John Stumbo Video Blog No. 46

May 9, 2017

12:47

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This month, John recounts the sights, sounds, and smells from his recent trip to the Philippines, where God has grown the C&MA from small, clunky, discouraging beginnings to a vibrant, growing movement of more than 2,500 churches strong—an encouraging reminder to “not grow weary in well-doing.”

Transcript

Hey, Alliance family. Great to be with you today. The next time I get to see you will be at Council Columbus 2017. Can’t wait. Registration’s been strong. Children’s ministry is sold out. Seminars are coming together very well. In fact, we’ve added a super seminar on Saturday.

See, we’re having this All Alliance Family Day, hoping that 1,000 or more will drive in from around the greater Columbus area. And a Muslim background believer, whose passionate for Jesus, who understands his majority religion very well, is going to speak to us in a super seminar on Saturday, the missions rally.

So momentum is strong. We’re very excited. My ask is that you would be sincere about prayer in preparation for this. I’m going to take a day of prayer and fasting. I’d invite many of you to do that with me, as well.

Today, however, I’m in the Philippines, and I can’t wait to share with you some stories of what I’ve been experiencing here. Let me start with the capital city Alliance Church. When the Alliance first came to the Philippines, we had agreements with other missions, the Assembly of God, Baptist, and others. But we would go to a region, and they would go to other regions, because the need was too great, and the workers were too few for us to be crossing over.

That worked very well until our students from our Alliance Churches came to Manila to go to university and didn’t find a church that they thought they could appropriately attend. And so they asked our missionaries, “Could you start a church here in Manila for us?” And the Capital City Alliance Church was formed.

One of the students was a student from a village who had the life dream of becoming a lawyer. He wanted to bring justice to the community that he had grown up in. He received a government scholarship, which provided for his education, but he needed to be able to provide for his own room and board. And so he became the janitor for the Capital City Alliance Church. For three years, he worked hard, got his degree, was able eventually to fulfill his dream, return to his community, become a judge, which went well for years. But in time, opposition to his faith arose, and he was threatened that he would be burned alive if he stayed. They were transferred. His judgeship continued in other places, and he has just retired as a 70-year-old man with the statement, “Now it’s time for me to plant a church.”

See, this Capital City Alliance Church has had church planting as part of its DNA. In fact, through the years, 35 churches have been planted from that one church alone. And that’s just part of the greater work of God that’s taken place here in the city of Manila. By 2012, 99 churches in the CAMACOP, Christian Missionary Alliance of the Philippines, had been established. By 2017, that number is now 130 established churches and 38 church plants, with the goal of 180 churches by 2018. They are well on their way to that goal, and I’m excited for the Church of Jesus Christ here in this city.

One of those church plants here in Manila was started by Pastor Noel and an Australian Alliance missionary. Together, they met in an apartment and developed a core group that gradually outgrew that apartment. They were able to rent a second floor space above some businesses, and today that church is very vibrant. In their 15-year history, they started to see the needs of the children around them and found a strategic method of ministering to those kids—kids that couldn’t finish their education, kids that were certainly being underfed and that didn’t have proper structures around them. They started the Bright Light School, which provides children with the opportunity of completing their elementary exam, and then going on and completing their high school exam, and then a program that helps them get into university.

So many of those children and young adults came to faith in Christ that it was time to plant a church from those new believers. And so they found the San Buena community, an informal settlement. We might call them squatters, a fascinating community of people where children are abundant, basketball is omnipresent, and people have done whatever they can on land they don’t own to provide themselves a shelter—posters, cardboard, pieces of material that they’ve scavenged from some place. People working hard and trying hard to provide a living for themselves and provide a shelter for themselves among the urban poor.

This church plant, where I was privileged, honored, delighted to preach on Sunday, was a place like I have never preached at—the smell of rotting fish around me, the shouts of the basketball game through the windows that had no glass or covering. But the attentiveness and the passion of the congregation to worship Jesus and celebrate Jesus, a beautiful expression of the gospel among the urban poor started by our Alliance family, called the Cells Alive Church.

Christine was one of five girls in a family raised by a single mom. Mom was doing the best she could to feed and educate these children, but among the urban poor, sometimes desperate measures are taken to try to meet the needs of the family. And Christine’s mom took one of those desperate measures and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Christine was only allowed to see her mom one time a year. That was on Christmas day, a day of great joy, but for the rest of the year, she and her siblings were raised by their auntie. I asked Christine, “What did you do all day?” “Well, Auntie was too poor to send us to school, and it was my job to wash clothes by hand for the whole family.” I asked, “Did you ever go to bed hungry at night?” Parallel streams of silent tears came down her face as she explained to me that Auntie had her own children to feed, and the five mouths that we brought to the family were a lot of pressure for her, so we were only allowed to eat after the rest of the family had eaten.

Quietly tucked into our ministry here in the Philippines is a Marketplace Ministry couple who have been sent out by the U.S. Alliance with a fascinating breadth of ministry opportunities, all the way to the up and coming university students, to the children of the prisoners in the women’s penitentiary—a prison that is now holding 2,700 inmates, 1,000 more than it was built for. In many of the bunks built for two, there are four women sleeping every night. Yet in this community, the gospel is coming, and the children of these prisoners are being ministered to by our family.

Christine is one of those who’s been helped by our Marketplace Ministry team. She’s been able to complete her associates degree program, has her first real job, and her eyes sparkle when she says the name of Jesus.

The primary reason I was called to be here was to speak at the CAMACOP general assembly. Bishop Dalino invited me to address the congregation, and it’s been a delight to preach. It’s been a delight to worship: the choirs, the dance teams, the music. I was already looking forward to going to heaven, but now that I’ve heard Filipinos singing, I’m all the more excited, as the 2,500 voices in that auditorium resounded together in praise to Jesus. It absolutely thrilled me.

You already know that there is five Alliance national churches larger than the U.S. Alliance, and the Philippines is one of them—2,500 hundred churches strong, at least, pressing upwards of 3,000. The work of God going forward very significantly in this country with a passionate church planning focus. What a great investment that our Alliance family made decades ago. See the fruit of GCF giving and prayers from our church in America and the sending of our American church, just small, minute, and compared to the fruits of the labor now of the Filipino National Church that has multiplied many, many fold what was first established among them. What a great investment the Alliance has made in this nation.

In our early days of ministry here in the Philippines, the Alliance established various Bible schools, eight of which still exist today. One of those early Bible college graduates went on a four-day trek to an unreached village to bring the gospel to them for the first time. He came alone. He preached for seven days, and by the end of the week, there was only four converts: four men who embraced Christ as their Savior. The pastor went back home and didn’t return, but those four men gathered every week under a mango tree and held worship, ridiculed by their wives, ridiculed by the community, no one interested in joining them, people mocking them for following this new way of thinking, of Jesus.

But every week, these four men gathered. One of them would open with prayer, the prayer that they remembered the pastor praying. The second would lead in the song that the pastor had taught them to sing. The third would stand up and preach the sermon that they remembered the pastor preaching. And the fourth man would stand up and lead in the closing prayer that they remembered the pastor giving. Next Sunday, they would come back and do the same thing, except they would reverse the roles. And so somebody else would open in prayer, and somebody else would lead the song, and the third guy would preach the sermon, and the fourth guy would close with the final prayer. And they met that way for four years.

The community continued to ridicule. No one joined them. No pastor or missionary came to visit. They began to pray, “God, would you help us reach more people. Would you help us expand your message to others.” And an epidemic came through the village. Many families were affected. People were dying. The four families of these men were not affected by the epidemic, and the village started to come to them and asked them to pray. And they prayed in the name of Jesus for the healing in the village, and healing came, and the epidemic stopped.

And the next Sunday, hundreds of people gathered under the mango tree, but now the four guys are in trouble. They only have one sermon, and so they give their sermon the first week, but they took the four-day walk to go find that pastor and ask if he would come back and teach them more. Well, he did come, and he stayed for 25 years. And that church, through the years, has sent out dozens and dozens of pastors all across the Philippines.

So much of the work of God is a multi-decadal story. So much of the work of God has small, clunky, sometimes discouraging beginnings, but as the faithfulness of God meets with the faithfulness of God’s people, the word of God and the work of God goes forward.

One of the themes that I believe God has called me to share with this congregation here this week is to not be discouraged by small and confusing beginnings. The beginning of the Alliance was certainly this way. The beginning of that church and that village was certainly that way. The beginning of many great works of God often start small and confusing. But the faithfulness of God meeting the faithfulness of God’s people, the word and work of God going forward. I’ve been excited to see it here in the Philippines. And I’m excited to see it in the United States, as well, as you, brother and sister, follower of Jesus, proclaimer of the good news in the United States, carry on the work.

Do not grow weary in well-doing. Do not grow weary in well-doing for in due season, you’ll reap a harvest if you do not give up.

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