As you may have read in the prelude to this visit which we sent out just prior to this trip, this conference actually started in October 2007, when we were on our way home from the Ethiopia missionary trip and we stopped in Switzerland. Here we visited the Zurich fellowship at the home of Sia and Nasi. The Philippine sisters, Merlinda and Marissa expressed how they wished that the kingdom of God message could be preached in their native land and mentioned their uncle Ramer Zabala who was a preacher there. I got his mailing address from them and mailed him some literature and recordings. A month later I heard from him that the material had arrived and that he was reading it with great interest and enthusiasm. As it came to late December he was inviting us to come for a conference in Butuan City. He had at least 20 other “pastors” and their wives who were with him and were also interested. Brother duCille said he was interested in going, but did not believe his personal circumstances would permit the travel. I began communicating in earnest with Merlinda in Switzerland, as she began making arrangements through her contacts in the Philippines and it was decided that an early February visit was desirable. So the word was sent out to our various fellowships to assemble a team and in particular to appeal to someone who could do internet broadcasting and bring Brother duCille in as a speaker.
Things fell into place very rapidly. A team of five people came together, four from the United States: Addie Chattic, David Wickboldt, Rita and I; and Tomas Brchan from Czech Republic. Merlinda and Marissa would also come from Switzerland to join us. Tomas and David were to be the computer operators and would also bring their guitars. One of our goals was to teach the brethren some of our praise songs and prepare a good sense of the presence of the Lord before the preaching and teaching of the Word. We were to hold the conference in the Karaga Hotel, which had internet service, could accommodate 150 people in a meeting hall with a P.A. system, would make food available and would be a place where a few of us could live for about 10 days. The room rates were really to my liking; $10 per person ($20 for a couple) per night and the food was quite good and reasonable. So the plan was to have meetings at the hotel for two consecutive 3-day weekends and on the 4 days between to visit some of the local fellowships where meetings would be held. So I am happy to report that the meetings all went as planned.
We left our house very early in the morning on February 5 and flew to Detroit where we were met by Addie and David. From there we all shared a common 13 ½ hour flight to Japan and then an additional 5 hour flight to Manila. We arrived in Manila at almost midnight and spent a very short night in the Manila Airport Hotel, with all seven of us travelers continuing the next morning on a 1 ½ hour flight to Butuan City via Philippine Airlines. It took two vehicles to carry us to the hotel, a van for the people and a small pickup truck for the luggage. Rita and I went in maxed to the limit with luggage including 150 # of books and CDs plus 50 # of clothes for the brethren which we would not be returning with.
So on Thursday afternoon we checked into the hotel (the two young men and Rita and I) to be ready for the meeting to start tomorrow morning. Addie stayed with the Sisters at their place a couple of miles out of the city. The meetings would run from 9 AM until a little after 4 PM with a 1 ½ hour lunch break. It seemed that as the meetings went on, the crowd increased. They were planning for the hotel to serve 100 prepared meals for the adults present and by the last days they had overrun this by another 30 or more. The attendance was more than just the 20 associates of Ramer with their wives; they probably made up 1/3 of the audience. Another third may have been the Sister’s friends and family or other brethren associated with them. The last third and the ones who asked the most questions were probably the other pastors with their wives from a variety of organizations and denominations, some who came from a very great distance to hear this word. The mix was mainly the full gospel/Pentecostal, at least one from the C&M Alliance, an Assembly of God (former), and a goodly number of Seventh Day Adventists. Roman Catholicism is the major ruling spirit here but we had almost no dealings with them except for the parents of the Sisters. I put out the books and CDs on a table in the back and at the lunch break they all disappeared within 20 minutes with a cry for more.
David and Tomas managed to bring Brother duCille in on broadcast for the morning meetings with time for questions which they certainly did have. The internet connection from here was not good and there were frequent interruptions but by the grace of God the job was done. David said he was very glad for Tomas’ help as it would have been more than he could have handled alone, considering the problems encountered. I brought the word for the afternoon meetings. A lot of good foundational end-time, kingdom, sonship word was given with clarification by questions and answers. Many ministers said this was the first time they had ever heard such a word and that this word began to unlock their understanding of the Bible as they began to come from traditional and natural understanding and interpretation to a spiritual comprehension. Brother Ramer and others told us that there were other groups that held “Christian seminars” in town nearly once a month and that the focus was usually on how to acquire prosperity, how to make your church grow in numbers, or how to enhance your personal self in God. The end result they said was that their eyes were opened to truth which most of them planned to walk in and a lot of old doctrinal walls and bondage were given a serious blow. We were also able to introduce many of the praise songs that we are so familiar with and they were learned quickly, especially since the laptops were able to project the words on the screen. David and Tomas took turns on the guitar while the other managed the computer and Rita joined them with the microphone in singing. Brother Ramer usually opened each meeting with prayer and his favorite song, “we’re together again…something good is about to happen.”
In the midweek we went out to four local fellowships with the same schedule of time for meetings. At these meetings the other team members all took the opportunity to share what was on their heart. The first one was at Brother Ramer’s fellowship and from there we began each day working our meetings back from the villages closer to Butuan City.
The second meeting was in the village where Brother Ramer actually lives. The one thing we all remember about this meeting was that it rained…and rained…and rained. The rain was so loud on the metal roof that we could hardly hear. Someone said they had heard that a typhoon was blowing somewhere about 100 miles away. But it was a good meeting.
The third was in a Seventh Day Adventist Church where the Sisters’ brother and his in-laws have attended. I first realized what we were up against at the beginning of the meeting when the area President got up and stopped us from clapping our hands in our praise songs. They served us an ample vegetarian feast at noon. Then at the end of the day the big guns came out with a lot of questions or mainly comments about the keeping of certain law.
The last meeting on Thursday was at the Sisters’ place near Butuan City. All of the meetings were very well attended. This meeting, in a building on the main highway with a large open side of the room facing the highway, gave us a lot of competition from ambient noise. I remember a very loud PA system and trying to speak over the screaming sirens, thundering roar of loud engines and the blaring of horns (which all Philippine drivers practice constantly) of Jeepneys. Nevertheless the word found fertile ground. The mother-in-law of the Sisters’ brother had been attending nearly all of the meetings as a practicing Seventh Day Adventist along with most of her extended family (family ties are very important and strong here). At this meeting at lunch she informed us that she had been with this denomination for 24 years and a strict vegetarian for many of these years and today she was planning to eat meat. Many others of this persuasion also testified how this false doctrinal bondage over their lives was being broken by the word of truth.
We then had the last 3 meetings at the hotel and when finished we reversed our travel back to our homes. The two Swiss Philippine Sisters are remaining here with their family for an additional 10 days. This is probably one of the most satisfying mission trips that I have ever made. Although the final product remains to be seen, I believe much good was done in a land of many hungry people. Nearly all testified that they desire to become sons of God and come into fullness in this last hour before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. We are most amazed at the outpouring of the body of Christ in their giving toward this mission, such as we have never seen before. It seems that people are getting the word to invest in the Kingdom of God and they will surely get a good return on the investment. We were also amazed at the goodness of the Lord in overshadowing us with His protection and keeping all of us in perfect health. I remember mentioning several times our awareness of the ongoing prayers of the saints. God surely has a great love for this people.
Just before we left the city a message came in by e-mail offering more financial help. We decided it should go toward the printing (or duplicating) of the books that we had brought at a local printer. Just a few hours ago I learned that the Sisters had made arrangements with a printer to reproduce 50 copies of each of the three Revelation volumes, The Pattern, and my three books (350 books in all) with the money we left there. It would have cost twice that much just to send them by postal service from the US to say nothing of our printing cost. When these run out we can repeat the process. We also got enough to buy an MP3 player for Brother Ramer and the 20 shepherd (they are no longer calling themselves pastors) associates, so that we can send them some of our best recordings. CDs ship a lot cheaper and easier than heavy books. These brethren have all come out of some kind of religious organizational control system. They are mostly young men and it seems that Ramer is seen as a senior elder by them. I don’t believe that most of them have a good source of income. Merlinda said that she would like to see that a bag of rice is given to each of these ministers once a month so they can feed their families. She estimated the total monthly cost to be about $300-500 per month and said she will do so alone if necessary. I suggested that perhaps others might also want to participate.
Finally, let me give a little word about Brother Ramer. From the pictures you can see that he is a man in his 40s. We visited his tiny house where he and his wife live with 7 or 8 of their 10 children plus 2 grandchildren. The house is made up of mostly local material (bamboo and such) and the roof is made of shingles from the leaves of a special palm tree that only grows in water. Some of the floor is just gravel with no covering and gets wet if it rains too much. He has no electricity. He said he made an arrangement with a neighbor to send over an electric line and share the cost together, these little shacks being fairly close together in this village. Light is from lamps or candles. These folks may be better prepared for tribulation than we are. They already are living by the Lord’s provision and receiving by faith without making much of it. The man is unable to work due to a handicap of an injured leg caused by an accident. He has no car, motorcycle or other means of transportation. Yet he manages to conduct three meetings at different locations each Sunday, traveling by motor-tricycle taxi or Jeepney-taxi, the evening meeting being in his nieces’ house near Butuan City. He received this word most graciously and I saw no attempt of control, envy, pride or any such thing. Please pray for this servant of the Lord, as well as all the others in this land. Now it is the job of the Holy Spirit to work this into the lives of these our brethren in the Philippines and bring them into the same end-time army of which we all expect to be participants. God’s blessings to you all!