Friday, September 14, 2012

Mission Report & Vision Part 2

I mentioned earlier that these pastors are "outcasts." Just prior to our discussion time at the conference, Pastor Val (director for "Christ Disciple Missions Philippines") made the comment to me that these pastors "are not popular." They all roared with laughter when he said this. As we talked and they shared their burdens I began to understand why they had been shunned and some even put out of their local associations and fellowships. First, these pastors are poor. Now, poverty is relative to culture. So to us in the West, almost everyone in Asia is poor. But these are men who come from hard working families. Many farm in Bukidnon. Others began church plants with support and were forgotten and abandoned by their supporting churches. Many of the churches in this area are attended by poor people who tithe but the tithes simply are not enough to meet the most basic needs of the pastors. This means that many of the pastors' wives work to support the family (creating pressure and strain in the home) and some of the pastors must take other work.
Let me give you two examples. One brother began a church plant work a few years ago. He was promised support by churches but after a few months the support stopped. No reason was given and he was never contact so he simply continued in the work. His wife took a job in pizza place at local mall. They would spend money each month to buy 1 chair for the congregation they had gather. Then last year they had a baby. The place they were meeting at was taken from them. They had made an arrangement with the city to use an out-door recreation center. The city said they could use the place for free as long as they would clean and "beautify" the area.  After several months of work, the city told them they would have to leave. Now they rent a place for Sunday morning. So now the pastor arises at 3am to drive 1 hour to a farm where he will spend the day milking, feeding and cleaning up after cows. He will work 5 and half days a week to earn 4000 Peso (about $96). Another pastor had to leave his church because he did not receive enough support to feed his wife and children. He now works as a security guard and desires to return to the church. The church refuses to accept him because he is working another job.
The second issue is Calvinism. God is awaking many of the pastors to reformed theology. "TULIP" (as they call it) is causing great debates here. There are rumors being circulated about many of the pastors that they are "faith alone" pastors. This sounds ok until we understand what it means here. The pastors are accused of denying the necessity to "accept Jesus" to be saved. The majority here have been heavily influenced by decision-ism. I had a long conversation with one person who asked me to explain "TULIP." Afterward they told me that they had been trained into seminary that after sharing the Gospel they should ask the person "do you want to accept Jesus?" One of the pastors told me that salvation is not "declaring Jesus to come into your heart." They have been awaken (at least to some degree) to reformed doctrine and they are paying a price for it.
The third issue is mere poverty. Consider one of the churches I visited. There are about 20 people. The people tithe but unfortunately they do not make much money. The average tithe is 300 peso. So the average monthly income for the church from tithes is 1200P. There are 2 pastors and they split the tithes. This means they make about 600P each per month. That is only about $14. Story after story is the same. One pastor and his church have the desire to plant another church but they do not have the resources (in fact there is pressure in his household because he is not able to pay tuition for his children to continue in school). Another pastor has started a work with the indigenous people (Bukidnon tribe). They are animists. He is unable to continue because he does not have the funds to travel to the remote region.
Then there is Indahag. In 2011 a typhoon struck the area of Mindanao ( the region of Cagayan De Oro) killing over 600 people and displacing many more. The government is currently building houses for the displaced people in Indahag. Indahag is approximately 8 kilometers from the city of Cagayan, located in the mountains. The government has currently built 400 subsidized housing units there and people are already occupying some of them. In addition to this, the city is expanding into the Indahag region and there are already some people living there. There is no protestant church for miles.  There is an incredible opportunity for ministry there but no resources to minister.

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