Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What's been happening in San Jose?

This is a report that my brother, Michael wrote recently.

Hi friends!  You are about to read an exciting report coming to you straight from San Jose city in the Philippines. Your penman is Michael Hargreaves, the assistant director of the PAFCOE program. Without further introduction, let’s go! 

Where is San Jose? San Jose is a city located in the province of Antique on the western coast of Panay Island. It was founded in 1872 and has much Spanish influence from the 17th century when the Spaniards settled and catholicized the islands of the Philippines.  It is about two hours’ drive by car from Iloilo City.  The city has an estimated population of about 50,000 or about 1/10 the size of Iloilo City. Although the main language of the Island of Panay is Hiligayon (or Ilongo), the local dialect spoken in the city is Kinaraya.  As you are probably already aware, there are hundreds of dialects spoken here in the Philippines, each unique to the area. Tagalog and English are the official languages for the Republic of the Philippines but each region has a native dialect spoken by the common people.  

Church in San Jose, Antique
It was agreed that we would do the meeting at the San Jose Seventh-Day Adventist Church.  This is a beautiful new church built only months ago from the sale of previous property and from various donors and sponsors. It is the largest church in Panay Island and the West Visayan Conference’s (WVC) largest church.  It can probably seat about 1000 people when crowded. But less than two hundred members are registered on the books.  Not more than 100 regularly show up for meetings.  It is a couple of kilometers outside the city of San Jose.

We are staying in an apartment connected to the new church (the parsonage).  When we arrived here, the apartment was finished and ready for us to move in.  God provided beds and other essentials for us.  The Conference sent one of its vans and the driver to move us from Iloilo to San Jose.  We arrived in San Jose May 3, 2012 just one day before the meeting was to start. By the grace of God, we managed to get settled into our new apartment and get everything ready for the first meeting. 

Handbills were a challenge! The printing company ran into all kinds of problems and was unable to finish the fliers until about three days before the student seminars were to begin. To compound that problem, when our own handbills were finally printed, the address printed on them was unclear and no one knew where to find the venue.  As a result, we had less than 20 guests on our opening night.  Thankfully many of the church members are attending the meetings and are learning right along with the guests!

Let me now share with you how the seminar is going.  May 4 was the starting date for Revelations of Prophecy San Jose.  About 100 people total showed up for our topic, “Mysteries of Bible Prophecy” (Daniel 2).  About 20% were non-SDAs.

This seminar was unique in that my father and I are sharing the preaching—we trade off every other meeting.  I preach one night; he preaches the next night. I preached the second and third nights because my father was sick.  This was followed by a free night during which my dad got better.  The following day I preached the fourth meeting on salvation.  

Although our adult meetings have not been well-attended by non-SDAs, our children’s meetings sure have been.  During this seminar we have once again to see the need of child evangelism in the Philippines.  Each night, the children’s program is packed with bright, eager children ready to grasp whatever my mom and sister share with them from the Bible.  Their minds are like a sponge, ready to soak in the precious stories and truths from the word of God.   The children listen eagerly and attentively to the Bible stories; they are fascinated by the stories.  Some are hearing these stories for the first time in their entire lives.  More than 80% of the children attend are non-Adventist children.  Most of them have no biblical background.  At best, the people in the villages are Catholic by heritage but most of them have no clue what they believe.  They may only go to church once or twice a year.  Hence, many of the children grow up with little to no knowledge of God’s word or spiritual truths.  Many of the children coming to the Revelations of Prophecy Children’s Program do not come with their parents.  They come from areas around the church.  All around the church are poor houses and families with many children. 

Many poor Filipino families have 5 or 10 children.  The vast majority of the population in the Philippines (80%+) have large families. That’s why the population of the Philippines is growing so rapidly.  The first night, there were less than 50 children.  But then, as time progressed, more and more children started coming.  Recently the program has grown to 100 children! The children tell all the other children in the neighborhood about the exciting program—the lovely Bible songs (Bible verses put to song) they have learned to love singing, the fascinating Bible stories, and their favorite part of the program: the crafts. Thus, the children’s seminar becomes known by word of mouth as a very desirable and interesting place to be.  Children here in the villages are plentiful, sweet, and simple.  They will listen to whatever you say.  Being very affectionate children, they will love you if you make friends with them.  We hope that not only will the seeds of truth be planted in these children’s minds, but also that they will be instrumental in bringing their parents to the knowledge of the truth.

Children here in the Philippines comprise nearly 1/3 of the population of the country.  The median age of the Philippines is only 23 years according to the World Factbook.  Hence, the Philippines is a young nation—filled with young people. 

The weather here has been very nice.  It is supposedly the “dry season” but nothing is normal these days.  When it is overcast or raining, or in the morning before the sun comes up, it is usually very pleasant (23-30 C or 75-90 F).  When it is sunny, however, it is quite hot.  Often rain showers or thunderstorms come in the afternoon or evening.  This can make it challenging to hold meetings because transportation in the rain is not easy. Most of the people coming to our seminar do not have cars and motorcycles and public transportation is difficult to use in the rain.  We often pray that God will turn the rain aside during the nights we have our meetings that no one be discouraged and fail to come out because of the rain.

Now let me share with you a couple of personal testimonies.  May 4, 2012, the day we were to start our prophecy seminar, I wanted to pass our fliers to the people living around the church.  However, I did not want to go by myself.  Yet I felt convicted that I should go do it, my parents encouraged me to go, and I had no peace by trying to put it out of my mind.  Finally, I set out with fliers in hand.  I walked down to the end of the dirt road on which the church is located.  This road merges with the main asphalt road going into San Jose.  Before I had even reached the main road, I got scared and went back home without passing out a single flyer. After more prayers and encouragement, I set out again. Soon I was back. This time I spent a long time debating and praying.  Finally I felt convicted that God would not help me if I sat around and did nothing.  I had to actually go out and do it and in the process of doing it I knew God would give me strength.  That day I had victory over self even though it took a couple of hours of prayers and encouragements.  I passed out a number of fliers to people in our area.  It was really not that hard and people were friendly.  I knew my fears were ungrounded and a suggestion of the enemy that people might not hear about the meetings.  Friends, if you are afraid to witness for Christ, just do it!  You will never gain courage by hesitating or failing to act.  Step out in faith and in the strength of Christ you can be an effective witness for Jesus. 

I had another interesting experience last night.  After the meeting when we were greeting people, we talked with a distinguished-looking woman.  She said that she had come out the second night (the first night I preached) and had been so fascinated by what she was hearing night be night that she was compelled to continue coming out.  She even brought her cousin with her last night.  This was God’s encouragement to me.  I never feel like my meetings are compelling but I believe that God is using me to preach His truth and that He is interesting the people and making it plain to them. 

Please keep this seminar in your prayers.  It has just started and there is still great potential.  Although we have experienced all kinds of setbacks and opposition, we know that God has a work for us to do here and “no weapon formed against us will prosper” (Isa. 54:17).  Ultimately, no matter what the enemy does, the gospel will go forward for “we can do nothing against the truth but for it” (2 Cor. 13:8). 

Please keep the student seminars in prayer.  We have some 20+ meetings that our students are doing (all at the same time we are doing our seminar here in San Jose) with 24 meetings total.  Please pray that God will multiply results through this on the job training.  We will try to update you with the fascinating testimonies from their meetings as soon as we get them.

We hope some of you reading this blog will be interested in joining us for the next PAFCOE session in August. 

We finally decided that translation was necessary for the seminar.  We realized that less than ½ the people were really getting the full message. Now, with translation into the dialect (Ilongo), we will be able to effectively communicate the three angels’ messages to our audience. 

On Sabbath, there was a federation worship with all the churches from around the area of the Antique Province.  There were perhaps more than 500 people.  Unfortunately, they don't all come to the meetings every night.

We have now started seminar visitation.  This also requires translation because many of the people here in the country are poor and cannot speak or understand much English because many of them haven’t even been to school (in the Philippines, English is taught and used only in school or in professional places such as the government, businesses, medical facilities, etc; common people speak to each other in the local dialect or in the national language—Tagalog).  Many of the people in the country around the church live in very primitive conditions.  Some of them only have a simple bamboo “hut” with a mud floor and animals running around everywhere.  Of course, downtown or on the outskirts of the city there are some wealthy people with lovely concrete houses and new cars.   

They are only the exception though, not the rule unless you are living in a “high-class” subdivision of the city.  However, the good news is that many of the people in the country are also very open to the gospel.  They are receptive and eager to listen to the truths of the Bible.  The rich are often uninterested in the truths of the Bible or content with their own religion. 

Tonight, it is Dad’s turn to preach since I preached the last time and we take turns.  Pray for God’s blessings on our seminar and the 20 seminars of our PAFCOE students. 
Keep in mind that all this was possible because God moved the hearts of some donors who sponsored both PAFCOE and all these seminars.  If you would like to be part of a seminar, we are told by local brethren that a good seminar here only costs about 80,000 pesos ($2,000).  Money goes much further here than in the States where one would expect to pay 10 or 20,000 dollars for a good seminar.  If the Holy Spirit impresses you to give, here’s how you can do it:

“Give according to your means, or God will make your means according to your giving.”  

I have been blessed by giving.  Did I suffer?  No.  God has blessed and repaid what I have given Him.  “Give and it shall be given unto you.”  We are glad we can use every dollar to advance His work.  We hope God’s Spirit will so inspire you with zeal in His work that you will find giving to His work your delight and will do all in your power to advance His work. 

“Give me one hundred men who love nothing but God, hate nothing but evil, and know nothing but Jesus Christ, and I will change the world.” – John Wesley

Good-bye for now, God bless,

Your companion and worker for Christ,
Michael Hargreaves