Monday, August 6, 2012
I made some general observations about the Filipino Baptist Churches. The buildings are usually constructed of cinderblock. None had air conditioning, but we had pretty good ventilation because they were open on one end and the side walls usually included cinderblocks with airspace built into them. All of the churches were staffed very lightly. Only one church had a full time pastor. That same church had a bi-vocational music minister. This church, Eastside Baptist Church in CarCar was the only one that had live instrumental music when we were there. The others sang acapella songs led by their bi-vocational preaching pastor. Although these churches were probably unaware, they were employing a simple church model; a model I think frees church to have the time and financial resources to focus on the meat and potatoes of ministry: preaching, prayer, evangelism, discipleship, church planting and ministry.
The pastors we met were all thoroughly trained through Pastor Galera’s seminary. I was impressed with their spiritual depth. It was exciting to see churches being planted all around us. Pastor Juval Galera pastors Eastside Baptist Church. He is a “Director of Missions” of a sort to 13 churches in the Eastside Baptist Association of Church. I envied the simplicity with which they do ministry there.
As in the West, the Filipino churches we visited used different styles and expressions of worship. One church used modern praise and worship music, while all of the others employed traditional hymns. I did not witness a church using blended or “balanced” worship. Are we who use blended worship only trying to keep the church appeased under the guise of keeping unity in the church? I freely admit that sometimes I see myself as a worship pacifier in America. I also noticed that a couple of the churches imitated the western church and even had projected lyrics.
On Sunday, June 24, we celebrated the 5th Anniversary of Eastside Baptist Church in CarCar, Cebu. That morning John Rayburn preached a half hour sermon on the radio to an audience approaching 1,000,000. Following the radio address, we had breakfast and then went to the church service. The spirit was great and I just loved being a part of it. We got to hear their speech choir and the children sing and dance. They used a praise band (keyboard, electric guitar, bass guitar, and drums) and 3 praise singers. They sang only modern praise and worship songs by writers like Chris Tomlin, Keith Getty, and Matt Redman. Each of us gave our testimony and Steve Thompson delivered a sermon. After the service I had the privilege to meet Meljim, the student we sponsor. After lunch, we drove to the sea and baptized 17 students who were saved through Eastside Christian Academy. Seeing that made me realize that I haven’t spent a red cent in vain. What a blessing!
On Monday and Tuesday, June 25-26, we hosted a Pastors Conference. We paid travel expenses for 25 pastors to attend. Each of us preached a sermon. I know people were praying because I could not wait to get up on the platform and preach. I felt complete freedom. My message was “The On Time God”, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The application is that many of us have aspects of our lives and ministries that were once much more vibrant. It is never too late to call on Jesus. He will come and breathe new life and resurrection to us.
On Wednesday, June 27, Pastor Juval decided to surprise his mother and father. Bro. Juval’s father is Pastor Johnny Galera who leads Bible Baptist Church in CarCar. We arrived fashionably late. They were singing in Cebuano. When Pastor Johnny saw us coming, he asked them to pull out the English hymnals. “Oh no,” I said. “Can we please sing in Cebuano?”
“Very well,” replied the pastor.
The last time I had that much fun was worshipping at Fe y Poder Iglesia Bautista in Donna, Texas on last year’s mission trip. My background in the Spanish language benefited me when reading from the Cebuano Hymnal. All of the vowels were written with Spanish phonetics. I only had to learn a few new consonants and I was off and running. Bro. Johnny’s wife saw me singing and came to sing next to me. She was obviously overjoyed that, although I had no idea what the words meant, I seemed to be getting the pronunciation correctly. Embracing the language of another person is a powerful statement that you are accepting them and they are accepting you.
After the singing time, Pastor Johnnie called me up to sing a solo. I sang “God Raised the Ransom” acapella. Then he called the youngest member of our team, Colin Rayburn, to preach the sermon. It was an incredible evening; one that was not on our itinerary, but I am so glad we came. It was amazing to see the joy of John Rayburn’s face as his son preached. I told John, “I don’t know what God is doing in my heart. I have fallen in love with missions. I have fallen in love with the Filipinos. I have the crazy desire to learn Cebuano. What in the world is going on?”
John enthusiastically replied, “Eric, God may be calling you to missions!”
John enthusiastically replied, “Eric, God may be calling you to missions!”
This is something that was completely unexpected for me. Is God really calling me to some sort of mission work? What will that mean for me? I need to pray for God’s direction here so I will know how to prepare. Will I continue in my current role in the American church and simply get more involved in our local missions. Is God calling me to be a North American missionary or will I one day pastor abroad? Maybe I will one day work for a mission support organization. How do I prepare for that? To I need to pursue a Masters of Divinity while serving as a music minister? I endeavor to pray for God to reveal His perfect will to me over the next months and years. I do know that I need to involve myself more in our local missions and read all I can about missions, evangelism, church planting and theology.
Friday, June 29, was our final day in the Philippines. We traveled to the southern part of Cebu. We visited Pastor Antonio’s house church, and then we went to a church plant called Metropolitan Bible Baptist Church. John and I each preached a sermon there, and then we ate lunch with the church. It is a great honor when they slaughter a pig for you. It is called lechon; another word I knew from Spanish. After lunch we drove to Pastor Leonardo’s church. Currently everything is in his house: sanctuary, library, kitchen, fellowship hall, and parsonage. They are constructing a sanctuary adjacent to the home. He needs about $3,000 for a roof. We were unaware than Pastor Leonardo’s wife would prepare lunch for us, so we attempted to eat again. This is the most precious couple.
On the drive back to CarCar, the reality hit me like a ton of bricks that our mission trip had come to end. I was deep in though and prayer, when Zenny Galera said, “Eric, you look so sad. You don’t want to go home?” I said, “I have mixed feelings, Mrs. Zenny. I want to see my family, but I have loved being her. It will be very difficult to adjust to my regular life.”
Leading up to this mission trip, both Bro. Juval and John Rayburn had spoken to me and indicated that they would like me to come again as the leader of the mission trip. At the time, I told each of them that I would have to pray about returning and certainly about leading the team. After all, it takes a lot of money, time, planning and carries a heavy weight of responsibility. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t have to pray about leading a mission team to Cebu next year because God was speaking to me presently that I am to go.
|The worship was dynamic!|
|Eastside Baptist Church in Carcar|
|Eastside Baptist Church students leading worship|
|17 students to be baptized|
|Steve Thompson speaks at the church anniversary|
|Group photo at 5th Anniversary|
|I got to meet Meljim (the child we've sponsored for 4 years)|
|Baptizing students in the Philippine Sea|
|Baptist hymnal in the Cebuano language|
|Colin Rayburn preaches at Bro. Johnny Galera's church|
|Pastor Johnny Galera|
|Antonio's house church|
|John Rayburn preached after I did at Metropolitan Bible Baptist Church|
|Sanctuary under construction and Pastor Leonardo's church.|
|Lunch at Pastor Leonardo's church|
Posted by Eric Beechem at 3:57 PM
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
A STORY I JUST HAVE TO TELL
I was fearful to come home without a few souvenirs for my family. I had planned to go Wednesday night, but Pastor Juval wanted us to surprise his dad by attending the church he pastors. I asked the pastor if we could shop after our medical mission on Thursday. He said we could because we should be back in CarCar from Cuaming by 2 PM and then they could drive us to Talisay for shopping. Well, it didn't quite work out that way. We left late for Cuaming Island and stayed on Cuaming longer than originally planned. Therefore Pastor Galera decided he would sail for Talisay. He would drop us off and continue south down the coast to CarCar. The van would pick us up on the beach in Talisay.
The sea was very rough and I was afraid that a few of the swells might capsize. The old version of Rescue 911 capsized with the tsunami resulting from the Japanese earthquake entered the Philippine Sea. Juval assured me that although the sea was much rougher than normal, it was not nearly as bad as the day he capsized. I sat at the bow and enjoyed the ocean spray. It was more than a spray. I was more or less baptized by the Philippine Sea. It took a couple of hours to travel west from Cuaming to Talisay. As we approached the coast, John Rayburn said, "Eric, do you see those breakers crashing on the shore?" I turned to Juval and said, "Bro. Juval, please turn around. We don't have to do this!" I could now see we were going to land on a beach that was about 150 yards wide and sandwiched between a rock breakwall and a concrete breakwall. We were going in.
Bro. Juval had them drop anchor at the last possible moment so we could hop off. It was very dangerous because there was a bad undertoe and the bow was bobbing violently. One by one we disembarked, some more gracefully than others. Steve Beevers pulled Mrs. Zenny Galera head first into the sea. She did not look amused : )
They handed us a bowline about 7 of us played tug of war with the raging sea to keep Rescue 911 from veering toward the breakwall. None of the Filipinos on the beach was laughing at us until John started laughing. At that point they all joined the laughter! After we were all safely on shore, Bro. Juval did a masterful job of commanding the ship and navigating safely back out to sea.
As soon as the pumpboat left, I turned to the north and so a sculpture. You guessed it! It was a memorial to the Americans who liberated the Philippines from the Japanese on March 26, 1945. That's correct, they landed on the very beach we landed on. If you will look at the picture, the sea was tranquil on the day the GI's landed. I believe our landing was much more heroic, although I suppose we didn't have to contend with landmines and bullets.
We were quite a sight. Were were all wearing swim trunks, t-shirts, water shoes, and we each carried our backpacks which we had to protect at all cost because our passports were with us at all times. We were sunburned, wet, had the worst of bad hair days, and our legs were covered in black pumice. And now it was time to ride to the fancy mall in Talisay. When we arrived we looked as if we had just been shipwrecked. I wonder why!
As we came to the entrance of the mall, we noticed an attendant working a stack of cubbies for people to check there bags. Apparently backs are not permitted in the mall due to shoplifting. None of us communicated with one another, but we must have all had the same idea. We each entered the mall, single file, with our packs as if we owned the place. Once in we all started in different directions until I was stopped and questioned by a female security guard.
"Sir", she said. "Where are you coming from?"
Still dazed from our long day and heroic landing, I replied "We came from the water."
Puzzled she said, "I don't understand. With such large, full bags, where have you been?"
Still dazed, I responded, "We come from the sea."
Fortunately, Mrs. Zenny intervened before the guard had to resort to calling Immigration!
John later told me, "Eric, when the guard questioned you, I thought of different things to say like, 'We come from the sea.', then I shook my head and thought, 'No that's no good'. But, then you said them. I think the only response worse would have been to look from team member to team member then shout, 'RUN!".
|Rescue 911 (in calmer waters)|
|Talisay Beach Landing|
|Talisay Beach Landing|
|Memorial to U.S. Beach Landing of March 26, 1945|
|U.S. Beach Landing of March 26, 1945|
Posted by Eric Beechem at 6:39 PM