Steve Burchett’s Trip to the Philippines, Summer 2009

Steve Burchett’s Trip to the Philippines, Summer 2009

Wednesday & Thursday, August 5-6 – I was invited to the Philippines by Doug Nichols who is the founder and international director emeritus of Action International Ministries. Other than skirting a typhoon the last hour, my flights over to the Philippines were uneventful. I was met at the airport by Ernie and Rosely Fornoles. Rosely was my contact person in the Philippines, so it was a delight to finally meet her.

The majority of the time in the Philippines found me lodging at the New Tribes guesthouse in Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila). The guesthouse is a very comfortable and welcoming place. It is managed by two kind missionaries from the States, Ed and Debbie Jurimas.

Friday, August 7 –In the morning, I visited Paul and Patty Ellis’ house. They are missionaries with Action International. I was privileged to sit in on Paul’s training of pastors, and shared lunch with about a dozen pastors. Over lunch, I enjoyed a discussion with three of the pastors about church discipline.

In the afternoon, I spent time with the Christian Growth Ministries pastors’ conference team. They were hosting the conference in conjunction with Action International. I was surprised to learn that I would not be speaking in five sessions, but seven. I was actually relieved because it gave me more flexibility with my messages. We then went to Ali Mall, dedicated to Muhammad Ali who is popular for his fight in Manila against Joe Frazier that is called the “Thrilla in Manila.”

Saturday, August 8 – I went to Megamall with Ernie and Rosely for lunch, but first they bought me two barongs. A “barong” is a customary dress shirt in the Philippines. The store workers in the Philippines are quite “hands on,” so it was like my own fashion show while we found just the right shirts. In this picture, I am with a Filipino pastor, and I am wearing a barong. 2[1]

We then ate lunch and I enjoyed sharing with Ernie and Rosely about my church, Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. It’s hard to put into words how terrific Ernie and Rosely are. They are so sweet and great Christians!

Sunday, August 9 – I was picked up at 7:45 am for a 9 am service at Higher Rock Christian Church (not to be mistaken for a “disciples of Christ” or “Church of Christ” type of a church typically called “Christian Church” in the States) in Manila. Pastor Bob Amigo, the senior pastor of Higher Rock, “fetched” me (as they like to say in the Philippines). They meet in a high rise building where they rent out a floor for church offices and the main meeting room.

I’m guessing there were 150-200 people for Higher Rock’s service. The singing was glorious, the praying fervent, the spirit sweet. After Bob introduced me, he encouraged me to preach for an hour. I think I did, though I didn’t intend to preach that long. The people were engaged. I preached Revelation 1:12-18, which is a picture of the risen and glorified Christ. I told them that they should remember His presence among them, rely on Him always, even when persecuted and suffering (like John and the Christians in Revelation 2-3), and be ready for His return (Rev. 1:7). Afterwards, a group of ladies surrounded me, several crying because of the hope and encouragement the message gave them. I then was treated to a Chinese/Filipino buffet, and I ate my first century egg. I ate with Pastor Bob and his family, and three of the church’s leaders.

That evening, I was picked up by Bob and Sukie (his wife), and we went to Green Hills Shopping Center to have supper with another pastor and his wife, Robbie and Mavie Casas. Before eating, we went into the “flea market” area where there are no set prices until the bartering is done. I bought gifts for the family and was grateful to have Filipinos bartering for me! Supper was delightful as I heard about the ministry of Pastor Robbie in Baguio City. I really enjoyed my time with these theologically like-minded men.

Monday, August 10 – I was picked up from the New Tribes Guesthouse at 9:30 am, and eventually driven out of Manila to a large plot of land where numerous missionary families live and serve at a place I believe is called “Second Mile.” Ministry activities here include ministering to former street children and school dropouts, teaching them both vocational skills and the Bible. A two hour drive out of Manila finds both clean and cooler air, which was refreshing. I spent the night here and was welcomed and fed by missionaries Gary and Melita Root and their family.

Tuesday, August 11 – Today the 15th Pastoral Care Conference started at Jabez Campsite, Cavite, in the Philippines. One of the sponsoring ministries, Christian Growth Ministries, was expecting 200 delegates. Nearly 300 pastors showed up! They had to scramble a bit to find housing. Many of the men slept in tents outside along the field area. They are willing to live a few days in less than ideal circumstances in order to hear the Bible taught.

The topic I was given to address was “Shepherding a Small Church.” I preached two sessions today. It was a joy to look out on a group of pastors, sitting in an “open air” meeting room that was easily over 100 degrees with thick humidity, eager to hear the truth. I have never sweated so much in my life as I did while I was preaching those two sessions! Thankfully, my guest room was air conditioned.

I also must add that I developed a significantly bad cold just before the conference, and I had many people praying that my voice would last and that God would give me strength to serve these pastors and a clear mind to answer their questions. I’m thankful to Him because He did.

Wednesday, August 12 – Day two of the pastors’ conference. I taught the pastors in three sessions. The teaching seemed to go especially well. The interaction with the pastors between my sessions was a highlight.  So many of these men have had little or no training, so they are eager to learn more than just what is being taught in the main meetings.

Later in the afternoon, it was my privilege to visit the Home of Joy orphanage on the grounds of the campground where the pastors’ conference was being held. I visited in 4 or 5 homes where the orphans are cared for. When I say “home,” don’t think of an American home with all of the comfortable amenities. Each home is made of concrete blocks, and the floors are all of the hard tile variety. Nonetheless, there are some faithful workers for the Lord serving these precious children.

Thursday, August 13 – The third and final day of the pastors’ conference, ending at lunch. I was responsible for two sessions, and I decided in the first to answer several of the questions the pastors had asked me between sessions over the first two days. I spent the majority of the time denouncing the prosperity gospel (there were several pastors there who held to these teachings because that is all they had ever heard) and also speaking about when it is and is not appropriate to be a dogmatic pastor. At the end of the first session, I was encouraged to see a large number of pastors coming to me and shaking my hand and expressing deep appreciation for standing for the true gospel in the face of the false gospel of “health and wealth” and “name it, claim it” preaching.

In my final session, I shared with the pastors several of the key distinctives of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. The pastors were especially interested in hearing about house churches and how the eldership functions in that structure. I also took time to speak about the importance of meaningful church membership and the necessity of practicing church discipline. Afterwards, a group of pastors from one church told me they had been contemplating starting meeting in homes as their main meetings of the week, and my address was a significant push in that direction. We spent time together talking more in-depth about their situation, answering further questions they had, and praying.

One of the highlights of the conference was the younger pastors.  I’m always encouraged to see young pastors eager to learn. They were especially interested between sessions to spend time with me and hear more about both what I had taught in the sessions, but also to talk about other biblical and church-related issues.

Friday, August 14Today I visited Shalom Christian Birthing Home, founded in 1992 by Mavis Orton among the poor in a village of the Philippines ( Words fail to describe what I saw. I arrived before lunch, and they had already delivered 8 babies!  They are only able to deliver babies a couple of times a week, and approximately 140 are born each month in their clinic. They are hoping to build a much larger birthing clinic in the near future when the Lord provides the funding. All of their patients hear the gospel and are provided an education on basic living. Queen Elizabeth II honored Mavis with the award “member of the British Empire” in 2007 for her ministry to the poor. What an honor to meet and hug her!

Saturday, August 15 – Jeff Anderson, along with Dave and Becky Majam (and others), are bringing food, hope, help, education, living skills, and Christ into various squatter villages (the poorest of the poor) around Manila. I visited one of those villages with those three today. The only way to get to one of the villages they are working with is to take a canoe across the San Juan River, which is full of trash and human feces. I’m thankful I did not fall in! Some have. In fact, there was a fire in the village in December and many had to jump in to save their lives.

It was a joy meeting the people and taking pictures of the children in the squatter village. The living conditions are horrendous and not the way this life is supposed to be. I got to share with the children from the Bible for a few minutes, and I chose John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

A typical time of ministry with the children in this village includes singing, a Bible lesson, and then they are provided a free meal. What they are doing is much more than just providing food, though. They are seeking to build relationships with the people of the community and help them in many different ways. These children are malnourished and a first step in treating them medically is to get them “de-wormed” (many run around in their bare feet). They are educating many of the children and teens in the community. They are also building relationships with the adults and seeking to teach basic living skills and responsibilities, and they are proclaiming Christ to all.

Sunday, August 16 – In the morning, I preached at the chapel service of Rizal Provincial Jail.

I was taken by Pastor Lito de Guzman, who ministers to the prisoners most Sundays. The prisoners were welcoming and seemed to receive the teaching. In the evening I preached at Daily in Christ Fellowship, a church in Metro Manila. This church was so kind to give a bag of Filipino goodies to bring back to the States.

Monday, August 17 – I spent my last full day in Manila visiting three different ministry sites with Pastor Raffy and Pastor Luv. We first went to a poor community where a group of ladies feed the children and teach them the Bible. Then, we went to Pastor Luv’s town where he has a house of former street boys. Some of these boys used to sniff glue to get high and fight off hunger pains. Now, they have been given a home and an opportunity.

Lastly, we went to Pastor Raffy’s territory. He ministers in three different squatter villages, two days a week, sometimes from 5 am ’til 10 pm at night. We only went to one village. He’s been there for 4 years, and most people know him well.

Tuesday, August 18 – I had an approximately 8 am flight, so I was picked up by Ernie and Rosely a little before 5 am. The airport was not far away, but the traffic in Manila is amazingly congested (I have never seen anything like it!). The Lord both used me and taught me on this trip, but I was very ready to be home with Patty, the kids, and my church. What a joy it was to see Patty and the kids as I walked off of the plane. They even brought chocolate chip cookies to welcome me home! They enjoyed receiving gifts from the Philippines.