God has His vineyards all over the earth, including in the Philippines. And we labor and build in this particular vineyard as if we had another 100 years to work. But Jesus clearly said that “the night cometh when no man can work”. So whenever we go I always ask myself, could this be the last time we will be able to visit there, and if so be, then I must conduct myself as if this is the last and final message that I would want to leave behind. Yes, the signs are very abundant that the darkness of night is rapidly sweeping across the earth. I have been studying history quite a bit lately and I know that darkness is nothing new, but the urgency of this hour seems to be something different.
Rita and I left Albany, NY in the very early hours of Tuesday morning, February 16. Two days earlier we had had a temperature of -26 F at our house so we were still wearing our heavy winter coats on the airplane, which would become quite useless in the 80+ F temperatures and the tropical humidity of Mindanao Island. It wasn’t just the temperature that we had to adjust to but the 13 hour time change. So I mention it again in case you have forgotten what it is like from our point of view. We landed in Manila late Wednesday night, where we met with the rest of the team (Burt & Nancy and George), spent the night in a hotel and the next day flew down south to Butuan City, where we will be staying again at the same hotel that has been so good to us for 9 years now. It is a blessing that God has given us such favor with the owner.
So this winter’s visit is going to start off differently than in the past. Instead of having an open conference at the hotel with a morning and afternoon meeting in which we feed all of the people at noon, our budget constraints compel us to try something new. So we will now have the three days of meetings at the KMM School. Also, the large space in front of the school has now been completely covered by a full metal roof, there is a new stage built there and the seating capacity is much larger. The only disadvantage is that it is near the road and open to loud traffic and animal noises. But remember, we now have about 180 students at the school.
So the long weekend of ministry is dedicated to the students and the parents, who are also coming to the meetings. Sister Nancy cleverly had a “skit” for the children at the opening of each meeting. The first was a flannel-graph of the Book of Esther in which Rita, George and I held up puppets from behind a large “tipped over” table. The second one was the David and Goliath story while George and I did the “beastly” sounds from the unseen position. The meetings were then divided into three groups for follow-up: two age groups of students led by Nancy and Burt respectively (another day George had the older students), and Rita & I took the mothers into one of the rooms of the school for an appropriate teaching. Since half of the students attend the morning session, we would repeat the meeting again with the afternoon group, a new set of faces. I must say that Rita and I very much enjoyed meeting with the mothers and getting to know them better. Some of them had no bibles so we were able to supply them as needed.
We had a rented van at our service which provided transportation for the team. So on Sunday morning, we were driven out to the new elder, Bro Ben’s small fellowship which we had visited last year. It is about an hour’s drive from Butuan and is a considerable drive off the main road and through the rice growing areas. Bro Burt brought the message at the small frame open building where some of the attendees had to stand outdoors. After the meeting they gave us a very good fellowship meal.
Then after the meal, I looked up the woman I had been praying for since the last visit and had her try some of the eyeglasses that I had brought from Bro Radek in Czech. I must have had 20 or 30 glasses with me of various prescription strengths, but I soon discovered that glasses would not help this nearly blind woman; I have determined that the poor dear probably has cataracts so bad that surgery is the only thing that will be able to help her see, unless God heals her, for which we prayed. However, other adults saw the glasses and began to request a try for reading lenses. I believe I quickly gave away three pair in a few minutes. Before we left the Philippines, I was able to find new owners for about a dozen pair. I noticed that simple reading glasses can be purchased at the mall for about $13-15, but that is a lot of money for people who can barely afford rice for food in this economy here.
On the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we traveled for two daily (morning and afternoon) meetings at the bible school in Jabonga, over an hour’s drive to the north. Brothers Burt, George and I each gave two messages here. It was a delight to see the room filled with those eager to hear the deeper things of the kingdom of God. Without going into much detail about each message given, let me say that we are preaching the apostolic kingdom message that we believe is being 100% received. We were able to take the CD recordings of the past year’s meetings and gave them to the brethren, although they are still somewhat limited in their ability to play them back due to their lack of modern equipment. There are two computers at the school and it is a delight to see that they are being used for playing songs, audio recordings and DVDs. It is also a delight to meet some of the former graduates who have come back to visit from the various places where they have been scattered. Yes, they are seed scattered around the Mindanao Island and even in other churches, where we understand that they are preaching this message. We are also told that the students and staff (former students) are making outreach to the surrounding communities, including the tribal people. The devil has tried so hard to use some of the churches to destroy this bible school by the evil reports; please pray against this assault and that the Lord will prosper them again with new students beginning at June.
It was on Wednesday, on the way home to Butuan, after the last meeting at the bible school that it happened. We were about halfway along the route when the van’s engine suddenly ceased to function and would not restart. Since the driver was part of a “rent for hire” company, he called back to Butuan and reported that another van was on its way. Well, we waited on the road side for over an hour before the “rescue van” finally arrived, to which we all boarded. But then we discovered that the functioning van had to tow our broken down van back into the city and past our hotel. The driver later told us that it had to do with a broken belt that ran an oil pump. But thank God, our replacement van also had air conditioning as the humid temperatures remained in the high 80s, but not as hot as other times we have visited here.
Thursday was somewhat of a free day since it was a national holiday with schools and banks closed. The next day we went back to the KMM School and were able to see all of the girls with their new dresses that so many of the sisters from the US had made for them and the boys with new t-shirts. In the course of the day, we were also able to make the plans for the coming year’s improvements and the possible addition of a 6th grade class. The late afternoon found us in the bank manager’s office, trying to straighten out the issues of foreigners having involvement in a bank account for us to transfer money to conduct our ministry affairs.
Saturday the 27th was a day at the KMM School where we met with the elders and ministered to them. Br Burt and I each spoke at the two meetings, which included the bible school students, their wives, their few young children and the directors, Edmar and Medlyn. Br Edmar had faithfully translated all of the meetings for us. At this meeting was Br John Sarman from the Lianga area, whom we have not seen for a couple of years. Also at the meeting was a new elder, Rafael Lanaja, a married man with 4 children who is starting a pioneer work in one of the rural areas nearby. He said that he definitely wants us to visit his fellowship on our next visit this June.
On Sunday, we had two meetings, the morning meeting at Br Lito’s fellowship in which Br Burt’s message touched on the two becoming one in Christ. The late afternoon meeting was at the KMM School in which Br George shared a word and testimony of coming out of darkness and into the light. After the message he gave an invitation and 9 of the parents repented and accepted the forgiving blood of Jesus as their Savior. In addition to these nine, we also gave a few of the Cebuano bibles to some of the other parents who did not have a bible. We understand that a baptism is planned for next week after we have left the area.
There are still plenty of the smaller Cebuano bibles on hand, but we have discovered that we are all out of the larger interlinear Cebuano/KJV English versions for which we had paid $17 each. I would like to order another stock of these and I have contacted the Bible Baptist man who gets them printed and he says that they have no more of this particular edition left. They are now printing a higher quality interlinear edition and that it will cost us between $21 and $32 depending on how many we order and on which quality we ask for. I will be sending out a separate correspondence on this subject shortly. These are not the bibles that we give out to new believers, but to the elders and bible school students who will be teaching the word of God to others.
Ordinarily I would say at this point, that our journey back home was without any problem, but that is not the case. Yes, we left Butuan early Monday morning on February 29, leap year day, and we spent the night in the hotel in Manila. Tuesday morning began our long journey back home through Japan and then to Detroit. It was at Detroit that it started. There was a freezing rain when we landed after about a 12-13 hour flight. The airline had previously changed our flight so that we were not to arrive in Albany at 9:30 but at 11:30 PM. So having a 5 ½ hour layover, we went to the lounge to rest a little bit. About an hour before we were to board, we went to our gate and found no one was there except one agent, who informed us that the flight had been cancelled. We looked on the big schedule board and saw many more red cancellation notices; it seems that it was snowing in Detroit. So we were given new tickets for the following morning flight and a list of motels. After calling a few, we discovered that they were probably all full. So we went looking for a place to spend the night (the lounge is not open all night). We finally found a spot on the far end of the A Terminal where we hunkered down for the night. We had found a couple of blankets and our heavy winter coats came in real handy for keeping warm. By daylight we saw a lot of other fliers and families around us sleeping on the floor.
So at 5 AM, we returned to the lounge, had a little to eat and boarded our flight to Albany at about 7:30 AM. The flight went well until we approached our destination; it began to get real bumpy. The pilot informed us that he could not land because of the high winds at the airport so he circled for what seemed like about a half hour. With a rough landing, we made it safely to Albany, found our car in the hotel parking lot and drove home. We walked in our front door at 11:00 AM, a day late but safe. It was a little rocky but nothing like Paul’s shipwreck. At the Detroit Airport Rita told me that these were but “light afflictions”. And as I lay on our makeshift “bed” the Lord reminded me that “the son of man had no place to lay His head”, so I felt privileged to be able to identify a little bit with His suffering.
Thank you all so much for your support and continual prayers,
Mark and Rita Jantzi & the Team (including George Herrig, Burt and Nancy Asbill)