I would like to start this prayer letter by saying that I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF SCRIPTURE MEMORIZATION! Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I have experienced the power of the Word of God in my personal memorizing for many years, but since our last letter, we have begun to see that power at work in our ministry.
The last two months have been extremely encouraging. We have seen tremendous spiritual growth in the lives of many of our people, and as much as I would like to take the credit, I know that the primary difference maker has been the fact that our people are memorizing God’s Word. We have developed a simple memorization program that we call “Taking the Next Step” (TTNS). It is a collection of memory-verse booklets with the English and Visayan verses laid out in parallel format. Even though most of our people memorize in English, the parallel layout has proven to be extremely helpful because seeing the verse in both languages greatly enhances their understanding of the verses they are memorizing. It also increases their vocabulary in English as well as Visayan, improving their understanding of the preaching and teaching that they hear in church. However, the biggest effects we are seeing from the program are in the heart, not the head. As Hebrews 4:12 says, the Word of God cuts straight to the heart, and I have been amazed by how God has changed the hearts of our people over the last two months! Certainly, they are still young Christians with a lot of growing to do, but their hearts are soft towards God and the preaching of His Word.
Nestor Bagsican is the “poster child” of the TTNS program, though I must admit that the term “poster child” is a bit of a misnomer. While most of our members who are heavily involved in the TTNS program are young people with a good amount of time on their hands, Nestor is 60 years old and works a full-time job at the Dapitan City Hall. If I understand the story correctly, when Nestor was a young man, he went to the Catholic Seminary for two years before deciding that the priesthood wasn’t for him. I had the privilege of leading him to Christ a little over two months ago and baptizing him a couple of weeks later. Even before he was baptized, Nestor began memorizing Scripture, and he hasn’t stopped since! I can’t wait to see what God has for him in the future!
On May 20, we will be officially launching our Sunday school. Please pray that God would give us a strong start. I would also ask you to pray for a young man named Aldwin Damba. He is 16 years old and recently answered God’s call to preach. I am so excited for him! Please pray that he would stay on track and continue to grow. Thank you so much for your prayers and faithful support. Your investment is making a difference in Dapitan City!
Dividends on Your Investment
The ministry is full of ups and downs, particularly when you are pastoring a young church full of baby Christians. Sometimes as a pastor, I wonder if I will ever get used to it. Ironically, while I brace myself for the inevitable “downs,” it is often the “ups” that catch me off guard the most. Such was the case at our Tuesday night Highways and Hedges soul-winning meeting on April 10.
Before sharing this story, I should point out that our church, at just over 8 months old, is currently averaging in the mid to upper 30s in all 3 of our weekly services. That being said, you can imagine my disbelief on Tuesday, April 10, when 29 people showed up for our soul-winning meeting! A good number of them had only been soul winning once or twice, 3 had just been saved the previous Sunday, and then there was James Brian—not only was this the first time that he had stepped foot on our property, he wasn’t even saved. Having grown up Catholic, he was as lost as a goose in a hailstorm!
You can imagine my quandary. We had an army of completely inexperienced soul winners and a few semi-experienced soul winners. It was a good problem to have, but a problem just the same. To add to my difficulty, we were missing our two most experienced soul-winning members, greatly limiting my options. I was scrambling! Ultimately, I had two options: I could send out large groups of 4 or 5 soul winners each, or I could send out several groups of 2 or 3 and keep the most inexperienced soul winners at the church for a time of teaching and training. I opted for the second. I organized all the soul-winning teams and sent them out, and then I started setting up to train the “green recruits.”
It was then that I remembered James Brian—he didn’t need to learn how to share the Gospel; he needed someone to share the Gospel with him! I didn’t know what to do. All my soul winners were already gone, and I had 10 or 12 young converts to “babysit” for the next hour or longer! I couldn’t just leave them for 20 or 30 minutes while I shared the Gospel with James Brian. About that time, I had an idea. I had already decided that I wanted to do a soul-winning demonstration for our new soul winners, so I thought, why not use James Brian for the demonstration?
James Brian is a happy-go-lucky kind of kid, and, to my relief, he agreed to come up to the front and let me share the Gospel with him in front of the whole crowd. He was the ideal potential convert—wide-open and very intelligent. The young people did a great job listening as I explained the Gospel, and when I was finished, an unembarrassed James Brian happily bowed his head in front of the entire group and put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ!
Yours for souls,