From the monthly archives:

August 2003

Update of the Work

by Original Author on August 9, 2003

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter

Since my last letter written May 31, 2003, much has been accomplished to help our churches. We have ordained three able ministers; Raul Panes from Central Negroes, Efren Delmo from Guimaras Island off the cost of Iloilo, and Tony Decena from Surigao City in northern top of Mindanao. They all three are blest with zeal, knowledge and stability. I pray for them daily that they will abound in their love and service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We also constituted the churches they serve. Brother Delmo and Brother Panes were converted through the efforts of our minister in their area and brought to the minister’s conference when Elder David Pyles and Mike Gowens were the speakers. They united with the Primitive Baptist at that meeting. Through the efforts of Elder Panes I have received and invitation from the local high school of about 800 students to speak to them for an entire school day on Christian morals and doctrines. We have not agreed on the timing but they have left it for me to decide what would be convenient. I rejoice in these open doors of service. Elder Delmo has three other congregations interested in uniting with us in Guimaras Island. I plan to address them on August 14 when Elder Zack Guess is with me. The church that Brother Delmo serves has an adequate building. One couple who are members are American citizens. Both these good men were faithful ministers for over a year before their ordination. They consistently with good judgment taught their congregation the doctrine and practice of the Primitive Baptist. Through my many visits to both their congregations, I have had the privilege to baptize almost all their former membership into the Church. Elder Tony Decena, formerly a member of the Christian Missionary Alliance was introduced to the doctrines of grace several years ago. He brought his church out of that denomination and formed an independent congregation. Several ministers told me about this able minister in Surigao City preaching our doctrine. I finally secured his address and was going to contact him. However at the same time Brother Tony had found Elder David Montgomery from San Antonio, Texas through the Internet. Elder Montgomery gave him my email address. Last October, I held a meeting at his request with a group of ministers in Surigao City. Brother Tony and several other good men in the city enthusiastically received our baptism, the concept of temporal salvation, the washing of the saint’s feet and other teachings of Primitive Baptist. Brother Tony is an excellent teacher, a good translator and a powerful preacher. We have several more good men to be ordained but are purposely going slow to insure soundness in their service.

Let me share a more personal experience. This month I had the privilege of baptizing two of our children in our home. Almost two years ago Elizabeth and Alex were abandoned by their parents and given to us by a government agency. Their father was a Muslim called Badjao who live in the ocean shacks built over the water. Many of you remember the story in one of our Newsletter call Papa, Papa about them. Elizabeth is extremely bright. She immediately learned English and helps us communicate with some of children that know only a little English. During the past few months she has listened intently to our devotions each night. She has also been very serious and sober at our church services. She finally talked with my wife sharing with her desire for baptism and being obedient to our Lord. On July 6 this little nine-year-old girl came bravely forward at the conclusion of our church service. She gave her experience of grace. With tears of joy we readily accepted her into our church. She was baptized in a local pool, immediately after the meeting. During the next week, Rex our miracle boy also 9-year-old had a similar experience. Rex came into Beauty for Ashes a year ago. He was only skin and bones and too weak to cry. He had the stare of death and several doctors had given him up to die. However through the providence of God and the care given by my wife and staff at Beauty for Ashes, he recovered. He is a gentle kind soft-spoken little boy. Although we have been intimately close to him, it has been only in the past few months he has lived with us. He shared with Betty Jo and I that since the Lord saw fit to save his life. He desired to obey Him and be baptized. The next Sunday he mustered the courage to walk before the church and whispered to me his request for baptism. I tried to get him to relay his experience to the church but being timid and afraid he could not get the words out. He was received and was baptized that day. Having the large number of children in our home makes life trying and often difficult. But experiences like these are satisfying and rewarding.

In America as I became a fisher of men, I used what I called the hook and line method, one at time. At Bethany Church in Atlanta over a period of 30 years, we normally baptized over 10 candidates each year. But over those years seldom did one join that I did not personally talk with and answer whatever objection they had. But in the Philippines, as in the primitive church of scripture, net fishing is very common. Since our last letter we have rejoiced to baptize five separate congregations. On each occasion their pastors had labored for several months teaching our doctrine and had prepared them to unite with the church. I would visit them and after preaching 10 to 100 would come before the body and request baptism. They would give their experience generally in their native tongue. They often spoke with tears and sincerity. Their pastor and local body would then judge their fitness for membership. We would then find transportation to proceed to a river, the ocean or a fit pool for baptism. During this past month we baptized four congregations in the island of Mindanao, in Molavie in Zamboanga del Sur, in Cagayan de Oro City, in Montevista, North of Davao and Surigao del Sur, in the northern peninsula of Mindanao. Also during the visit of Elder H.D. Fulmer we baptized a mountain congregation just north of Iloilo City. Because of the danger factor in traveling to their location (communist insurgency), they came to the city to be baptized. The most memorable of these baptisms was the congregation served by Brother Wendel Lampad in the village of San Francisco in Surigao del Sur. We arrive there on Sunday morning June 1. The building had an over flowing congregation of about 200 people eighty-nine of those attending committed themselves to be baptized. After services, we travel 45 kilometers to the ocean. It was perfect, palm trees, a peaceful clear sea, a beautiful white sand beach. There were already many families enjoying the beach as recreation. The native bathers stood silently by to view our order. We had a moving service on the sand. The candidates and I then proceeded to the water. We baptized 89 souls that day to the rejoicing of all present. Brother Lampad is the secretary to the Barangay Captain (village mayor) and also has a small farm growing rice. He is highly respected by his community and church. It is a joy and encouragement to have this caliber of ministry with us.

Almost since arriving in the Philippines, I have desired to have a radio broadcast to cover all the Islands. 60% of the people know English and this would be a good tool for evangelism. The common Filipino is more receptive to change than in America. If you convince them that the concept you teach regarding salvation, or Christ, or doctrine of the church is biblical. They are ready to change. The broadcast is needed for several reasons. It is an excellent means to find seekers of truth. It provides a regular presentation to the general population about our doctrines and practice. A broadcast would aid in establishing our existing congregation. A month ago I started a broadcast in Davao. It is called “Grace for Living. The price was reasonable. The time was excellent. It is my purpose in time to add other stations. We desire to reach all the Philippines by this method. Please make this matter of prayer.

Brother Donnie Halbgewachs from Nebraska, his wife Barbara, their 6 children and Grandma Mickey, have moved to the Philippines. We are greatly encouraged by the arrival of this family. We need their help and they are anxious about helping. The Lord by His kind providence knew our need for another American family. They have moved into an adequate home down the street from us. Their fellowship has been a Godsend. Brother Donnie and several of his family have been on several preaching trips and are an encouragement to all.

Another source of encouragement has been the help given by Brother Chris Fulmer, Joanna and Rebecca Guess. Chris has become my right arm and has assisted me in many ways. He took charge in the distribution of songbooks and Bibles. We have distributed 2500 Bibles in their native tongue with names of the membership printed in gold letters. We are now shipping the same number of songbooks to the benefit of over 100 churches. Chris has also been my companion, driver and most of all a good friend. He felt a burden from our Lord to take a year leave from his work with Delta Airlines to render whatever service he could give to our Lord’s work in the Philippines. I am thankful for such a young dedicated member. Joanna and Rebecca have come to help with our children in our home as well as aid the work at Beauty for Ashes. They are dedicated to the service of our Lord and hard working young ladies. We are very thankful for their assistance and encouragement.

Our container from the States finally arrived. I immediately unpacked my books. It was like the return of old friends. I have learned to love and respect old ministers dead and gone from pouring through their writings. You need to read them through the spectacles of scripture but their many insights have been a greet blessings. As they have lifted up my Savior, I was exalted with them. With care I assembled the sets of Spurgeon, Gill, Newton, Gadsby, Philpot, and many others. Over a thousand volumes with worn covers and tattered pages have been some of my treasures thru the years. Among my boxes were pictures of children so far away and my parents that have left this world years ago. I treasured the memories returning. I would at times stop and feast on days gone by. I thank my Lord He has us in His hands. He knows what is best. In the container were books sent to our ministry from Harold Hunt. Sheets and towels sent for our clinic and children. Wheel chairs, clothes and a lots of other items. Thank you, thank you.

I plan to travel to the United States with four ministers from the Philippines with similar schedule to the one two years ago. These are good men with an excellent understanding of our doctrine and practice. I have not finalized all the appointments as yet. In my next newsletter I will list the appointments and share a little about the four men traveling with me. We will arrive in Atlanta on Tuesday, October 14 and leave on November 13 from Los Angles to Manila. I am anxious for you to meet these ministers and hear them preach. Please pray for traveling mercies and preaching grace. I am personally looking forward to renewing my fellowship and love for my brethren in America.

G. H.
Photos in Update of the Work (08082003)

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The Arrival of the Halbgewachs Family

by Original Author on August 6, 2003

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter

On Tuesday morning, July 8, 2003, after weeks of planning and preparation the day finally came for our departure from Dallas, Texas to the Philippines. We all loaded up with three vehicles and a trailer full of suitcases and successfully cleared all the requirements to load and leave.

We want to give a special thanks to all those who went to the airport to pray sing and see us off. It will be a most memorable scene for years to come. Thank you. Thank you. We made all the changes and layovers without any problems and landed in Manila on schedule at 11 pm Wednesday the 10th. There were about 8 people from the Manila Churches to meet us which was a joy and most helpful. They arranged the transportation and manpower to load us up and carry us over to the domestic air terminal. We were to wait here until 10 am Thursday but after arriving I found there was an earlier flight at 5, which we quickly took. This was good for us but we spoiled the Harter’s plans of meeting us with a large group from the church and a welcome home banner. In spite of this disappointment we praised God for the safety He provided us during our long flight.

By early afternoon we were successfully in our rented house and started unpacking. This is where we lost it. All were so tired that by 4 pm every one was fast asleep. Again, the church had to cancel their house warming plans. The church family here has been so kind and friendly to welcome and accept us into their family. They had a welcome fellowship later in the week at the Harter’s home when we were able to accept their expression of thankfulness and happiness for our move to the church, town and country. Praise God for all these supports of love and encouragement. At first the entire town seemed to be a confusion and threat to us, yet now after almost a month we are able to go to town and shop for most of our needs. That did not happen however with out several frustrating experiences of being lost.

We already have been greatly involved with the ministry work here, which is in great demand. We have participated and helped in the new radio program, baptisms at Davao City, Cagayan de Oro, Montevista, an ordination at Surigao, a Church constitution at Surigao, an anniversary communion meeting in Cebu and baptisms in Cebu. Actually this is the pace that we observe as the ongoing requirements for Elder Harter continues to develop.

The work with the children is so sobering. There are many genuine needs, which are waiting to be met. God help us to get involved. I have been able to help with a new mid week service across town in a new outreach in a poverty section of town. The main contact is a barbershop where we hold our meeting. I look forward to more of this type of ministering. We are helping the Harter boys with a project for the poverty families in the outlying communities. When there is an infant death in a family of these poverty families, there often are not funds for the funeral needs. The Harter boys, following Betty Jo’s insight, are building coffins for such cases. This is gong to be a joint project with our boys, which will be another means to be involved in service.

I want to comment on one of the baptisms as of last week. In the village of Montevista, there are several who have been under the teaching of the local elders. One particular man and his wife came forward for baptism and we all traveled to the ocean for the service. The wife had suffered a stroke and was partially paralyzed. It was such a touching scene to watch this husband lovingly helps his afflicted wife, also left with out speech, as they walked, or rather hobbled, over a ¼ mile on a rocky rough beech to the water. I will not forget the sincerity and willingness to obey the example of baptism expressed by the countenance and actions of the dear couple.

We want to take this opportunity to thank all in the states who have been praying for our trip and assure them that their prayers were so wonderfully answered. We are adjusting well we are very busy. We have many opportunities before us and we love each of you so much. Thank you again. We have many directions for ministry before us and it could be tempting to jump at any one of them. We are so thankful for the support of the Harter’s and their willingness to share the adjustment lessons with us. They learned the hard way and now we are able to avoid many of the stress factors that confronted them. We thank all our friends, loved ones and family members every day in one-way or another. We want to assure you that we thank you for prayer support and we want to keep in touch with you as we move along. Our cell number is 001-916-767-3042. Our mailing address is; P.O. Box 80339 Buhangin Davao City, Philippines 8000. Our email is don-barb@mozcom.com. We would be so blessed and happy to hear from any of you. Again thank you, to all that contributed to the success of our journey and continues to pray for us.

God bless, Donnie and Barb Halbgewachs.
Photos in Baptism at Montevista

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