From the monthly archives:

September 2001

Beauty for Ashes

by Original Author on September 28, 2001

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter

Upon arriving in the Philippines the obvious poverty is apparent on every hand. Betty Jo immediately began to look for works of mercy where she could help. She visited hospitals, orphanages, Midwife clinics, and shelters for the abandoned and poor, and she offered her assistance. The administrators of these institutions were amazed at this beautiful lady with thirteen children looking for service to others. I was amazed as she wrapped over a hundred presents for the street children for Christmas gifts and at least weekly would provide lunch for the extreme poor of our area. It is a wonderful example to our children and they enjoy helping her.

From a Biblical basis, this type of service is commanded of the Lord’s people. In the parable of the Good Samaritan. This kind Samaritan who gave of his own provision, time, and service to help one who had been left for dead. We are told to “Go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). The teaching of this parable is inescapable. As I studied the lesson I was brought under the conviction that my works of mercy were lacking. Mercy is not optional or an addition to being a Christian, rather a life poured out in deeds of mercy is the inevitable sign of true faith.

In Matthew 25, when our Lord will separate the sheep from the goats, the description of the sheep is not the soundness of their doctrines, but their works of mercy that shows that they are children of God.

Matthew 25: 34 – 40: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.

Too many times we read this and only want to prove our theology that these works of mercy are not the cause of our being His children, only the evidence. Stop and look at your life. Are we giving these acts of mercy to those around us? Such teaching should stimulate us to action.

In James 2, this lesson is again brought to the attention of his people with absolute clarity;

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled: notwithstanding ye give them not those things, which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou has faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble”.

I know all the excuses for not following this concrete instruction. “I barely have enough money for myself and family”. “Aren’t many of the poor simply irresponsible?” “Isn’t this the governments jobs?” I have used them myself. But if God said do it, we ought to be doing it. Let us repent of our not taking our responsibility to do what we can. These works of mercy are the evidence of true faith

Among many services that my wife helped, her favorite was the House of Joy, which extended a work of mercy to children that were dying mainly from malnourishment. It is the only service like this in the southern part of Mindanao. The service had to shut their doors because both internal troubles and lack of funding. After much prayer and the conviction that works of mercy were not optional with Christians but a Christian duty, we decided to continue this work of serving the children of Davao. We formed a Filipino Corporation called Beauty for Ashes, Isaiah 61:3 and secured a license to open a clinic to aid malnourished children. The hospital doctors as well as the social services of Davao rejoice in our involvement and were willing to help us.

The following is a published rationale for the House of Joy before they closed. It may help you better understand this work:

The Rationale

"It is estimated that 70% of the population of the Philippines is living below the poverty line, lacking the basic necessities to survive in life. Therefore, they have no finances for education, medical and basic nutritional needs. The lack of proper nutrition combined with lack of education leads to vicious cycle of malnutrition, and breakdown of the body’s immune system leading to disease.

Local newspapers have stated that a child under the age of 5 years dies every 5 minutes in the Philippines. The main causes of these deaths are the following: 1. Diarrhea 2. Pneumonia 3. Tuberculosis.

Often these children are severely malnourished and are treated only to return in 3-6 months with same recurring problem. Two of the major contributing factors are poor nutrition and lack of education (specially on primary health care issues such hygiene, family planning, breast feeding, immunization, coughs and colds, fevers, diarrhea and dehydration).

The objectives of the House of Joy are to save the lives of these children and to break these recurring cycles. We plan to achieve this by providing some of the finest medical care for these severely malnourished children. We believe that medical care goes far beyond the giving of medications and if the child feels cared for and secure, his healing capacity is far greater. At House of Joy, a family member accompanies the child during his or her stay. During this time, the guardian is educated regarding the child’s illness, cause and prevention.

The meal plan for the children during the recovery process focuses on the missing in elements in his or her diet (e.g. protein deficiency, lack of Vitamin C., lack of Vitamin A., and lack of Calcium). The accompanying parent or guardian is educated on these important nutritional factors that have been missing the child’s diet. Before the child and guardian are discharged, they are taught how to cook these foods needed for proper nutrition using ingredients that are available to them. Furthermore, literacy, livelihood and educational program are introduced to the families. There is also continuous follow up upon the index cases and their families in the community. Using this comprehensive approach, the children served by House of Joy and their families have greatly benefited.

Over the last two years, the House of Joy has cared for 119 children (10 died and 91 have discharged home) only 3 of the 109 children needed to return to House of Joy for another course of rehabilitation. One boy had severe diarrhea because mother did not follow up (element of neglect). Another child had cerebral palsy and was returned to House of Joy because grandparents did not take the time and effort to feed him while mother was at work. A girl had to be brought back to House of Joy by a neighbor because the father left town, and the mother was dying of TB. (This little girl was our four-year-old Angel)"

Eighty percent of the patient’s are received from the government hospitals. They cannot offer the proper care for three reasons. Extremely malnourished children are desperately in need of expensive antibiotics and the government will not purchase their medicines and the poor families do not have the means to do so. Secondly the nurses at government hospitals have a minimum of fifteen patients to tend do. These types of children need constant care similar to those in America under intensive care. The last reason is, the government hospitals only allow a patient two weeks in the hospital. The length of care to aid these malnourished children takes months. Therefore their only alternative is to send them home to die. As other work that needs doing, I first tried to get others to do these labors knowing the pressure of time I was already experiencing. However, none would take the ball, so we have.

We have put a rental contract on the same building that was used by the House of Joy. We are in the process of renovating the building and securing all necessary furniture, beds, refrigerator, stove, tables, desk, chairs, medical equipment and medicine. We open October 1, right before I get on the plane for America. We also secured the same medical staff of nurses used by the House of Joy and they are under the direct supervision of a team of doctors from the government hospital. They are the main source for us to receive the children we are serving. Please pray for this labor of love. We need wisdom, grace and strength.

Your Servant in Christ,
Gus Harter

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Update of the Work

by Original Author on September 27, 2001

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter

During the last few weeks I have worked diligently among our churches attempting to complete some areas of labor before I go to the United States for over a month. I am anxious about seeing my family, visiting the churches, and for our churches to meet the ministers from the Philippines. We also will be opening Beauty for Ashes, a clinic for malnourished children on October 1. We are renovating a building and servicing it with all the necessary furniture, beds, medicine and necessary equipment for this ministry of mercy. All we have secured from the previous service, House of Joy, is the staff of nurses and assistance of medical doctors that have freely given of their service for this good work.

For the past week I had been to Iloilo aiding in the constitution of six new churches. Three are located in the city of Iloilo, one in Antique, one in Concepcion and one on the neighboring island of Negros in town of Silay. It is always a joy to be with these ministers. I commend their zeal, unity and their labor to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. As of this writing we have eighteen constituted churches in the Philippines and forty-two other congregations meeting every Sunday that we call fellowships. They are in various degrees of growth averaging between ten to one hundred in attendance. In order for our readers to receive a better comprehension of this work we have included a map having arrows pointing to the areas of our congregations.

In Metro MANILA, a city of over thirteen million inhabitants, we have one church served by Elder Dominador Lozada. They have four different outreaches or fellowships within metro area. In addition, there are three ministers, who have recently come to our people with their three congregations. These men are knowledgeable and are presently working with several fellowships and meeting with eight ministers weekly. These eight ministers have a strong interest in our doctrine and good potential for growth in the future.

In the island of ILOILO we have six churches. The oldest is Bagacay Church, two hours north of Iloilo City has over fifty members and is served by Elder Jerry Navarro. The other five are all pioneer churches and have been constituted in the past month. They are pastored by Elder Leo Engbino, Ike Benia, Ronnie Cabaobao, Rogie Tasoy and Edmund Linatan. They are continually introducing truth to new ministers and being evangelistic in building their own congregations. This island is more progressive economically than the rest of the Philippines and it has many beautiful Old Spanish Cathedrals. But the beauty to me is growing and thriving Primitive Baptist Churches.

In NEGROS Island we just constituted a church east of Bacolod at the town of Silay served by Elder Hernani Osorio. This church has over twenty members and four families. Little Danalyn that lived with us most of last year is a member there and is back home with her family. She is still on medication and is doing well. In the southern end of this island is a second congregation served by Elder Leo Ramirez. This was Brother Leo’s home and most of attendees are from his extended family. The southern part of this island is mainly made up of sugar cane plantations.

Among the second group of ministers ordained in 1994 was Elder Jovencio Bael. He immediately went back home to Lapu-lapu, a part of Metro Cebu City and started a new work. CEBU is the second most populace city in the Philippines. It has a good climate for business with a large foreign population and more missionaries per square mile than any places in the world (in my opinion). Our church in Cebu has continued to hold its own and is a consistent light in this area.

In the island of BOHOL we have several fellowships and one congregation served by Brother Max Quiachon, which will be constituted toward the end of this year. This small island has only one city; Tagbilaran and we have two congregations in that area including the group served by Brother Max. This island is filled with retirees and is known for tourism and beautiful beaches. We have several exercising brethren and good outside interest. The future for this work is bright.

MINDANAO, the southern most and second in size of all the islands is the home of about seventy percent of all our congregations. The first trip made to the Philippines was in the city of DAVAO. The first church constituted was Davao City Church served by Elder Ricardo Tabanyag Sr. There are now six churches and six fellowships, some of these congregations have leveled off and others are growing. Digos City Fellowship has received several by baptism and is in the process of building a new church structures on their lot. Toril Fellowship served by Elder Rollie de Guzman is continuing to expand and has about 30 in attendance each Sunday. At Providence Church we recently baptized six new members but because of traveling so much I have not been able to major on evangelism for my home church. Elder Maglinte has baptized several at Boiling Springs Church and at the outreach in San Isidro. The structure at Matanao Fellowship served by Elder Ricardo Tabanyag is slowly being built and the congregation is containing to grow.

ZAMBOANGA CITY is surrounded by a Muslim stronghold and only a thirty minutes boat ride from the island of Basilan, which is the home of Abbu Sayaf terrorist. However the city itself is mainly Christians and we have four fellowships there, all with good promise. One fellowship was begun by Elder Norberto Tejada in 1994. The other three are new works consisting of existing congregation that have recently been baptized with their pastor. We are expecting good things from these congregations.

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, has three fellowships of which two are served by Elder Limbert Dalman. They are located in Dipolog and Dapitan. They are ready for constitution but wanted to wait till next year when both Elder Jeff Harris and I can both be in the constitution. Both these works were begun seven years ago right after Limbert’s ordination and have been consistent in their service for years.

ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR, has two churches one at Diplahan served by Elder Constancio Tejada and Grace Church in Pagadian served by Elder Willie Yator. Both churches have large congregation and nice buildings. There are several fellowships and each experiencing some growth especially the two in Naga City.

ILIGAN CITY, has three churches, Eureka Church served by Elder Manolo Dalman and Tambo Church served by Elder Julio Bagares. Iligan was the first church constituted in this area and has remained strong. Tominobo met in a small building but always is filled to capacity. There are also several fellowships, which are ready for constitution, two in Nawan served by Brother Manolo Macabale and Brother Ruel Macabale, as well as a fellowship served by Elder Melchisedec Tacbobo in Misamis Oriental.

The Lord has wonderfully blessed the growth of our congregation in CAGAYAN DE ORO City area. There were two separate occasions where we baptized a hundred soulsin one day. There are three churches ready for constitution, which are Baikingon Fellowship served by Brother Liberato Gumahad, Light of the World Fellowship in Talakag served by Pastor Edgar Sebuala and fellowship in Talakag served by Pastor Buena Asilan. This last church has secured a building with a good size lot and small apartment for the family for only a little over $400.00. This was on Godsend price for this congregation. They have already had to expand their building. They have over one hundred members.

We have seen an abundance of interest in General Santos, the southern most major city in Mindanao. We have a congregation served by Pastor Marino Oliveros, which will be constituted the last of December as well as ordain Brother Marino to the full work of the gospel ministry. We also have four congregations considering joining the Primitive Baptist. I have spoken with the groups at seminars held at a local hotel and some already requested baptism. However I put it off until I can visit their congregation and comprehend their spiritual growth and understand their doctrinal persuasion.

The growth among our people in the Philippines in relation to what I am accustom to in the States is difficult to comprehend. I am sure it is easier to begin a work here than to see it have a lasting solid church. But this is our goal. If the Lord is willing, it is our desire to see churches in every inhabited island and the message of grace to be sounded out of every village. Many of our men are very evangelical and have a burning desire to share the message of grace. It is our prayer our Lord will be magnified as his message is spread from city to city.

Your Servant in Christ,
Elder Gus Harter
Area of the Work in the Philippines

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Attack on America

September 17, 2001

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter As most Americans I was stunned this past week by the terror inflicted upon our beloved country. The visions of commercial airlines becoming bombs directed by insane and cruel men at the World Trade Center in New York was beyond by comprehension. Filled with fuel a massive 747 crashing […]

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Ordination of Ministers in Iloilo City

September 7, 2001

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter Iloilo we enjoyed a good profitable meeting ordaining six men to the full work of the gospel ministry. The Lord has abundantly blessed the work on the island of Panay. I also rejoice in the spirit of unity manifest among these men that labor there. On Saturday morning in […]

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Elder Gus Harter and Four Ministers to Visit United States

September 5, 2001

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter It has been a year since I move to the Philippines and over all it has been an enjoyable and rewarding labor. My purpose in coming to the Sates is to share with the church and friends who have been so kind to encourage us, as to the progress […]

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Special Visitors

September 1, 2001

Originally posted by Elder Gus HarterOn August 9 at 4:30 a.m. Betty Jo and I went to the airport in Manila to receive some very special people on a flight from Atlanta, Georgia. Adrienne Brown, our second grand daughter was the first of our children or grand children to visit with us. We thought our […]

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