Diary of A Voluntary Worker
Arrived in Cebu.
Met at the airport by Pr Thomas Kam,
who had flown in earlier from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and Sis Jessica.
The Latter’s family had moved to Cebu from Sabah
because of her husband’s work commitments at a resort hotel. Will be staying
with her family tonight.
Morning comes early to Cebu.
Woke up at to catch the flight. Learnt later that the check-in counter close early;
once closed, you have to “pay” money to check in. managed to catch the Fokker
50. Landed at Pagadian at Met by some brothers who took us to church,
nicely built, simple with minimum facilities. A small house at the front is
home to a worker and his family, and for the time being, us. Land is purchased
and buildings constructed through love and offerings from our members all over
Quite noisy in the room as it is
near the main road where there is a slope. Tricycles and lorries
have to accelerate, causing a din and emitting smoke. It is also warm and
dusty. Tricycles are not the type with pedals. Rather, they are sidecars with
seats mounted at an angle of 45 degrees to a motorcycle. These tricycles are a
common form of public transport here; a few of our brothers ride them as means
of a livelihood to support a family of five or six.
Houses in this area are either
ramshackle wooden sheds or roadside stalls, though the very few well-to do have
brick and mortar homes. The members tell us it is still safe as we are near the
town. Anywhere else in the outskirts exposes one to the risk of kidnapping by
Muslim rebels and other ransom-demanding ruffians. Just last week, a church
pastor and two of his young people were kidnapped. All feel uneasy. We pray
that we will be kept safe for our entire stay here.
Prepared a sermon for the morning
service – “What does the Sabbath mean to you?” Pr Kam
spoke on “The Book of Life” in the afternoon. There were about 40 adults in the
services and an almost equal number of children.
Hymns are sung to the accompaniment
of the guitar a versatile musical instrument. Being musically illiterate does
not deter the members from singing gustily; they have good voices and are able
to pick up the tunes very fast. Back home in Singapore,
some of our members have forgotten this form of worship, to “continually offer
up a sacrifice of praise to God”.
Classes begun for the Short Term
Theological Course today.
Today is Sunday, and every Sunday
evening, the church does a gospel program on the AM radio to reach out to its
listeners. It also goes a long way in reaching out to the remote areas,
especially when there is an urgent announcement for the churches and prayer
houses (there are about 20 places of worship in this area). For 15 minutes,
from to , the brother will try to cram as much as possible
on the live broadcast. Today, he speaks about the apostles keeping the Sabbath.
The broadcast can reach an area
where about 8 million people live, though at any one time it is estimated about
2 million people could be tuning in. In a country where many cannot afford the
television, the evenings are spent with the radio. Many members have come to
believe through this method of evangelism and more have written in requesting
for gospel tracts. But maintaining this broadcast may soon be a burden for the
church as the station has increased the price of each broadcast to 1000 pesos.
It is a pricely sum, considering the living allowance
of our full-time worker is only 1600 pesos a month.
Things here are relatively
expensive, with some items of the same price back home. So we get two dishes at
each meal, of which one will be common with the members, and another specially
prepared for us.
The believers here are generally
very hospitable, at times to an extreme. Heard that some will
borrow money and go into debt so as to provide food and accommodation for a
visitor in the house. It’s a bit difficult to swallow the food when one
hears this; a lump forms in the throat. Such love and generosity despite their
poverty are indeed admirable.
Yet poverty for most young people
back home is just an abstract concept. Hunger, squalor, filth and diseases; it
is almost unimaginable for us who never experienced them.
Was hanging out clothes in the sun
to dry, when the children, some as young as six or seven, rushed past, carrying
pieces of firewood for the kitchen. The kids here lead a simple life, playing
and splashing around when it rains, tending to the family’s chickens, helping
mummy with the cooking, washing and looking after the younger siblings, and
finding fulfillment in playing with old makeshift toys. The similarity with
kids back home ends with playing with toys. What a pity, if only kids back home
can come and see the disparity, perhaps the clamouring
to go to the amusement centre, and to ask for the latest gizmo toy will end
There is an urgent need for these
children to be brought up on a proper religious education foundation, as they
shall be useful vessels for the local gospel work in the future.
Noticed the students’ keenness to
learn the Word of God, and the church hymns. Have been teaching them hymns
whenever we can, e.g., before the class or a service, or on evenings when there
is no service. It is more a sing-a-long as we cannot read the notes, and
sometimes we go off pitch. So we’ll repeat and practice the hymns several
times, but it is always a joy watching them finally singing the hymn without
Electricity was cut off last
evening, and so dinner was by candlelight. We were hoping it would be restored
so that we could have a hymn session, but it didn’t so we slept on our wooden
beds and exchange stories. Actually we use electricity only for the lights and
fans, so its absence didn’t bother us. Water is an important commodity here;
each night, one of the brothers will have to fill up the water tank and
whatever available pots and pails with the water tap from the government
source. We nicknamed it “picking manna”, as he has to do it every evening, as
sometimes no water will be available for the rest of the day. Often at home we
take such conveniences for granted, not realizing the blessings of God. Yet are
we more fervent in our service to the Lord, despite the luxury of comfortable
church buildings to worship Him? And are we offering more time, despite
possessing modern tools to help us in our work?
Evening evangelistic service,
there were not enough hymn books to go around, so most members have to share.
Just a few more days before the
Thank the providence of God,
except for a few cases of headaches, coughs and stomach discomfort,
the three of us have been in the pink of health. The rains have also been
pouring during the afternoons, keeping the weather cool and the dust from
blowing. Constantly rejoice when reminded by the fact that the churches back
home have been very concerned and are praying for our safety and health.
No more lessons today, most of the
outstation members are returning home. Two full-time workers left at this morning to board the bus to the harbour for a 12 hour ferry journey to visit a few families
of believers, before returning home. Another worker will embark on a 30 hour
journey through a series of packed buses and ferry.
Most of them had left home and family
for almost 3 weeks to learn more of the Word of God. Some had brought their
families along. Their faith is simple, and through poverty and illiteracy is a
hindrance, they have great zeal in reaching out to remote areas to make
disciples and establish churches for the Lord.
opportunity to go to the town market. The land here is full of
contrasts, you see the road dividers and walls here filled with pickets and
banners proclaiming Bible verses, yet crime is rampant. Being a predominant Catholic
country doesn’t help either. Yet again, we believe there are still many sincere
‘Corneliuses’, devout people awaiting the Truth to
The other hindrance to the gospel
work here is the lack of workers to prepare the gospel tracts in the local
dialects. May God help them soon. Will leave for Cebu
tomorrow and continue onto Bacolod
on Thursday to visit the church at Mansilingan.
in Bacolod yesterday. The truth arrived in the Philippines
with this first church in Mansilingan when in June
1983, the International Assembly sent two missionaries there in response to
their ‘Macedonian call’. Henceforth, this church has undergone must spiritual
tribulations and many have left the church as a result.
these and other financial hardships, the members gather to pray together at in the mornings and evenings for the
The congregation gathered for
additional services in the morning. After that we walked through the muddy
tracks and in the rain with two workers to evangelize to a few families of
truth-seekers. It’s rainy season in the Philippines!
Will leave Bacolod
for Manila tomorrow.
Did not stay on in Manila
with Pr Kam as had to return home.
Heard that Manila
church still has not a place of worship, as land prices here are exorbitantly
high. She is also prone to flooding, and because of the traffic situation in
this city, it can take 2-3 hours to cover a short distance to attend service.
Pr Kam writes later “At Manila,
we only had four services and less than twenty souls turned up due to the
Yes let’s continue to pray and
show our concern for the newly evangelized areas around the world. In the Philippines
alone, there is still much to do. May the Lord continue to bless and give
guidance to the work there.
Brother John Chua accompanied
Preacher Thomas Kam (of the Sabah General Assembly)
as a voluntary worker to the Philippines
from 03 to 28 July 1997. Together
with another voluntary worker from Taiwan,
they visited churches at Pagadian and Mansilingan. During this period, John kept a diary of his
experience and reflections, and Manna is now publishing excerpts from this
diary, to encourage more brethren to participate in this aspect of the holy
work. It is only when we join in the work that we can realize the urgency in
the Lord’s comment that “the harvest is plentiful the labourers