My Vision for the Work in the Philippines

by Original Author on September 20, 2003

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter

Upon leaving the security of America, a warm faithful church, a beautiful comfortable home, a loving family of children and grandchildren, to move with 13 adopted children to the poverty and instability of these oriental islands, most of my friends thought I had lost my mind. Let me share with you my vision of this work. You may able to grasp the Lord’s blessings upon us as well as the joy we found in this service.

First, God in His kind providence has opened this door of opportunity. We as Primitive Baptist are an extremely blessed people. We have been given the truth of salvation by Sovereign Grace, the simple practice of the church and a warm fellowship from coast to coast in America. But since the first church was established by Dr. John Clark in Newport RI in 1636, to my knowledge no congregation has been constituted outside the North American continent until 1994. In July 1994 two churches were constituted on the island of Mindanao in Iligan City and Davao City. For 356 years the door of evangelism in other countries has remained closed. As Paul stated to the church of Corinth it is true today. “A great door and effectual is opened unto me and there are many adversaries.” Although somewhat afraid of the unknown there was a greater fear of God not to answer this Macedonian call. In these few short years entire churches have left their freewill conditional systems, formal worship and followed in baptism to the glory of God. If these transitions had happened in America it would have made the internet sing with the joyous message of revival. This news would have been the headlines of all our Primitive Baptists Papers. Yet here in the Philippines this is almost a monthly experience. May our gracious Lord be praised. Our growth is more than just swapping the pews. Our God has changed lives; rescue pagans from superstitions and granted the knowledge and joy of sins forgiven. I am thankful to have a small part in this work.
Second, the work is scripturally sound. Evangelism is taught by precept and example throughout the New Testament. The great commission was given by our Lord on at least three different occasions: on the day of His resurrection (Mark 16: 15-18, Luke 24:47, John 20:21); at the gathering at Galilee (Matt. 28:19); and at His ascension (Acts 1:8). This commission had a specific application to the apostles as Mark 16:17 and 18 lists the apostolic signs that followed them that believe. But there is a clear general application to the ministers in every age. In Mathew 28:19, the command to be baptized is given by our Lord as a Church ordinance. Primitive Baptists to my knowledge universally agree with this principle and practice it every time someone unites with the Church. At the same time baptism is given as an ordinance to the Church, the commission to “teach all nations” is unquestionably united with this command. You cannot accept baptism as a Church ordinance without agreeing that the commission to teach all nations applies to the Church and ministry in every age.
Third, this type of work is at the heart of the historical position of our people. The Black Rock Address is considered by our people as being one of the most accepted documents outlining the differences in Primitive Baptists and Baptists. And it states:
“We will now call your attention to the subject of missions. Previous to stating our objections to the mission plans, we will meet some of the false charges brought against us relative to this subject, by a simple and unequivocal declaration, that we do regard as of the first importance the command given of Christ, primarily to His apostles, and through them to His ministers in every age to “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” and do feel an earnest desire to be found acting in obedience thereunto, as the providence of God directs our way, and opens the door of utterance for us. We also believe it to be the duty of individuals and Churches to contribute according to their abilities, for the support, not only of their pastors, but also of those who go preaching the gospel of Christ among the destitute.”

The argument is against mission boards or auxiliaries, not against evangelism. Our ministerial heroes such as, Wilson Thompson, John Watson, JH Oliphant, and many others not only believed this principle but practiced it. Their main field of evangelism was frontier America. The United States no longer has vast western movement of its earlier history. I rejoice our Lord has opened new fields of ministry.

Fourth, the opportunities of works of mercy are abundant. Our Lord taught in the parable of Good Samaritan in Luke 10 that the Lord’s children should be helpers of the afflicted. He makes it personal to all God’s people where he commanded them to “Go and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:37) In Mathew 25 he describes his sheep as those that feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the strangers, cloth the naked, visit the sick and those in prison. (Matt. 25:34-40) James described that true religion is to care for the widow and fatherless. (James 1:27) The ministry of Beauty for Ashes, although not a ministry of our church, has opened many doors of evangelism. Several of our members also freely give their time in the healing and helping these malnourished children. Without controversy the service rendered has saved the lives of many of these little children. Whatever sacrifice we have made is very small compared to result of this work. I am thankful for my generous friends that have helped in this work of mercy and I praise our gracious Lord.

My final reason for moving to the Philippines was an obvious need of our people to share the blessings we have so abundantly been given. If we selfishly dam up our blessings we will become like a dead sea. We will become stagnate and all life will die. Our Lord is correct in His statement, “It is more blessed to give than receive”. A strange paradox of truth is that truth is best retained when given away. An individual, a church or a body of churches will grow in direct proportion to the service it renders to its membership, community and world that surrounds them. When the disciples asked our Lord, who was the greatest among them? The answer was, he that is the servant of all. I pray our Lord will grant us a servant’s heart. Service is most unselfishly given to those who can not return the favor.

I have found great satisfaction in the work in the Philippines. However, I miss my family, especially my children. I miss my life long friends, especially the ministers. I miss Bethany Church and those I had the privilege to serve for thirty years. But I am confident I am where the Lord has directed me and pray that this service will be of benefit to the cause of Christ.

G.H.

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