Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 12

Last night I flew from Ilo Ilo to Manila and stayed at a hotel owned and operated by Christians. They’ve made it into a haven for believers to come and relax. When the taxi brought me through the flashing lights, honking horns and smog of Manila’s Airport area, into the compound, it was like entering a new world—peace and tranquility filled the place.

I slept well till 4:30 a.m. when I had to leave for Quezon City. Only specially licensed cars are allowed to drive in the 12 million people city between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m. so we had to get an early start to Baguio.

Pastors Val and Sally Chavez drove, as we wound our way through the province’s (we call it the country-side) small towns and rice farms to the 5,000 foot high mountains of Baguio. I love the drive—there are oxen pulling plows through the rice fields, fruit and vegetable stands and thousands of smoking motorcycles with side cars. (They call them tricycles, and although most are only 125cc engines, I’ve seen them carry up to 11 or 12 people.)

Along the way Pastor Val pointed out several Foursquare churches to me. We have scores of churches in the mountain region. Baguio is considered to be a resort town because of the cooler weather. I still wore short sleeves but many Filipinos were wearing ski jackets and toques.

The church was packed with about 200 pastors and leaders when I arrived and the atmosphere was thick with worshipful expectation on that first night of the Conference.

On Tuesday evening we were driving with Pastor Sam Pinzon, our host, toward the church and we noted how dark it was. He said that a truck had hit a power pole and knocked the power out a few hours earlier.

When we arrived at the pitch black church and walked in, the same 200 people were sitting quietly in their pews waiting for the service to commence. They seemed to hardly notice that there was no power for either lights or audio. One small candle burned in the entry.

“Are you okay to begin?” the pastor asked me. “We have a flashlight for you to read your Bible.”

I was ready, but asked if they could sing a song before we began. A gentle pastor stood in the darkness and began to lead the crowd in a worship song.

Within ten seconds of the worship the lights all clicked on! What an amazing demonstration of the Kingdom of Light invading the dominion of darkness—and it was my subject for the seminar!

We left Baguio by bus on Wednesday and headed back to Metro-Manila for the last of my venues. Arriving that evening, I entered the Capitol City Foursquare Church to find the large sanctuary packed with pastors and leaders ready to begin the seminar.

Capitol City Church is our largest in the Philippines. It is pastored by a dear friend of mine, Dr. Felipe Ferrez, who served as President before Pastor Val Chavez.

Because the church was to be celebrating their own 40th anniversary on Sunday, there was a strong sense of anticipation and joy among the hundreds of congregants. We had a wonder-full conference over the days that led up to the Sunday services. It was a delight for me to see Pastor Don McGregor (former missionary to the Philippines), who had been such an inspiration to me when I was a young Bible School student. It was he and Sally who’d introduced our home church to the revival that was taking place in the Philippines in the 1960’s. I still remember him speaking about the book “Fire in the Philippines” that recorded the miracles of that season of growth.

One of the highlights of my weekend was a four hour tour of a small church in the slums. This church, pastored by Evelyn Soriano is one of over a hundred that has been planted among the squatters of Manilla over the past years.

I got to visit a Barangay, walk through the muddy streets and speak to the congregation of about 50 impoverished worshippers. The town is built by the Manila garbage dump so you may be able to guess how it smelled in the sweltering heat.

The trade of many is to search the dump for scraps of plastic signs, sew them together and make tarpaulins to sell. They can make 1 or 200 pesos (about $3-$5) on a good day. Others collect plastic containers to trade for a few pesos.

Because their homes are built and furnished from whatever they can find for free, and their clothes are second-hand, the one basic need of everyone is enough rice to satisfy their hunger for one day.

It’s always hard to come back home to our relative wealth after a visit to the homes of the truly poor. I love my family and church, but I tend to leave a piece of my heart with my brothers and sisters in the Philippines. But the world I’ve been assigned to has its own needs—every bit as real as in other countries. This week, I’m back in my new office ready to face the challenges of life in our wonderful nation of Canada.

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