Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Caribou chariot, Camps, Adventures, and People

This exciting update was written by my brother, Michael. Sadly the camera was forgotten, so there are no pictures to add to the report.

05-23-12, Wednesday. Ring, ring, ring! Time to get up. Yawning, I looked at my watch.  How I wished I could roll over, go back to sleep, and simply forget about the events of the day.  But I needed the time to prepare for my talk at the Adventist Youth Survival Camp.  With great effort, I forced myself out of my cozy bed.  Then I knelt down and spent personal time with my heavenly Father pleading for strength and wisdom to make this talk valuable and applicable to the youth.  Next, I set to work preparing my talk for the survival camp attempting to survive myself.  God gave me the essential wisdom to prepare the talk and His Spirit taught me that morning.  I prepared a fascinating talk outlining the history of the great controversy from the fall of Lucifer to the flood.  About 7:30, the pastor came and brought me my “sermon”—notes prepared by the church.  It was very exciting to get the sermon notes just a little while before I was supposed to preach!  We were supposed to leave for the camp at 7:30 a.m.  I gulped down a sandwich, swallowed a mango (well, I actually cut it up first!), drank a carton of soy milk and cleaned up in less than 15 minutes.  

But why the rush? Pastor Milore, who was supposed take me to the youth camp on his motorcycle, had a flat tire on his motorcycle and was not ready at 7:30.  At around 8:30, after a prayer for safety, we mounted the motorcycle, fastened our helmets, and we were off!  

At about 9:00, we arrived safely at the place where we had to park.  We parked the motorcycle, and together with our tour guide, we followed the riverbed for a couple of kilometers.  Finally, we ascended a steep hill right to the youth camp—it was already 9:30!  About 60 youth greeted me with shy stares.  A couple of them were brave enough to come shake my hand.  Finally, it was decided that I would speak at 1:00 because I had arrive too late for the early meeting. But this, too, was good because it gave me time to prepare.  At the appointed time, I preached for an hour, did a review, and gave prizes to those who answered my questions.  Afterward, we ate lunch.  Lunch consisted of rice, cooked greens and vegetables, and a few bananas. They invited me to try out a Filipino specialty—young bamboo shoots preserved in a form of vinegar.  It was interesting, indeed! After lunch, we returned to San Jose. Thanks to God’s protection, we arrived home safely.

05-24-12, Thursday.  5:00 AM.  It was time to prepare to speak again at the survival camp.  This time I would do part two of the great controversy.  Since I had the lecture mostly prepared already, I did not have to get up so early.  After studying, praying, and again grabbing a quick bite to eat, we left about 8:00.  Finally, we arrived at the place where we parked. We wandered up the mountains trying to find the camp by ourselves, this time without a guide.  Finally, after prayer, the Lord helped us find our way up to the youth camp (which is at a remote area in the mountains).  I spoke again for another hour on the sanctuary and salvation and the final movements in the great controversy showing the youth how they could have confidence that our church is the true church, a movement raised up by God in response to prophecy.  At the end, I did my quiz, gave prizes, and finished.  Then, we proceeded to lunch where they wanted me to try their famous “bamboo soup”—a “soup” made from the shoots of young bamboo plants with coconut milk.  It was actually quite delicious!
The trip home was the most adventurous trip I had ever experienced. Rather than walk back to where the motorcycle was parked, we decided to ride a caribou (native term for water buffalo).  The native assured me that I would not ride on the actual caribou but rather on a chariot.  “A chariot?” I remarked, “How can you get a chariot up here?  Surely it would get stuck.”  “No,” the native replied, “this chariot is wheel-less.”  Still puzzled, I waited with Pastor Milore for the “chariot” to arrive.  Soon along came a huge caribou pulling a hand-made contraption which was termed “chariot” by the natives (a caribou is another name for a water buffalo).  It was really just a seat set up on poles.  Well, we jumped on the wheel-less cart, the driver alerted the animal that it was time to move, and we lurched forward.  The caribou was certainly in no hurry and walked very slowly.  Up and down back and forth the pastor and I were jostled roughly, almost sliding off at times.  We rode up over large rocks, down into the water, and sideways on hills, somehow managing to stay aboard.  Finally, the pastor and I arrived back at the motorcycle. 

We mounted the motorcycle, put our helmets on, and prayed for safety.  We had not gone too far before the rear tire suddenly blew out. Fortunately, we had not been driving very fast. I praised the Lord that we were not injured by the blowout.  We hopped off the motorcycle and pushed it down the highway for a few hundred meters until we found a house by the side of the road where we could temporarily park.  Angry black storm clouds were also gathering in the sky at this time, and I knew it would likely soon rain.  But we knew that “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord” (Rom. 8:28).  We believed and claimed this promise.   

While the pastor rode away with a tricycle driver to buy a new tire (a tricycle is the public means of transportation in the smaller cities of the Philippines), I sat down on a chair outside the house under the eaves of the roof hoping it would not start pouring.  I waited around some time trying to read a book I had brought with me.  Not too much later Pastor Milore came back on a tricycle, we put the tire back on, and were ready to go again.  But before we left, we gave two Great Controversy books away, one to the tricycle driver who helped the pastor get the tire and put it on, and the other to the family who let us stay on their property.  We know those books are silent messengers of truth.  Truly, all thing work together for good. After doing some errands, we arrived home at the San Jose Church safely, thanks to God. 

05-25-12, Friday.  This was a memorable day for me. That night I was to preach the seal of God and the mark of the beast.  Then we decided we would try something new—we would preach the meeting together. It went over quite well, and we may do it again before the end of the seminar.  It seemed to keep people’s attention better. 

Please pray for Victoria, a lady coming to our meetings. She first learned about the SDA church a health program she attended nearly a year ago.  She knew virtually nothing about the Bible and could not understand it.  She was basically unchurched although by profession she would call herself a Catholic.  But she has been absorbing the truth nightly.  She is greatly fascinated by these truths having never heard them in her life before.  It is all so new for her, but thank God, she has been surrendering to the Spirit’s leading.  We expect it will take her more time, but at some point in the future she will make her decision for Christ. 

05-26-12, Sabbath.  The electricity was off for the entire morning—maybe they were trying to fix something in the power company.  We couldn’t just let the devil win, so what did we do?  My father preached the morning meeting without PA.  What an experience! At least, the people were able to hear the message. Fortunately, the power came back on before the evening meeting, but then it poured right before the nightly meeting which was on the true church.  Before the meeting, the rain quit, but as expected, our attendance was way down.  It then picked back up last night when we talked about Babylon.

05-27-12, Sunday. Today I went with a church elder on visitation.  I was a little bit unsure of what to say, but God blessed and helped me remember what to say.  I encouraged the people and prayed for them and they were glad.  Most of my visits took only a few minutes but one of them took more than half an hour.  I always try to encourage everyone to a closer walk with God.  We finished our visitation about 10:30 that same morning.

Keep the PAFCOE students in prayer as we wind down to the close of some 20+ seminars. Pray that Jesus Christ would defeat the devil in this great controversy and many miracles and changed lives can be witnessed. We are looking forward to hearing the testimonies from the various student seminar sites and sharing them with you.  Stay tuned to the blog for future updates! 

So long for now, 
Your penman in Christ,
Michael L. Hargreaves

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Snake Bites, Dog Bites, and Fires!

Here is an update Dad wrote:

“Pastor, please call me.”  The message glowing on my cellphone was from one of our students conducting an evangelistic series on another island.  The text messages that we have received from our students doing their own evangelistic meetings, have been filled with a mixture of delight and desperation. 

One text read, “Praise God. We had the biggest crowd last night, despite the weather.  Some were absent.  All is well except my laptop is bogging down.  Thanks for the prayers.”

Another student wrote, “Good morning. How can I work? My old laptop is totally gone.  The problem is the motherboard.  I pray to God for a new laptop please, because I am scheduled to speak this evening and tomorrow morning.”

We had no money to buy a laptop, and since the student was partner-preaching with another student who had a laptop, I figured they would work something out.  The next night I received the following text from the same student:  “Good evening.  The sound system is broken, and I had to speak in a loud voice without the microphone.  I think God used me.  Last night my laptop died.  This night the sound system broke!”

We had conducted a class on speaking without a PA, and I knew the student had a good voice, so I wasn’t too concerned.  His next message the following day, did concern me.

“I need your prayers for brother Joefer because he is not feeling well.  He started the topic on Hellfire, but was not able to finish.  He became so weak he had to sit down, and I had to take over and finish the presentation.”

When we called, we learned that his partner Joefer, had gotten weak and dizzy while preaching.  After some careful testing by our PAFCOE doctor and supporter, it was determined that he just needed more rest!  Both the students had been getting up at 4 am, and going to the homes of backslidden Adventists to sing to them before breakfast.  Then with a busy day of seminar preparation and visitation, and the evening’s presentations, they were just overworking.  Our kind PAFCOE doctor ordered them to take a rest on their off days.  We agreed!

Another text from a different student read, “Tonight Satan tried to disrupt us while I was preaching about Hellfire.  One kid in the children’s program started a fire, and all the children came running down the stairs screaming.”

We learned soon after, that what had actually happened was a short-circuit in the electrical wiring that started the fire.  The children did go screaming out of the room, but it wasn’t a mischievous kid that started it.  The fire was quickly dealt with, and the children returned for the remainder of the meeting.

Another student told me on the phone that he had gotten bitten by a dog while out walking, and had to go in for Rabies shots since the bite was so deep.

Just today, we heard that one of our students was bitten by a snake!  When we inquired what happened, it seems that the snake wasn’t poisonous, since the student informed us that he was OK. 

Another PAFCOE student, doing an evangelistic series for children, told us that he has become a “celebrity” in town.  Where ever he goes he often has a group of friendly children following him.  They told him that they like him because he doesn’t get angry with them like their teachers often do.  They go around singing the scripture songs they have been learning in his program.  He said that these Catholic children are singing the Ten Commandments in their homes!

Some of the children, when their parents discovered what they were learning, were ordered to “stay away.”  The creative kids then went to their friends, and asked them to go to the meetings in their place, to get the material and the message.  Some have been slipping back into the meetings against their parent’s wishes.  The student has been averaging over a hundred children each evening!

Our students are in their final week of the evangelistic meetings they’ve been conducting.  It has been a real “adventure” for all of them!  When we get together next week for reports, we are anticipating some exciting stories.  We’ll pass them on to you.

Again, thank you for your prayers and support!

Your friends,
Pastor Lowell, family, and team,
PAFCOE (Philippine Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bugs, cats, frogs, rain… and kids!

Here in San Jose, Mom and I have been having an exciting and adventurous time teaching the children every night in the children’s program!

Very close to the large church is a building with no walls – just a roof above a gravel and dirt floor. Two light bulbs illuminate the building as they hang from the ceiling.  Dark brown, wooden pews line the building in neat rows. This was the place where the San Jose Church met for worship until their new church was recently completed.

When we started the program, there were only around 30 children who came.  We didn’t mind as every child (even if it’s just a few) should have the opportunity to hear about God’s great love for them! However, after one night of singing, a Bible story and a fun craft, the children who came, went home telling their friends about what was happening every evening.

The next night, more than 50 children came! And the next night, even more! Now we regularly have around 100 children every night crowding into the building to hear God’s Word and learn more about Him! Praise God! These are mostly non-Adventist village children and they are so respectful and quite obedient when spoken to. They are such a joy to work with!

But working for God always has its adventures and we have had plenty of them while teaching the children. Since there are no walls, windows, or screens, the bright lights illuminating the dark night provide a favorite place for hundreds of bugs.  Swarming around the light - sometimes falling to the ground, making it an interesting place to be for anyone nearby!

Thankfully these bugs aren’t biting ones (other than a few mosquitoes), or life would be very miserable there! The light in the front is right over where we stand for teaching, and Mom and I just happen to be in the way of many fast-flying bugs! On more than one occasion, I opened my mouth for singing or to say something and in flew a tiny bug and before I could even think about what was happening, down he went! I wasn’t too thrilled with swallowing bugs, but it had happened so fast, I couldn’t do anything about it! So during the meeting, we have a fan blowing on us, which helps to keep the bugs off.

To help compensate with the hundreds of bugs, there are lots of big frogs that hop around, looking for bugs to eat. It’s quite an amusing sight when I’m teaching a Bible story and here and there hop the frogs, eating up the bothersome bugs. The first time I saw the frogs, I was a little shocked to see so many, but gradually I grew used to them and now I’m very thankful for every frog that comes along to help eat up the bugs! And the kids who are coming don’t mind the bugs or the frogs – those are just common things around here!

Another creature that sometimes joins the program is a skinny mother cat with her half-grown kitten. The kitten is really cute! One night, I found them sleeping together up on top of a bookcase in the corner of our building. Both of them stayed there for most of the meeting, until later on when the mother decided to get down to the ground. Being a nimble cat, she soon was on the ground. The little kitten however, wasn’t used to that and he was scared to be by himself. I wasn’t really watching him as I was in the middle of teaching a Bible story, when suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw the kitten falling through the air. I thought, “Oh, no!” The kitten had decided to just jump the 5 feet from the top of the bookcase to the ground. The only problem was that he didn’t aim properly and hit an old metal kitchen scale on his way down. He landed on the ground all right, but the scale clattered and made plenty of noise. I had to chuckle as it was quite the way to get down to the ground, but at least he was unhurt! Most of the children had seen it too and they were laughing and I joined them!

This is the beginning of the rainy season and we have had rain here almost every day. Usually it comes in the afternoon and is over by the evening, but a few nights, it was still pouring rain in the evening. (Here in the Philippines, it doesn’t “rain,” it “pours” – literally!)

So the night we were doing the Law of God, the rain was coming down in torrents. Mom and I made our way to the building with umbrellas and wondered who would show up in the rain. We prayed that the rain wouldn’t keep the interests away.  Gradually a few straggled in here and there. Soon an inch or two of water was flowing into our building, on its way to the other side, making everything wet and muddy. The sound of the rain on the roof was so great, I wondered how the children would be able to hear us.

The rain didn’t seem to daunt them, though! They came splashing through the puddles with their flip flops and umbrellas (or just ran through the rain) and came anyways! I marveled at the eagerness of these dear children to hear the gospel – to walk through pouring rain and mud just to come to a program! It was truly amazing!

So despite the adventures and challenges, I wouldn't trade my work for anything! I just love it! Many times, as I stand before these eager children, I am reminded of the quote, which is one of my favorites: “To train the young to become true soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most noble work ever given to man.”

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