Unity: How Pleasant It Is!

This morning I had the honor of preaching on the Unity Theme at the joint worship of the Christians from De Castro and the Christians from Pasig-Kapitolyo. This was their third time to worship together, so I was told.

The Pasig-Kapitolyo church began with brother George Esmelia of Bacolod City. This is wonderful! George and I had been at loggerheads before because we could not agree on anything in our religious discussions at the Plaza of Bacolod City in the 1970’s. But while I disagreed with George, I too prayed that he would see the light of the Gospel. And God listened to my prayers. He worked wonders: George Esmelia was taught and baptized, not by me, but by other brethren; not in Bacolod, but in Metro Manila! I rejoiced at the conversion of my former antagonist! Calling him by phone in the 1990’s, we would often laugh out loud at how we had rationalized and justified our positions!

Early this decade, George left the Kapitolyo church in the care of the younger brethren, went to the US, then to Singapore. He was a restless man, but he also was a depressed man– because of the untimely death of his dear wife Marfe. The last news we heard was that he is back in Bacolod City.

The church in Kapitolyo was indeed in good hands, thanks to the Lord and to the few leaders who kept raising the torch of the gospel, fiery and bright and strong, even in the time of raging storms that life had brought them. Twenty years of existence! The Kapitolyo church that began with George  kept on and grew without George, and God be praised for that!

They talked of merger today, the De Castro Christians and the Kapitolyo Christians, and I too was in the meeting. There were seven of us present. They ironed out the kinks that remained. Brethren went another mile, loosened up a bit, and did some sacrifice to make this union a reality.

We owe it to the Lord and to the Father for Their having inspired the leaders of De Castro church (Aldous Echegoyen and Cesar Ola) and those of Kapitolyo church (Jun Cayanan, Bitoy Tagapolot, and one other brother), giving them the light to see the wisdom of the suggestions to pool their resources, their talents and their skills and their influences to promote the growth of the body of Christ in the area. They were now eager to convince the other members of their respective groups to merge as one. The merger is one best thing that has happened to the congregations of Christ in Pasig!

Unity they called it. It is more than that. In the coming Sundays and months and years we will be seeing the effects of this unity-merger-union in the lives and in the work of the two churches that have become one.

The young leaders of the two merging congregations have asked for my help, have solicited my mentoring skills, have desired to drink from the fount of knowledge that grew (they said) from my long experience of preaching the Gospel. In the words of brother Jun Cayanan, “Please reproduce yourself in us, help us to copy the Christianity that grew in you.” Flattered? That was not my feeling. All of a sudden I felt I had become small and needed the guidance from above in order to meet these brethren’s expectations!

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalms 133:1).

To see the photos, please click here…
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Cabangan Church: A Congregation of Negritoes in Zambales

The church in Cabangan is the only church of Christ in the Philippines whose membership wholly consists of Aetas, or Negritoes (Spanish for “little black men”). At the time we met them (November 1989), they were led by a matriarchal figure named Rosita. I say “led” because I noticed that all the men listened to her, like her word was law. She was the wife of the most mature man among the group and exercised great influence among them. It was she who scheduled the classes for us.

These Aetas came down from Mount Pinatubo because food was scarce in the mountains. And so in the low lands they made do with what they could gather and hunt— wild animals like lizards and snakes and bananas and wild fruits from the riverside near the settlements of the Ilocanos. They helped in the harvesting of palay, and got paid either with money or with palay.

This was in the last days of 1989. I volunteered to do much of the  teaching, in Tagalog, which they also understood. My brother-in-law Tom would read the passages I cited in class in the Zambal dialect (the dialect of the Negritoes) using the Zambal translation of the Bible. That was how they came to know of the grace of Jesus and of their great need for a Savior. We spent a whole month teaching them. When they were ready, Tom baptized them in a river nearby.

We in a manner of speaking converted a whole village of them in San Juan, Cabangan, Zambales, consisting of 25 men and women not including children. After they became a church, we conducted worship services in the afternoons of Sunday. Tom and his family and I were then based in San Narciso. I was helping him grow the church there too.

This young Aeta named Leonardo is our song leader. Not being educated in a Bible college, he learns the songs by listening to other song leaders.

I left Zambales for Butuan City in February 1990. Tom went on and taught some more Negritoes in the area. His big break came when he baptized Ilocano families who owned farms in Cabangan. It signaled the beginning when the brown brethren (the Ilocanos) were gradually assimilated with the black brethren (the Negritoes) in the spirit of oneness with the God who saved both of them.

In the middle of 1990’s the late brother Lee Smeltzer donated some money to acquire the 1.5 hectare property above the Negrito settlement, now located in the village of Dolores, Cabangan. A year or so later, a chapel was built for this church with the funds donated by other US brethren.

There were fifty or more Negrito brethren in attendance when I preached there last Sunday, November 7, not including children. Tom told me that this Negrito church consists of 300 or more members. Many did not come; one reason was that the majority had moved to other places in Zambales, to Manila, and to Mindanao in search of jobs and opportunities to make a living.

Last Sunday I spoke on the subject so dear to my heart, using Hebrews 12:1-3 as text. I think I spoke for an hour, but nobody even noticed it! The Aeta brethren were reacting to my sermon, smiling as I spoke, making some favorable comments on my illustrations, nodding their heads in agreement!

That Sunday morning they had a meeting, and made a decision to support the coming Lectureship event this November 20. Each family will contribute a hundred pesos for the food. They already had collected over a thousand pesos for this purpose. Marcial the preacher says he will donate a sack of rice. They expect an attendance of over a hundred on that day.  Five speakers, including Tomas Lizardo and me and others from Kalaklan church will be speaking on this lectureship.

A Negrito hut near the church building. Brethren have agreed to my suggestion that this hut be moved down the hill so the church building can be expanded.

There is a plan to establish here a Bible school that will serve the Negrito and Ilocano brethren in the area. Two teachers have volunteered to teach. You will hear more about this work in the days ahead.

Lectureship in Upper Kalaklan

 

November 1, 2010 was All Saints Day for those who observe this Catholic feast, a time they say should better be spent wishing the dead had been well. We however spent this day communing with the saints at Upper Kalaklan, at the meeting place of Olongapo church. It was a one-day lectureship attended by brethren from Central Luzon, specifically Zambales, Bataan and Pampanga. It was one lectureship I did not expect I would find myself in, since I never had any invitation.

 

Ed Maquiling and Tommy Lizardo Sr.

I came with my brother-in-law Tomas Lizardo and nephew Tom Lizardo Jr. But the brethren who recognized me made me feel welcome! Recognized is a better word. Brother Fred Angangan, for example, knew my face even if my name is still a stranger to him!

 

 

Rudy Gonzales, Fred Angangan and Ed Maquiling.

And oh, was I glad to see my old friend Higato Tulan Sr! He is now directing the PIBI-Angeles. He was the first speaker. He spoke on the subject that he considered he was well-prepared to tackle on: The use of instrumental music in worship. It was a good lecture.

 

The panelists answering the questions from the audience.

Fred Angangan spoke on death and life beyond the dead. It should benefit those who have doubts on whether or not the dead cease to exist after this life, on whether or not Hades is a fact.

 

 

Brethren have begun to arrive for the lectures.

Another timely lecture was the one discussed by brother Daniel Elamparo on the subject of the family. A very much needed teaching that the young and the not so young could benefit from.

 

Audience consists of both the younger and the older Christians from three provinces of Central Luzon.

Tom Lizardo Sr. spoke on the subject of local autonomy. And I was called on to be one of his two panelists. Our job was to answer questions. Difficult questions, like those one tackles in a Bible college situation.

 

 

Brothers Fred Angangan Jr. and Ruel Vitug.

I met Ruel Vitug, a brother who also aspires to be one of the elders of the church of Kalaklan someday, and I encouraged him to keep on with this goal. This man is one to whom they have entrusted the life and the future of PIBI-Kalaklan, and they have found no better man!

 

Brother Abelardo Mayor Sr.

And I met Rudy Gonzales! And this after twenty years! Fresh in my memory is that day when he offered us a shelter for the night when I knocked at his door with my daughter Abigail in tow. He never knew me then, but he knew my sister Diane and my brother-in-law Tommy, and that was enough for us.

 

Our afternoon audience.

What I wanted to see was sister Flor Poblete, but she was not around at the time. Maybe she was busy. But I had been told that sister Poblete had been the brain behind this lectureship and that she spent her own money for the food and other expenses for this event.


A Day With Steve and Josie Mock

The place is called Rafael’s Farm, a restaurant for the rich and for those who can afford. It is located along the highway to Babatngon, north of Tacloban. I found myself there one day, because of an invitation from a generous couple, Steve and Josie Mock. Here are some pictures of what I call one of my grandest days!

 

 

Pics from McArthur’s Leyte Landing Park in Palo, Leyte

The sign says a mouthful. Read and listen!

These statues are lovely, dark and deep, and Douglas McArthur had a promise to keep.

Tall trees that compete for your attention.

Flower-bearing plants manicured like the lawn around it.

That’s me, famished and never complaining because the sights are simply awesome!

Views from San Juanico Bridge Taken While On Board Yamaha Crypton

At the foot of the bridge I have to stop a while and make plans on how to shoot the pictures. The police officers guarding the bridge are always on the alert. Ready, go!

The bridge as seen from the Leyte side. Taking this pic is a challenge of sorts. Bawal ang huminto sa kalagitnaaan ng tulay. My, my, my!

On my left is an island, a piece of real estate that could hold a 12 by 12 house.

The bridge as seen from the side of Samar island.

A Gathering of Kindly Souls

“A gathering of kindly souls” is how I best describe the gathering of Christians from the churches of  Makati (Metro South), Marikina, Caloocan (Caloocan church which hosted the affair, and Bagong Silang), Taguig, Antipolo, Las Pinas, Pasay, Quezon City (from such areas as Payatas, Lagro, Diliman, Alejandro Roces), Tondo, Manila, Cavite areas (such as San Jose-Dasmarinas, Imus, Bacoor, Dasmarinas-Bagumbayan and others), Batangas areas (such as Lipa City and Rosario), Calamba, Laguna, Baguio (from Rimando Road, Center Point, Midtown), Pangasinan and Paniqui, Tarlac; Naga City, Camarines Sur; Bacacay, Albay, Cebu City and others. We can’t recall all, but my readers who had attended that gathering remember and know.

Seeing again the brethren you’ve been missing, bonding with classmates and students  (those who sat at one’s feet in one’s bygone Bible college years), fellowshiping with fellow preachers, with brothers and sisters whose faces one remembers but whose names he doesn’t, kindling a relationship with those kindred spirits who have just been ushered into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, is really refreshing, to say the least. This too is a fellowship where Christians’ love for fellow Christians is reaffirmed.

The affair is the National Evangelism Workshop and Seminar (NEWS) facilitated by brother Jun Patricio (preacher of Metro South-Makati church) and brother Randy Macapagal (minister of Caloocan church). Caloocan church building became the venue. The gathering lasted two and half days (morning of December 21 till noon of December 23).

The theme of the seminar is “Benevolence as an Effective Means of Evangelism.”

Typhoon Ondoy and the other typhoon, both equally destructive, are still fresh in our minds; but it was one calamity– no, a double calamity— that brought out the best in our brotherhood.  When God touched the lives of men and women in this country through calamities, His people in the churches both here and abroad also found a common chord by which they could be one with the sufferers: shelter, clothing and food for their bodies, and spiritual food for their souls. Visiting the needy and the suffering when they are at the lowest ebbs of their lives, taking a bag or two of food assistance, speaks a lot about what makes all men brothers and sisters. But taking a Bible and counseling them from God’s Word, explaining to them God’s purpose and plans, brings their minds to the right focus and speaks great things about the great family-hood that we could have in the great beyond. The NEWS seminar only serves to affirm what we believe all along: That our lives, our days, our energies and our wealth are always, and should be, at the disposal of the great God who cares for all and wants His people to perfect their love for Him by sharing their worldly goods to those who need help (1 John 4:12; 3:17).

We have posted here some pictures from that event, courtesy of brother Jun Patricio. Click here to see…

Benevolence as a means of evangelizing. You may click here to download and read>>>

Jun Patricio and his wife Chona, and the congregation of Metro South. Photo from Ed's files.

The congregation at Metro South-Makati one Sunday morning. Photo from Ed's files.

Brother Randy Macapagal, preacher of Kalookan church, and the rescue team. Photo borrowed from his Facebook account.


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