The trip to Cebu began early! Sherry woke up about 2:30 to finish our packing and preparations to meet Cesar at 4 am for the trip to the airport. Even at 4 am, the traffic was dense. Loved getting Cesar’s personal travel narration as he told me about growing up in absolute poverty in Masbate, courting Carla for seven years before they had enough to be married, and then going into pastoral ministry with the Baptist General Conference. Now he has been appointed bishop so he can be chairman of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, a group of 35,000 churches through out the nation. But his heart remains with Baptist churches. Thus my involvement teaching the pastors in the Pathway Church facility in Cebu. I never got a count, but about 50 men (and one wife) gathered and the discussion took off! Cesar took pictures of the men as we studied.
We covered a wide range of topics: what is the gospel, why are we not sinners if we enjoy roast pork (a local specialty), how do we do baptism if Acts 2:38 is right: “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins,” what is the role of gifts, what does church leadership look like, finishing up exploring calminianism. Of course there were tangents along the way. When we finished at 3:00 on Friday, the men agreed quickly “Pastor Gerry, may we be excused? Our heads are full!” There was a lot of pictures as pretty much everyone wanted a picture with me alongside them. It was a little strange being treated like the celebrity!
The top event of the two days of study was when the men broke into groups to pray together. Cesar encouraged them to pray with someone other than their normal partner. I found out later that two pastors who had long standing conflict resulting from one of them going into serious sin while on the other pastor’s team was resolved with real reconciliation coming in the days together in the class and in the Baptist Guest House.
Saturday was our site seeing day with Pastor Jingo and Jenny. Jingo is president of the Conference and our host for the time. He and Jenny picked us up to tour Cebu. We started with Magellan’s Cross, planted on Easter Sunday 1521. The original cross is said to be inside the contemporary cross. The Basilica Santo Nino, originally built in 1565, burned twice with the current building finished in 1737. The earthquake that shook the town just before Typhoon Hayan destroyed Tacloban, brought down one of the towers. Of course they rebuild.
The inside is magnificent with many people doing devotion before the complex altar. Ceilings are filled with art and the lobbies have images of the Blessed Virgin with people touching the glass, hands encased in a handkerchief, to receive a blessing. Not my style of religion, I have to say.
As we left the Cathedral, a girl selling tourist items begged us to buy her wares. I decided to do that and immediately drew a crowd of young folk wanting to purchase some of their too. But I’d used up my smaller bills and they don’t have change so I smiled and walked ahead. One boy, holding his items up for me to see, kept calling “share the blessing, share the blessing.” The poverty is appalling. Ironically in the very nice malls most of the workers are poor who are far enough along in school to qualify for jobs. But my heart goes out to those who have no money for uniforms, fees and such. The churches sponsor many, including Cesar and Jingo years ago, but there are so many more.
Of course we had to have food after the mid-day’s site seeing. Jenny picked out our fare including Crispy pata (deep fried pork and sago gulaman (she got us the really good drink with gelatin and palm heart balls rather than the normal tapioca pearls). We went to the hotel to rest for a while and then out again to see the lights of the city from The Tops. Beautiful! And of course more feasting after with Pastor James and Sandra and Gloria, their daughter and Jingo/Jenny’s two sons joining.
We finished off with Halo Halo that was so good even the fish wanted some it!
We finished the evening with tea at the guest house. Lots of good conversation, laughter and sharing God’s goodness.