December Newsletter 2015
Greetings from the Philippines.
Firstly I want to thank my wonderful travelling companions who accompanied me on my latest mission trip to the Philippines: Nea, Hannele, Jaana and Seija-Riitta. They will write about their experiences of the trip in a later newsletter.
It's not as simple as it sounds to travel as a group, especially when my team comes all the way from Finland. And of course there's the jet lag too. My own journey to the Philippines is easier since the distance between Australia and the Philippines is much less, with a time difference of just two hours. The weather systems are similar too – in fact Australia is often hotter at this time of the year than the Philippines.
Food is delicious
To encourage you all, I have a story to tell that started several years ago in the Philippines but that is only now coming to fruition. I had been invited to preach the gospel on the island of Mindoro in a jail colony that holds political prisoners, amongst others, from all over the Philippines. In the particular prison that I visited were incarcerated leaders of terrorist groups or individuals convicted of some sort of corruption. Also one of the former presidents of the country had been jailed there for a period of time.
A dinner had been organised in the prison yard for a number of guests because it was election time and the local election candidates were there. Convicts considered too dangerous were not allowed to attend, such as those who had held positions of authority in the NPA terrorist organisation, of which there were many. But although they were in a distant part of the jail, they probably still heard what was said at the event because the amplification was so loud, as is the Filipino style, that the sound echoed even across the rice fields kilometres away.
I don't know if similar things happen in other countries, but I was surprised to see the local political candidates asking for prayer and prophetic words. At one point in the proceedings, the head pastor of our Hosea churches, Pastor Sonio, took me aside and pointed out that there was still one person that should be prayed for. This particular prisoner had been brought there from another part of prison and had stayed off to one side of the main group. He seemed like a pleasant man and he told me he believed in Jesus Christ. We did not ask any more about him, but I received a word of prophecy for him relating to the Old Testament figure of Joseph whose brothers had thrown him into a pit and who later had ended up in prison also. The prophecy said that he would be released and paid back many times over for what he had lost. This is what God told me to tell this man, who was a total stranger to me. I could see tears in his eyes as I spoke to him. Since then I have never seen him again.
|Aroma school children
I asked Pastor Sonio who this man was, and he told me that he was a former mayor of the city who was jailed over an allegation of fraud. After the election, information came that he was indeed innocent, but he did not have sufficient funds to pay for a lawyer so he could not afford a trial. According to Filipino law, even though he was innocent he still had to wait in jail for a long time. The people in the city had really liked this mayor for he was known to be honest and had brought in many positive improvements. Unfortunately in the next election another official was running as a candidate and wanted the mayoral position for himself. And since you can't buy popularity, this rival had to find another way to remove the popular mayor by some devious means. So he was falsely accused of electoral fraud and jailed during the investigation, meaning that he could no longer run in the elections.
A year passed then a second year and a third year started. I kept asking the locals whether this man was still in jail and the answer was always the same – yes he was still there. So I started to doubt the prophecy that I had given to him – why did I open my big mouth? Why didn't I stay quiet or just given him a simple blessing? I started suffering Jonah syndrome and tried to forget the whole incident. But I couldn't get it out of my mind.
It wasn't until this year that I finally heard the end of the story. When I asked Pastor Sonio how our friend was doing in the jail, as I knew he had kept in touch with him, Sonio told me delightedly that was no longer in jail as he had finally been released as innocent. He had risen to a higher political position, just one step below governor. The Lord had indeed lifted him up and replaced many times over what he had lost! It is always miraculous how God is faithful to fulfill His promises.
I just want to remind those of you who have not had their prayers answered and who suffer from problems caused by others, that God does not have a bad memory even if it feels like you are living in a deep pit. His covenant with us does not change. His word says in Psalm 146:7-8
He does what is fair for those who have been wronged. He gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free .... The Lord lifts up people who are in trouble. The Lord loves those who do right.
This is how He will take care of all your issues.
Back to the topic of our visit to Mindoro island. This time we really traveled around the island. When I asked about the population size, I was surprised to learn it was around 5-7 million, even though it is noticeably smaller in area than Finland and is full of high mountains. I suspect the population is much larger than the official figures as many people don't make it onto the government census books, especially those from the slums.
|Pastor Celsa playing guitar at a church
|Montalban Hosea school and our team
Because the island is so mountainous, the roads are often very poor and traveling up and down the mountains is really slow. We preached the gospel of Jesus to the mountain tribespeople, even though the roads on the way there were almost impassible in places, as a result of the mud from the previous typhoon. Word soon spread of our arrival amongst the Gamot tribe. They had been waiting for us but with some scepticism: they were sure that these foreigners would not come because nobody ever cared about them.
|Missionaries from Japan, Osaka 2015
We were late because of the bad road conditions but great was their joy when two mud covered vehicles appeared through the bushes and the Group of White Ghosts crawled out! It was too much for some of the natives and they fled to hide behind their huts. Compared to the tribespeople we are indeed giants and of course albinos as well. Plenty to be scared of indeed! But you would have to go a long way to find a more receptive audience – they drank in every single word and testimony that we gave. I love these people – they are such genuine open people that the world has not yet managed to corrupt, especially those inhabiting the isolated mountain areas.
I often travel with two other Mangyan church pastors when I preach the gospel and it is such a privilege to help them in their evangelism. They really are modern-day apostles and have paid a heavy price for it. I am so happy about all the Hosea church pastors, and I feel God has guided good and honest men to these positions. I also feel similarly about the Hosea school teachers. They too function as God's ministers and are really excellent teachers. You can easily see the results not only in the academic performance of their students but also the spiritual outcomes. I also rejoice over our youth work and especially over the first intake of Hosea pupils who have grown up to be teenagers. The tree has produced good fruit!
|Tribe members attending Gamot church
I thank you all for your prayers and donations. Thanks to you all, so much has been accomplished. Whenever I have faced a problem that seems insurmountable, I feel your prayers have helped me to come up with an answer to overcome the issue.
Blessings to you all.