Following the year-end services in the Philippines, Bill McKibben, Director of East Asia Work, and his wife, Lori, along with Dial and Carrie Keju of Washington, DC, had the opportunity to visit several branch churches. Their traveling companions included newly appointed Philippine District Superintendent, Fernan Fiegalan, and his wife, Elaida, as well as some of the saints. The following report gives details of the trip, which included a church dedication, two anniversary observances, and the installation of the district superintendent.
The Philippines headquarters church is in Bagong Sikat, which sits in the vast central plain of the largest island, Luzon. Home to the premiere agricultural school, Central Luzon State University (CLSU), Bagong Sikat has proven attractive to students and professionals alike—a great blessing to our work! Many come for an education, meet the Lord, and become consecrated Gospel workers throughout the country and world. And young people attract young people; at every church we visited, we were impressed by the strength and willingness of their service.
Monday, January 2: Cabanatuan Church Dedication
On Monday morning, we drove from the Bagong Sikat headquarters across many rice fields and through Cabanatuan City to dedicate the church there. The congregation of about twenty with a robust Sunday school of double that size is led by Juanita “Ne” Brigole, affectionately called “Mommy” by the church youth. They have been meeting in a home. Land was purchased in 2021, and with much local support and contributions from our Seattle and Los Angeles saints, construction began on a church. Now complete, the building has a ground-floor sanctuary and a prayer room that doubles as Sunday school space and a fellowship hall. Above is a small apartment and large terrace. Outdoors, there is a kitchen at the back and a dining area, which also serves as a Sunday school class for children.
With about seventy attendees enjoying the open windows and gentle breeze, the dedication service opened with a lovely string selection followed by lively congregational singing. Vocalizing the church’s outreach desire in their new location, the choir sang “Take Your Candle” before Brother Bill preached from 2 Chronicles 5:13-14. Emphasizing the presence of God within His saints’ unity, he asked, “What does the Lord require of you?” He encouraged us to learn to love and give mercy the way God does, especially when trying to reach those around us. He also reminded us that we are the Temple of God and He doesn’t want to inhabit a building, but rather our hearts. Following the dedication, a generous lunch was served for all.
Tuesday and Wednesday, January 3-4: Ambatali Church Anniversary
We departed early on Tuesday, driving north over the Sierra Madre mountains and through the neighboring province to that of Isabela. Years ago, Imelda Lucero graduated from CLSU with the desire to teach in Bagong Sikat. Disappointed when the Lord instead gave her a professorship in Isabela, a hard six-hour drive from church, she served faithfully, and today we have two churches in this province: Raniag and Ambatali. We toured the Raniag church where Sister Imelda’s husband, Wenifred, is the pastor before enjoying a fellowship luncheon in their home.
After checking into our night’s lodging, we gathered for an evangelistic service celebrating the eighteenth anniversary of the Ambatali church, pastored by Nena Villarta. The service opened with “My Savior’s Love” and “Think About His Love” rendered by a combined Isabela orchestra and choir. There were several encouraging testimonies to God’s faithfulness, mercy, and strength as well as special songs by Brother Dial (“In God’s Word”) and Paul John Calibosa (“Jesus at the Center”). Sister Carrie gave the message, contrasting the Tower of Babel’s man-made construction against God’s intended fellowship in the Garden and encouraging the level of consecration necessary for a holy walk with God. A blessed time of consecrating prayer followed before a fellowship dinner on the terrace of the pastoral house.
Returning to Bagong Sikat Wednesday, we visited the Baretbet church enroute—in the midst of lovely pineapple fields. This church was started after a young lady came to CLSU, visited the Bagong Sikat church, and gave her heart to the Lord. Returning home, she shared her testimony with her family. To which her grandfather replied that he knew of the church and, years earlier, had himself prayed there! He dedicated land for a church building and, in the course of time, that young lady’s future husband, Rey Gapuz, accepted the call to pastor there. In this small and isolated community, the congregation size is about twenty adults and numerous children. We enjoyed sweet fellowship with the saints, including an impromptu birthday celebration for Brother Rey before traveling on.
Thursday and Friday, January 5-6: Church Visits and Baby Dedication
Early Thursday morning we were on the road again, this time headed west to the province of Pangasinan. We visited the Balloc church first, arriving in time for lunch and an afternoon of fellowship with the saints. Pastor Jaime Paragas and his wife, Danila, travel from Bagong Sikat to Balloc every Friday for Bible Study. They stay for two Sunday services as their daughter, Ella Joyce, leads Sunday school. Their Saturdays are dedicated to outreach in the village of Dueg, where we have a small congregation among the indigenous people who relocated following Mount Pinatubo’s eruption. It is a six-mile hike up the Zambales Mountain foothills to the community.
Our next stop was Infanta, where our church edifice sits directly across the street from the South China Sea. After her husband’s death, Teresita Torres was called to go further in God’s service and pioneered our Infanta work in her hometown. In the evening, we met for a time of praise and worship, being encouraged to bring our lives a willing offering to the Lord, before enjoying a lovely visit under the pergola.
On Friday morning, several of the Infanta youth and saints joined us on a South China Sea beach, where all enjoyed a morning stroll and some a swim before a picnic-table breakfast. Upon arriving back at the church, we found it and the yard decorated and ready! Chris and Michelle Mendoza of Bulacan, where Brother Chris is the pastor, had come to Michelle’s hometown to dedicate their first child to the Lord. The service followed a devotional format. Brother Bill likened Jochebed’s waterproofing of Baby Moses’ basket with tar and pitch to the love and prayers that godly parents pour into their children’s lives. We were exhorted to pour love and godliness into Baby Skylaac’s life as he grows and meets challenges. A celebratory lunch followed.
Saturday, January 7: Where the Work Began
Saturday afternoon we visited the site of our first branch church in the Philippines: Melcar in San Jose City. The building is currently closed due to termite damage and the congregation is worshiping at the nearby Kaliwanigan church. We then visited our church at Tabulac, pastored by Emmanuel and Guadeloupe Miranda. With a congregation of about sixty, many of the youth showed us around the facilities.
Sunday, January 8: D.S. Installation and Bagong Sikat Anniversary
On the sixth anniversary of the Bagong Sikat headquarters church building, the saints from across the Philippines gathered for the installation service of Fernan “Roque” Fiegalan as the Philippine District Superintendent. Brother Bill encouraged the saints that this is God’s work and there is still a need to move forward. Recognizing the Children of Israel’s mourning at the passing of Moses, he reminded us of Joshua’s assumption of leadership responsibilities. Also of the many victories still in store for the Israelites on the other side of Jordan River. The congregation stood and joined in as Brother Bill and the Philippine board members laid hands on Brother Roque in dedicatory prayer.
The morning’s message drew from the exhortation in Jeremiah 6:6 to “ask for the old paths.” Also mentioned were the lyrics from the choir’s last song, “Ancient Words,” which speak of “words of life, words of hope.” Likening a particularly chaotic traffic intersection to the unsettled heart, the preacher reminded us that one never finds “the old paths” by accident. We must hold confidently to our Christ-given liberty, even when the path appears impossibly difficult. The ever-true old path will change the one who stays on it to complete the journey. The message was followed by a soul-strengthening time of prayer.
The afternoon service opened with a beautifully harmonized rendition of “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” sung by Sister Elaida and Brother Dial. Then the congregational singing included many of the old and treasured hymns sung in Tagalog. The opening prayer was followed by inspirational testimonies. Robert Ruiz told of his determination to continue growing in the Lord despite disappointment and heartache. Dez Dancel shared of her change in plans when a visa to New Zealand was denied, and of her determination to follow the Lord whatever path He opens before her. Stanley Bautista spoke of the satisfaction he has had during the past twelve years serving the Lord despite hardships, and of his thankfulness to be called a Child of God. Julius Grospe thanked God for Holy Spirit conviction that brought him to repentance and salvation, though he was not raised in a Christian home.
The message was delivered by Sister Carrie who spoke of the hope we can have when we keep God’s promises in sight, even when hope is obscured. She drew from David’s words of faith, “I will worship toward thy holy temple” (Psalm 138:2). These were spoken before the Temple was built, and after he had been told that he could not be the one to build it. In David, there is a pattern of spiritual growth directly linked to his increasingly obedient heart. Likewise, God will take us progressively deeper if we keep His promises in sight and increasingly obey.
Monday, January 9: Visiting Cabituculan and Salay
Early Monday morning we departed to visit our Aurora province churches, due east of Bagong Sikat. Winding our way again over the Sierra Madre Range until we could smell the Pacific Ocean breezes, we arrived at the Cabituculan church. Pastor Carlito Valdez and his wife greeted us accompanied by about a dozen saints. We enjoyed a tour of the facilities and yard with its “free flowing” artesian well—a church offering two springs of Living Water, but only one flowing eternally. We were treated to coffee, tea, and an array of just-sweet-enough rice snacks dispersed along with plenty of fellowship.
Our next stop was the Salay church, which joined the Apostolic Faith work upon request as an existent church. Years ago, a resident family heard of our work and asked for a visit. The visitations became regular, until the elderly pastor formalized the relationship by handing over his work and building. Currently, Pastor Roger Amansec leads a congregation of sixty or more. Here, the saints had prepared a full meal and we enjoyed the opportunity to sit and become better acquainted. Before heading back to Central Luzon, we squeezed in a short visit to the beach on this western Pacific Ocean shore of the Philippines.
Tuesday, January 10: Visiting Cavite and Bulacan
We departed even earlier than the day before to visit our congregation at Cavite on Manila Bay’s southwestern peninsula. Pastor Richard Cruz along with his wife led our group to meet in the home of one of the original members. The congregation is currently looking for a permanent place to worship, but for now this building meets the need. It has sufficient room in the living room for congregational worship and an outdoor area for a children’s Sunday school. We enjoyed getting to know the saints over lunch, a time of singing, and a closing prayer.
On the north side of Manila, the Bulacan church, pastored by Christopher Mendoza, is held in a converted house a short distance off the main street. We were greeted by saints, enjoyed a fellowship dinner in the evening breeze, sang a few songs of praise, and briefly prayed together before departing. The Lord knows the future growth and needs of each of these groups, and we pray for His guidance and provision for them.
Wednesday, January 11: Bible Study
On Wednesday, the team participated in the evening’s Bagong Sikat mid-week Bible Study. Sister Carrie gave the teaching on God’s predestination and our individual responsibility and accountability. She showed that God’s foreknowledge of an event or action does not mean He predetermined it. She pointed out the three Biblical areas of God’s foreordination and the necessary obedience of the subject: Christ for the work of Calvary, Israel as God’s instrument for engaging humanity and presenting Christ, and believers living in Christ, determined to walk in holiness for His glory.
Thursday, January 12: The Gospel Continues to Go Forward
Following a short morning visit with Genevieve Ruiz to the gravesite of our beloved former District Superintendent, Joey Ruiz, we returned home for our final meal in Bagong Sikat. On Thursday afternoon, we left for Manilla on the return trip to the United States. Over the duration of the visit, we were able to see twelve of the branch churches, and by God’s grace, Brother Bill hopes to visit another eight upon his next visit to the country. For certain, the Gospel is still going forward in the Philippines—as it is around the world. For each of us, missionary work is as close as across the street.