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Proclaim Summer 2002

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Proclaim Summer 2002 Powered By Docstoc
					Proclaim: Winter 2003
Archipelago Fragrance The Sweet Smell of Success in the Philippines A Partnership of Equals The Maturing Church in the Philippines Faith Under Fire Rockets and Prayers in Ivory Coast It's Your Call Missionaries Can't Do It Alone Perfect Timing A Story of Airplanes, Ambulances, Altered Plans and Amira

Archipelago Fragrance The Sweet Smell of Success in the Philippines
Walls and Sanctuary It smells awful." At least that’s what the locals say. The durian fruit is a football-shaped oddity wrapped in a spiky rind. It stinks. Like rotted meat. So bad in fact that many Asian airlines forbid anyone from carrying a durian onto the plane. The other thing locals say about the durian is that despite its smell it "tastes like heaven." Sweet Rewards Annie Lastra has a large durian sitting on a rough, wooden table on the mudfloored porch of her native home. In the hot, thick air of a September afternoon on the Island of Leyte in the Philippines, the smell mingles uneasily with those of burning charcoal, moist jungle aromas and freshly washed bodies. It’s hot and humid in the village of Bagacay. This is the home of Annie and about 20 others from the Manobo tribe. They were, Annie says, moved here under duress from their ancestral home on the island of Mindanao by former dictator and crook, Ferdinand Marcos. Because the Manobo are tribal, they are easy prey for more powerful forces in the Philippines. Because they are tribal, they are often despised and abused by their countrymen. No such thing as classless society here. Skin-whitener clinics are big business. In the Philippines, tribal folk—to their great disadvantage—tend to be the darkest. Annie’s story, told with a matter-of-factness that comes from fatalism borne of powerlessness over generations, is a microcosm of a long litany of abuse endured by her people and other tribes like the Manobo. Her people are wood cutters. Her husband, now deceased, did illegal cutting on the Island of Samar for then-President Marcos. Another company then moved these Manobos to Leyte Island where they are now. The company abandoned them. That was Annie’s life until 1993 when she met Jesus. Actually, she met some Christian Reformed missionaries first. Joel and Patti Hogan, living in the nearby town of Tacloban, met Annie and her people, established a relationship, introduced her to Christ and then moved to her village for a year of discipleship and mentoring. That investment in her life is paying huge dividends. Annie now takes her meager resources to purchase a bus ticket each week so she can travel three hours across the island to a little place called Mahaplag. A despised Manobo woman going to the despised Mamanwa people to help them know a God who despises no one. It’s not glamorous work. It’s hot and 95 percent humidity. Since late 2000, Annie has spent Friday through Monday in the mountain community doing what her

disciplers did with her. She lives with the people. Studies with the people. Loves the people. Preaches to the people. The people respond. "Mamanwa" means Wild People. The nomadic Mamanwa have been so despised for so long that they buy into this title and the rest is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mamanwa have been so beaten down that they offer little resistance when "big" people like politicians or military folk tell them to move off their land or do some illegal cutting or sell their goods for a fraction of the real worth. To have someone like Annie come to them on a regular basis simply because she loves them and wants to see them love Jesus is rather foreign to their experience. Sometimes CRWM missionaries Dwayne and Gladys Thielke accompany Annie on her trips. Dwayne meets with Annie a few times a month back in Tacloban to study scripture and keep Annie "fed" so she has something to feed the Mamanwa. This Mahaplag/Bagacay/Tacloban missions tripod is a classic example of reaching the most unreached and making sure the world is told about Jesus … one person at a time. Back in Tacloban, the city on Leyte Island where some CRWM missionaries are based, the Thielkes and Erick Westra carefully tend the flock at Tacloban Christian Reformed Church and spend time with the unchurched—potential "Annies" if you will—to keep that ripple going until the entire Archipelago is inundated with the sweet smell of Jesus. The Making of a Nation This land of over 7,000 islands was declared the most "disaster-prone country on earth" in 2000 by a Brussels-based research center. Typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, garbage landslides, political intrigue, Muslim insurgents and most recently, bombings by the Abu Sayyaf group on Mindanao, contribute to this somber sobriquet. And yet, Filipinos themselves are a laid-back people with a ready smile and a willingness to make visitors feel welcome. A "pure" Filipino is a hard thing to find. This island nation has been a cross-roads for centuries for Chinese, Malaysians, Indonesians, then Spanish. Named after King Philip of Spain, the Philippines became a Spanish colony in 1521 when Ferdinand Magellan claimed it as such. Spanish influence helped make the Philippines the only Christian nation in Asia. While many of its neighbors are Buddhist, Confucian and Hindu, 93 percent of Filipinos claim to be Christian. America purchased the Philippines from Spain for 20 million dollars after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and granted independence in 1946. Christian Reformed World Missions began sharing history with the Philippines in 1962 when Vince and Lucy Apostol, Filipinos with strong North American ties, were sent by the CRC to be a Reformed presence there. Since that time, the Philippines has grown to be one of the denomination’s largest fields as far as the numbers of missionaries are concerned. CRWM has a presence in Luzon in the North, Mindanao in the South, and many points in between.

Archipelago Noise Levels Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the Philippines is a noisy nation. Cock fighting, for example, is practically the national sport of this land and the most interesting thing about the fight is not the combat, but the pre-fight betting. It starts as a rumble, then a roar, then reaches a crescendo as betters and bookies yell at each other across the arena and lock in their bets with a final shout and an eye-to-eye glare that’s as good as a handshake. Just like that, the arena is quiet and the roosters with strapped-on metal spikes go at each other until one of them lays dead in a poof of blood-soaked feathers. Then the rumble starts again. The streets of Manila are not much quieter. Between airplanes overhead, some of the world’s worst traffic, kiosk owners and pedestrians, life is lived on the edge of cacophony. Traffic is the worst contributor not only to the noise, but the smog. Manila is cloaked in a thick scarf of smog that rarely unwraps itself. It’s tangible. It’s deadly. Take a short drive outside the city, however, and the beauty of the Philippines is evident. Mountains blanketed with luxuriant forests abound on these islands. Some of the world’s best beaches and snorkeling draw tourists from all over. Thirty-seven volcanoes make for fantastic skylines. Clutter Cutters There is a clear message cutting through the noise of traffic and worldviews, however: Jesus saves and God is vitally interested in all areas of life. This Reformed way of looking at things is appealing to many Filipinos. At the Bread From Heaven Christian Reformed Church in a rich suburb of Manila, Rev. Doy Castillo preaches to over 1,000 people each week. This church, informally dubbed the "mother church" of the denomination, sets the pace for much of the rest of the CRCP (CRC of the Philippines). "Ten years from now, it will be totally different." Pastor Doy speaks with confidence. As if he sees the future he talks about. "The CRCP will be impacting the highest levels of power in the country. We will have an impact on the military and police. We already have very influential people in all these places and this will only increase." Dr. Susan Gonzalez-Lim is a classic example of the kind of people finding their way to the CRCP in Manila and beyond. Lim’s specialty is internal medicine with a sub-specialty in pulmonary medicine. She has an office at the Perpetual Help Hospital in Las Pinas City, a suburb of Manila. She and her husband—also a doctor—live in the largest subdivision in Asia; BF Homes, just a block from the Bread From Heaven church. "I have been part of the CRC since 1985," says Lim. Their three children are now second-generation members of the denomination. A few miles away, Rev. Nomer is planting a church that meets in a modern megamall on Sunday mornings. While the CRCP is taking the lead on such things in the Manila area, CRWM missionaries train leaders and continue planting churches in other parts of the Archipelago. It is a classic example of how missions is supposed to work. Missionaries plant churches, then raise up leaders

who can continue that work. The church matures and takes over many tasks formerly done by missionaries, freeing them up to do other things. Christian Reformed World Mission and the CRCP are working on plans to phase out the direct involvement of CRWM by the year 2012. One of the highest measures of success for missions and missionaries is when they work themselves out of a job. Not that there isn’t work to be done yet. The Philippines is known as a "Christian" nation, yet how many Filipinos truly know the Christ? Of the 93 percent of Filipinos who claim to be Christian, only 16.7 percent are Evangelical. Sixty-seven percent are Catholic. Historically the Catholic church wielded a huge influence in the Philippines, an influence that is waning as its privileged monopoly disappears. In both Protestant and Catholic camps, many new believers struggle with animism and forms of traditional worship. Add to this a thriving business in cults and sects and the Philippines—though on the right path spiritually—has a lot of work remaining. Meanwhile, Back in Bagacay Annie Lastra cuts the smelly durian fruit with a long knife. The locals are right: Despite its offensive smell, the inner fruit is delightful. Like that fruit, the work of missions can seem distasteful. The road is bumpy, people don’t always respond, it’s hot and humid, potential leaders backslide, Annie’s supporting church in Tacloban doesn’t always remember to take collections for her work among the Mamanwa, and some people come to the churches in Manila for the wrong reasons. Yet the fruit of these labors is sweet. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2 that God uses missionaries to "spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him." Like the inside of that durian, the fragrance of this message is indeed like heaven as it makes its way through the Philippine Archipelago. by Mark Volkers To request a copy, contact Mark Volkers (US) 616-224-0709 or Phil Beck (Canada) 905-336-2920

A Partnership of Equals The Maturing Church in the Philippines
When I came to the Philippines with CRWM in 1986 I was designated a church planter and was proud of it. "Church planting — that’s where it’s at, and that’s what I want to do!" A high percentage of evangelical missionaries to the Philippines at that time served as church planters. Looking back, I realize I was not a great church planter. But, by God’s grace, a congregation was established and continues today with its own leadership. From church planting I moved on to seminary and Bible college teaching. A few years later, I saw that church planting was still the greatest need in the Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines (CRCP). But I realized that I could best help meet that need by training and encouraging Filipino church planters rather than by planting a church myself. So I worked with CRCP leaders on one island to mobilize more church planters by holding training seminars and coaching church planters in the field. This was moderately successful. But I found that I was playing too high a profile– taking the initiative and more-or-less overseeing this ministry. I believed that should be done by the local leaders. In mid-2001 the CRCP formed its own Home and Foreign Missions Board (HFMB), and I was asked to serve with this board as a trainer-consultant. I work with capable, mission-minded CRCP pastors on this board, which presently sees its main task as mobilizing leaders to plant more churches in the Philippines. These CRCP pastors are taking the lead, and I work alongside them. HFMB expects the local churches to take initiative in their church planting ventures. This has been coming along slower than we had hoped, so we realize now that we need to do more to stoke up the fires of interest in church planting. We have started this in one classis by holding workshops for all church leaders on church health, church growth and church planting. As a trainer-consultant, I have plenty of opportunity to use my training and experience to influence HFMB and the churches and help them become more effective. At the same time, the initiative and decision-making responsibilities lie with the Board. It’s taking us–both the church and CRWM–time to adjust to this approach, but we are gradually seeing more fruitfulness as well as experiencing more positive working relationships. Planting churches is still the most effective way to evangelize the lost in today’s world. Filipino leaders are taking up the challenge to multiply churches in the Philippines, and even to evangelize other nations. We North American missionaries still play a significant role through training, coaching, and mobilizing local church planters, and by consulting with local strategists. Praise God for this maturing partnership! by Stan Kruis To request a copy, contact Mark Volkers (US) 616-224-0709 or Phil Beck (Canada) 905-336-2920

Faith Under Fire Rockets and Prayers in Ivory Coast
Editor’s Note: On Friday, September 20, 2002, rebel soldiers attacked government forces just outside the walls of the International Christian Academy in Ivory Coast. It was the beginning of a vicious war to overthrow the government of this West African country. Christian Reformed missionaries Myron and Jenny Kuipers were caught in the middle of it. We were sitting at a table, talking with friends when the sound of machine-gun fire and heavy artillery shattered the calm. Those outside, mostly students, witnessed the red glow in the sky as tracer fire and mortars flew over the campus. For all of us at the International Christian Academy (ICA) in Ivory Coast, West Africa, the noise of the battle was intense. Everyone scrambled for cover. My wife and I hit the floor of the dining hall with the 30 or 40 other people who were in the building. Many were screaming, thinking troops were on campus firing into buildings. An adult had grabbed our 20-month-old, Liam, and brought him to us soon after the gunfire erupted. We didn’t know until later where our sixyear-old, Jamie, and four-year-old, Nathan, had gone. For us and many of the school staff, not knowing where our children were during this time was the worst part of the days leading up to the evacuation of the school. There was so much noise, but if you could tune out the gunfire, sobbing, and calling out for children, you began to hear prayers lifted up as we began to make our appeal to the Creator and Lord of the universe. He heard our cries. After a few minutes, all of the children had been accounted for except our son Nathan and one other little boy. Later we found out that Nathan had been playing outside of a dorm with his friend, Jack. Jack’s older brother had just checked on the two boys as the gunfire started, so he got them safely inside. God was answering our prayers even before we started offering up our pleas for our child’s safety. Several staff members commented that as the prayers for safety and protection were lifted up the fighting moved away from the school. And a few days later, after we had left Bouaké, some of the US troops commented that they expected the kids to be very traumatized by the whole experience, but found the kids to be acting very normally, having fun and playing games. God seemed to be protecting us physically and emotionally. We were especially encouraged to hear what had been happening with students that evening while the fighting was centered around the school. Staff members and adults were not the only ones lifting up prayers for protection and peace. Many students had huddled together with friends and pleaded with God for safety, prayed for each other, and prayed for the families like ours that did not know where our children were. Others who had not made a real commitment to Christ decided that now was the time to make that commitment. We heard that our daughter was the calm one in a group of older girls that night. She was praying and reciting the verse that they had been learning in 1st grade; "I will never leave you, nor forsake you," (Joshua 1:5). Nathan also told us during these

days that he wanted to have Jesus come into his heart, so Jenny prayed with him to give his life to Christ. We saw evidence of real, personal faith in many of our students and were blessed by that. Leaving We left the school with just one backpack each and the clothes on our backs. Will we be provided with the warm clothes we need, a place to live, new jobs, a vehicle to drive, be able to get Jaime in school? And what about the people we left behind? We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Madeleine, the African lady who cleaned our house, washed our clothes, cared for our children, and ran errands for us (she could get better prices in the market than we could). Did she manage to leave the city with her son and get someplace safe? Will we ever see her again? We were class sponsors the last three years at ICA, and now the kids we had worked with were seniors. They were starting to plan their senior class trip and talk about special events of the senior year. They worked hard to raise money for their trip, but now they are scattered across many countries. They are disappointed that they will not graduate together with diplomas from ICA. All of this could leave some people feeling very bitter, but for ourselves and most of the people we know from ICA, we do not regret the years we spent at ICA. As staff, we went because we felt God calling us to be there, and being caught in the middle of a war does not mean that we were not supposed to be there. Our prayers now are that God will clearly lead all of us to the next assignment, whether the skies be tinted red with gunfire, or from the setting sun. by Myron Kuipers To request a copy, contact Mark Volkers (US) 616-224-0709 or Phil Beck (Canada) 905-336-2920

It's Your Call Missionaries Can't Do It Alone
Iturned 50 last week. I used to think that 50 was so old! Well, maybe it is. My body certainly isn’t what it used to be. But there’s something else that concerns me more. My family Many of us missionaries have children who have left the nest and gone off to college or into careers. Some of those children are getting married and bringing our grandchildren into the world. Sometimes we ache as we miss them. While we miss our children, our concerns for family are not so much about the next generation as they are about the previous one. We are concerned for aging parents whose needs seem to grow by leaps and bounds as their bodies slip into decline. As I write this, I am conscious of my own father. He will be moved from assisted care into a nursing home tomorrow. I was informed of this possibility only a few days ago, and I am perplexed that I will not be there to help shepherd him through this major change in his life. Many in my age group call it quits and leave the mission field at this point in their lives. Anecdotal evidence tells me that more often than the separation from the children, it is the needs of the parents that plays the key role in this decision. Jesus spoke to His disciples about the blessings they would receive by leaving homeland and family to serve Him in the missions endeavor. I can certainly testify that He has kept His promise. God brings people into our lives who become our new family. And so although we are conscious of having made some real sacrifices, in most respects we feel compensated and then some. But it is not only the missionary who makes a sacrifice. The family he or she leaves behind also faces a loss caused by the separation. Though they support the worker who answers God’s call and even are proud of the child they have blessed and sent out, a great hole is often left in their lives, and it becomes more evident on special holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or in times of trouble like the onset of sickness or decline, or as death approaches. What happens when the nature of our calling makes it physically impossible for us to be there at such times? Then it is time for the family of God to be just that: family. It is a calling to all of God’s people to be there in times of grief or need as well as in times of joy, to minister to one another and not to let the needy ones fall through the cracks. "It’s your call." This is another way to say "it is up to you to decide." But I use the phrase with a different meaning. Some may think that when it comes to missions, God has certain special servants whom He calls and designates as His messengers. Missions is their calling. We in the Reformed family have never looked at it this way. The Great Commission is not the calling of a select elite few, but a calling given to the body of Christ. Missionaries are only one link in a chain which binds all of God’s people together into a spiritual army to carry out the task. Some give, some pray, some write letters of encouragement, some train and equip, and some go. It seems that to

some extent we may be losing this vision as the missionary is called on more and more to be involved in support-raising activities and we rely more and more on designated support instead of on covenanted ministry share support. But let me say this again to be perfectly clear: the fulfillment of the Great Commission is every bit as much your calling as it is mine. What does this imply in my current situation? As I feel a tremendous pull to leave my ministry in a foreign land to tend to the needs of my father, as I seek God’s will for my future in this very specific and somewhat troubling circumstance, I want to affirm that God has called His church to mobilize to fulfill His will in this world. I have a role to play in that. And so do you. God has promised to meet my needs as one sent out. If my "needs" involve caring for Dad, then I believe God has a plan for that need to be met. It may not be through my words and by my hands, but it will be through His people who will minister in my place. He will place a special sense of calling in the hearts of certain people to visit, pray for and be with a father in a time of need who is separated from his son because of this calling to missions. Perhaps this may be God’s call to you to play a strategic role which is no less precious and important than mine to fulfill what the Lord has given us to do in this world. It’s your call. by Lawrence K. Spalink To request a copy, contact Mark Volkers (US) 616-224-0709 or Phil Beck (Canada) 905-336-2920

Perfect Timing A Story of Airplanes, Ambulances, Altered Plans and Amira
They usually allow one carry-on. British Airways allowed Megan to carry two. Little did she know how active one of those carry-ons would be by the end of the flight. It all began on June 9 in Abuja, Nigeria. Mike and Megan Ribbens were completing their first year of overseas service with Christian Reformed World Missions. With no children of their own, the young couple became instant parents to 11 kids at the Mountain View Hostel, a boarding facility for Hillcrest School in Jos. As dorm parents, they were responsible for these kids whose parents were scattered across the country. By departure time in June, though, the Ribbens were expecting their first baby. Flying 34-weeks pregnant was like having an extra carry-on. Mike and Megan, her parents and an aunt were flying to the U.S. last June via British Airways (BA). They had no problems boarding in Abuja. After an overnight stay in London, the check-in lady at BA seriously questioned Megan’s ability to fly at such an advanced stage of pregnancy. BA rules say you can only fly in your 34th week of pregnancy with a doctor’s approval. Doctor’s letters were produced and approval was given. Again, all was well. At Chicago, bad weather forced the captain to circle the airport for an hour. All connecting flights were delayed so a 7:40 departure to Sioux Falls was out of the question. Finally, at 11:00 p.m., the announcement was made: "The flight to Sioux Falls is boarding now." Megan stood up. Her water broke. She and her mom and her aunt all went to the restroom to clean up. Her aunt, a nurse, thought Megan would be alright. "We just made the flight," Megan remembers. "We went on like nothing was wrong." Mike’s memory is different. "I was more pale than Megan was. I was shaking." Fifteen minutes into the flight, contractions began at five minutes apart. A stewardess was told. A recent mother herself, the stewardess brought blankets and told the pilot. The pilot radioed ahead to Sioux Falls and also prepared emergency stops along the way, just in case. Meanwhile, a one-and-a-half-hour flight was turning into two hours because of storms. Contractions went to three minutes. The pilot told Sioux Falls to have an ambulance waiting for them on the landing strip and the guy behind Megan kept pulling his luggage farther back from beneath the seat. "I think he thought it was going to get wet," Megan says with a laugh. In the Sioux Falls airport, parents, cousins and friends heard a rumor about a woman on the plane who was in labor but never dreamed it was Megan. When the plane finally landed at 1:30 a.m. on June 11, 2002, the Ribbens got off first and went straight to a waiting ambulance.

Amira Faye was born on the Ribbens’ anniversary, 20 hours after Megan’s water broke. She was four weeks early. "When we were looking for a name, one of our students in Nigeria suggested ‘Amira,’ which is Arabic for ‘Little Princess,’" said Megan. "It has another meaning too," according to Mike. "In one of the Nigerian dialects, Amira means ‘God’s Timing.’" Indeed. by Mark Volkers To request a copy, contact Mark Volkers (US) 616-224-0709 or Phil Beck (Canada) 905-336-2920


				
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