Pastoral Exhortation

Remembering Brethren in Bogo & San Antonio

Written by Mah Chin Kwang Sunday, 07 May 2017

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The Lord was pleased to use His servant – the late Pr Dominino dela Cruz, Jr (husband of Sis Sharon and father of Nehemiah) – to establish a mission church in Bogo, Cebu, the Philippines in 2008. In the following year, another mission church in San Antonio (which is a nearby village where he grew up) was also inaugurated. Despite the many trials and oppositions encountered, our missionary and the two congregations stood steadfast and pressed on. He served joyfully together with his family for 3 years, before the Lord called him home on the Lord’s day, 7 July 2013 to his eternal rest after a hard-fought battle against cancer.

Elder Eliezer Ortega, who was then taking care of The Gethsemane Care Ministry in Cebu City, an outreach to former drug addicts and offenders of the law, yielded to the Lord’s call to lead the much-saddened flock. He was commissioned on 28 July 2013. Together with his wife, Sis Arlaine, they moved from Cebu City to serve in Bogo, leaving their three children behind in Cebu City. They have been serving faithfully since, amidst the increasingly difficult and demanding work.

Mission Bogo 2017, which aims to encourage our missionary and the brethren in Bogo and San Antonio, was the fourth in a series of mission trips initiated by our Gethsemane Encourager’s Ministry (GEM). Over the past 2 years, similar mission trips were made to Cebu City, Pangasinan and Kuching. By God’s grace and leading, the Lord provided a strong team of 28 brethren from our midst (that included 5 young children) to serve and fellowship with brethren of our mission churches in Bogo and San Antonio from 27-30 April 2017.

All praise be unto the Lord for this large team, which accorded many blessed opportunities to preach and teach God’s Word to unbelievers, and to fellowship with the saints. With much grace and help from the Lord, the team was able to, in the short space of three and a-half days, visit 9 homes, have a full-day DVBS, including an “oral hygiene” instruction class in both Bogo and San Antonio, as well as conduct 3 evangelism sessions in Bogo and the areas around San Antonio and Libjo, where many tracts were distributed and the Gospel shared. All of these were held concurrently. The team also had the joy of being able to co-labour and participate in the combined Prayer Meeting held on Friday evening in Bogo, as well as the Worship Service on the Lord’s day, where our Pastor brought the Word.

Mission Bogo 2017 is different from earlier mission trips in several ways, besides the size of the team. This mission trip, though initially planned for March 2017, was rescheduled to take place just before the Philippines churches’ Combined Camp (planned to be held from 1-4 May 2017), as suggested by Pastor Koshy and Rev Reggor Galarpe, pastor of the mission church in Cebu City. This provided another opportunity for many brethren to serve and be blessed by the teaching of God’s Word during the camp, where Pastor Koshy was the camp speaker. A total of 17 brethren from the mission team stayed on for the camp. Pastor and Sis Carolyn, as well as Pr Dennis Kabingue and his family extended their mission visits in the Philippines further in ministering to the brethren in Bohol and Davao/Cebu City respectively, by arriving a few days prior to the arrival of the other mission team members on 27 April 2017.

For many in the mission team, the opportunities to serve alongside our brethren in the kitchens and meeting halls of the two churches in Bogo and San Antonio, as well as in travelling to and fro from our hotels to the church premises and to homes in remote rural areas, were enriching and blessed experiences. The ready smiles of brethren and non-believers that we encountered during evangelism were heartwarming. The warm welcome we received in the early hours of 27 April from Rev Reggor, his family, Eld Eliezer, his wife, Bro Allan and his family at Mactan Airport, Cebu set the tone of brotherly love that we continued to receive during our short stay. Through Bro Allan’s contacts in the airport, the 31 large pieces of communal luggage – comprising Pastor’s devotionals, Bible Witness magazines, tracts, etc. weighing more than 300kg, together with the team’s personal belongings – were accorded special consideration through customs. We were able to get out of the airport without any of our luggage subject to close examination. May the Lord be praised for His providence.

 The Lord is to be praised too for the protection and safety of the team throughout all our travels from/to the airport and hotel, walking on unfamiliar roads and riding in small motorcycle cabs to the church in Bogo, with several brethren having to ride these cabs to and fro between Bogo and San Antonio (a distance of 10 km)! Though it was an interesting experience to 7 members of the team, it was nevertheless a somewhat risky and uncomfortable pillion-ride at the back seat on motorcycles across small unpaved, bumpy paths – sometimes even at the very edge of a steep slope – to visit a brother’s home. The Lord was good to also grant good health to all in the team, without anyone suffering severe illness.

I am certain that the mission trip has opened the eyes of the team to the needs of our brethren in Bogo and San Antonio. More than their physical needs, there is a dire need for spiritual encouragement and strengthening. May the Lord use brethren who have been given this glimpse of the lives of our brethren there to encourage them in the Lord, especially our missionary Eld Eliezer and his wife, to stay steadfast and to persevere for the Lord Jesus’ glory.