Each of the places had stories to tell. In a rural area of Barotoc Viejo, a teenage girl shared with me how she had to drop out of high school because her family lacked money to pay for her daily transportation. In Lambunao, a family’s entire resources had been used up paying hospital bills for a sick child. In Roxas, many elementary school kids cannot afford the required school uniform.
Some of the stories were hopeful. In Culassi, a church member had rededicated his life to the Lord after a couple of years of backsliding. In New Lucena, a mother told of God’s many blessings despite her family’s financial hardships. In Santa Barbara, a newly formed Bible study group had seen their first baptisms.
For every hardship story I hear, I know there are a million others just like it or worse. But in a country that is still less than 10% Christian, the hopeful stories are far fewer. Still, in every place we visited, we heard testimonies from God’s people that our Lord is very much at work giving hope and assurance to those who look to Him.
As we begin a new year, major challenges remain in sharing the light of the gospel in a country that is increasingly wrapped in spiritual darkness. The average Filipino today has much less interest in eternal matters than when I first came to the country 30 years ago. The negative influences of western media have infected the nation with a worldly value system that opposes the teachings of Christianity. Added to that, our financial resources for evangelism and discipleship are much less today than before.
But historically God seems to delight in showing Himself strong in the absence of abundant resources or in the presence of difficult challenges. From Gideon’s army of 300 men to the faithful servant, Daniel, in an exiled land, from the work of 11 dedicated disciples of Jesus to the committed leaders of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s, God is never hindered by the limitations of men.
Pray with me for a God-sized outpouring of His Spirit in the Western Visayas Region of the Philippines, as well as the entire country. As 2018 begins, my commitment remains to be God’s servant and worker in this little corner of the world.