We arrived at the airport more than one hour before our flight. First, we went to the cargo office to ship our heavy stuff by air-freight, but cargo processing took so long that we finally left Joefer to finish the process and payments, while Jasper and I rushed to check in our checked baggage [Jasper was another PAFCOE student also traveling to Mindanao for an OJT meeting at a different site]. It was now just 15 minutes before the flight! However, we couldn’t check-in because Joefer was not yet done with processing our cargo.
Ten minutes before our flight, the counter staff checked us in without the ID and without Joefer! Our excess baggage fee is supposed to be 2,000+ pesos, but we only paid 750 pesos because the agent was in such a hurry to get us checked in and allowed us to hand carry some of our luggage.
After paying our terminal fee, Joefer came running. Over the airport intercom, we heard the announcement, “Calling Mss. Joan Buncad and company... Calling Mss. Joan Buncad and company—please proceed to gate 2......” Three times we heard the announcement. We raced to our gate, and boarded the plane just before they closed the doors. We were the last ones to board! Praise the Lord for all His providences and goodness! He allowed the delay and long process in cargo for us to be able to pay less in our baggage!
After spending the night in Cagayan de Oro [the airport in northern Mindanao], we left the next morning at 6 am by bus, heading to our site. When we arrived at the town where our OJT meeting was to be held, I was expecting someone to be waiting for us at the bus terminal to pick us up. What a disappointment! We waited for 30 min in the bus/van terminal. Finally, an elder driving a motorcycle pulled up. Without any smile or expression of friendliness, he asked us if were the ones the district Pastor had agreed to conduct the evangelistic meeting. When he saw our luggage, without a word he sped away!
Again we waited, all the while trying to reach the local pastor by phone or text. After about 10 minutes, the same unfriendly elder returned, this time with a truck. He took us to the church which we discovered was very close to the bus terminal! If only we had known how close we were, we would not have needed to wait for nearly an hour at the terminal. It reminded me of the text, “Knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” James 1:3.
Meeting the church board, members and missionaries
The first Sabbath when we talked with the church board, there was a bit of resistance and prejudice. But when they saw the quality of the presentation, they became more supportive and respective. We
began Sunday evening with a four-night revival series for the church, ending with a communion service during the midweek prayer meeting. Then we started the Revelations of Prophecy seminar on Friday evening, Nov 9.
When I opened the box of children’s crafts that had been shipped, I wondered how I could finish all the work of cutting and organizing. But praise God, He sent some of trained missionaries to help out in the meetings! We really enjoyed working with them.
With regards to our food, it was overwhelming! The church gave us 800-1,200 pesos weekly for food, but we could only buy 250-300 pesos worth of vegetables in a week! Besides that, the church members brought us fruits, vegetables, rice cakes, bread, and other foods from their work and businesses. Still others gave us money. We praise God for all the providences and the cooperation of church members in the work of evangelism!
The local church had planned for us to stay in the house at the back of the church. I was so disappointed because there is only one bed in the house, and a missionary couple was already using it! I had expected that since this is a big church, they would provide us a house to stay in. Again, my patience was tested!
The first night, one of the church members invited us to sleep at their house. They took pity on us since Joefer was supposed to sleep in the church which is open on both sides, and at night and it’s actually cold! He could have also stayed at the church school, but we had no sleeping gear. Anyway, God provided us a comfortable place. We loved it there. Not too big and very simple! Brother Edgar and his wife Lorie have been happily married for 10 years, but they don’t have any children. They were so hospitable and kind, and also responsible church members, happily serving God in the church. They became our loyal helpers during the seminar, for the whole four weeks. They even cooked for us, we sometimes we took turns cooking for them!
Every night during the meeting, we had a consistent team, helping with the equipment, registration, and row hosting. Of course there were some nights that we started late because the participants were not informed or forgot their parts. For example, the first night—for me, I think it was the worst.
In our pre-meeting practice before opening night, we explained everything and all agreed that they clearly understood what to do. However, opening night, all our helpers came late! We didn’t know who to call on to set up the equipment, and worst of all, even the prayer team didn’t come on time! The second night we still started late, but there were a lot of improvements.
My favorite night was the fifth night. The topic was about the Second Coming. After praying as a team in the children’s program, I was about to say, “Good evening children” when the lights suddenly went off! I praised the Lord that night, that I had 2 netbooks with me. One was borrowed from a friend in Iloilo and the other is the one that I used nightly in the meeting which was owned by one of missionaries. I used one netbook as a monitor for the children and the other I used for my notes. It really went well. The children even finished their crafts in the light from the netbooks. It was amazing!
Since we ended our children’s program early that night, I was able to peek in on the adult meeting. The crowd sat in absolute silence [a rare thing in the Philippines] attentively focused on what was been said. Joefer looked funny as I saw his face glowing in the light of his laptop, and wearing a headlamp to read the Bible. The most amazing thing happened after the meeting ended. We gathered for prayer as a team, and as we were praying, suddenly the lights came back on! From then on, I heard from the brethren and guests that there is an enemy who is angry and unhappy in what we are doing. The church members began to pray a lot, as they say that the meeting is really God’s work. Praise God for allowing that blackout!
One old lady told me one night, “Ma’am Joan, I invited a non-SDA neighbor girl last night. After the meeting, I asked her how it was. She told me that she likes you because you just keep on smiling. She said that she loves to hear the stories and wants to learn more about Jesus. Now she always wants to attend the meeting.”
When I called for the children to come back on the final Thursday for clearing visits in preparation for baptism, that same old lady doubted that the children really understood enough of our doctrines to be baptized. She was especially concerned when she learned that four of the children requesting baptism were her neighbors. This elderly woman decided to attend the clearing visits herself to see if the children were ready, and she was amazed at how much the children understood and even Scriptures they had memorized.
Our 7 year old neighbor, Hazel Heart, the daughter of the head elder is one of my five smartest students in nightly meetings, with only two absences during the entire month. Her father told me one time, “PAFCOE really has provided a wonderful training. Just imagine, my daughter is now reminding me to always choose Jesus. She’s always telling me what she is learning from the stories. It’s really amazing! The impact of this program is great for their little minds. My daughter always wants to hurry up and get ready to go to the nightly meeting!”
Another 7 year old smart girl, Davie Mae, the daughter of the district Pastor, also was a great witness of God’s power. Her mom told me, “When she saw her father watching TV and talking about Pacquiao [world-famous Filipino boxing champion], she told us, ‘Isn’t the message in the seminar enough to make you want to change?’”
Krislyn, an 11 year old girl, and her sister Meirevonne, were baptized together at the end of the meeting. They talked to me about their non-SDA father and lukewarm mother. We visited their house and their mother was so happy that her children understood the Bible doctrines and the love of Jesus. They were just sad that the father, due to his work, didn’t have an opportunity to attend the meeting. He actually wants to be with his family in going to church and wants to be baptized. But so far, no one has had an opportunity to study with him. He is happy about his daughter’s invitation to study with them and would love to share to their dad what they’ve learned when he’s at home. I’m praying that this dad will give up his work on the Sabbath and accept Jesus as his personal Saviour. His sweet, lovely daughters, by God’s grace will be a great witness to the family.
By God’s sustaining power, everlasting arms, far reaching mercy, never ending grace, and unfathomable love, 29 souls were baptized. Eleven of them were children from the children’s evangelistic program!
There are more than 10 other children who really want to get baptized, but their parents won’t allow it. About half of the children baptized, have one non-Adventist parent.
There are a lot of souls to be followed up. There is just not enough time, and workers are lacking. Truly the harvest is great, but the laborers are few. Let’s pray for more laborers, and I am one who is willing to be sent
|Joan receiving her diploma after graduating from PAFCOE.|
Joan Buncad was indeed willing to be sent. Since graduating from PAFCOE, she has accepted a call to work for the East Timor Mission Conference as a Bible Worker, and to train local church members in witnessing. On April 22, Joan left the Philippines for Timor Leste to fulfill her call to mission service.