Pastor Austin Huggins is pictured center with Pastor Isaiah Balteza of Christian Community Baptist Church to the left. This assembly of brethren met together at the top floor of a grocery storage facility in Pateros Municipality.
I want to give a brief update on the mission trip thus far. Everyone arrived safely and healthy between Saturday and Sunday. The teams were broken up and disbursed out to the surrounding churches where the speakers were able to teach and deliver sermons. I preached at a 3 year old church plant in the municipality of Pateros. We gathered in the top story of what appeared to be a grocery store. Squeezed between two walls of boxed produce, chairs were arranged together in neat rows facing a white pulpit behind a small table. About 30 believers found room for themselves. I preached on the subject of "The Just Shall Live by Faith" and lovingly called them to consider the direction of their lives.
I returned back to Marikina later that afternoon where we had continued fellowship with the brethren of Mt. Holy Christian Bible Church. The saints here are so very gracious and hospitable. Pastor Joe turned the tables on me just after arriving, and I was now responsible to open the conference up and take the first speakong slot. Monday morning began the official launch of the conference theme and the venue was quite large. We were suprised actually as the scale was significant. We poured our hearts out to a crowd of over 300 native pastors. I preached a sermon on "Speaking the Truth in Love". The messages were apparently video recorded.
Overall, the response from the attendees was astounding. Its Nigeria all over again! The LORD seems to be blessing the work greatly. Pastor Leo and Elder Wilbur believe that once news of this event gets out it is going to "spread like wildfire" (that was thier words). I thought that was an intimidating assessment...
I am from Pinas (the Philippines), from the city of Dasmariñas, Cavite. I was there at your Conference in Marikina, and our three-hour and more road travel was worth it. We were blessed by your ministry of preaching and teaching. I sensed your fiery devotion to the sufficiency of God’s Word, and your robust passion to preach the true gospel in the midst of rampant prosperity gospel and psychological-therapeutic sermons of both the small and mega churches pastors. As an Adult Sunday School teacher, your ministry was no small help to us. May the Lord continue to sustain and provide for you. It was my first time to hear of your ministry, and also first time to hear Mt. Holy Christian Bible Church. I never know such a big church still preaches the Bible faithfully. We will continue to hope and pray that your mission spread more the unadulterated gospel of the person and work of Christ. May Christ be preached more and more among us. May you continue to proclaim the whole counsel of God, and train leaders and pastors to do the same. There is truly a famine in the land. And only the faithful dividing of the Scripture will turn the world from the cold and loveless churches of today. May you reach further countries esp. the poor ones. We will always thank God the Father for your faithful service to his kingdom. But not only we were blessed, but still are being blessed by your free Christian literature. They are all helpful and challenging. Be most assured that your books will help to equip and feed the flock. We will pray for the sovereign work of the Spirit in working revivals in our towns and cities here in the Philippines, and may you be one of the many means that God will use to perform it. We are hoping to see you more in the Philippines, and hope that we see you in Southern Luzon cities and provinces. We will not hesitate to help and support you in case that happens. Know that your work is not in vain. Grace and peace to you in behalf of our preaching and teaching team,
Tuesday we traveled over 2 hours out to another side of Manila called Tondo. The venue was much smaller at about 80 or so. The atmosphere was certainly different, and maybe a little difficult to get started. We prayed for grace to cut into the spiritual warfare. The Lord was gracious. The final response was ultimately equal to the first conference. Praise The Lord! The attendees received the sermons and the preaching reverently and thankfully. Afterwards there were several requests for continued discipleship and future ministry requests, We have also now received an invitation to minister in Malaysia... pray about that! We go all day, rise early, and repeat. The Lord is gracious to sustain us physically, mentally, and spiritually.
UPDATE: As this moment we are traveling long distance to Baguio City which takes about 5 to 6 hours total to make. When we arrive we will have a courtesy call with the mayor. That should be interesting. Tomorrow will be rough. The 3rd conference begins, then ends, we travel early to Bontoc do a same day conference, sleep late, rise early and turn and burn back to Baguio. Bontoc is another 4 hours, at least, from Baguio. Please keep the team in your prayers, our health, our stength, and our hearts. Lord bless you all!
UPDATE: Exhausted. But it went tell. Mayor was busy, so the city councilmen met us instead. Mayor should meet with Joe tomorrow.
Afterwards we went to Pastor Manny Vergara's church, which is somewhat difficult to get to. Up here in the mountains everything is steep. Also, as it turns out were able to do radio ministry after all. One hour live bible teaching and Q&A. We literally raced there, did the segement and raced back. Once finished, we returned to Pastor Mannys church for Wednesday night service. After a late dinner, we finally made it to our rooms. No A.C. here, thankfully the mountains are slightly cooler. You can tell the team is starting to physically wear a little. Although everyone seems to be pretty tired, we are still encouraged in spirit. Pray for our strength. The third conference is tomorrow and will last from 8am to 5pm. After that we should then be meeting with the mayor, followed by radio ministry again, then finally dinner before bed. Will be very tight again.
“It has been a privilege to be a part of the seminar held in Baguio City, Philippines. Thank you for faithfully ministering the word of God to us and giving out biblical books for free. We are looking forward to seeing you next year. I started to read through one of the books, and planning to share to our small congregation this coming month. Praying for God's enabling grace to you all as you [are] endeavoring to share His grace to the Filipino pastors and workers. Yours truly in His Vineyard,” -Pastor Glenn Wandag
Note: Pastor Joe proposed a rehabilitation program for drug addiction using Dr. Stan Murrell’s book, "Addiction and the Grace of God", to be used in the school system to reach the younger generation. The book addresses the problem of addiction in the context of the Gospel. The mayor was very interested. He approved the program. The council member we met the previous day informed us that he would draft a city ordinance making the book mandatory.
Yeah, wow. God is Good!
Time to face the trip to Bontoc. The Bontoc excursion will be quite difficult from what we are hearing. They say it will be about 4 or 5 hours of the steepest mountain travel yet, and they are telling us to pray that it does not rain. Due to this, Joe will have to stay behind in Baguio and I will have to lead the team in. He will continue to do radio in the afternoon while we're gone. I pray that we will be just as energetic and faithful in our labors up here as we were down in Manila.
For something that was so painful and difficult to get to, it was breathtaking to see...
We arrived in Bontoc about 12:30 pm. I was still spinning for a good 2 hours after we stopped! Now please keep in mind, I have taken on some rough seas back in my Navy days. So, including my years at sea, even in the worst of sea states generated by super typhoons in the oriental Pacific, I have never in all my life been as motion sick as I was during this particular travel. We raced up and down every single mountain between Baguio and Bontoc and I could still feel every single one. We briefly checked in to the hotel to drop our things off and immediately went to the conference building.
This is how I spent our 15 minutes at the hotel.
Upon arriving at the conference location. We found the beautiful scenery dipicted in the large photo above. The building we used was actully a home belonging to a local judge. The judge apparently likes to offer her home for use by the local Christians. The home sits alongside the road and dips down hugging the wall of the valley into which it descends. The conference venue would be our smallest of the three with about 40 pastors present.
Pastor Rexton Chakas was our host pastor for this event. He informed me that he would prefer if I moderated the event instead of him. So, without Pastor Joe there, this left me in the position to quickly draft the schedule of events for the conference to mitigate the effect of his empty time slot, officially open the event, introduce the team, oversee the time divisions, introduce each new speaker, and moderate the final Q&A session. Of course I was also to deliver the first sermon, and I was very aware that I was still dizzy. I prayed silently for much strength and grace to continue as I ought.
Our God is Good! I just feel the need to insert that right here. Does He not tell us that "His strength is made perfect in weakness" ? Are we not but fragile clay and earthen vessels? He knows our frame, and how we are nothing but dust, yet His grace is sufficient! Please know that I was able to preach, Despite me and my limitations, Pastor Fred Sykes of Canton New York put his arm around me afterwards to inform me that I had delivered a better message now than in the previous 3 instances. My first reaction was terror at the thought of what I had preached in the first 3 conferences!
We preached into the night and concluded with another Q&A session and free distribution of FirstLove Publications material. This concluded our fourth and final conference. After a short night of sleep, we rose early Saturday morning and retraced our mountainous route all the way back to Baguio City.
Our last few days in The Philippines consisted of preaching in churches on The Lord's Day, and continuing Radio Ministry through into Monday. I had the privlige of preaching at Metropolitan Bible Baptist Church pastored by Fredi Ohelen. It was such a precious and receptive fellowship. I preached on the Cost of Christianity and answered questions during a Q&A session. They informed me that I was now a member of MBBC. I was indeed blessed by their token of love. (Sadly I do not have a photo to share with you at this time)
So between the quick succession of conference events, the long trials of transportation between venues, the consistent radio teaching and evangelism, preaching in the local churches; and the various meetings with key people, seminary alumni students, and dignitaries, The LORD allowed us many opportunities to give Him glory! Please continue to pray for the pastors who heard the preaching and who received FirstLove Publications’ material. Pray that they would be edified and strengthened for the work they have been called to. Pray for their churches that they may be the beneficiaries of a spiritually strong and biblically educated pastorate. Pray for all those who heard the scriptures opened and taught during the radio program. Our hope is that many false teachings and heresies were effectually combated, and that the teachers of truth were emboldened to speak as they ought. Pray that the Spirit would bring forth fruit in due season!
Pastor Austin Huggins