Saturday, October 4, 2014

Lectures in the Philippines

Recently I spent two weeks in the Philippines. I had been invited by Pastor Glimar (Glem) Melo to give a series of lectures on "Science and Christianity". I gave these lectures three times, at three different locations.

Kagay-an Conference Attendees (Pastor Glem and wife in center)

The first lectures were arranged by the Kagay-an Reformed Church of Cagayan de Oro, in the southern island of Mindanao. The weather was hot and humid. I lectured for two and a half days. About 10-20 people were present. They were very friendly, and very enthused about the Reformed faith. Most were converts from Roman Catholicism or Pentecostalism. They were eager to study the Bible, and the Reformed Confessions. One advantage in the Philippines is that most people, especially students, speak English rather well, although their first language is still Filipino (Tagalog), or a local dialect.

Some of the attendees were theological students from the Jireh Reformed Church, in Cagayan de Oro, under Pastor Remegio Lapiz, who has connections with the Protestant Reformed Church.

My lectures were followed by several lectures on Christian family and church by Rev. C. Vermeulen, a minister of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA), who was accompanied by elder Hendrik de Jong. The FRCA is helping the Reformed churches in the Philippines by giving advice and instruction in the Reformed faith.

On Sunday I attended a morning worship service in a small mission post in Puerto, about 50 km away, with about a dozen people, and an afternoon service at the Kagay-an Reformed Church, with about 40 people. Rev. Vermeulen preached in both services.

The next week Pastor Glem, his son Yanan, and I flew to Manila. Manila was very crowded, busy, smoggy, humid, and mostly shabby, although it does have some very plush and modern malls. I lectured for two evenings (6-9) at the Shekinah Christian Church, in Manila's University Belt. More than 100 people attended, mostly university students. Again, the audience was very enthusiastic and eager to learn.

 Lecture in Malolos
After the last lecture we took the "bus" (19 people squished into a small van, which doesn't leave until absolutely full) to Malolos, a town about 60 km north. There I lectured once again, for two full days, at the "God is Faithful" Community Church. About 50 people were present, including many students. And once again, the Filipinos were very friendly, hospitable, and enthusiastic.

There are various Reformed churches in the Philippines, but they are all still rather small. Various Reformed denominations in the US and Canada have supported these to some extent (RCUS, URC, CanRC). From the CanRC, Revs. J. Witteveen and W. Bredenhof have both visited the Philippines earlier this year. They met Pastor Glem, as well as other Reformed pastors.

Pastor Glem is very knowledgeable and enthused about the Reformed faith. I met a number of other men who are also very capable, but who need more training. Some Reformed pastors used to lead large Pentecostal or evangelical congregations, but now have only a small number of members. Becoming Reformed thus often involves a hard sacrifice. 

The Philippines seems to be ripe for harvesting. Perhaps we can help best by simply continuing what the FRCA and CanRC have been doing - advising them, and helping to train local pastors and elders. They should be encouraged to set up their own federation of Reformed churches.
May the Lord bless the growth of Reformed churches in the Philippines, so that many Filipinos will hear the Word, repent, and follow Christ


Henrietta said...

Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful news dr Byl! It is heartwarming to hear about the spreading of the gospel (especially according to the reformed creeds). May the Holy Spirit bless and guide all the new converts and the workers.

G.I. Williamson said...

Thanks for doing this important work, and telling us about it. Are the people that you spoke to strongly influenced by the theory of evolution?

john byl said...

Henrietta and Rev. Williamson:

Thanks for your comments.

No, most of the people did not seem to be strongly influenced by evolution, even though, I presume, it is taught in the public schools and universities. Certainly, in the question periods and private discussions, nobody defended evolution.

The Reformed people I met were excited about the Reformed faith primarily because of its strong emphasis on Scriptural authority. They were enthused about studying the Bible, discovering its teachings, and applying these to their lives. Thus, regarding Genesis, it would seem strange to them not to take God's Word at face value. There was no sympathy for theistic evolution, nor the framework hypothesis.

However, my lectures in Manila were attended by a large number of university students, and some faculty, presumably from a variety of different church backgrounds. Some of them may have had different thoughts, which they did not voice.