I am writing this note one minute before midnight. We left the hotel at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, and returned at 11:30 p.m. after preaching for five different congregations in and around Laoag, in the Ilocos Region of the Philippines. There were a total of four baptisms. Perhaps a fuller report will come later, but at this point, I am numb from exhaustion. It has been an encouraging Lord’s day.
On Tuesday (4/14) and Wednesday (4/15), Ron and I spoke in a gospel meeting at the church of Christ in Tuguegarao City, located in the Cagayan Valley of Northern Luzon. Rody Gumpad has labored with this congregation for many years. On the first day, attendance exceeded 150. On the second, the crowd was smaller, but the audience manfisted good attention, especially during the question and answer sessions.
In the morning, I preached on the need for speaking gracious words. In every circumstance, the Master Teacher said the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. Exhorting men to prepare for the coming kingdom, He spoke gracious words. Rebuking hypocrisy and sin, He spoke gracious words. Encouraging the fainthearted, comforting the afflicted, He spoke gracious words. We can learn from His example.
In the afternoon, I spoke on the Relationship of Marriage. Ron presented two excellent lessons, challenging and exhorting the audience to obedience. Three individuals responded to the invitation, and were baptized.
It was great to see brethren with whom I have labored in times past. One brother, greeting me with a warm smile, said, “Sir Mark, do you remember me? I am the one you previously rebuked.” I struggled to recall the event; if memory serves, it occurred 10 years ago, involving the importance of being accurate and honest in reports, and in appeals for support. Evangelists are called to reporve, rebuke and exhort with great patience and instructon. What beautiful fruit is borne when such words, designed to bring about positive change, fall into good and honest hearts.
We shared lunch with the Mayor of Tuguegarao City, Ingle Bert (JoJo) Caronan, recently elevated from vice-mayor to his present position after his predecessor was removed from office, having been charged with wrongdoing. Political corruption is a sad fact of life in much of the Philippines. JoJo struck me as sincere, a good man seeking to institute reforms, recognizing the enormity of the task before him, and the perils involved. As often as possible, we turned the conversation in spiritual directons, offering various Biblical passages and principles that would help him better serves the city of Tuguegarao.
It was great to be with the Gumpad family again. Rody and Tessie, Jerome and Kathy Forelo, Ody and Lizel Gumpad, Jay and Michelle Gumpad, Mark and Rosie Joy Daquioag, and their growing families are good friends. Sister Tessie always provides delicious meals. I was encouraged by my association with this family of preachers.
On Wednesday, I preached on 1 Kings 11-13, entitling my lesson Fear vs. Faith. We focused upon the failures of Solomon, who married many foreign women, and turned aside to idolatry; we considered the folly of Rehoboah, who heeded the counsel of young men instead of the elders of Israel; we noted the various innovations of Jeroboam, who caused Israel to sin; finally, we pondered the lesson of the young and old prophets in chapter 13.
On Thursday, I travelled with Junior, Mark and Jay to Kalinga, where I preached in a gospel meeting with the Ganela family. The church in Alvin supports Gerald Ganela, who works with several congregations. The church in Dickinson has long supported his father, Geronimo Ganela, who is a faithful preacher at Centro church, where he also serves as one of the elders. I preached two lessons: (1) The Lord is Coming! and (2) The Conversion of Saul. Afterwards, four were baptized.
The baptism occurred in a very remote area. The place I preached was in a remote mountain-top village. Slowly driving down a deeply-rutted dirt path, we travelled 1-2 miles further into the back-country, where hardly any sign of civilization was evident. Exiting our vehicles, we hiked another ½ mile or so down into the wooded valley, looking for water in which baptisms could occur. April is dry and hot, summertime in the Philippines. The first stream-bed had no water. We traipsed further into the bush, until we found a place that was suitable. I was constantly on the lookout for snakes, and other creepy-crawlies. Once I hesitated, thinking a coiled snake lay in the path, until a companion assured me it was a just twisted branch… Having rather poor eyesight, the next step was definitely one of faith. I took a video of the baptisms, and hopefully can upload it to this website.
On Friday, I participated in gospel meetings at Palca, and also at Maguirig, where Mark and Junior both preach. Efrin Respicio also spoke at the first place, and Virgilio Bocarile preached at the second. Both men are faithful evangelists, and brought good lessons. During the song immediately before I stood up to preach, Mark whispered in my ear. “The prospect that I hoped would attend is not present. Could you offer a word of exhortation instead of preaching a sermon on conversion. So… I shifted gears, and preached an extemporaneous lesson on Hebrews 1-3. At the second place, many young people were in attendance, so I preached a lesson entitled, “Questions of Life for Young People.” No one responded to the invitation, but the brethren were appreciative of the lessons. We had a very good question and answer session afterwards. I love my Filipino brethren, and enjoy the opportunity of seeing so many friends and faithful gospel preachers.
Today, Saturday, is a long day of travel. We hope to be in Laoag by tonight, where we will labor week. So… I wish you all the very best. God speed and may His richest blessings be yours to enjoy. Yours, Mark
On Sunday morning, 4/12/15, I assembled with the Cebu congregation where Jonathan Carino labors, and preached on “The Works of the Flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). Sixty members were present, along with one visitor. During the afternoon, I visited the place were Fred Ogario preaches, and worshipped with around a dozen saints who meet in the home of one of the good sisters. I spoke on Isaiah 53 and also Joshua 1. At home, I am used to crying babies, and children who occasionally make their presence known. Here, I competed with crowing roosters, who clearly could not keep track of time, (since it was 3 p.m.), but happily cockle-doodle-doed throughout the worship service. Since the brethren seemed not to notice, I figured if I can ignore squally babies at home, I can ignore noisy chickens in the Philippines.
Today, Monday, 4/13/15, was a day of travel. Ron and I flew from Cebu City to Manila, where we caught another flight to Tuguegarao, in northern Luzon. Age has its privileges: In the Philippines, senior citizens get to board airplanes first. Granted, I’m not quite there yet, but when travelling with Methuselah Ron, I got grand-fathered into the senior section at checking and boarding. Let them young whippersnappers stand in the holding area like a milling-herd of cattle, we’re going to the front of the line.
The other day, a hotel assistant in the exercise room said, “Hey, I saw you in the Garden Café earlier with that tall, handsome man.” When I shared this characterization with Ron, he guffawed. Then today, while passing through the Manila domestic airport, stopping at a moneychanger booth to convert some US Dollars (USD) into Philippine Pesos (PHP), the person who assisted us noticed my Microsoft Band (a watch/fitness band), and said, “Cool watch. You look like James Bond.” In reality, I don’t know of two more “un-with-it” folks than Ron and me, but Filipinos think he is tall and handsome, and that I’m James Bond. That’s just TOO funny.
Enough foolishness for one day. I’m tired and going to bed. Tomorrow we start a meeting at Tuguegarao, seeking the lost, and strengthening the saved. Yours, Mark
Presently, it is Saturday afternoon, and our five-day long “Preacher’s Training Class” at the Church of Christ in Cebu City is now complete. Classes were held from Monday-Friday, April 6-10, 2015.
The Basic Bible Doctrine Workbooks (Vol. 1-4), by Robert Harkrider served as our study guides. The first includes a survey of the Bible, explains undenominational Christianity, and discusses New Testament worship. The second focuses upon how to study the Bible, how to establish Bible authority, and the mission and work of the church. The third examines various popular doctrines: the Holy Spirit, the One Baptism, and Calvinism. The forth continues this theme, addressing Premillennialism, Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Armstrongism, and 7th Day Adventism.
Lectures were presented by brothers Ron Halbrook and Mark Mayberry, accompanied by two Filipino preachers: brothers Lordy Salunga, of Angeles City and Jonathan Carino of Cebu City. These are good and godly men whom I hold in high regard. We were assisted by Jack Jacko, who is also a faithful preacher, good friend, and diligent worker in the Lord’s vineyard.
We assembled at the Church of Christ, Cebu City, which is located in the Central Visayan Islands of the Philippines. The brethren assemble on the 2nd Floor of the LUYM Bldg., located at the corner of Osmena Blvd and Plaridel St. You can find this approximate location on this Bing Map: http://binged.it/1PvVZ04
Students and teachers faced a grueling schedule, with classes lasting from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., with a single break for lunch, and occasional 5 minute breaks scattered through the day. Personally, my schedule was almost non-stop, involving continual activity from 6 a.m. until around 11:45 p.m., when I collapsed into bed. Ron and I both present 3-4 lessons per day. Lesson preparation takes up most of the remaining time. Eating and exercising, etc. consumed the remainder.
From previous trips with Ron, I learned the importance of regular exercise during such long days. While it might seem counter-intuitive, running 10 km on the treadmill in the hotel exercise room was, for me, essential in maintaining such a difficult schedule. The only time for such was from 10-11 p.m. After a quick shower, I collapsed into bed, slept through the night, and woke semi-refreshed.
Brother Ramon Carino, the 90 year old father of Jonathan, set a wonderful example for the rest of us. Despite being physically frail, he and his sweet wife set through the entire sessions each day, listening attentively, responding to the speakers, taking notes, and only occasionally falling asleep.
I say this as one who also occasionally struggled to stay awake. For me, exhaustion set in around 6 p.m., during Ron’s final teaching session. Each of the teachers usually work on their next class while another is teaching. In my case, several times, I was working on my next lesson, preparing my PowerPoint slides, only to fall asleep in mid-sentence, and wake up a few minutes later to find that I had been continually holding down a letter keyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy or otherwise typing gobblygook. One night, I fell asleep in my chair, and was oblivious to the fact that the class had been completed, and the students were filing out of the room, walking past me, smiling, and in some cases, taking pictures of their somnolent instructor. Some of these will probably end up on Facebook…
Having previously participated in several preacher training classes, Ron and I agree that this group evidenced a commendable spirit, listening, learning. I gain as much from them as they gain from our efforts. I was especially encouraged by their sincere desire to better understand the Scriptures, their willingness to sit and focus for such long hours, their good and thoughtful questions, and their repeated expressions of appreciation: for our willingness to come and teach them the Truth, and for the Bibles, books, and other study materials that are provided by generous brethren in the USA.
Well, I could continue, but I need to get ready to leave. Ron and I are sharing supper with Jonathan Carino and his family. Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day. Ron and I will each preach at two separate locations. On Monday, we fly to Manila, and then on to Tuguegarao City, where we will work with brother Rody Gumpad, presenting a series of lessons for brethren in Cagayan Valley. May God bless you all. In Christian love, Mark
Revelation Classes. Ron and I have completed our classes on the Book of Revelation at Angeles City. Students were very attentive, and we enjoyed good interaction, especially during the question and answer session. Filipinos demonstrate fortitude, being willing to sit for hours on straight-backed wooden benches, utilitarian but unergonomic, and at least in my case, prone to producing pain. Yet, the audience, which numbered 75, composed of men and women, teenagers and children, listened attentively from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with only occasional breaks. Participants were given copies of relevant materials, including Dan King’s newly published workbook on Revelation. Covering the Apocalypse in two days is a challenge. We tried to provide a proper framework for understanding the book, recognizing that the Patmos message was primarily to encourage first-century saints who were suffering persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. Ron and I attempted to speak clearly and simply, stressing relevant lessons, correcting misconceptions, and striving for personal application.
Accommodations. Over the last few days, we stayed in the Holiday Inn, located on what was formerly Clark Air Base, a U.S. Air Force Base located in central Luzon, about 3 miles west of Angeles City, and about 40 miles NW of Metro Manila. Clark was an American military installation from 1903 to 1991. American forces departed after changing circumstances in the relationship between the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines, hastened by the destruction wrought by the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
Exercise. Over the last several days, I have enjoyed being able to exercise outdoors, completing my regular 10 km morning run at Stotsenberg Park, formerly a military parade grounds, now a public park, with soccer fields, running/walking track, benches, etc. This expansive open area is surrounded by towering mimosa trees, raining yellow blossoms from massive, outstretched branches. Despite the early hour (6 a.m.), this park was filled with 100s of people, young and old, individuals and small groups, even entire families, who were walking, running, kick-boxing, practicing yoga, or otherwise enjoying the pleasantness of an early morning, and the dawning of a new day.
Tomorrow is Sunday. Ron and I will preach at different congregations, and then travel to Manila, where we are scheduled to fly to Cebu, planning to begin another series of classes on Monday. Hopefully the typhoon, which is bearing down on the northern part of Luzon, will weaken before making landfall, sparing those who are in its path, causing minimal distruction and disruption.
Well, its 9:30 p.m., and I’m exhausted from the day’s activities. Time for some shut-eye. Love, Mark
Ron Halbrook and I arrived safely in Manila, and are preparing to depart for Angeles City where our first set of classes will begin tomorrow. The flight from Houston to Manila went fine. I was able to study for upcoming classes, send several emails (see below), and catch a few winks. This trip involved more than 24 hours from start to finish. By the end, discomfort was pronounced. However, a good night’s sleep accomplished wonders. Running 10 km on the motel treadmill helped with aching joints and stiffness.
Government. On the second leg of our trip, as we were boarding the plane from Detroit to Japan, US Customs Agents were persistent in questioning various passengers about the amount of funds they were carrying. Law permits passengers to travel w/ large sums, but if you carry more than $10,000 USD, you must declare it. Failure to do so can result in the forfeiture of said funds. I was asked how much money I was carrying and how long I was staying in the Philippines. I honestly and accurately answered those questions. The agent replied, “Are you sure?” I looked him in the eyes and said, “Yes.” He sent me on my way with no further questioning. In contrast, two women were detained because they kept changing their story. I suppose there is a good reason for such procedures, but it felt like another case of intimidation by an intrusive Big Brother.
Take-off. Instead of a dramatic lurch forward, the Boeing 747-400 lumbers down the runway like a 350 lb. linebacker, leaving passengers to wonder if the plane will actually lift off the ground. According to Answers.com, the maximum gross takeoff weight of a 747-400 is approximately 900,000 pounds. Despite requiring a much longer runway than the smaller jets used in domestic flights, speed gradually increases until this big bird gently and gracefully takes flight. Amazing.
Communication. How much do we value communication? United Airlines offered 24 hours of in-flight internet access for $16. I purchased this add-on, hoping it would increase productivity on a very long flight. Unfortunately, this special did not include international flights. Pricing jumps to $50 for that privilege. Needless to say, I declined the offer. However, this got me to thinking, “How much do we value communication?” Based upon the way folks walk around w/ nose-prints on their iPhones, oblivious to their actual surroundings, you would think it would rate pretty high. How much time do you spend on Facebook, checking email, or sending text messages? How much time do you spend actually talking to those you love? What about your relationship with God? Do you communicate with him regularly and often?
Gotta go for now. Love to all. Later, Gator. Yours, Mark
My 2015 preaching trip to the Philippines has begun. Departing Houston IAH at 7:30 a.m., we witnessed a beautiful sunrise. A little girl, sitting across the isle, watching Frozen on an iPad, entertained the surrounding passengers by singing Olaf’s song RE “Summer!” Thankfully, she fell asleep after we were airborne…
Gospel meetings are wonderful opportunities for hearing the Word, praising the Lord, greeting new visitors, and renewing old friendships. We have enjoyed seeing familiar faces, like Derek and Amber, and the new Queen Bee. As the Psalmist said, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psa. 127:3).
During my morning run, I regularly pass a mother and her two sons who frequent the track before going to school. The youngest boy appears to be 5-6 years old, and runs (sporadically) w/ flashing tennis shoes. Sometimes I find him sitting on a big rock. As we pass in opposite directions, we greet each other with a wave. This morning, the little one saluted me with a big stiff-armed thumbs up. Kid, you made my day!