Pictured Above: (Left to Right) Jared Bailey, Pastor Tom Smith, Stephen Louis, Dr. Paul Nelson, Dr. Edward Dalcour, Pastor Austin Huggins, Pastor Joe Jacowitz, Margret Smith, David Rhyne, Pastor Fred Sykes.
Arduous, physically depleting, and time intensive most accurate describe this latest particular mission trip to the Philippines - at least from a physical lens. From a spiritual lens, however, we would have to say that it was also one of the most rewarding, most spiritually edifying, and most encouraging mission trips to date. The opportunities that were opened to us to further equip the churches and to publish the Gospel among broad audiences were breathtaking and often unexpected.
The scope of FirstLove’s work in the Philippines this year was largely caught in the momentum of the mission trip from the previous year. Last year, the first annual Pastor’s Conference in Marikina, Manila was titled: “The Life of the Minister is the Life of the Ministry”. Word seemed to spread quickly with Pastor Leo Galanza, FirstLove’s Branch Leader in the Philippines, as he continued to hold seminars for pastors and several other audiences around the Islands. The original attendees also shared the news with their friends and fellow ministers, so that by the time the team arrived for the second annual conference in 2018, there would be a much larger audience this year.
Over the duration of the mission trip, the FirstLove Missions team conducted four pastors’ conferences. The first two took place in different areas of Metro Manila: one again in Marikina and then the other in Tondo. The next two areas were new to the mission team as they were much farther north and would be a little more difficult to reach. The third conference was hosted in Baguio City, and lastly, the fourth and final event occurred farther north in the distant village of Bontoc. The terrain would be difficult, mountainous, and somewhat dangerous to travel.
The title of this year’s FirstLove Missions Conference to the Philippines was “Famine in the Land: What’s Wrong with the Preaching Today”. Various topics were addressed within the theme concerning “Preaching the Truth in Love”, “The Holy Spirit and Preaching”, “Preaching that Edifies the Church”, “Preaching the Full Counsel of the Word”, “Preaching that Pleases God”, and “Prayer and Preaching”. All speakers addressed each of the four conference venues.
The first batch of missionaries arrived in Manila airport Saturday morning April 14th at 6am. By that same time the next morning, all members of the ten person mission team had arrived and were present in the field. Dr. Paul Nelson and Stephen Lewis were the last to arrive. After a 14 hour flight, an hour-long car ride, and a quick change of clothes, Dr. Nelson arrived at Mt. Holy Christian Bible Church just in time to deliver that Sunday morning’s message. This would seem to set the operational tempo for all of us for the rest of the mission. At that time, the rest of the team members had been shuttled to various churches around Metro Manila, some going as far as Quezon City and Pateros Municipality, preaching at respective Sunday morning services. The individual team members would minister into the afternoon and would eventually regroup for evening services and Q&A sessions at Mt. Holy Christian Bible Church, our host church of FLM in the Philippines.
Wasting no time, Monday morning came and the first conference was in full swing with over 300 attendees in their seats. The atmosphere was expectant and highly receptive.
1st Conference Venue: Renaissance Convention Center in Marikina, Manila.
“I was there at your Conference in Marikina, and our three-hour and more road travel was worth it. We were blessed by your ministry of preaching and teaching. I sensed your fiery devotion to the sufficiency of God’s Word, and your robust passion to preach the true gospel …As an Adult Sunday School teacher, your ministry was no small help to us. May the Lord continue to sustain and provide for you… May you continue to proclaim the whole counsel of God, and train leaders and pastors to do the same…We will always thank God the Father for your faithful service to his kingdom. [We] still are being blessed by your free Christian literature… Be most assured that your books will help to equip and feed the flock. We will pray for [revivals] in our towns and cities here in the Philippines, and may you be one of the many means that God will use to perform it. We are hoping to see you more in the Philippines… Know that your work is not in vain.”
2nd Conference Venue: A local church in Tutuban, Tondo, Manila.
We began with prayer in the lobby at 5 AM beseeching God to visit the conference with his Spirit, and then departed for the Tondo conference. It took almost two hours of heavy traffic to get to the conference which was about 12 miles away.
3rd Conference Venue: Pine City Baptist Church in Baguio City.
On Wednesday, the team departed for Baguio for the 3rd conference. By 3 AM, the books were loaded into one of three vans. At 4 AM, the team met in the lobby for prayer, and at 4:30 FLM began the six-hour drive to Baguio City. When we reached the mountains, we ascended up 5,000 ft of winding roads. Some didn’t take the ascent very well. All the messages delivered at the conference were recorded to be used in a seminary for homiletics.
4th Conference Venue: The downstairs home of a lawyer in Bontoc Mountain Province
Again, in the early morning, the team departed to Bontoc for the fourth and final conference. This time it was a five-hour drive through extreme winding roads over the highest mountain pass in the Philippines (7400 ft.). FLM arrived in Bontoc about 12:30 pm, checked in to the hotel, and immediately went to the conference building. We preached into the night and concluded with another Q&A session. After a short night of sleep, we hit the road again and retraced our mountainous route all the way back to Baguio City.
Cool 97.5 FM is the only Christian Radio Station in Baguio City.
Upon arriving in Baguio City we were informed about an opportunity for air time on a local Christian radio station for an affordable price. We conducted an “open forum” style Bible Q&A program and kept it going for seven days. The local response was incredible. Pastor Joe is really experienced in this area, having worked in radio for 30 years. Due to the success of the work, the radio station owner and Pastor Joe struck a deal to maintain an ongoing partnership that keeps FLM on the air.
Meeting the Mayor of Baguio City
While in Baguio City, FLM had a courtesy call with the mayor who accepted the use of our material in the city’s rehabilitation program. Our material includes the Gospel message!
The mayor was gracious and gave a WWII history lesson about Baguio City. The Mayor told us that Baguio has 350,000 permanent residents and a total of 700,000 including visitors and tourists. Pastor Joe proposed a rehabilitation program for drug addiction using Dr. Stan Murrell’s addiction book to be used in the school system to reach the younger generation. The book addresses the problem of addiction in the context of the Gospel. The mayor was very interested. He approved the program. The council member we met the previous day informed us that he would draft a city ordinance making the book mandatory.
So between the quick succession of conference events, the long trials of transportation between venues, the consistent radio teaching and evangelism, preaching in the local churches; and the various meetings with key people, seminary alumni students, and dignitaries, The LORD allowed us many opportunities to give Him glory! Please continue to pray for the pastors who heard the preaching and who received FirstLove Publications’ material. Pray that they would be edified and strengthened for the work they have been called to. Pray for their churches that they may be the beneficiaries of a spiritually strong and biblically educated pastorate. Pray for all those who heard the scriptures opened and taught during the radio program. Our hope is that many false teachings and heresies were effectually combated, and that the teachers of truth were emboldened to speak as they ought. Pray that the Spirit would bring forth fruit in due season!
“It has been a privilege to be a part of the seminar held in Baguio City, Philippines. Thank you for faithfully ministering the word of God to us and giving out biblical books for free. We are looking forward to seeing you next year. I started to read through one of the books, and planning to share to our small congregation this coming month. Praying for God's enabling grace to you all as you [are] endeavoring to share His grace to the Filipino pastors and workers. Yours truly in His Vineyard,”
Thank you also to those who have labored in prayer for us. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. For those who have given of their time, talents, and financial resources and contributed to the success of this mission, we praise the Lord for the unity of the body and express our gratitude to our Lord on your behalf! Please remember the people of the Philippines in your prayers. God bless you.
T. Austin Huggins
Pastor, Missionary, & Asst. Director of