“Says the Lord,’ I will rescue him, I will protect him, for he acknowledge My name.’” Psalm 91: 14
The sun had just set and the surroundings had darkened. It was a Monday afternoon and I had just left the house of a paralyzed patient whom I had been caring for for several months. Hunger pains made me hurry back to the Adventist Center, a parsonage and missionary station where I stay with many others. This station is built on stilts on the water just like the other buildings on this small island in Tawi-tawi, in the western part of Mindanao, Philippines. The inhabitants of this island are mostly Muslims.
I joined my group for supper and after a hearty meal, I rested my back on the wall by the front door.Philippines Adopt a Minister
Jerry, a student, stepped outside onto the 6-inched wide wooden plank that served as our pathway to the missionary station. The plank was 9 feet above the water. While standing there, Jerry noticed a man down below in the water. The man wasn’t moving and pretended to be dead. Alarmed, Jerry quickly ran back inside.
“What’s the matter?” we all chorused.
“There’s a man in the water and he looks dead!” Jerry whispered pointing down to the floor.
While Jerry was still talking, I heard an object drop into the water followed by splashing waves as if someone was struggling to run away. Thinking that maybe it was just someone who might be trying to steal our small boat, we didn’t get alarmed; the boat was securely tied by the door and within sight.
A few minutes later, three of my companions led by Bert, our leader, went outside to call our neighbor, Abula. A few minutes later, Abula came in his small boat. Armed with a bolo (a sharp, long knife) and a flashlight, he went around our parsonage in his boat to check. By this time, everything around was already dark. Bert borrowed the flashlight and aimed it in the area under the wooden plank and on the trees that grew in sea water close to the station and where the man made his exit. Worried about the unknown man, the rest of us interrogated Jerry on what he saw.
Through the light of the flashlight, we saw a pair of flip flops floating, apparently left by the fleeing man. A piece of wood with red electrical tape was floating next to it.
“What is it? Oh, it’s a knife case!” someone exclaimed. But with the two-foot high water, it was hard to tell. As we stood on the plank, Bert asked that we find a piece of stick. Someone got a stick and tried turning the object. He couldn’t do it so Bert took the stick and successfully turned the piece of wood over, with the flashlight aimed on it.
What we saw next made us shake with fear! Dynamite taped onto the piece of wood, and connected onto a timer with red electrical tape, which could explode once loosened.
My companions started to pack up while exclaiming, “We will die! We will die!” In all the chaos and panic, I managed to ask all of us to kneel down and pray, with Bert praying. Somehow after the prayer, we felt better. Bert told us to leave and go to the university campus where we could spend the night. He told me to accompany a lady missionary and two students back to the campus, and then come back to the station afterwards.
When I reached the campus, I asked many people to accompany me back to the parsonage but everyone refused due to the danger caused by the radical actions of anti-government militants. In this place, the people normally stay inside their homes after sunset and no stores are open after 7:00 p.m. And once in a while, we’d hear bombing in certain places.
After praying I managed to go back to the parsonage. And those who were still there were all standing outside the building because of the bomb in the water. I asked Bert what else I could do. He told me to go inside the parsonage to get the long chain and padlock so we could secure the boat. With flashlight in my hand and numbed with fear, I walked the plank to the parsonage door. I stared at the bomb underneath for a few seconds, my heart pounding. I found the chain and padlock and headed back to the door. However, due to my numbing fear, my mind deluded me. I noticed my unfinished laundry on the corner, so I picked up the bucket of clothes and started hanging them on a clothesline inside the parsonage.
At this time Bert wondered why I wasn’t out yet so he walked on the plank halfway to see what was keeping me inside. He saw me wringing my clothes and putting them on the line to dry.
“Hey, get back out here! Forget about your laundry!” Bert angrily yelled at me.
Still not thinking right, I emptied the water from the bucket outside where the bomb was floating.
Immediately I realized the danger and with chain and padlock, I ran outside, walked through the plank, landed near the boat, and tied it with the chain onto a post. Bert had the flashlight on so I could see. I realized I was only 6 feet away from the bomb.
Once on the ground, Bert and I ran to the other side of the building and what happened next I’ll never forget all my life. A few seconds later, the bomb went off! The impact of the explosion caused high waves; we got soaked.
Needless to say, my fear had escalated; I wasn’t able to sleep that night. We all were so grateful that our Heavenly Father didn’t allow the bomb to go off while we were inside the parsonage.
The following morning, we saw the devastation. Our parsonage and boat were destroyed. And I thanked God I’m still alive!
The Two Alarm Clocks
by Arnie Roa
I am assigned in mainland Bongao in Tawi-Tawi, Philippines under “Adopt a Minister.” In this Muslim-dominated territory, Muslim missionaries called “tablegs” hate the presence of Christians in their island. Especially educators like me. La Island, another small island in Tawi-tawi is known to be a pirate sanctuary where Muslim bandits take refuge. Here the islanders make sure that every male owns guns to be able to fight their enemies, even the government military who goes to their island.
With this kind of situation in La Island, even other Muslims are afraid to go there without escort, even if they have important business to transact. But several years ago, a group of Adventist teachers from Mountain View College came to live in La Island. This alarmed the “tablegs” so a group of these Muslim missionaries went to La Island to investigate.
I learned about this when a “tableg” approached me in the Bongao pier as I was boarding a boat for La Island.
“Sir,” he calmly approached, “are you one of the teachers of La Island?”
“No,” I said. “But the teachers there are my companions. Is there anything I can do for you my brother?”
“Very well!” he said. “I am a “tableg” assigned in that island. I am just concerned about the lessons the Adventist teachers are teaching. As you see I checked all the notebooks of my niece. All of your teachings are very good and my relatives in the island are very thankful and proud of you people. But one thing I am very concerned about is the “values” subject. All I saw in there are “GOD” and “PRAYER” and other things taught the Christian way. I’m afraid your teachers are teaching my people to be Christians and this we hate the most.”
I noticed that he was getting angry as he explained his view. He excused himself so I didn’t have the opportunity to clarify that the Adventist teachers are using English as their method of instruction so that GOD, PRAYER and all the terms that pertains to worship are in English and not in Arabic. Should they use Arabic, what will appear in the students’ notebooks would be ALLAH for GOD, SAMBAYANG for prayer etc., which would be music to their ears.
Realizing the unpleasant situation, I did not waste any time. I quickly went inside the boat and soon I was on my way to La Island. As usual, the islanders and the four Adventist teachers warmly welcomed me. I told the teachers of the alarming comments of the “tableg” whom I met. That night we had a special prayer, committing our lives to the Lord once more, for we have given our all for the gospel’s sake. We prayed that if GOD willed that we die, sweet will be our rest because we have sworn our blood when we took the oath that the Muslims are worth dying for. We slept soundly that night.
I didn’t know that the teachers had their scheduled nightly midnight prayers. Michard, one of the teachers, set their only alarm clock to wake them up in the middle of the night. They did not wake me when the alarm went off. I did not hear it either. They turned it off and they prayed. Meanwhile, as they were praying, another alarm clock went off near my feet. This woke me up. When I opened my eyes, I saw through the moonlight the silhouettes of the four teachers on their knees. But the alarm kept buzzing near my feet. As I prepared to kneel, I touched another figure on his knees where the clock was buzzing. I prayed beside the one who was kneeling by me. When I finished praying, the four had already finished and they were waiting for me. But who is this one praying beside me? I asked myself. I lit the gas lamp to see who this might be. But when the light was on, there was nobody there. I told the teachers about the praying visitor beside me, and they couldn’t believe their ears. They said they heard two alarm clocks go off and didn’t understand it because they only have one.
We didn’t call it a mystery. We knew that GOD sent His Angels to watch and preserve our lives.
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7
My Promise Was Made To Be Broken
By Christopher Luaya
“Father, when I grow up, I will kill all the people involved in your death,” I made this promise at my father’s grave way back in 1991.
I grew up in a non-Adventist family. My mother later said that they were Adventist backsliders before I was born, and my grandparents, uncles, cousins and relatives were all Adventists.
For many years, my father was known as “Kumander Ingo.” He was a rebel commander of the New People’s Army*. When I was a child, many people armed with guns came to see us and stockpiled plenty of guns and ammunition in our house. In my child’s mind, I thought the guns were only toys, but later I realized they were lethal.
From time to time, Philippine military men came to our house looking for my father. We were told by the rebel leaders to never disclose his whereabouts, so I learned to lie. I said “No” to the military men’s inquiries that on one occasion, one of them laughed at my answer when I was asked to state my father’s name and I answered, “I don’t know.”
After a long time, my father decided to surrender to the government authorities and was put in prison. Sometimes later he was pardoned and once again experienced a free life after he was released.
Amazingly, the military man who arrested him became his friend. He once more had the freedom to carry guns Adopt a Minister Philippines and each time he got arrested, his military friend was always there to get him out. My father continued to get involved in killing people. He was always hired and paid to kill somebody who did nothing wrong against him.
Our lives before were full of trouble. Lots of trouble. My father had so much anger in his heart and stayed drunk all the time. It was his way of coping with the troubles he got into. We always ran away from home, sometimes in the middle of the night to escape my father’s cruelty.
Later on in his life, my father decided to have a partial new life. He dedicated most of his time in farming our land.
But one day, while he and his friends attended a town fiesta, they all got arrested and thrown in jail through the mayor’s order. Several days later, my father and two of his friends were killed. We were told that the police shot them while they tried to escape, but this was a lie. They were set up. It was made to look like they tried to escape and then killed.
I was really sad to see my father’s wounds. His elbows and knees were critically broken. Bullet wounds covered his entire body and I couldn’t bear seeing the wound on his head, which caused his death. This made me very enraged. I felt my father’s agony every time I think about his wounds.
As I looked at my father’s horrible wounds, I promised myself to take revenge and to kill them all when I got older.
But something drastically changed my life when I turned 15. I heard about a Savior, Jesus Christ Who died on Calvary for me. In 1992, I accepted Him in my life and instantly, my revengeful spirit was changed. In place of hatred, the love of Jesus filled my heart. I no longer wanted to kill the people who killed my father. I went to Central Philippine Adventist College as a working student for eight years and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Theology. I have already introduced many people to Jesus. Today my way of thinking is to consider every soul precious for God and His kingdom.
Before, without Christ, I planned to kill people. Now that I have Christ, I want people to live their lives to the fullest with Jesus unto His eternal kingdom. Vengeance is not mine. My father’s death isn’t enough to take away the lives of those who killed him.
For Christ’s sake, a promise is sometimes made to be broken.
* The military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the NPA is a Maoist group formed in March 1969 with the aim of overthrowing the government through protracted guerrilla warfare.
Christopher V. Luaya, 28, is a ministerial applicant in the Negros Occidental Conference when he wrote this article. You can write him at: chrisluaya(at)yahoo.com because he will be happy to receive your letters.
God Called Me Back
By Pastor Sonny Mercurio
I worked my way through Theology school and when I finally graduated, I was thrilled. But my joy instantly turned to despair. Negros Occidental Mission wasn’t hiring and over a dozen Theology graduates had applied way ahead of me. Employment through the mission came only when someone retires, or passes away. Like the others, I visited the mission office often looking for short-term work. But with so many older applicants, I was passed over many times. I volunteered working for churches, receiving pay in kind: food and a room.
After months without funds, I abandoned the ministry to sell bottled water. With a heavy heart, I drove the water truck on my first day of work. I pleaded with God to send me financial help so I could go back to work for Him. It was at lunchtime when the mission president called to tell me of the good news. I was being sponsored by “Adopt a Minister International.”
A few days later, I found myself working for God in a mountainous place four hours from town. Mr. Romeo Castro, my sponsor in America, had asked that I be assigned in his hometown here in the Philippines.
An old church without a road stood in the middle of a sugarcane field. The few brethren who attended every Sabbath walked through a muddy field during rainy season. I made friends with the people of the community. I visited Mr. Castro’s relatives and made friends with the young people in the community. I gave them Bible studies and invited them to church. In a year’s time the church’s membership grew to over 100. Today, Mr. Castro is building a new church near the road.
On my list of converts are Mr. Castro’s relatives and three Baptist ministers. One of them is Jimmy, an ardent Baptist classmate who debated with me in high school.
We didn’t listen to our Math teacher but discussed Sabbath instead; our teacher threw an eraser at us. All those years the Sabbath truth bothered Jimmy. After graduating from Baptist Seminary, he went to our Adventist College and is now taking Theology. Jimmy has now graduated and is working with me. I thank God for “Adopt a Minister.” I wouldn’t know where I would be today if this program is not in existence.
Pastor Jimmy Henone is now under Adopt a Minister International and working with Pastor Sonny in Negros Occidental Conference.
God’s Gift—A Father’s Day Story
Marvin Cedron is a ministerial graduate who traveled by a small wooden boat for 34 hours from his home in Mapun, Tawi-tawi to Zamboanga City to send e-mail to me. Marvin sent this story.
Marvin tells his story:
We’ve just arrived from the hospital carrying our only priced possession—a healthy one-day-old baby boy named, “Don Marvin.” He’s God’s gift to us. Thoughts of fatherhood and feelings of joy occupied my mind as I watched my wife cuddle our baby in her arms. But my daydreaming was interrupted by a sudden cry for help from my wife when she noticed a strange twisting of the baby’s head and rolling of his eyeballs. Panic struck us because we were novices in caring for a baby and my mother had gone to the city. Will God again take away our child just like the first one?
My mind had flashbacks of our firstborn with memories filled with sorrow, pain and disappointments. Months before “Yasha” was born, all necessary preparations were made (baby clothes, crib, bathtub and feeding bottles were all ready).
My wife, Libeth, too, had her monthly check-up. She ate mostly vegetables and fruits and even drank vegetable and fruit juices. A month before her due date, we traveled from Mapun to Zamboanga City and stayed at my mother’s house to get ready for the baby’s arrival.
On the dawn of July 23,2000, Sunday, Libeth’s labor began. By noon, we rushed her to the nearby hospital. I waited at the waiting area with my mother, excited to hear the good news. But the doctor came with the sad news that our newborn had a congenital abnormality (underdeveloped lungs and a slight paralysis). I found myself looking anxiously at our frail baby with tubes attached to her nose and mouth inside the ICU. While the doctor was explaining, I nearly fainted due to the intense pain in my heart. How could it be? How can I tell my wife when she wakes up? Feelings of despair and disappointment gripped me.
After two days, we transferred Libeth to the government hospital due to money problems. My sister, who is a nurse, came to our aid. We took turns operating the manual pump to aid the oxygen for the baby’s life support. At 5 a.m., the 3rd day since her birth, the doctor pronounced our baby clinically dead. I was prepared for this to happen. I had already made up my mind and had left everything to God. But I was not prepared for the problem that would arise in the burial of our child.
All the preparations for the burial were being done. The casket was made by our neighbor, Grandpa Init, and the burial permit was acquired and the place was ready.
After the funeral service held at our house, officiated by Pr. Conejos (our local pastor), our neighbor who had gone to the cemetery to check the place, came and announced that our daughter cannot be buried. He said that the priest in charged of the cemetery wouldn’t allow the burial unless the bier (stand where the coffin is placed) be brought to his office and be blessed by holy water. It was a tough decision on our part. But finally, I decided not to comply with priest’s demand and let God solve the problem. While we were thinking on what to do, somebody suggested that we bury our baby at night while nobody was watching. And so we did. After sunset, a bicycle with a side-car slowly rolled its way toward the nearby cemetery.
A Muslim cemetery caretaker showed us the place of burial. And there our daughter was buried hastily.
When I reflected on the incident later, it further strengthened my desire to continue my ministry in the Future Adopt a MinisterMuslim territory. You see, the owner of the bicycle was a Muslim. And the one who helped us bury was also a Muslim. We asked many pedicab drivers to transport the coffin to no avail. So, in desperation, we asked the Muslim who owned the bicycle instead. Truly, the hand of the Lord was guiding and making the way for us.
Back to our second baby in the arms of my wife….I was brought back to my senses when our two neighbors, an aged couple came to our aid. Grandpa Init checked our baby boy and commented that he was perfectly all right. It was just a normal reaction of a baby who wanted to breastfeed. We were relieved greatly by that comment.
The source of our anxiety came from the striking similarities of incidences associated with our two babies. Like: Libeth’s experience of labor for both babies occurred at dawn; both babies emerged past 2 p.m.; both were born on Sunday; and both were visited by my brother-in-law who came unexpectedly.
Now we realized that God planned all those similar incidences in order to erase the negative experience associated with our first baby. I remember the passage which says, “And we know that all things work together for them that love God…” Romans 8:28.
Today, we have a healthy and energetic, 3-year-old little boy. A gift from God indeed!