My first experience of the Philippines was ten years ago. In 2012, I was invited to come and visit a small, struggling group of Reformed believers in Cagayan de Oro, on the southern island of Mindanao. I was only there for a few days, but what I saw wasn’t all that encouraging.
I was serving the Providence CanRC in Hamilton at the time and upon my return I drafted a proposal to establish a committee for Theological Assistance to the Philippines (TAP). This proposal was adopted by the church leadership. They, with me, saw the need to support our Filipino brothers and sisters in the best way we could – by providing solid Reformed theological instruction from qualified men.
There was a parallel development happening in Australia with the Free Reformed Church of Baldivis, pastored at the time by Rev. Stephen ‘t Hart. They’d come into contact with the same group of believers and also wanted to help. They established a Philippines Mission Committee. Providence and Baldivis endeavoured to coordinate their efforts to achieve the same goal.
Since then there have been many visits to the Philippines, both from Canada and Australia. I’m here at the moment and this is my fourth time here. My previous three visits were on behalf of Providence, but I’m presently here on behalf of Baldivis. With praise for God, I can tell you that things have come a long, long way since 2012.
Today there’s a growing Reformed congregation here in Cagayan de Oro, Grace Reformed Church. This instituted church is running out of room in their current worship venue – a wonderful problem to have! But there’s also another thriving instituted church in Butuan, about a 4 hour drive to the northeast. I spent the last week at the Butuan Reformed Church, visiting, teaching, and preaching. It was so incredible to see what God has been doing there and what he continues to do. I was privileged to baptize four covenant children this past Sunday as well as to administer the Lord’s Supper. The rented space for the church was full of members and visitors. I did a seminar on Reformed ecclesiology during the week and there were several area pastors from non-Reformed backgrounds visiting. They were challenged and intrigued by what they heard. Unfortunately, the second day of the seminar was cut short when I became quite sick — I think I’ve learned my lesson about spoiled food at buffets.
I also spoke to the parents of the church about Christian parenting and education. Together we explored and discussed options for developed Reformed Christian education in Butuan. It was encouraging to see their desire and vision for God-honouring education for their children.
Yesterday I travelled down to Cagayan de Oro. Today I start teaching a 15 hour introductory course on Reformed preaching. I’m told that I’ll have ten students.
God has done and is doing amazing things here in this part of the Philippines! From what can only be called inauspicious beginnings, two instituted churches have developed. It’s all by God’s grace, despite much human weakness and sinfulness on every side. Now we pray to see more development, not only of more spiritual and numerical growth in the existing churches, not only of more new Reformed churches, but also a growing level of unity with other existing like-minded Reformed churches in Mindanao and elsewhere. These goals will serve the advance of the gospel and the glory of God in this corner of the world.