It was exactly one year ago today, May 11, 2019, that we officially set the date for the charter service of Truth Baptist Church of Dapitan. We chose the date, March 15, 2020, and scheduled my home pastor, Bro. Steve Hobbins, to be our special guest speaker. WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT WE WERE GETTING OURSELVES INTO! At that time, who could have a predicted a worldwide pandemic? Who could have predicted canceled flights, closed borders, and locked-down cities? We were just excited that Pastor Hobbins could come, and our excitement was only increased when, a couple of months later, my father decided to accompany him.
Fast-forward 10 months to March 2020, and the world was a completely different place. Clouds of uncertainty hung over every area of life. Travel restrictions were being implemented. Entire nations were going into lockdown. Every day brought unprecedented developments. It was in that environment that Pastor Hobbins and my dad got on a flight and headed to the Philippines. At that time, the situation here in the Philippines was still fairly stable. There were a few cases of COVID-19 around the country but no signs of a major outbreak. They arrived in the Philippines late Tuesday night, March 10. I don’t have space to share all the details, but shortly after their arrival, things in the Philippines began to heat up. On Friday, the 13th, President Duterte announced the lockdown of Metro Manila. Fortunately, Pastor Hobbins and my dad were scheduled to fly out through Cebu City, not Manila. At that time, Cebu had just a handful of COVID-19 cases, so I felt that a lockdown was unlikely to happen before their Tuesday evening flight. The following day, Cebu announced that it would begin lockdown . . . on Tuesday. With time in short supply, we went to the airport and rescheduled their flight back to Cebu for Sunday afternoon, right after the charter service.
Sunday morning came; and, in spite of all the craziness, God gave us a wonderful charter service. Pastor Hobbins preached a great message, and then 35 people chose to sign the charter sheet as founding members of Truth Baptist Church! However, our adventures were not over yet. After the service, we took Pastor Hobbins and my dad to the airport. Upon arrival, they were unceremoniously informed that their flight to Cebu HAD BEEN CANCELED. I don’t know what my dad and Pastor Hobbins were thinking, but I can tell you what I was thinking. “AAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!!” All of a sudden, we were faced with the very real possibility that they could get stranded here in the Philippines. We walked across the parking lot to the other airline and booked tickets for the following morning—on the LAST flight to Cebu. Even as we made the reservations for the flight, there was a gnawing fear that it, too, would be canceled at the last minute. It was an incredibly stressful time for everyone, but it was under those stressful conditions that Pastor Hobbins delivered the best message of his entire visit. Later that evening, he preached for what turned out to be our church’s last regular service before the lockdown, and his message was exactly what our people needed to hear! On Monday morning, I took them back to the airport, where they began their successful journey home to America.
The following Wednesday, the mayor of Dapitan declared a complete lockdown. All church services were canceled, and people were ordered to stay home. Our Charter Sunday turned out to be our last regular service before the lockdown. However, God has been very good to us during this time. We have had considerably more freedom than many other areas of the Philippines. I was able to obtain a quarantine pass, giving me permission to do “missionary work.” I promise you that I have used that pass to the limit—and probably well beyond. I have faithfully followed the great Bible Proverb, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” 😊 Thank you for your prayers and faithful support during this difficult time. God is faithful, and He will carry us through this trial just like He has in the past.
Dividends on Your Investment
A few evenings ago, on May 5 to be exact, I went outside to take a walk and spend some time talking to God on the sidewalk in front of our house. (One blessing of lockdown is that Dapitan becomes very quiet after dark.) As I was walking, I saw a staggering figure heading towards me. It was a tragic spectacle that I have witnessed many, many times. Though I couldn’t have told you her name at the time, I immediately knew who it was. It was the mother of a young lady whom I will call Stephanie. Stephanie lives in a neighborhood of Dapitan called Palaran. It is just a few minutes’ walk from our home, and many of our church members live there. Stephanie has visited our church a few times in the past and was saved about two years ago. However, no one from our church had ever had an opportunity to witness to her mother. who was well known as the neighborhood drunk. As I watched her stagger by, my heart was stirred with pity for her and pain for her daughter. What a tragic situation: a teenage girl living alone with her alcoholic mother!
The following evening, I rode my motorcycle down to Palaran to visit some of our members. As I walked through the neighborhood, I saw Stephanie and her mom standing on the porch adjoined to their tiny house. I greeted them in Visayan and was pleasantly surprised to hear a coherent response from Stephanie’s mother. It might be more accurate to say that I was shocked! I couldn’t remember the last time that I had seen her sober after dark! I immediately felt that this might be a special opportunity. I walked closer and began a conversation. Within five minutes, Stephanie had walked away, and I was sitting on the porch with her mother, telling her about the love of Christ. I didn’t have to spend much time explaining sin and Hell. She knew that she needed to be saved, and she was ready! I went through the Roman’s Road, placing a heavy emphasis on the fact that God loved her and wanted to save her. After about 30 minutes, she bowed her head and sweetly trusted Christ as her personal Saviour! O WHAT A SAVIOUR!
Yours for souls,