesus. Amen and amen.
On Monday, my final day, went around Davao for one last time. Amazed at the growth. Heard Christian music in a few stores. For many years Mayor Duterte has wanted Bible studies in every Police Station and Fire Hall. He believes the only way his city can become a great city is to get the Bible into his workers. He is right. Don't know how many Bible studies there are now, but you can see the Salvatic Lift occurring.
What a week. There were 40 decisions, 37 of them for salvation. Melchor and Mercy will have their work cut out for them as they do the follow-up. Pray for them.
In addition to the decisions, three things really hit home to me during the week. They have to do with the purpose and value of these mission trips to the Philippines.
First, a mission trip here raises the visibility of the local church in the eyes of the community and local government officials. Also, these government leaders will give foreigners entree to them when they would usually never give the “time of day” to a local resident. Also, permission for special events is almost always automatic when a local has a foreigner with them.
Second, a mission trip is a catalyst for witnessing. For a Pastor and his church members to have one or more foreign Believers with them for the week gives them an extra incentive to do more that the normal. Activities such as outdoor film showings and door-to-door witnessing become easier when you have more folks to do it with.
Finally, as you visit in the churches and talk to the Pastors and workers you become aware of doctrinal errors that have crept in or are creeping in. Disputing these errors in doctrine or practice is always important and making small course corrections is continually of value.
Monday night it was off to the airport. We said our good-byes and tore ourselves away from each other.
That’s it. God did a great job during the week. Thank you for your prayers and support. Maybe some of you can go with me next year and “suffer” for the Lord. Let me know.