Baptist Theological College – Cebu

The flight to Cebu pushed away at 4:00 am (!!!!) so my taxi left IGSL at midnight – no traffic was great! It caught me off guard when the check lady said my ticket had a 10 kg checked bag limit. Since I have everything for a month of teaching, I weighed in just under 20 kg. “You have to pay more” she said kindly but firmly. So $38 later, I was checked in and waiting for departure time. Pastor Greg joined me and I found out he had the 20 kg limit ticket and a 10 kg bag! He told me he had seen a notification that the teaching started at 8:30 rather than the 1:30 we’d been told by the organizer. There is a little detail of my fatigue to be dealt with if I am to teach until 5:00! Our taxi got us to the Mission Home only to discover that my reserved room was still occupied. I was wondering if details were going to sink the time. He went to check things out at the college while I slept for an hour. Sure ’nuff, there were 20 people waiting for class, so a quick breakfast and we were off to start class. It was a great group and we were soon off into 1 Peter exploring the life of the author and how to go from text to sermon.

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Pastor James introduced himself as our “taxi driver” and joined us at the Mission Home. He and Pastor Greg (on the right) share a super sense of humor even in a country that excels in laughter. Our meals were a blast. _MG_2256

There were 29 people in the class ranging from the president and dean of the College (both with doctoral degrees) to rural pastors with no training whatsoever. The latter were the focus of the class. I was a bit surprised to find out only about half of the participants had email addresses. Internet access is severely limited once you get out of the city it turns out.

_MG_2165My style of teaching is to put Bible on the screen and work with it, directing attention to key points and then typing my notes into the computer so everyone can see what I am saying as well as hear it. That slows me down to somewhere near the speed of normal comprehension. I used a microphone since my voice isn’t strong and class was 8:30 to 5:00 (til 7:00 on the last day).

An early assignment was to break into small groups, read 1 Peter 3:7 carefully and discover the things Peter _MG_2230said to men so they can be successful husbands. It was encouraging for them to see that they could get a sermon outline directly from the text. The wives really liked hearing what Peter had do say to their husbands. Filipino people laugh when they are embarrassed — and i heard a lot of male laughter :). _MG_2273

The discussions got quite animated at times. Humor and active involvement are key to teaching and we did a lot of both.20160524_120355

We took our lunches together. They were typical good Filipino fare, rice with a meat and a vegetable ulam. I love the food whether it was the normal like our lunches or the special as our last supper with Pastor Henry treating us at a very nice restaurant.

The four days and my fourth and final class went all too quickly and Pastor Greg and I headed back to Manila.

 

International Graduate School of Leadership

20160518_120157What a great week teaching D.Min. students at IGSL. We wrestled with theological method and controversial topics such as sign gifts, dealing with demonic, justice and political involvement (following the Philippine elections and all the controversy there), forgiveness/shame, and LGBT issues. The discussions were often animated and always real to ministry life. 20160517_104123

Being here meant seeing some long time friends like Helen Ramos and Steve Hobson as well as meet new friends. Mike and Eva Fast are doing teaching and church planting. Eva was a nurse who discovered the need for mid-wives in their poorer area of Quezon City. So she began helping. Now she has attended over 600 births and trained local mid wives. They are building a facility, 20160519_202200the first anywhere in the area, using local workers so they will have a stake in the place as well as participate in Bible study as they work. It was stunning to see the quality of work they are doing in limited facilities.20160521_204721

Saturday was my office day in my room at IGSL working on the large pile of Western Seminary stuff. It ended meeting Zoilo Anat who is head of all the AWANA groups in the Philippines and the missionary team. Victor and Janine (pictured) are business people who volunteer, Victor as board member and Janine as designer and project manager for their new facility. They were part of a group that discussed ministry and work topics around a scrumptious meal of Filipino food. I don’t think I will ever get enough!

20160522_083926My time at IGSL ends with worship at Union Church Manila. I didn’t tell Pastor Steve Ruetschle I was coming so I got to see the happy surprise when he saw me. I will preach there next week after my week in Cebu. My taxi leaves about midnight to catch my 4 am flight with teaching beginning after lunch. So fun!

I will miss this peaceful exciting place!20160521_08432920160520_120405

Two Heroes

I continue to meet amazing people here as I teach pastors. But two in particular stand out to me.

TondoThe first, Pastor Larry, grew up and now ministers in Tondo, the super slum of Manila. He was the son of a violent drunken jeepney driver who beat his family severely. At five years of age, Larry ran away, vowing to kill his father. Homeless street life was far better than home. As he got older he began to drink and do drugs himself, filled with hatred and hopelessness, living in extreme poverty.

A kind school teacher introduced him to Jesus. But other than going to church events to get some companionship and food, there was little change in his life.

They produced a play based on the Good Samaritan with Larry, a young teenager, playing the villain who beat up the man on the road. There was a prize which the others promised he would get it because of his poverty. He was very eager to win. In his drug heightened zeal to be the best he pulled out his switch blade to attack. The others were barely able to stop him and he landed in jail.

There he met a godly chaplain who ministered to the depths of his heart. As the Spirit took hold, the chaplain told him he must forgive his father. How would it be possible? He went to his home, walked up to his evil father. The heart words “I forgive you” came as he hugged his father. To his amazement, tears began to flow from his father’s eyes and the hug was returned. Sobs and confession followed and the transformation and reconciliation began. A couple of years later Larry baptized his father and others in the family.

Now Larry is a pastor on the streets, distributing breakfast to 500 street children twice a week. There is no support but somehow they find some money for the the powdered milk and bread. He oversees four other pastors who work with him in their little church and the ministry.

My heart filled with praise and wonder as I prayed with and for these amazing young men.

20160513_080850The second is Pastor Joy, one of the pastors at The Word for Everyone Movement, the host church for our time in General Santos City. I was at the venue early for the last day of class, well before the rest of the 86 pastors arrived.

I greeted him and asked him how he was doing. He responded, “I am quite tired.” “How is that?” I asked. “My only son died a week ago and I have been up almost all night preparing for his funeral this afternoon.”

I was stunned.

“Your son died?” “Yes. He was my only son. He died of cancer.” As we talked it turned out that he was so eager for the chance to learn about interpreting and preaching 1 Peter that he wanted to 20160513_114204get every possible minute of the class. I asked if I could pray for him and begged God’s mercy on him and his wife, hope in the terrible loss, and powerful presence of the God who knows how it is to go through the death of a Son.

Then I taught very humbly and inadequately on the theme of suffering in 1 Peter. Who is adequate for these things?

The Two Philippines

When Sherry and I first came to the Philippines in 1969 it was definitely a “third world” country. How do I know? There were no MacDonald’s here Smile  In fact there were no hamburgers or french fries nor were there many high rise buildings. The economy was mostly agricultural. The president would soon establish his dictatorship through declaring martial law and then being overthrown in the People Power Revolution, the Yellow Revolution, precipitated by the assassination of by Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, Jr. who was returning to the country. Since then the Philippines has become an international20160504_072439 hub of commerce and the explosion of evangelical belief came at the same time. The economic divide continues with very low class workers sweeping leaves from the lawns of richer folk but at least he has a job and can help his family.

20160503_171814The cows grazing under the huge power line is one picture of the new overtaking the old. GN Power, the company Dan Chalmers began, built a huge power plant near Mariveles, where the Bataan death march began. Because GNP refused to work with the existing electric group and sold power at a lower and fairer price, electric prices in the whole country are more just. Because he bypassed the limitations20160508_112419 which kept limited and therefore controlled electric, GNP has allowed greater expansion of production capacity. GNP pours a lot of money back into the local communities. The multi-purpose building where I preached today was erected for the use of a small community.

20160503_091200GNP power plants are amazingly clean emitting virtually no nitrous oxide or other stack gasses. The particulates are scrubbed from the smoke and sold to a cement company to make highest quality concrete in both high rise buildings and donated for community schools. If you look closely at this picture you’ll see that construction techniques still utilize inexpensive labor which gives good jobs to squatters who otherwise would have no income other than selling individual cigarettes on street corners. It’s impossible to track the impact that GNP’s integrity and quality has, but one measure is that the mayor of the province is running unopposed. He is getting lots of credit for improving the community because he works with GNP.

Work on the new power plant has begun. Earth movers will reshape 20160506_081508the contours of whole areas of land to lower the ground level by perhaps 100 feet to prepare the pad for the new 700 megawatt plants. I am astounded to hear the stories of the extreme care GNP is investing to be sure it all is done at highest quality.

20160508_181249Even more fun is that their new project is a small plant powered by bio mass. This half mega watt is a proto type of plants that will transform small isolated communities which have never had reliable electric power. It is all eco friendly and completely sustainable.

First Philippines Teaching: Mariveles, Bataan

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I will quickly admit that flying business class on 13 hour international flights is more than nice! Breakfast, my second meal began with fresh coffee, with real cups, silver, glass glasses, a big slice of banana bread, and a yummy fruit plate followed by a super adobo 20160502_130658breakfast with more of that wonderful coffee. I did wonder what they were having back in economy where I have always flown until Dan so generously upgraded my life so I can arrive in the Philippines ready to do a three full days of teaching beginning the next day.

20160502_131735There were many other things that made me wonder. I understand why Muslim folk need to know the direction to Mecca. But don’t Baptists need to know the direction to Louisville or Nashville? My seat mate was a CEO of calling centers with major operations in the Philippines where he lives full time. Turns out he was a Jesus follower and went to churches I work with so we had lots to talk about until I laid my chair back to full recline and slept solidly for 6 hours (yes, pure luxury!) until I pulled my PC out and worked on paper grading, an unfinished task that would occupy every free moment for the next three days.

20160503_070423After my 5:30 am arrival (and being first to passport control and my bag was first to appear on the carousel – yes miracles do happen!) Bishop Cesar Punzalan, Nonon, picked me up, took me to Starbucks where he got some breakfast and we got some coffee before we went to meet Dan Chalmers at the headquarters of the power plant company he started. More that in a later post.

After a quick tour we were off to View from my RoomMariveles, where the Bataan death march began. We arrived at Brother’s Keeper Inn and I was shown to my room. As soon as I saw the view from the window of my second floor room, I knew this was going to be a marvelous trip! I enjoyed Tiffany and Jasmine adopted children of one of the guests. The setting is simply marvelous.

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My room is second floor left side. Meals are in the sala between the two sides of the building. The Mariveles power plant is in the background. The food is outstanding, the company engaging and the service unbelievable as Tiffany and Jazzy’s looks show.

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Pastor Nonon began the class with songs and some details and off we went for 3 1/2 days of wrestling with all sorts of things from 1 Peter. With a projector to get Bible in front of them and some of my famous (infamous?) ambiguous questions, we were off. It took them most of a day to get warmed up to my style and then they really got into it with extremely personal things and lots of wrestling the hard pastoral issues.

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There is the inevitable class picture after class on Friday the next to the last day of the class. Several had to leave for a long journey to their churches. 20160507_114640

The class ended with me praying for them and then them praying for me. There were lots of pictures, hugs, laughter, and blessings.

Honolulu

Really early Saturday morning Sherry, Cyndee and I headed for the airport. I chose the 6:30 departure to maximize our time. As we waited for the call to board the flight to Oakland, we heard our names called. As we approached the podium, the lady smiled, “I have bad news and good news.” Our flight was on a mechanical hold and we’d miss our connection (bad!) so they were putting us on the direct flight (REALLY good).

2015-08-08 12.11.23As we boarded the flight, the fellow on the row ahead of us recognized me. Turned out he was there with his son and daughter and their two children on a “Make a Wish” flight. Their three year old daughter had severe neurological disorders and they were going to the Disney resort. We ended up joining them, spending an extended prayer time, all sitting on the floor in a crowded “lounge” since their room was not ready.

20150808_141549After a delightful lunch by the pool with them, we headed to the airport only to discover that the flight change had confused our bags and they still had not found their way to Honolulu. We checked into the condo and ended up finding a K-Mart to purchase necessary items. The bags finally arrived around midnight and we picked them up on Sunday.

11822536_10152918240622096_9054927879743193804_nThe condo was nice and the view of Waikiki wonderful but the sand was really coarse. Turns out the beach is eroding so they pumped in sand from further out and it’s not be refined by the waves.

Sunday was Pearl Harbor. I felt a deep connection since my uncle Truman would have been stationed there had he not contracted rheumatic fever. I have done a lot of study of the whole attack so experiencing the place live was all the more ponder material. The presentation is of the infamy of the Japanese and the heroic sacrifice of the soldiers and the return to 2015-08-09 15.30.36victory. But as we toured the Bowfin submarine with its torpedo rooms, the Arizona Memorial, and the Missouri with its huge guns, I felt the tragedy of war keenly. There was no triumphant “we won,” only a sadness for all the disrupted lives and ruined civilizations. I was glad to stand on the deck of the Missouri where the peace treaty was signed and remember that General Marshall, a deeply Christian man, lead the rebuilding of Germany and Japan, both of which are now close allies.

2015-08-09 18.17.39Sunday evening was the beach front Luau presented with much pageantry and celebration of the Hawaiian culture. I was particularly pleased that the hostess spoke the three greatest things, faith, hope and  love, and sang a classic Hawaiian blessing song “E Kolu mea Nui” originally written for the congregational church in Maui. Her Christian heart spoke powerfully.

2015-08-10 07.17.10Monday found Cyndee and me taking the beautiful hike up Diamond Head. The morning was relatively cool so there was not much sweat. Donn laughed at my Alaska hat in Hawaii! Then Sherry joined us for the trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center. It has a very produced feel to it but there is no other place where Sherry and I will renew our wedding vows as part of watching a Tahitian wedding ceremony. After the very pagan ceremony, the host had us stand and answer the question: “will you ever leave?” with the “No” spoken in Tahitian.

ENTI ClassTuesday through Friday had me teaching 25 top notch young campus workers at Every Nation Training Institute. Sherry and Cyndee did things like visiting the Dole Plantation, the Arboretum, doing some shopping and such. I think I had more fun!

Second week in Iloilo

IMG_6186Things are quite familiar as the days continue. When I go down for breakfast, the ladies at the front desk greet me warmly and hand me my order form with names filled in already. The lady in front of the seafood restaurant across the street now greets us insteadIMG_6185 of trying to persuade us to take a copy of the menu. That’s a benefit of being one of the very few anglo faces in this town that’s off the tourist trail. The stand just down the street where we get our mango shakes just ask if we want our favorites. The ladies tell us stories and give us suggestions on places to go. If you click on the lower picture, you’ll see why their menu makes us smile!

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On Wednesday evening we made the 2015-05-27 17.55.04trek to the Cafe Panay. It meant walking through the center of the old city which reminded us of how our section of Manila looked when we lived there in 1969-1972. Lots of crowds and “down home” shops and street dealers selling all sorts of useful things. Our table was in front of a fuzzy picture which becomes quite a marvelous2015-05-27 18.10.20 picture of old Panay in a photograph. The Cafe specializes in local items and foods, so we asked the server who told us what would be best. And indeed she was right. Instead of calamunsi, she suggested Red Taho iced tea. Just enough zing to 2015-05-27 18.31.20make it interesting. I chose chorizo Ilonggo with purple rice (yes, purple!), Itlog na Maalat (a pickled flower) and salted egg all on a traditional banana leaf. Super tasty, especially when followed up with Cafe Panay Turon in Muscuvado Carmel Sauce (and Tablea Dip)2015-05-27 18.34.56 which being translated means banana in lumpia wrap with caramel and chocolate. Yum!! I loved hearing traditional Filipino folk music in the background as we ate. The owner showed us around the shop while telling us stories of the history of Panay and the items for sale in the shelves of the shop. We took a different route home and were soon in the area of the middle class folk with large malls and noisy music.

IMG_6170We treated the students to lunch in the hotel restaurant. It was not lunch, but a feast!The food just kept coming including century eggs and drunken shrimp and Crab Morcon and Sharksfin Guisado and a whole fish in sweet and sour sauce as well as a great soupIMG_6166 and a beef brisket hot pot all ending up with Filipino fruit cocktail. Even the students couldn’t identify some of the dishes. The servers (a whole crowd of them) were glad to explain. IMG_6172Fortunately the discussions during my afternoon class were active enough to ward off the spirit of drowsiness which threatened to attack the students with all that marvelous food in them.

Iloilo weekend

P4210002-001Saturday was for site seeing so Sherry visited the little travel agency next door to the hotel to see what they had. Too late for a tour but they gave us the itinerary which was perfect. It started20150523_102247 with a walk down to the old provincial capital (which was undergoing an extreme make over and uninhabited) and the Museo Iloilo. We paid our fifty peso entrance fee (about $1.25) and found that we got a guided tour from Shomai, who said she was a guide in P4200004training. Sure sounded like an expert to me as she explained each of the displays. There was the “olden days” and the salamander skin diapers (which I wanted to touch to see if itP4200009 was soft), and the wrap (?) made from spider web (hard working spider to make something this large!) as well as many religious items and weapons from a millennium ago and from the Japanese P4200015occupation in WWII.  There was a display of excellent pieces of fine art by Iloilo artists. This “prayer in the middle of war” riveted my attention and left me pondering all that was symbolized here. LORD grant us Your peace.

We hailed a taxi to go to the Molo (a suburb of Iloilo)P4200026 Church, St. Anne’s, also known as the feminist church since all the saints in the church are female. I was pleased to see Sherry doing her devotions under the icons of the lady saints. The church was quiet with just a few people inside who were meditating in the beautiful church.

P4200036One altar had pictures of two women saints, one of Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese who was enslaved as a child and subjected to horrible abuse over the next half dozen years until she was bought by a kind Italian who took her to Italy where she lived until the courts ended her slavery and she became a Canossian Sister serving until her death in 1947, and declared a saint in 2000. Quite an amazing story.

The plaza across from the church is called theP4200041 “Athens of Iloilo” because of its central display of Greek gods. The contrast between the Greek Pantheon and the Feminist Roman Catholic Church could not be greater! I went to buy some water as Sherry sat in the shade. A beggar began asking her lots of questions, making her a little uncomfortable, until a student came to rescue her. As we talked, it turned out his mother works in the embassy in Washington, DC and he’d done a year of studies for his foreign service degree in Florida.

P4200048As we arrived at our next stop, the Jaro Cathedral, we joined in a baptismal service for three babies, with lots of proud family members. It was fun to see the celebration even if we could understand nothing of the Visayan service. The saints in this church were all male. Shomai had told us this was a good place to pray for a boyfriend. Sherry said she had hers, so we prayed for Cyndee’s tall, dark and cute one!

We asked the taxi driver to take us the the Cafe Panay, the final stop on the itinerary, but he had no idea where it was and neither did we, so we went back to the hotel instead where we had a great lunch followed by mango shakes at our favorite little stand down the street from the hotel. They know us now and our favorite kind of shake. Friendly people everywhere.

My student, Chester came to fetch Sherry and Dave and me for churchP4210004 on Sunday. Zion, another student, is one of the pastors there. Since he is the only close by pastor, I decided we’d visit and see what is going on. They insisted that I preach, so I put P4210003on my barong in the very warm day and joined the celebration. With open walls and several fans, it was quite comfortable othP4210022er than being very much the oddity in the full sanctuary! After the sermon, they asked us to stay for Sunday School reports. I wondered what that might be until I saw the P4210018children being guided onto the stage to recite their memory verse and their lesson. It was super fun as they went from primary to junior high. The primary group had aP4210020 whole group of eager coaches! Everyone wanted to greet us and shake our hands after the service was over and I got to hear a number of stories of service. Finally we gathered the four students, the pastor and his wife and another pastor to go P4210027.JPGto Tatoy’s Manokan Seafood, the local sea side restaurant for a feast! Along with chicken (the whole chicken!) and other dishes, we had oysters baked in a delicious cheese sauce. No one left hungry! As we finished the pastor’s wife came over to sit beside Sherry and quietly told her about her battle with breast cancer. Sherry’s pastoral heart came out big time and she listened and prayed with her.

P4210029The van took some back to the church where we picked up several women who were going to the downtown church for a women’s fellowship. Happily that crew included a very cute little guy whom I grabbed quickly! He was pretty eager to drive the van.

Doane ChoirDave and I went to the 88th anniversary concert at Doane Baptist Church. It was one of the first churches in the area and now has a Bible institute and a seminary as well as a large sanctuary and not a single anglo face other than Dave and me, I’m glad to say. The choir was great!

Jefferson burn 2As I slept in the quiet of our room, I was awakened at 2:00 am by sirens which stopped. I looked out the window to see fire trucks in front of the hotel. I saw that they were rushing into the Camp Jefferson bar across the street. Soon the street was filled with trucks and I saw flames coming out of the roof of the building which caused me some IMG_6129great concern: could they see what was happening from the street or inside the building? The flames soon disappeared, I was relieved to see. I don’t know how long the activity went on as I crawled back in bed and went to sleep. The fire damage was apparent on Monday morning. Glad the fire crews were able to stop it before it spread to surrounding buildings.

Iloilo City

2015-05-17 11.18.38We arrived here on Sunday from Cebu on a half full flight and miracle of miracles Sherry’s cane got us upgraded to economy plus Smile. The fellow issuing our boarding pass thought it too far for her to walk to row 10, so row 4 it w2015-05-17 11.28.28as! Since the flight was only 35 minutes, it was not a big deal, but the consideration was much appreciated after a long wait in the crowded departure “lounge” where I took advantage of our status to get a little more room. I did get a kick out of the group of young American men doing what comes naturally: checking their phones!

2015-05-17 12.55.37We arrived, greeted by a most inviting advertisement, to find no driver from the hotel waiting for us. That kicks in my travel paranoia big time! But the police officer and the taxi coordinator got involved while I texted Dan, our contact, who was still in Manila. After a 20 minute wait, they found a Mid Town Hotel driver in the parking lot and called him over. He declined their request noting that he was going to be picking up the guy on his sign: Gerry Breshear! We were soon on our way to the center of Iloilo.

I’d seen in Travel Advisor that we should 2015-05-18 07.09.41ask for a room away from the street because of the very noisy girlie bars. Not something I’m interested in dealIMG_6116ing with for sure! Our assigned room looked over the street but these aren’t quite girlie bars! Click on the pictures and you’ll see why we’ve enjoyed their presence. We met Dan and Dave Kennedy, the other professor who is doing Daniel in the mornings while I do spiritual warfare in the afternoon.

Monday morning class meant meeting the pastors. UnIMG_6102fortunately two of them were not able to come at the last minute but we had Zion join for the week as an auditor before he has to go to other commitments. So I only have six students who are great guys! Seems we are always laughing.

Dan, the coordinator is in the plaid shirt. William, laughing next to him, is a graduate of seminary already as a Catholic. He’s retooling as a Baptist! Our conversations have become quite wide ranging as questions multiply as the we build trust and openness.

2015-05-20 18.19.26The days have had walks around the streets to get dinner, snacks, and mango smoothies of course!The lemon chicken at Gloria Maris was wonderful. The carrot “flower” would do well on Food Channel Asia which Sherry is enjoying while I teach class. 2015-05-19 10.31.45

The street has a pedestrian “fly over” so Sherry was able to get her exercise only to be told by a nice lady that seniors could just cross the street. Sure enough when we tried it the next day, a policeman stopped the traffic and waved us across. A smiling lady with a cane gets favors here.

We are always impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the people here. The crowds are significant, but everywhere people smile and greet us. The hotel staff can’t do enough to assist us in every way. We saw an interesting but identified dish going to another table, so we asked the server. He told us, but the words weren’t familiar. So he brought a menu and showed us the dish. We tried it today and it was super tasty!

There is no separation of church and state here as these pictures make very clear.

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Two of the local students are helping plant a church not far away, so I asked if we could visit on Sunday. They promised to take us to a really good sea food restaurant after. I asked for the church address so we could get a taxi. I don’t know the area, so going on by jeepney isn’t a good idea. They responded by arranging a car to fetch us, and then bringing an invitation from the pastor to preach. I will “earn” our lunch!

Teaching Pastors in Cebu

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 Teaching pastors 1Baptist 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.

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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 20150515_105105were 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!

2015-05-14 15.52.58The 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.

IMG_6062Saturday 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 EasterIMG_6065 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 IMG_6074Tacloban, 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 IMG_6070images 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.

IMG_6082Of 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.

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We finished off with Halo Halo that was so good even  the fish wanted some it!

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We finished the evening with tea at the guest house. Lots of good conversation, laughter and sharing God’s goodness.