This two week journey actually includes a total of 15 days, running from Tuesday early morning, June 23 through Tuesday, July 7 very late in the evening. It was the usual very long flight from the Minneapolis hub to Japan and then another 3 hours down to Manila. We left home on Tuesday morning and arrived in Manila late Wednesday night. There is a day missing in your life and you can’t figure out where it went. So I was so exhausted that I fell asleep in my hotel room near the Manila Airport and I really slept all night. If only the next few nights will go that easy. There is a team of six of us and we gather in Manila from four different flights. Burt and Nancy Asbill are coming in from Detroit, Paul and Pavlina Davis via Korean Air from Seoul, Tomas Brchan on Emirates from Vienna and I am coming from Albany through Minneapolis and Japan.
The next morning, after a hotel sponsored breakfast, we returned to Terminal 3 and checked in to Cebu Pacific Airlines for the flight down to Butuan City. There we were met by the Karaga Hotel van and another vehicle organized by the brethren to carry our luggage. Once again the hotel is very gracious toward us in our very reasonably priced accommodation. We spent the rest of Thursday unpacking, contacting loved ones at home (Sister Rita was unable to accompany me this time) and getting a little more rest.
Friday was a day spent on administrative and business meetings concerning the school. Saturday there is nothing scheduled; so we use it to take care of personal things and to prepare for a busy week of ministry. Sister Merlinda has not been feeling well; so we suggest she seeks medical attention. She is admitted to the local hospital about three blocks from the hotel, for one thing to treat a serious dehydration and several of the infectious diseases common to this area.
So on Sunday, June 28 the preaching/teaching ministry activity begins. Merlinda has hired a van to transport us and at 9 AM the driver (with Brother Edmar as a guide) will take us (nine of us in the van) to a place we have never been before. It will be about a 45 minute drive starting north in the direction of Jabonga. After about 25 minutes we turn left off the main highway on to a dirt/gravel/sometimes mud road that slowly weaves for 4.7 km (nearly 3 miles) around numerous semi flooded rice patties. This is really serious rice business out here. While there is a sort of rice patty rototiller, it seems like some of the work is done by a man following a large mature water buffalo, and the ground is being prepared to plant rice. After 20 some minutes on this road, we arrive in the small town of Magallanes. We stop on the narrow road and descend a small slope to a small worship house, neatly built of all natural material, including a palm leaf “shingled” roof. The ministry leaders here are a 40ish couple Benviendio and Marilou Eroa. The little building is packed to where some must sit outside, about 35 locals plus our eight. After Sis Nancy gives a teaching for the children, Bro Burt brings the word, “Where are you David”. After the meeting, they serve us an excellent lunch at the Eroa’s home, a short walk down the road. Brother Eroa is actively engaged in organic rice farming of about 20 acres around this area.
The afternoon meeting is held at the school, where there is a new stage and an expanded area for seating the people, mostly school children. Of course, now we have another new grade and a neighboring building in which to expand the school. After Sister Nancy brings a dramatic story for the children, I bring a word on sonship; someone suggested it should be named, “Why Are You Eating with the Pigs”? I will actually call it “Making a Decision for Sonship”. An invitation is given for those who may have lived the life of a Prodigal Son and want to return to the Father’s house. About 15 adults (men and women) respond and come for prayer, seeking forgiveness, these probably being parents of new school children. This “school church” is a very good opportunity for evangelization in the community. We all stopped to see Merlinda in the hospital on the way back to the hotel.
Monday begins our three day ministry at the Bible School in Jabonga. It is raining quite heavily, almost all day. The locals say that this is now the beginning of the rainy season that will last for several months. The one way trip takes a little more than an hour. There are places that the water is well over the road and a couple of places that the stream is actually flowing over the road; fortunately the road does not wash out. Bro Burt speaks first in the morning about being born for a higher calling. After lunch Tomas gives a brief exhortation about true praise. Then I bring the first part of a message on the priesthood of all believers. The school has invited their former students to join the meetings and some come from faraway places on the Mindanao Island. It is a very sweet and precious atmosphere, especially the praise, quite a contrast from the music we heard several years ago.
Tuesday is a much nicer day to travel, overcast but not raining steadily. Br Burt again spoke in the morning and challenged the students to the higher ways of God’s house and to make our Christianity that which can be seen by the world. Afterward, an invitation was given to respond to the challenge and the entire room came up for prayer, some prophecy was also given. In the afternoon, I continued with the message of priesthood, now looking at Christ our high priest and the only mediator before God. After arriving at the hotel, I checked in on Merlinda at the local hospital, where she is under treatment and slowly improving.
The weather on Wednesday is again much the same as Tuesday, a good travel day. We can see much activity in the wet rice fields as they are being prepared for one of the three annual crops. Burt again brings the morning word in which he shared his testimony of deliverance. I brought the afternoon word on God’s ultimate purpose for mankind and how all other “temples” will be gone and only the Father and the Lamb will remain. The Davis’s went with me to visit Merlinda and she is doing better; she probably has yet a couple more days of recovery before her release but she is making progress.
So this is the last of our ministry to the bible school for this visit. It has been a very good visit; the response of the students has been very encouraging, quite a contrast to a few years ago when there was resistance to the message. Edmar had invited all of the known former students to attend these meetings and many responded. Most of the former ones are now married, have found employment and a few have gone into some churches. This is the twelfth year of operation of the school; many who came are now families with small children (infants and toddlers). One young family came on a 6 hour journey one way for the three days of meetings. I suggested that we do this again next year. We also made a record of their names and addresses so that we can keep them supplied with literature and the word. We are living in an age where almost all young people have cell phones and email addresses. I estimate that there were about 50 adults in the meetings. Last year there was only one new student and it looked like the devil was going to succeed in shutting the school down. This year there are nine. Since the church’s pastors have been trying to close the school because of the word, we asked where the students are coming from. The answer: former students who have heard this message and received it are referring other young people now. They are being scattered about on the Mindanao Island and we believe will also be sent out into Southeast Asia along the edges of the South China Sea, as per a vision given some years ago. God is still very active with His word! On Sundays these brethren at the Bible School rotate their meetings/visits among at least three other outreach centers among the tribal mountain people, preaching this message also to them. Some of their young people were in our meetings and said that they intend to become bible school students here in the near future.
Thursday and Friday (July 3) is a day dedicated to school business, working with staff and making future plans. This is also the day of Sister Merlinda’s release from the hospital. These Philippine hospitals will not actually release you until the last peso of one’s bill is fully paid, like you are held hostage. So she didn’t actually leave the hospital until nearly 6 hours after the doctor had actually written her discharge. I personally saw and assisted her into the van which then returned her to her home, Mermalade.
On our last Saturday, we had two meetings at the KMMS (children’s) school with the elders. The new elder, Bro Ben was here with his wife. Bro Edmar brought a group of former bible school students, their wives and little babies down in his Jeep, thirteen or fourteen of them riding in this vehicle. I shared in the morning about having a “heavenly vision” and Tomas brought the afternoon word about “a vision for elders”. The young sister married to Edmar’s older son was again my translator. It was a very lively meeting. Bro Burt brought a prophecy and also had a vision: a rag-tag army beginning to climb a mountain to take the devil’s stronghold at the top. As they climbed, their clothing became more of true armor and their homemade weapons became a very effective laser gun.
Sunday was our last day of ministry. The morning meeting was held at Br. Lito’s fellowship. Bro Burt spoke on Living Stones. We had a lunch on the site, then we went to the afternoon meeting at the KMM School. After Sis Nancy brought a dramatic story of Daniel in the lion’s den, Tomas brought the message on the Seven Steps up to Mount Zion, the fullness of God. We stopped at Mermalade on the way back to the hotel to see sister Merlinda one last time. We settled a few financial matters with her and then prayed for her, promising to continue praying for her until she is fully healed and strengthened.
Our departure from the Karaga Hotel was about 7 AM, in which we will now be in transit for the next 52 hours until arriving at our homes. Our landing in Manila was in the midst of a very nasty rain (tropical storm) which continued for the rest of the day. We have learned that we are now between this tropical storm and a cyclone north of us which could develop into a mega-typhoon, even affecting Japan if we are to remain here another day.
As we contemplate all that has transpired on this trip, Bro Burt has declared that we have had a very, very profitable time; we believe that God has given us a significant breakthrough. We want to take the time to thank the many believers who have supported us in prayer; as well as those who sponsor children or give in other ways. Once again I say, we are all working partners together sharing the same reward of His Kingdom.
May the Lord bless each reader,
Mark Jantzi (and the team)