I'm sorry it has taken me a week to get this update written. Blogger has been giving me fits, but it looks like I will be able to get this uploaded. I have one last segment to give you as well. I have already written it and I will upload it for you tomorrow. I hope to include lots of photos with that post. As of right now, Blogger won't let me upload any pictures, so they will have to wait. On Friday we'll give you the update on this week. But just so you know, things are going very well. Bethany is getting closer and closer to being able to "handle" in the birth room, which I think means that she will soon be pulling babies out women, which is the whole point I guess, but just thinking about it kinda makes me feel queasy.
When in Dipolog I spent time with Pastor Bonnie Sembran and his family. They're pretty cool. He and his wife have 9 children, aged 36-17. Some of them are currently studying in the medical field so that they can start their own free hospital to minister to the poor. Bonnie lives with several of his children in a big house that is still being built (there's rebar sticking out of the ceiling) on a very cool property. Their property has several other buildings including 4 small cottages (I stayed in one of them), a church building, another building with living quarters. On top of all that, there is an outdoor pool!
We spent Tuesday recovering from Monday's 13 hour drive. I was able to sit in on the classes that the bible students were having. One of the teachers was the man who had translated for me in Kidapawan. I felt encouraged when during his class he actually referenced some of the points that I had made during my sermon on Sunday. Some of the students are as young as 17, but they have made a commitment to the Lord to go wherever he sends them.
On that property they house 17 orphans who have come from the tribal villages up in the surrounding mountains. They also house and teach 23 bible students. The students study for 3 years before being sent out to either co-pastor an existing church or start a new one. The students are also working to improve the property. They are currently building a new structure beside Bonnie's house that will be the new living quarters for the students and the orphans. The building will also serve as a conference center for pastors. I took a picture of the blueprints for this building and I hope to show it to you tomorrow.
Bonnie is the head of a network of 152 churches that have been planted over the last thirty years around the island of Mindanao. He also pastors his own church in Dipolog, though he spends much of his time traveling around the island to encourage the other pastors. In the time that I was with him, I watched as he brought encouragement and wisdom to many different pastors that we met on our journeys. I was amazed at all the churches of theirs that he pointed to during our trip across the island, as he told me the name of the pastor and the year that the church was started.
Most of these churches were started as a direct result of a crusade that they had done in the area. I think that's a big deal. I'm beginning to think that there isn't much point in starting a church just for the sake of starting a church. These churches were started because there was suddenly a large influx of new believers that needed to be discipled, not because people weren't satisfied with the programs being offered by the church down the street. Oh, I'll step down from my soapbox now. Sorry.
Bonnie would very much like to have Impact Nations come to do a Journey of Compassion in his home town of Dipolog. When I asked if he would be able to gather some pastors for the training that's involved in a JOC, he told me that earlier this year he gathered 700 pastors for a conference in Dipolog. And based on the number of churches that he has, it looks as though any crusades that we did would result in even more new churches. This man truly has a heart for seeing the kingdom extended throughout Mindanao, and indeed the entire country of the Philippines.
On Wednesday we traveled about three hours south to a town called Ipil. I was warned by many of my friends here in Davao that Ipil is a very dangerous place. Truth be told, I don't think Ipil has been dangerous since the mid nineties, but they still have a reputation as a violent place where Muslim rebels are fighting for control. Regardless, I felt perfectly safe the whole time.
On Wednesday night about 80 pastors and bible students gathered at the church in Ipil for a night of worship and teaching. Guess who was teaching? Does it seem preposterous to anyone else that they had asked me to teach the pastors? It would have been easy to succumb to the enemy's lies that I had no business preaching to these men and women who had been in ministry much longer than me. Instead, I trusted that the Lord had given me something to share with them that would encourage them and build them up. Again, I didn't let on that I am not a preacher. I just got up there and delivered the message that the Lord had given me. We had an awesome night of worship and the response to my message was very encouraging. I was invited to come back and preach again soon.
I'll tell you more tomorrow. Cheerio for now!