Philippines, the only Christian nation in all of Asia. In Thailand, you can find Filipino Adventist teachers everywhere, setting up home churches and spending Sabbaths together until sunset. The majority of them come from Mindanao, the southern-most island of the Philippines. It is an island famous for being the home island of Rodrigo Duterte, former mayor of Davao (the biggest city in Mindanao) and former President of the Philippines.
When I told people I was going to Mindanao, some people said it was dangerous. There has been lots of instability in the past there regarding the local Muslims (as the more south you go, the closer you are to Indonesia, which is Muslim), but it seemed really safe to me. Maybe the trouble is only in the far west, like in Zamboanga, where Filipino national hero Jose Rizal was exiled to. What I do know is here I saw some fascinating developments in the 3rd Angel’s message.
Richard and Danny
Richard Robison has been in the Philippines for a while now printing literature and sharing it. He has previously been in Thailand where I had met him, and I am happy he could move where people actually are into reading Christian literature. He told me that Brother Gil Castor, who lives nearby Richard near the city of Butuan in Mindanao, had just sent this invitation out:
To all Dear MINISTRY Elders,
You are cordially invited. MY BELOVED, WE NEED TO COME AS ONE BODY OF BELIEVERS WITH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST AS OUR ONLY HEAD AND TO REASON TOGETHER THIS 17TH TO 19TH OF JUNE, 2022 to be held at RAPHA Bethel, Prk. 4,Balangbalang, RTR, Agusan Del Norte.
Our seats are limited. And we only expect 24 elders to attend in this meeting. Only those who are invited. Our Loving Father, in His great mercy has still afforded us a time to be reconciled with love, hope and faith in Christ Jesus.
We expect your presence...For your perusal,
What: Special study Committee Conference
Who: Ministry's Elders, Mindanao Wide
When: June 17 - 19,2022
Where: RAPHA Bethel, Prk. 4,Balangbalang, RTR, Agusan Del Norte
Why: settling into the Truth Spiritually and Intellectually
How: bring notebooks, Bible, pen, tent, boots(optional), personal belongings,
Contact person: Gil Castor, 09xxxxx2899
Other concerns :
Venue: countryside, beside the river, fair weather, surrounded with coconut trees,
Meeting/program set up: plenary, group discussions, assessment tests, devotionals, worships, Testimonies
Obligations:( financial donations)
Subjects for discussions :CHARACTER OF GOD, AGAPE,BIBLICAL GODHEAD AND NATURE OF SIN
Working Committees: Selected young people
Richard thought this would be a good time to come. Little did I know that this was the first camp meeting that they were having since Covid had locked everything down (Philippines had serious restrictions, even going to other towns was difficult – and near impossible for the unvaccinated). Who were these various ministries that were invited? Well I had no idea, and but I wanted to go and check it out.
Richard's office for printing. He is able to get generic ink to work in the printers, making the price much cheaper
I arrived in Butuan and Richard picked me up at the airport, and we drove on his motorcycle thirty minutes north. The first day of the meetings, I made the walk from the main road along a path to the river, which we have to cross to reach Brother Gil’s property. There is little water when I arrive there, but I heard from Gil that during a typhoon just a few months ago the river had swelled into a raging current that had destroyed a huge section of one island, demolishing dozens of coconut trees that they owned and utterly altering the landscape from what it looked like before – the river even changed where it flowed. It was a reminder that we can’t judge something by how it looks at the present moment, nor does nature work mainly by ‘gradualism’ or ‘uniformitarianism’, but that landscapes are often shaped by ‘catastrophism’.
Located next to the river which was low then
I was impressed at the setup brother Gil Castor had. It almost felt like a hidden oasis, built by people marooned on an island. There were multiple wooden huts people lived in, the gardens with various crops, and flattened land for walking from building to building. Along the buildings were flowers, and a long dining table ran down the middle of the main outside area. There was a central kitchen where cooking was done using firewood. This was committed communal country living. This would be something that would impress me again and again as I traveled to a few different “farms” or “outposts”, as the Filipinos called them. At Gil had only been there 2 years!
Gil's outpost and humble, yet effective, cooking operation
I was impressed when I heard the sermons. Brother Tim gave a powerful impassioned talk on how we had misunderstood God’s character, how it was worthy of reconsideration, how we should take the message seriously, and how it had helped him in his family life and Christian walk. It was beautiful, and I would have the pleasure of listening to Tim preach a few more times, and I really think he should record his sermons and put them on YouTube. This is the case with many others too who spoke.
Tim preaching, with somebody working the computer to find quotes mentioned
Brother Jong Jomen also preached and really went into great detail on the nuts and bolts of the character of God. They 've done a lot of study, and I think that is because they had associated with Demetrius Leach and Pablo Pacheco and others of an Adventist group that call themselves the United Brethren. We hope in the future to work together on this front with these pioneers of the message – I know that is brother Jong’s great wish.
Lastly there is Brother Gil Castor, who tried to tie a lot of these things together. While Tim and Jong are focused on COG, Gil is trying to tie multiple strands of our message together, linking Father-Son and the statutes to the message also. Gil is an educator, splitting us up into groups for discussion of questions, which we then presented on. He tried to make sure all the ministries got a say, because the crowd was diverse. He has a passion for the Divine Pattern, the source-channel of blessing, and trying to systematize all the new things we are learning.
It was amazing to see how much scripture and spirit of prophecy they had memorized. Usually they would connect their computer to a tv, and one person would sit on the computer using the EG White app while the other preached. The preacher would say, “DA 453”, for example, and then the other would type it in and the EG White would show up on the screen. This they did from memory!
CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP REMINISCENT OF CHRISTIAN CONNEXION OR PRE-1844 ADVENTISM
On this point of diversity of belief, it must be said that people were remarkably considerate of each other considering there were all sorts of various beliefs: from conference to reform church, Davidians to new believers, trinitarians and non-trinitarians, Hebrew roots and conspiracy theorists, rich and poor – it was great to see all types getting along politely. Gil told me this was a new occurrence, due to respect being formed among brethren from shared insights on country living and not being able to see each other during Covid.
The situation of Adventism in Mindanao and other places in the Philippines is interesting. Country Living, homeschooling, and diet reform have been heavily preached there, with much pushback (often preached without Character of God, so it would get contentious.). Generally, anybody who does these things is considered either an “offshoot” or having sympathy with “splinter groups”. any people didn’t want to leave the church, but were kind of pushed out. This also happened because of the church’s position on vaccination. It has left many looking for answers outside of the mainstream, and Lord help us that we may see the light He is trying to show us.
photo time with books taken
So whereas in the past people would have fought, it seems like the ministries who had come here had turned a corner – they didn't interrupt each others sermons and they tried to see where others were coming from. For me, as an outsider, I was tested on this at one point during a discussion. A lady was talking about the slaughtering angels of Ezekiel 9, and saying that she had trouble with this story. She said it was important to her…and then paused… and said: "because I am Shepherd’s Rod, and this story is important to us." She looked keenly at us to see how we would react, particularly me. Would I judge her? Would I dismiss her or call her out? Thank God, I kept my cool, and though I was surprised we had a pleasant conversation. I became friends with her and her husband, and I hope we can make contact with them again in the future – she has read a lot of Adrian’s books and is strong on the 1888 message and Wieland, as well as being a Father-Son believer for many years. She knows what it is like to lose friends, like most of us. Most of us who have been on the fringes of Adventism, immersed in controversy relational difficulties, have been hurt and are carrying a lot of trauma. Let us be gentle with each other. (Today I am in northern Thailand, and I asked a child what her favorite verse was, and she told me this:)
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
packed car to go to Gingoog
Journey to Gingoog
I wanted to see my old friend Andrew in Gingoog, and I was blessed to get a ride with Jong and some other fellows that work with him. Jong is a convert to Adventism, and sold his business and turned his property into an “outpost center.” There is a beautiful outdoor church, a few houses, gardens, and a dorm. He does some humanitarian work with Rotary also, so they had lots of used goods stored. Here again I was impressed by their setup.
From this small property began the character of God movement in the Philippines, at a camp meeting in 2015. They were immediately disfellowshipped, forcing Jong to study what it was he had been disfellowshipped for, because he didn’t really understand – it was so new to him! We thank God that he didn’t give up. I shared here a few nights with the youth and hope they were encouraged. It can be hard when you are seen as an offshoot and have had no one visit for a few years because of Covid.
the team at Gingoog with Brother Jong
To Camp Divine Grace
After a quick stop to see Mountain View College, I checked out Brother Tim’s place: Camp Divine Grace. This place is in the mountains. The brethren are serious here about country living. In fact they are always having meetings at their various locations (Jong also has a country living spot in the mountains, where it is cold, which I didn’t see). A message like that sent by Brother Gil above is passed around, and just like that a meeting can happen. I love the organic, natural way it happens – it is organized, yet free. They also can pack a lot of people in a small space, with many sleeping in hammocks! Really worth examining how they do this, whether it be in communal living, cooking, or farming.
It could be because the island is small and there are so many likeminded “reformers”, but it always felt like something was happening – people dropping by, new houses/huts being built, meetings being organized, books being shared. It really is exciting, and I would suggest believers really make a visit to this island, where, as Brother Gil said, people really want to and like to study. I love the open air studying also.
At Camp Divine Grace
Davao then Digos
I shared a little at Tim’s, then we went to Davao City, where I got to share a testimony of God's love at Tim’s medical supply company. They have worship every morning at their office! Not many places in the world do that. Tim is beloved in his local church, and that has been important to his continued influence. Balancing his relationship to the church has not been easy. He has made it clear: the wicked are destroyed at the end of time! But how does it happen, and why? Oh that people would dare to believe that God has amazing answers to our questions!
English home church in Davao
We had a chance to go the English Church in Davao. That was a blessing. Then I had a few days at Digos where they were doing meetings. I have to say that I really appreciated how kind and friendly everyone was to me. Everyone was a really great host, and I loved having the chance to try many new kinds of food and meet such interesting people. You never know who you will meet at a camp meeting in Mindanao; it really can range from conservatives to liberals, people just back from abroad from work or people soon to leave, people who have studied Adventism for a long time and others there for the first time. I also liked this aspect of the meetings, and I would suggest that us more studied brethren would remember to take care of our family that are newer to the message.
Bro Gil sharing at Digos
Trip to Baguio
Before I went back to Thailand, I flew from Davao to Manilla to briefly see our brother Sean. He lives outside Baguio City, a totally different part of the Philippines. It is high up in elevation, and it was often cold. This may have affected me, because I got sick at this point (could it have been Covid again!? i didn't check). The bus from Manila to Baguio was around 5 hours, and Sean picked me up and we drove out another hour. It was a blessing to see him and his wife Connie, and he is trying to share up there. But it really reminded me how hard it is to start a work from nothing - something that I know from working in Thailand. We must really try to find fertile soil, find where work has gone on ahead of us, and work with that. For now, I feel the work in the Philippines centers in Mindanao, and I trust it will spread to the other islands from there.
Sean giving me a tour of the local flora
Thank God I’m home!
- If any Filipino wants to write any articles on how you operate communally in your network of country living outposts, where youth go from place to place to get training, etc. I would love to see it! Really remarkable! Hope to come back soon!
- Thanks to brother Crispino Fatt for translating!
- Please, next time I come, if you want to talk to me, don’t be shy! Especially if you have been reading our material, tell me!!!!!! It is really encouraging!
- If anyone wants to write testimonies or feedback on books or sermons from maranathamedia, also contact me! Here is Sunshine and Gil’s for example
- Forgive me if I didn't get a photo of you! It is complicated to upload photos onto the website, so I can't upload many.
God bless all the readers!
What fruit is the light shining on??
May God give us to bear more good fruit, including fruit we have never seen before!