Bill Thomas' Report - July 28, 2008
SPECIAL REPORT ON THE PHILIPPINES
Gulf Air is a relatively inexpensive airline, but it isn't the best one for maintaining its flight schedules. I made my connection in Manila to Iloilo with only eleven minutes before we pulled away from the gate! (Originally, I was to have a four-hour wait in Manila.) Had I missed the flight, I would have had to wait another three hours before the next one.
You have read about typhoon Frank which struck the islands a few weeks ago. It wrought much devastation to many parts of the island of Iloilo. Central Philippine University lost a lot of property, including books and file records. They were still cleaning up when I arrived. This university has a campus with 12,000 students. Actually, the name 'university' can be misleading because the student body ranges from elementary school through university. I was not the only speaker invited for the Christian Emphasis Week. Thirty-two Americans from Tennessee and North Carolina also came for other meetings throughout the week.
|Devastation at Central Philippine University|
My first meeting was for the two hundred members of the faculty and staff. It was a joy to see the enthusiasm on their part. At the time of the invitation, many of them stood for prayer and recommitment. On Sunday morning I spoke at the second worship service; again the service went very well, though I thought that the preaching time (only thirty minutes) was very short. On Monday morning, two thousand university students packed the auditorium, but it was too full to admit more who wanted to get in. I asked the chaplain how many counselors had been prepared, and she told me there were only fifteen or twenty. My heart sank on hearing that. Eighty or ninety people responded to the call for salvation, and it was one of those frustrating moments without enough counselors. On Tuesday, about one thousand high-schoolers came to the same auditorium, and between forty and fifty responded to the invitation. Had it not been for the American visitors, the counseling would have been chaotic.
|Announcement of Faculty Meeting at Central Philippine University|
On Tuesday afternoon, I was driven down to Filamer Christian College, about two and a half hours' drive away. Their student body also ranged from elementary school through university. They have an enrolment of five thousand. Some nine hundred 14 to 16 year-olds came to my first meeting there. The previous day, I met with about seven counselors, and asked the leader how many there were altogether. They told me there were forty. I asked them there should be at least one hundred. At the first meeting with the students, about one hundred people ran forward, but I did not see one counselor. Later on, when I enquired about this, I was told that they forgot to come. So all I could do was to lead them in a prayer with a few instructions and let them go. I began to wonder if I should make an appeal at the last two meetings. My next meeting was with the faculty and staff again, about two hundred and fifty came. About thirty or so stood for prayer at the end of the meeting. Some were in tears. At the last meeting for the students, about fifteen hundred showed up. And this time there were about fifteen counselors. Seventy or eighty came forward in answer to the invitation. My point in relating this counseling situation is that although both Central Philippine University and Filamer Christian College have Christian Emphasis Week twice a year, in February and July, - and this has been happening for several years running- the biggest weakness in relation to these meetings remains a lack of follow-up and discipleship. I was amazed that after so many years, there was not more emphasis put on teaching new Christians. Some of the leaders told me that in the area of discipleship, they have no training manuals, and no-one to teach them how to disciple new believers. This lack of training materials for discipling is endemic throughout much of the Philippines, as I have found on previous trips.
|More devastation at Central Philippine University|
When I told the chaplains about Next Generation Alliance (a ministry of the Luis Palau Team), and our emphasis on training and discipleship, many of them urged me to come back to the Philippines to help them. This would be a great challenge.
I rejoice that so many students were open and responsive to the gospel, and pray for their growth in the Christian life. One young nursing student who was there said to me, "I felt very moved when I responded to the invitation, but I don't know who is going to help me carry on." I had the impression that she had voiced what many of the students were thinking.
Thank you for your prayers and support.
|Students at Filamer Christian College|
|Filamer Christian College|