I was born and raised in a devoted Roman Catholic family. Throughout my childhood I never knew of any other church except the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). During my secondary days I wanted to enter the priesthood. In my university days I served the RCC through the different Catholic students’ organizations. In spite of this, I was guilt ridden for I know that secretly I was living in sin. This pushed me more to get closer to the church for I was taught that salvation is only through the church.
Then I got into the charismatic movement within the RCC. There I thought I was already a true Christian because I considered myself closer to heaven than others as I spoke in tongues, led in the praise and worship services and a leader in the charismatic group in our locality.
It was not until the Lord took me out of my comfort zone and brought me to Japan in 1997 for further studies, few months after marriage, that the Lord showed me how wretched and wicked I am. There came a point where I had sleepless nights, and scared to die because I knew that if I died, I would be thrown into the fires of hell right away. I tried to do all my Catholic rituals of daily attending the masses, praying the Rosary and even going into the confessional box to seek for the absolution of my sins.
Providentially, the Lord allowed me to meet a Filipino who was a Pentecostal. He shared to me God’s Word that gave me comfort and peace. I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour and joined his Vineyard Church. This slowly distanced me from the RCC but I did not leave the RCC altogether because I still believed at that time that both churches had the same Jesus.
Then the Lord made a way for me to cross paths with Rev Robert Kluttz, an old American missionary. It was through this ministry that I was grounded in the Word of God. I finally confessed the Jesus Christ of the Bible and left the RCC. Praise God for when I was to be baptized, the Lord was so merciful to save my wife also (who for a year opposed my being a Christian) and we were baptized together in the Sea of Japan.
When the Lord brought me back to my home country in 2002, he led me to be actively involved in the work of the Fundamental Baptist Churches. However, the Lord called me back to Japan to help Rev Kluttz in the ministry when he was put in the hospital for 8 months. The Lord provided for me a grant in 2005. As I worked in the ministry, the Lord gave me the burden to serve Him and continue the work since Rev Kluttz was already old. However, he strongly recommended me to be trained if I was truly called to full-time service. At first, I declined being afraid of the future without any work. Thank the Lord for His clear biblical call to me and my family. I have to leave my profession and follow Him.
The Lord brought me to FEBC to study in 2009, with the plan of finishing the MDiv and then go back to Japan. The Lord has His plan and now I have been in Singapore for more than 10 years. I am very much thankful to the Lord for leading me to FEBC for the training I have received here. The Lord gave me the burden for the Filipinos in Singapore as well as to do missions in the Philippines. I am burdened by the trend towards compromise and apostasy even among fundamental churches in the Philippines. I still have the burden to go back to Japan. However, with my limited Japanese language, I felt the Lord is leading me to go back, start a Bible College and plant churches in the Philippines, if He wills.
I believe the Lord will enable me to contribute to His kingdom through the faithful teaching and preaching of His Word. This must be my foremost contribution to the advancement of God’s Church. I thank the Lord for many opportunities to learn God’s Word and I pray I can preach and teach continually to the edification of the saints and for the salvation of the many lost souls especially among the Filipinos here in Singapore. It is the burden that God lay upon my heart to have a church for the Filipinos here in Singapore. To continue nurturing the believers once they go back to the Philippines, there is a need to do church planting in the Philippines. Since it is not easy for Filipinos to come and be trained here in FEBC, the Lord also lay in my heart to start a Bible College in the Philippines to train Filipino co-labourers for His harvest.
[Dr Jose Lagapa is in charge of the FilBF at TLBPC and teaches at FEBC. He and his wife Celeste have two daughters Theya and Thessa who are FEBC students. Their son Biboy is in his final year of high school. Dr Lagapa will be ordained this afternoon at the FilBF’s 4th anniversary thanksgiving service, 3pm. Join the live stream at https://youtu.be/G4z2TMs_9Cg.]
TRUSTING GOD AND DOING GOOD IN THE HOLY LAND
“Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” (Ps 37:3)
This verse spoke to me very much in one of my Bible readings in the university dormitory end of last year. I never thought much about it before because it was usually eclipsed by the next two verses in the same psalm, and also, ‘dwelling in the land’ was not so applicable to the New Testament Christian. However, this time round for me to actually live in Israel and bringing my needs to the Lord, I know God is telling me to trust Him for provisions as well as to do good. I have been keeping this verse in my heart and mind, resolving to do something good for Jesus here as much as I can.
I thank God that there are really ample opportunities to do so! I want to share of these here, not because I want to boast of myself but really to testify of the different kind of service the Lord has enabled me to do on top of my studies.
Before that, I need to describe what the environment here is like. Generally, the people here have no time for anyone, and tend to be rude. It is really every man for his own. This is the negative side of the Israeli ‘chutzpah’. The country also says that people can freely practice any religion here and yet religion is the cause of many conflicts. I think the greatest division comes from the Orthodox religious Jews and the secular Jews. They cannot stand each other.
So what good can I do, to show the light of the gospel? I told myself I need to step out of my comfort zone. In Singapore I would never say ‘hi’ to the bus-driver but here, I find myself greeting and thanking the bus-drivers most of the time. I try to say a kind word whenever I can and bring some cheer to this serious country. When I get invited to homes for a meal, I will stay behind to clean up and wash the dishes, also as my way of showing appreciation to the kind hospitality. I thank God that I learn this from FEBC (especially from Mrs Tow) that we must be a blessing, and not be a burden to people, and that we should never take advantage of others. One of my favourite Hokkien sayings from Rev Tow, translated as such, “We can let people eat us up, but we must never eat people”.
Two weeks ago, a friend told me there is a need to assist a Holocaust survivor, and she thought of outsourcing it to me as the remaining volunteers in this facility were busy with the other survivors. This Holocaust survivor is a German Jewess, and a believer! How rare! (Generally holocaust survivors could not bring themselves to believe in God because of what they had experienced.) Her name is Renate Kaufmann, which means ‘born-again’ in German. She made Aaliyah seven years ago, is eighty-three this year and has a bent back. She came to this residential home recently and needed help to organise all her belongings that she had acquired her whole life. My friend warned me of the mammoth task ahead and also of the demands of an old lady but I agreed nevertheless.
Soon I was introduced to Renate. She is a lovely lady and she became friends instantly. She passed me a copy of her story. She also had her poems published in book under the title “I Survived the Holocaust”. The stories that she shares readily with me tells me of her faith in Jesus Christ and often talks about the things God has done in her eventful life. I go to her place three times weekly because she really has amassed so many things in her lifetime. But in the midst of organising, I find items and writings of historical value. I told her these things should be put out on the Internet so that more people can learn her stories, and she revealed that she has been thinking about it but has no idea how to. I hope I can help her with that.
Just last week, a social worker came by and saw me with her. She asked me what was I doing there and I replied I’m helping as a volunteer. Immediately she offered to help me to get a little remuneration from the government for the work I am doing with Renate. I was not thinking about being paid but the Lord brought this social worker on the exact day I was there! However I doubted her promise because by now, I know how people forget their word easily. Was not Joseph also disappointed when the butler never came back to take him out of prison? Our trust is in the Lord, not in man. I decided to brush this aside but two days ago, I met the social worker again in Renate’s place and a colleague of higher position came with her. Together they said they would do something for me. I was really surprised. Is this a case of trusting the Lord and doing good and then being fed by the Lord? I await and see!
Another ‘good thing’ I am involved in is evangelism. This week, I went with a group of believers to another town to do ‘literature campaign’ which is to drop tracts in mailboxes (instead of street evangelism as people are more cautious of people in view of the virus). We drove out with boxes of tracts that are in Hebrew, Russian and Arabic. At first I thought this was being overly-prepared but we really covered much ground despite the hot summer day. Though evangelism is not illegal, we still had to do it carefully because there is a religious Jewish organization here that specifically targets Christians from doing evangelism. Certainly we do not want to meet anyone from there! I thank God that we have this common desire to do something for the people because they need the gospel even more in this time of pandemic. We always pray that we can have meaningful conversations with anyone who is seeking the truth, even though it is difficult to approach passers-by openly. Though we did not have any conversations that day, we trust that the Lord will use the tracts in His own good way. In fact, there are people who really called back to find out more, after reading the tracts!
The Lord has been so good. May we continue to taste His goodness while we strive to abound in good works for Him!
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