The first portion of the mission was scheduled to take us to Marikina, Valenzuela (a new area for FLM), local churches, and a rally symposium. Pastors Nelson, Smith, Huggins, and Leo Galanza (FLM Philippines, Branch Leader) would carry the torch through the first two conferences in the Manila area.
This year’s conference was themed: “The Treasure of The Gospel in The Wasteland”. The theme was a continuation from the previous year titled: “Famine in the Land: What’s Wrong with Preaching Today?” As the last theme addressed various aspects of preaching, the current theme addressed the center pillar of the preacher’s message. This time, focusing on the Gospel, we look to preach it in the midst of the world’s blindness and the many compromises in the churches today. The Gospel is God’s power for salvation given to us as preachers of the Word, as fragile as we are.
Pastor Leo spoke on the “Cruciform Mind” of Paul who was crucified unto the world; Pastor Tom gave a message on “Enduring in the Ministry” and the call for ministers to endure hardness for Christ sake; Dr. Nelson on “The Treasure and The Pearl” and how we are to value the person and work of Christ, and Pastor Austin finished with “Light out of Darkness”, a call to trust the miracle of grace through the means of Gospel preaching.
The Conference in Marikina was well received as usual (This is where the current stream of conference themes first began). We saw some regular faces and it seemed that there was a growing core of ministers that were beginning to look to these conferences with expectation each year. The pastors were very thankful for the resources and the messages. They were already asking to schedule some of the speakers to visit their church and speak to their congregations next year. We are thankful for the welcome reception of the clear preaching of the Word of God in this part of the world. The Lord appears to be maintaining open doors for ministry, blessing the work, and opening new doors.
(ABOVE) Pastor Tom spoke after Pastor Leo, followed by Dr. Nelson, and ending with Pastor Austin. (BELOW) The speakers gather and answer questions during an open Q&A.
One of the new doors that had opened to us this year was a new region north Manila known as Valenzuela. One of the main pastors there had been an attendee at the Marikina conference last year and desired FirstLove to minister to his region. Valenzuela is a two-hour drive northwest and the conference was held in a second story auditorium used by a local church. By this point, however, Pastor Austin, being the first to get sick, was working through an increasingly sore throat and physical weakness. By the time the Q&A came, there was a very real sense of God’s grace and favor upon the conference. The questions that were asked represented a desire to grow in understanding. It was a precious thing to see. Those in attendance were equally thankful and expressed gratitude for the materials provided.
Of those in attendance, one man stood out who introduced himself as Pastor Diego. He was overjoyed to receive the printed literature. (every bag contained works printed donated by FirstLove Publications, Chapel Library, & The Metropolitan Tabernacle in London). He shared how great the need was for such literature, and how it was used of the Lord in his life:
The first Lord’s Day came with a flurry of activity. Dr. Edward Dalcour had arrived earlier the day before, and Bro. Stephen Louis arrived in the early morning hours. Each of the speakers, including the two newest additions, were shuttled off to various churches in the surrounding cities where they would each minister.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT)(1) Dr. Dalcour at KFBC Nangka (2) Stephen Louis at Planters Baptist Church in Pasig City, (3) Tom Smith at Mt. Holy Christian Bible Church, (4) Austin Huggins at Lighthouse Christian Bible Church in Quezon City, (Not pictured Margaret Smith also at MCBC ministering to the ladies SS class, & Paul Nelson at CFBC.
After morning services and lunch, we would all be reunited that afternoon at MCBC for a rally of multiple churches gathering together for a symposium.
|The main subject and topic of the symposium was themed “The Gospel and Depression (When my Heart is Overwhelmed)”. Despite sickness, Pastor Austin Huggins gave the keynote message of about 30 minutes and was afterward joined by the rest of the FirstLove Missions team for a Q&A discussion panel. Again the reception was gracious and the response was one of thankfulness and thoughtfulness over the content. Please pray for the young people of the Philippines, and the pastors who are ministering to their congregations!|
Monday was a day of travel. The group would leave behind Pastor Leo and press on further north of Luzon for the second part of the mission. Our destination was Baguio City, but just like before, a pastor who had previously attended one of our conferences had requested FirstLove to come minister in a new area to their people. About 2 hours short of Baguio City, the team arrived in a very hot region called Pangasinan. Within this larger territory, there was a location called Mapandan where the team would gather to preach their third conference. Dr. Dalcour and Bro. Stephen were added to the roster in lieu of Pastor Leo and would, in turn, open up the conference as the first speakers. The rest of the lineup remained the same. Dr. Dalcour preached “The Gospel that Paul preached”, and Bro. Stephen preached on “The Enemy of The Ministry”.
We had arrived in a rather jungle looking area with banana trees all around, and many smiling faces ready to greet us. They were all hanging out in the shade. Did we mention it was hot? One source told us the temperature reached 101. Underneath the tin roof, even the native pastors proved it difficult to tolerate the heat. The roof had acted like an oven and before noon had melted Bro. John Durst’s protein bar into a pouch of pure liquid. Despite the heat, the host Pastor was so evidentially thankful for the present ministry. Out of appreciation he slaughtered a hog for the team, and we did eat… except for Austin who was still sick, and John who had just caught it.
At the end, books and printed materials by FirstLove Publications and Chapel Library were handed out in small bags to eager Christians. They were just as thankful for the messages and the resources as any of the other group we ministered to, perhaps more so. After goodbyes and prayers, we began the remaining journey northward to Baguio City.
Pastor Manny Vergara, who had picked us up and escorted us through Pangasinan, had now brought us to his home turf. Last year the FirstLove Missions team began working more closely with Pastor Manny through a close connection with Dr. W.R Downing’s and Dr. Nelson’s church. The relationship proved to be a very fruitful one for the ministry, and all were fast becoming friends. This year, he did not hesitate, with the help of his assistant pastor Drury, to provide us with plenty of ministry opportunities. He had arranged the conference in Pangasinan, as well as the conference in Baguio, and would soon show us even more to be done.
Wednesday morning came early for us. The team was to have its fourth and final conference at Pines City Baptist Church. With one more round of prayer and preparation, the team set to work exhorting, teaching, warning, and encouraging the pastors and workers from the Word of God, and the last printed materials were distributed. Even more than last year, the response was gratitude for the instruction. As the last Q&A panel was underway Austin and Eddy slipped out and made their way to the local radio station.
Wednesday night began the ministry of saturating Baguio City with The Gospel of Jesus Christ. If there were any illusions of our workload declining now that the main conferences had concluded, they were quickly dismissed. For Baguio City, the work had just begun! Thankfully, perhaps from sweating it out in Pangasinan, Pastor Austin’s sickness finally began to break just in time for radio. While two members of the team were at the radio to evangelize Baguio City via radio airwaves, the rest of the team was disbursed to nearby churches (since it was time for Wednesday night services).
To keep this report manageable, here is a snapshot and bullet list of the different preaching and teaching opportunities that the FLM team engaged in over the ensuing three days
- Preached The Gospel to almost 50 police officers at a training academy.
- Preached The Gospel to about 45 male inmates inside of Baguio prison system.
- Preached The Gospel to a similar number of female inmates again later inside the same prison system.
- Evangelized at a secular university, challenged evolution, presented a biblical worldview, shared the Gospel, took Q&A, and disbursed Gospel literature and apologetic tracts.
- Preached The Gospel on the side of the road with construction workers and passerby’s seated in chairs at the direction of a local city official.
- Preached The Gospel over live radio, took questions, and defended the faith for two hours each night, for three nights.
- Preached The Gospel locally to the Christians in their churches.
- Taught the scriptures to a group of seminary alumni students.
- Disbursed Gospel tracts and FirstLove Radio brochures to people in the street, in restaurants, and wherever else they could be given out.
Below you will find an assortment of photos and snapshots of the above mentioned events. Some photos are not available, such as from the prison ministry (the police confiscated our cellphones upon entry). Each of the ministry responses to the work listed above were greater than anything we would have expected in the United States. It is evident that there is still much grace given for Gospel ministry in this part of the World. It is apparent however that the door is likely soon closing as media, entertainment, and influences from Western culture aim poised to pollute and erode the Filipino culture of its common graces.
Dr. Paul Nelson lectured to students at a secular university exposing the evolutionist’s religion of faith. After presenting the biblical worldview, Dr. Dalcour joined him for Q&A where apologetics and the gospel were presented. The rest of the team shared with students afterward, passing out Gospel tracts and other literature. Bro. John D. stayed behind and ministered to one man under conviction for nearly three hours.
By Friday night, the team was well spent. After the radio broadcast, everyone returned to Bible Baptist Church in Springhills, pastored by Manny Vergara, for a graduation ceremony, and messages were delivered by the team. The evening concluded with an official request and acceptance by Bible Baptist Church to adopt the use of Grace Bible University (GBU) and officially inaugurate the first branch of GBU in the Philippines.
NOTE:GBU is a free quality theological education and certificate program that is currently under development with FirstLove Ministries. The board consists of Dr. W.R. Downing, (President); Pastor Joe Jacowitz, (Vice President), Dr. Edward Dalcour, (Administrator), Dr. Paul Nelson, (Academic Dean), Dr. Stan Murrell, (Member), and Dr. Arthur “Skip” Mellon, (Member).
After the inauguration of GBU – Philippines had concluded, everyone gathered together for concluding prayers and photos. Gifts and tokens of love were exchanged and the team was presented with certificates of appreciation on behalf of Pastor Manny and the members of BBC.
We praise the Lord for the work He enabled us to do in the Philippines. Please join with us in prayer that the seeds sown and watered would, by the Spirit of Grace, bring forth an increase at the appointed time. Pray the literature distributed would hit their intended targets, that conviction would come to wayward ministers, salvation would come to the unregenerate ones, and that divine encouragement might enable the faithful few. Pray for the young people as they face mounting influences and pollution from western culture, and that their chief love in the churches would be Christ Jesus. Pray for the prisoners, that they might be set free from the bondages of sin, though they might remain behind temporal bars. Pray for the police officers and those in public office, that they might discharge their duties in view of the God of all Justice, all while seeking their own reconciliation with Him. Pray that the fame of The Lord Jesus Christ will continue to be proclaimed throughout that land, and that He might receive all honor, and glory, and worship, and praise from Filipino tongues until His glorious return.
By His Grace Alone,
T. Austin Huggins IV