From the monthly archives:

March 2009

Gus Harter’s Recent Visit to the Philippines

by Original Author on March 12, 2009

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter
In the last two weeks of January my wife, Betty Jo, and I with Elder Darrel Chambers and his wife, Donna, traveled to the Philippines to encourage our churches and strengthen the children’s home, Beauty for Ashes. It had been a year since Betty Jo had seen the children that our dear Lord had blessed she and the workers to save from death’s door. We also had many of these children that had been orphaned in our own home for years. Sister Donna has been diligent in helping with clothes, books and support for these children. She agreed to travel with us to both see the work and help my wife whose health is worse than poor. I first discouraged her from traveling with me, but a team of wild horses could not keep her from visiting her beloved little children. Upon arriving in Manila we put Donna and Betty Jo on a plane to Davao to continue the ministry of Beauty for Ashes.

There has been for the last six months increased terror activity by MILF (Muslims) and New People’s Army (communists). The ministers of our churches insisted that it was not safe for us to travel to many of the churches, especially in Mindanao. Therefore we scheduled three different meetings with the ministers coming to us in safe cities. On Thursday morning and evening we held a ministers’ conference in Iloilo City. About 30 different ministers from the island of Panoy and Negroes gathered at a YMCA building. Because there were about 10 new ministers, we first explained in detail the exciting message of salvation by the sovereign grace of God. We then spent time encouraging them and giving a plan for interchurch fellowship thru regular fellowship meetings. One minister joined while we were there, and Brother Darrel baptized him.
On Thursday through Sunday we returned to Manila where the churches are growing with exciting rapidity. On Thursday night we visited with the first church established in Manila served by Elder Dominador Lazada. The building was full and the blessings of the evening were abundant. On Friday we visited three new congregations traveling several hundred miles in the greater Manila area. I wish my brethren in America could witness their new love and zeal to spread the message of grace. On Saturday we were with the Primitive Baptist Church of Kalookan City served by Elder Conrado Quinto. Before leaving the Philippines, I had promised a group of ministers I would return for their ordination. These six men have been with us for over a year, and this entire day was given for their ordination. In the morning Elder Darrel and I enjoyed both their fellowship and in depth conversation of their understanding of our doctrine and practice. This was a bright day of our trip. In the afternoon we had their ordination with over two hundred brethren in attendance. During the questioning of the candidates by Elder Conrado Quinto, the answers were both clear and concise. Most of the questions were centered around the difference in gospel regeneration and immediate Spirit regeneration. The answers were abundantly clear of separation of our people from the missionary Baptists. That night we enjoyed hearing each of the newly ordained men preach. It was an exciting day.
On Sunday, Brother Darrel went back to the church at Kalookan City. I visited three different congregations, one in the early morning and two that afternoon. Our wives returned that evening by plane from Davao, and we concluded our visit that evening with Kalookan Church. The singing and service was exceptional. The congregation had over two hundred present. We heard two of the newly ordained men, and I concluded in preaching.
The next morning we put our wives on a plane back to America. Brother Darrel and I flew to Davao City for a joint meeting of ministers from all over Mindanao. We met together Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. About 30 men arrived at Providence Primitive Baptist Church just south of Davao City. All of these men have been with us for years. Many of these ministers were with us when the churches were first established. We shared the teaching responsibility with several of the native ministers. They all did well. On Thursday afternoon we ordained to the ministry a good man, Brother Ciocon. He serves a church in General Santos about four hours south of Davao. On Thursday night we flew back to Manila having one last meeting with the ministry. The trip was both enjoyable and the Lord blessed our meetings. Brother Darrel and I were tired but satisfied it was a profitable labor.

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Darrel Chambers’ Journal of Visit to the Philippines

by Original Author on March 12, 2009

Originally posted by Darrel Chambers
[In January, 2009, Elders Gus Harter and Darrel Chambers and their Wives, Sisters Betty Jo Harter and Donna Chambers traveled to the Philippines.

This was Elder Darrel Chambers’ 3rd trip and Sister Donna Chambers’ first. The ministers spent the first week in Manila and Ilo Ilo laboring with Ministers and churches, while their wives spent this time in Davao City, Mindanao visiting and working with the Children of Beauty for Ashes. The Sisters only stayed one week and the Elders stayed almost two. The second half of the ministers’ trip was spent in Davao City, Mindanao.

Following are some selected excerpts from several brief journals of this trip as written by Elder Darrel Chambers.]

First, I want to thank all who kept us in your prayers during this trip. We stayed on the go almost non-stop the entire trip. This trip was unique in that our wives accompanied Elder Gus Harter and me. Our wives stayed in Davao City and ministered to the children of Beauty for Ashes (or were ministered to by the children of Beauty for Ashes – a mutual ministry occurred). The children of Beauty for Ashes were as precious as ever. We were glad to see them happy, healthy and well adjusted to life even without the Harter’s presence. They were so glad to see Sister Betty Jo and Brother Gus and took every opportunity to be by their side. It was amazing to see their labor and discipline. They dutifully performed chores all over the farm and preparing meals, etc. I never even noticed the workers giving a word of instruction or correction. It was obvious they were well trained and seemed to perform their work with joy and devotion. They were engaged in singing and devotion from the word of God each evening before bedtime. The boys and girls have separate living quarters and also conducted their devotions separately. The Harters were obviously pleased and relieved to see the children doing so well and being so well adjusted. I believe Sister Harter was resigned to return home with a peaceful feeling that her “children” were well cared for and prospering in life.

Another unique feature of this trip was that instead of traveling extensively among the various churches in the Philippines, we traveled to 3 central locations and had the ministers and some church members travel to visit us. The exception to this was that we did travel around the Metro-Manila area and visit various churches in that area. We limited our travels due to concerns over safety of travel in some of the remote regions. However, the ministers seemed to enjoy their trips to visit with us and other ministers. I missed traveling to the remote areas and seeing more of the members and their living conditions, but recognize this was a necessity for safety. Although I have faith in God’s protection and provision, I also recognize the need to be wise regarding safety. I suspect that being reckless and careless would be equivalent to tempting God. When Satan tempted Jesus to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple so that he would demonstrate being the Son of God by having angels bear Him up, Jesus replied, “It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord Thy God.” In other words, Jesus would not knowingly put Himself in harms way just to prove God’s protection over Him. Neither should we.

I greatly enjoyed the fellowship with our brethren, but more importantly I enjoyed seeing these brethren fellowshipping and encouraging one another. Many of these brethren are located in remote areas and have little opportunity for regular fellowship and meeting together. We wanted to encourage such fellowship and visitation among the Filipinos. The Filipino ministers preached most of the sermons with Gus and I having a more limited part than on previous trips. Still we preached every day and sometimes multiple times daily. We are hoping these men will develop a more independent reliance on American brethren and rely on God and their brethren closer to home for encouragement, reinforcement, correction, instruction, etc.

We spent the majority of the first half of our trip in Manila, which is very dirty and polluted. I would wipe my arms or face with a handkerchief and it would have what appeared to be black soot all over it. Even the inside of my nostrils would turn a Q-tip black. But, the Metro-Manila area of the Philippines is one of the most exciting areas we visited. There are churches in various quadrants of this huge city of over 13 Million people. They are evangelizing others in this area and 6 preachers were ordained on this trip some of which were baptized 1-2 years ago. These men came from different backgrounds and we had two days with them with the ordination on the afternoon of the second day (Saturday). We had thorough conversations and scriptural examinations of these men. They are extremely well studied and some are brilliant. The ordination was perhaps the longest and definitely the hardest I’ve participated in here or in the states (for the candidate examination portion). Some of their questions were very difficult; but, I am happy to say, these men answered all questions extremely well. Their own Filipino brethren asked the toughest questions. They asked them not only to explain their beliefs on all major points of doctrine and practice, but to also explain some of the toughest scriptures in the New Testament. Their answers would perhaps rival the answers of some of our most able and seasoned preachers in the states.

One of the most exciting accounts we were informed of was the news of more outreaches, outside interests, church growth and evangelistic efforts among some of these brethren. One minister in particular (I hate to single him out by name for fear of stirring jealousy) had been instrumental in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth and for helping establish new churches and outreaches in the Manila area. We asked this dear brother to share with us and the other ministers what he did. Basically, he befriended people, attempted to meet their needs, and patiently over time presented small amounts of truths and scriptural principles. He was never pushy to those who objected and waited for them to respond before dropping the next golden nugget of truth. He is also diligent to constantly be visiting, encouraging and sharing more of God’s precious truths. This labor takes devotion of time and effort that was very evident. This brother was extremely esteemed as one who has brought so many to the knowledge of the truth and been willing to share precious truths to God’s hungering children. I hope I can be a student of his example and be more willing and zealous to share these precious truths with others outside our local assembly in America.

All of the services were extremely well attended and the people were excited and still freshly in love with the doctrines of Grace. We met one day with ministers from Bacolod (Negros Island), Guimaras Island and IloIlo and learned they are doing quite well. Elder Harter had been concerned because he was hearing little from that area and had not recently visited them. There were several ministers of other denominations in attendance and some seemed very eager to learn more about the doctrines of Grace and had lots of questions. Before the meeting was over, they at least understood the doctrines of Grace, temporal salvation, and how consistent these doctrines are with the totality of scripture and logical thinking (they seemed excited). We are hopeful some will fully embrace these doctrines. I baptized a preacher in this area that had converted to these doctrines and desired to be a Primitive Baptist. He is already building a new building on a main road out in the countryside community in which he lives. He has several converts that are helping and planning to constitute a church some day at a later time. While in this area, I was blessed to spend time with my old friend Nolli Hechanova from Bacolod, and he looked very well. He has many hardships (even more than many Filipinos) but is full of faith and zeal.

On this particular night in Ilo Ilo, we met at a YMCA building where a group regularly meets for worship services. Elder Efran Delmo meets with this group and hopes to one day constitute a church here. On this evening the rented room was almost full and the meeting was attended by several PB ministers, several ministers of other denominations who are inquiring about the doctrines of grace, Elder Delmo’s 21 year old daughter, and 3 of her friends of other denominations.

After 2-3 songs (very beautiful singing) we preached over the noise of a street festival (they were celebrating the Chinese New Year) and then the wailing of Muslims in prayer. Both Elder Harter and I spoke on the basic doctrines of grace followed by a methodical presentation of the doctrines of grace and the phases of salvation contained in the handout that Elder Harter routinely uses both in the states and abroad. This was followed by a very good question and answer session in which we answered many good and typical questions. The local PB ministers provided many comments and answers and did an excellent job of defending the faith and distinguishing between eternal and temporal salvation. We also distinguished the purpose of the gospel from the work of the Holy Spirit. The answers all seemed to be well received.

At this point it is probably good to note that the work in the Philippines is not one of attempting to steal other congregations or sheep from other congregations. The reality though is that as men have shared their newly learned doctrines with their friends and family, they have successfully taught many that previously believed other doctrines the truth. Several ministers have been successful at teaching their former congregations and converting them all. Others have left everything, including congregations and family, to follow the truth. Men come to the PB church of their own free will after they have learned the truths we hold dear. Yet, even with this conversion of Christians to a new and more accurate doctrine, the Filipinos are also zealously teaching those in their communities who had not previously been associated with any other Christian religion. But, for many who were very active in another denomination, their friends and family are also members of their former denomination and are interested in learning about the new doctrines their brother has found and why he left his former group to join with those folks called Primitive Baptists. They are afforded a wonderful opportunity to share their new beliefs and seem to be successful in instructing and converting others.

I wanted to share an example of some of the hardships and sad news that often accompanies the ministers in the PI so that you would have a flavor of what some are going through. I will share some of the experiences and expressions of Bro. Roseller “Rolly” Nemeno who lives and serves churches and outreaches near Molave. Eld. Nemeno is a man I have met on both trips before. He is himself unhealthy and has an ongoing problem that requires medication. He is not financially able to pay the ~$80/mo for the medicine he needs. Yet he doesn’t complain. I would guess Bro. Rolly to weigh less than 100#. Bro. Rolly has been a faithful servant for several years and is a good preacher. He is very soft spoken, but when I heard him preach in his native language of Cebuano on my last trip, the congregation was very responsive to his message.

Bro. Rolly has a wonderful family and his son Marjone is very talented with singing and leading singing. His wife is a very supportive preacher’s wife and a loving mother. Sadly, they lost one of their 5 sons to a swimming accident last year. David (Dave) had gone with his friends to swim in the ocean and drowned while doing so. Eld Nemeno said he rejoices in the knowledge that his son is still alive in the paradise of heaven, though they grieve over the loss of him here. He said, “God is still in control, Peace be still.”

Bro. Rolly showed me a photo album containing several pictures of churches, baptisms, our visit last year, etc. One of the pictures showed Eld. Shannon Whipp with Romeo Canama and his wife. This past November 8, Romeo was murdered by his own brother over a land dispute.

Bro. Rolly showed me a picture of himself baptizing a young teenager. This young man was later murdered during a random attack by the MILF (Moro International Liberation Front), a terrorist organization of rebels that is prominent in Mindanao. The attack occurred in Lanao del Norte in 2008 and several were killed. Bro. Rolly said he had to travel through several kilometers of MILF infested area to walk to some of the churches and outreaches he serves. He asks for our prayers for his safety as he ministers to God’s children in these remote areas.

He also showed me a picture of him baptizing several rebel returnees who repented and joined the church. One of them was murdered in Oct. 08, also by his brother over a land dispute. Apparently when these people leave and return from being a rebel, there may be some disputes about family restoration of property rights.

During one of our meetings with the ministers from Mindanao, Elder Rolly Nemeno spoke on Glory through Suffering. Elder Nemeno shared many of his feelings and experiences of the past year due to the loss of so many beloved brethren and his own son. Some of the scriptures he used were 1Cor 10:31, Tit 2:13, Rom 8:25. I noted the following statement during his discourse, “Do not look to America; but, look to God.” Elder Nemeno had never preached in English before and was very conscientious regarding the language barrier. However, he preached well and his message was well received.

Since my last trip, Bro. Rolly has left his secular job as an electronics technician after over 20 years service. He said he wanted to devote more time to the ministry as his job was hindering him from conducting several bible studies in outlying areas during the week. He is faithful that God will provide. He has researched the growing of bonsai and has begun to raise and manage the bonsai plants behind the church building as a source of income for his family.

I asked Bro. Rolly what were his greatest needs besides monthly medications. He said that a good quality mountain bike would help him to climb the very rocky mountain roads he travels through the MILF areas to serve churches. He said a good quality bike costs a little over 5,000 pesos (apx. $100 – $150). Funds were provided for the purchase of a mountain bike before we left the Philippines.

The most touching thing about my conversation with Bro. Rolly was his relating to me about his prayers for us. He named me about 1 dozen U.S. preachers that he said he prayed for by name every day and he rattled off the names by memory (including mine). These were men that had visited him or helped him in some way in the past. He said he could never help us financially, so he helped us with spiritual blessings by praying for us daily. I was so touched and appreciative of his prayers on my behalf.

The hardships that Elder Rolly Nemeno experiences are fairly common for the Filipinos. Though some hardships are different at different locations, I believe it is fair to say, the Filipino’s in general have many more hardships than the average American Primitive Baptist. I don’t say this to criticize us or to glorify them. I want to encourage God’s children everywhere to remain faithful and trust in God in the face of hardships and trials. It is encouraging for me to witness joy among brethren who are persecuted and are suffering for the cause of Christ. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be a single witness among a great cloud of their witnesses to their faith. I am also glad to have witnessed and experienced the faithfulness of God to keep His promises. Although my mind has acknowledged this truth about God for years, there is something about experiences make these truths more real and personal.

Even in the face of these hardships we heard many encouraging and uplifting messages. For instance, Elder Constacio Tejada spoke on “Gods care in times of crisis” using Phil 4:19-20 as his text. He also spoke of the experiences of the Children of Israel. He described the book of Numbers as a book of murmuring and a book of wandering. He made the following general observations about the first 4 books of the bible: In Genesis, man is ruined. In Exodus, man is redeemed, In Leviticus, man is worshiping. In Numbers, man is serving a Living God. He related that this sequence is the same for man today. Serving is evidence, not a cause of redemption. He spoke of the Children of Israel’s wandering experience when they had no blade of grass, no drop of water, no visible means of support, no road for direction; but, God provided everything they needed for 40 years. Oh! How God provides for His people in times of crisis. He said that sometimes in our lives there is no visible means of support, but God. Then he related how, last August, he had no rice, no pesos, etc. He said that God’s reasoning in times of crisis was for man to learn that we must trust in Him and not in man. He said that just like the Children of Israel murmured, I murmur many times. But Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Living Water.

Elder Harter and I attempted to encourage our Filipino Brethren to work together to resolve issues and to use Matthew 18 and Gal 6 as a pattern for laboring together and resolving differences. We also encouraged them not to divide into clichés over minor or non-essential differences. We were thankful to see them receptive to these instructions and to see many brethren “hardshelling” (ministers setting together and discussing scriptures) and enjoying fellowship like I have witnessed all my life among Old Baptists in the USA. It is so important to recognize the need for fellowship and brotherly admonition by God’s people in all parts of the world.

We were also successful in encouraging the candidates for baptism to allow their pastors to baptize on this trip. I only baptized one person, but more than ten were baptized during our trip. Several others were awaiting baptism by their pastors. I don’t remember Elder Harter baptizing any. I was careful to point out that I would not refuse to baptize, but that I thought it was much more appropriate for the pastors to baptize their own members. We also encouraged most of the participation in the ordinations be performed by the home ministers. I was reminded of 2 Cor 1:24, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” If we attempt to exercise dominion over them, we shall all fail miserably. Verse 21 also states, “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God.” These brethren will stand by God’s grace and their faith in Him and His word. He is the one that has established and anointed them. To God be the glory! I count it a privilege to have witnessed God’s work and to have been blessed to have a small portion of service to the One who has blessed me so greatly.

Elder Gus Harter seemed as strong as ever although he celebrated his 70th Birthday during this trip. I did notice that he doesn’t climb into Jeepney’s as limberly as he once did. His preaching and teaching during the entire trip were excellent and extremely well received by our Filipino Brethren.

I will close this account by saying again, that I was very encouraged by the soundness of these brethren and their zeal to labor diligently in the Kingdom of God to the glory of God. Overall, these brethren are still basking in their first love for the Lord and their newfound understanding of the glorious doctrines of grace. It is refreshing and exciting to see their zeal and to become more zealous as a result. My prayer to God is that they will continue to be blessed both Spiritually and naturally. I am deeply saddened by the persecution of these people by the Muslims and other militant groups. It is disturbing to see the living conditions of some, especially in and around the city of Manila. People live on the streets and many have very little opportunity to make a decent living. Even with the hardships we are facing in America due to economic problems, we are still much more blessed than most Filipinos. May we remember to be less complaining and more thankful to God; for we truly are blessed. I encourage everyone to keep these precious brethren in your prayers and to help them in any other way you can.