Mission Work in the Philippines

Rev. Kleyn is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Edgerton, Minnesota.

Recently Rev. Rodney Miersma and I returned from a journey halfway around the world to the country of the Philippines. Traveling there on behalf of the Foreign Mission Committee of our Protestant Reformed Churches, we visited contacts in four cities: Manila, Daet, Cagayan de Oro, and Bacolod. We both felt it a great blessing and privilege that we were able to make this trip. It was especially a blessing to meet and to fellowship with people of God who, though far from us in miles, are one with us in the faith we confess in Jesus Christ. We enjoyed the trip and feel that it was profitable in giving us a better insight into the growing desire in the Philippines for the truths of the Reformed faith.

For quite a few years now, the Foreign Mission Committee (FMC) has been in touch with many in the Philippines who have expressed an interest in the truths of the Reformed faith. These men and groups of men have received and studied much of our literature, including the Standard Bearer, numerous pamphlets, and many of the publications of the Reformed Free Publishing Association. Through correspondence, but especially through visits, we have seen much evidence of a sincere hunger and thirst for the truth.

On account of this the FMC, with the approval of synod, continues to investigate the possibility of a mission field for our churches in the Philippines. As churches we are certainly called to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:19, 20). For that reason we consider seriously whether or not the Philippines is a place to which the Lord calls us to labor in fulfillment of His great commission.

Within the sprawling metropolis of Manila (the capital city of the Philippines), we met with men from two separate groups that have expressed interest in our churches. Many of these men, along with their families, have left other churches because of departure from the truth. They had many questions about our churches and about specific points of doctrine which they were studying, such as predestination, common grace, infant baptism, Bible translations, exegesis of Scripture, and eschatology. These meetings gave us the opportunity to find out more about these men, their church affiliation, and their present study of the Scriptures and the Reformed faith. We were also able, through this visit, to put the two groups in Manila in touch with each other.

In the Daet area, which is on the same island as Manila, but in the far southeast of that island, we visited a group of approximately seven churches, each made up of about 10 to 15 families. The churches are located in Daet, Labo, Nabua, and Jose Panganiban. Although these are independent churches, they are currently in the process of federating. The background for many of them has been either Baptist or Pentecostal.

Our three-day visit to these churches involved, first of all, an informal meeting with the pastors and elders. At this meeting we discussed our present as well as possible future work among them. The men were also keen to discuss various doctrinal questions, which we did for several hours.

On Saturday a full-day conference was scheduled on the subject of the covenant of grace. Mostly men, but also a few women, attended. Four aspects of the truth of the covenant were dealt with: (1) The Idea of the Covenant, (2) The Establishment of the Covenant, (3) The Participants in the Covenant, and (4) Our Part in the Covenant. This was a day to remember. Both during and after the presentation of the material many questions were asked and lengthy and lively discussion followed. This included questions concerning infant baptism and dispensationalism, two truths very closely related to the covenant of grace. What a joy it was to bring these truths and to observe how well they were received.

On Saturday evening we attended a Bible study in the home of one of the families. Men and women of all ages filled the living room, some even sitting on the floor. The topic was the preservation of the saints. Many questions were raised and various difficult passages of Scripture discussed. It seemed they would gladly have met with us until midnight, or later. They were disappointed, therefore, that the meeting had to end so that Rev. Miersma and I could prepare for Sunday. It was time to head back to the hotel, for each of us had to lead a Bible study and preach twice (in four different churches) the next day.

Our visits in the two other cities, Cagayan de Oro and Bacolod, were similar. Again we met with the contacts there and had the opportunity to become acquainted with their circumstances as well as their understanding of the Reformed faith. In the evenings and on Saturday we gave instruction on the subject of the covenant of grace. And in Bacolod we led a worship service on Sunday morning.

In these places, too, there was clear evidence among the men we visited of an eagerness to learn as much as they could, in the short time that we were with them, of the truths of the Reformed faith as God has entrusted and preserved them in our churches.

All our preaching and lecturing was done in English — that is, without translation. Some of the previous delegations, such as thatof Rev. Kortering and me in May of this year, had some speeches and sermons translated into a Filipino dialect. That certainly adds a different dimension to preaching. And it takes some getting used to. But it goes well. It definitely gives one more time to choose carefully the words he will use.

The Filipinos have many different dialects. The two main ones are Cebuano and Tagalog, the latter being the official Filipino dialect. Most of the time the Filipinos speak amongst themselves in their native tongue. Sometimes, therefore, we had no idea of what was being said. Imagine, for example, not understanding a prayer during the Sunday worship service! For the most part, however, Filipinos understand and speak English fairly well. That is especially true of the younger generation, which is educated in the English language.

It is interesting to note that some of the men we met in Manila, as well as others throughout the Philippines, have learned much about the PRC through our home-page. These men have downloaded and printed pages and pages of material from the Internet, such as pamphlets — even complete books! So even our home-page has been and still is a means for the spreading of the gospel.

A significant part of the work we are currently doing in the Philippines has been the distribution of literature. Some of this work has been done by various evangelism committees of our churches. But also the delegations have brought and distributed much literature. On this trip, for example, we were able to distribute copies of God’s Everlasting Covenant of Grace, a book which related directly to the instruction we gave on that subject. Some other books that have had significant distribution are Reformed Dogmatics and Saved By Grace. The latter has been an extremely valuable tool in the progress and growth of the contacts in their understanding of the five points of Calvinism. Other literature includes pamphlets, the Psalter, the Three Forms of Unity, subscriptions to the Standard Bearer, Reformed Witness Hour messages (in printed form), and copies of sermons on cassette.

All of this literature certainly serves as an important way for the contacts to become better acquainted with the PRC and with what we believe. They appreciate very much the literature that we bring, especially because good Reformed books are difficult for them to find, and practically impossible for them to purchase, in their land. They have found the literature useful not only in their personal study of God’s Word, but also for leading Bible studies and for preparation of sermons.

The FMC is greatly encouraged by the progress and development that can be seen among the contacts in the Philippines in their understanding of and appreciation for the Reformed faith. It is heartwarming to observe this firsthand through the many questions which are asked. The men avail themselves of every opportunity to ask questions. Even when we travel together in jeepneys, vans, or buses, they used every spare moment to discuss further the truths of the Scriptures and the Reformed faith, as well as the application of these truths to the daily lives of God’s people as individuals and families.

As mentioned earlier, there is definitely a receptivity to our teaching and preaching. Even if the truth that we present is new to them, which is very often the case, when they hear and see that this is indeed what the Scriptures teach, they show a willingness to accept these truths.

There is also, throughout the islands of the Philippines, an increasing interest in the truth. As our literature is distributed and studied, more contacts are made. While in some cases we eventually find out that some are not interested in the truth, in most cases the interest grows and the contacts express a keen desire for us to come back again. On this trip, for example, some would gladly have had us stay much longer among them, even suggesting that perhaps we could return “next week” or “next month” to give more instruction in the truth and to answer more of their questions. They certainly desire our help in establishing Reformed churches in their country.

It was no accident that we have come into contact with God’s people in the Philippines. The Lord has given us a work to do in that land. May we continue to bring them His Word and truth, in the desire to be used of Him for the gathering of His church from all nations under heaven.