James and Shermaine Tan
The First Term
We thank God for being able to conduct the first term, with a reduced number of students, and an intensive schedule of 9 weeks, compared to our usual 12 weeks. Only new students, and senior students who had missed the first term were allowed to return, with 18 new students and 19 returning students.
We thank God for the zoning system that we saw in Singapore, which we are able to implement over here. The men were divided into two zones, and the ladies into another zone, where these three zones were kept quarantined from each other for the first three weeks. Thankfully, there were no cases amongst them, and the students were able to adapt to the “new normal” of wearing masks (properly!) and being confined in the college.
In the streets, most people do not wear masks and there is little to no enforcement despite the government mandate to do so. Most would wear them ineffectively, under their noses or under the chin, just for the sake of doing so. Some of our church members will only wear the mask at our gates to gain entry and remove them as soon as the service is over, despite our reminders.
The sad truth is many of them see the Covid-19 virus as just another variant of flu, and less serious than the usual diseases of TB, Malaria, Cholera, and even Ebola. Some would rather subscribe to the conspiracy theories that are widely spread on WhatsApp. We Asians are also not spared from the consequences of it being called the “China virus”. Earlier in the year, huge political rallies have contributed largely to the third wave, with many politicians and their followers attending unmasked. It is estimated that in Nairobi, 3 out of 5 people might be infected.
We thank God that there are no shortages in the basic necessities despite the lockdown. We continue to head out only when necessary, usually once a week for our groceries on Monday mornings when it is least crowded. The curfew at least, has given us some quietness and relief from the booming clubs and churches that are behind the school.
One of our adjunct lecturers was in the ICU for 11 days, where all 5 patients with him in the ICU died as he was treated. Thankfully he survived and was discharged, but with a bill of over $10,000 USD. Some contacts that we have in the ministry have also been infected, with one Korean missionary passing away. It is by the Lord’s mercies that all our families, staff and students in the college are kept safe thus far.
We had to gather information on the vaccination programme by word of mouth, as the ministry of health did not give any instructions other than announcing its availability. Many are wary of the vaccine, as the rumours on social media are better circulated than actual information. Some continue to believe that the virus, and vaccines are all part of some western conspiracy to colonise Africa.
However, we thank God that the government sees “teachers, religious instructors” as part of the essential frontline workers in its first phase of vaccinations, and therefore we are eligible. The AstraZeneca vaccine is offered free of charge. In view of the uncertainty of the vaccine supplies and availability, we prayed and decided to go ahead with AstraZeneca. We had to queue up before 5am in the dark, in the freezing rain before finally getting the shot hours later. We thank God that as of now, all the residential lecturers and our staff have gotten the first dose, without any serious side effects. With the surge of cases in India, we hope that the supplies are sufficient for our second dose.
Looking at the situation, it remains hard to be optimistic on how long the country would take to recover. When we were in Singapore, it felt like we were in a bubble, insulated from the world’s deteriorating situation. While we merely complained about the inconveniences, we were at least relatively safe, with plenty of support from the government, and had some access to worship, fellowship, and even service.
Here, we are just hopeful that our church members would be able to access our audio recorded services. Most of them do not have smartphones. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17). However, we do worry for some of our members, and also the Sunday school children who are missing.
With the last fellowship meeting being over a year ago, and evangelism, visitations near impossible right now, the church ministry has been severely affected. With the changing world, the mission work has become much harder.
While we were in Rwanda recently, we had church members who were lining up at the gates before 6am for the 8am first service. Some were afraid that they would not get a place due to the Covid-19 reduced capacity of 300, instead of the usual 900. About 70 members had to be turned away and told to return for the second service at 10am. The first service started at 7.30am, half an hour early because the maximum capacity had been reached. These Rwandese Christians might be simple, but their zeal and love in seeking the Lord is evident.
In Singapore, with the safety, security, technology and all the resources, is there a spirituality and godliness that would accompany the faith in Singapore? More is given, more is expected.
The rest of the year remains filled with uncertainty. Do continue to pray for us, for the Lord’s mercies and protection, as we wait upon His will.
BIBLE EQUIPPING SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY (BEST) – ONLINE
Rev Dr Jose Lagapa
Few weeks ago, one of the brethren we are supporting in Bukidnon was berated by “fellow-workers” because he associates with the Bible-Presbyterian Church. He was blamed for helping to establish a missions work in Bukidnon supported by the BPs. We thank the Lord that he did not retaliate nor talk back but kept silent and committed everything to the Lord. He said there are still many lost souls who are unreached in Bukidnon and his burden is to teach them the Word of God that they may come to the saving knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
As I read his message, the thoughts of the Apostle Paul’s experience came to mind. In Acts 19:8–10, we read, “… he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.”
This is one of the primary reasons why we need to continue training the preachers we are supporting so that they might be grounded in the faith and would not be easily deceived. Although we are supporting them with a meager amount, we don’t want them to be lacking in spiritual support. This is in the form of prayers and in continually helping them to be equipped in the ministry. The online classes in the Cebuano dialect for our lay pastors have commenced. Please remember the teachers and students in your prayers. If you know of lay-pastors or lay-leaders in your church in the Philippines who might be interested to join, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christian education is different from secular education because it is based on the truth of God’s Word that man is a sinner and is in need of a Saviour. The goal therefore of this ministry is to equip Christian men and women with the knowledge of the Bible in order that they might teach others for their salvation and edification. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).
The Biblical mandate to equip through teaching God’s Word is given in Matthew 28:18–20, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” This mandate was received when I was involved in the training of lay pastors in Mindanao a few years back. The program was called Bible Equipping Seminar and Training (BEST). It was a Bible-centered and Christ-centered program that sought to equip those who are serving in pastoral roles in churches but have not undergone any formal theological training in a Bible College or Seminary. Since many of the lay pastors have no sound theological knowledge due to their lack of opportunities to learn, they become easy prey to charismatic confusions, ecumenical deceptions and other modernistic church seductions.
Consultations with the lay pastors through virtual meetings led to the start of this proposed program in the month of May 2021. Currently, there are 7 lay pastors/leaders who are taking the course on “The Life of Christ” and “Homiletics.” It is designed that the lessons learned in “The Life of Christ” be the focus of their preaching where outlining and recording of their preaching are part of the requirements in their homiletics class. Since most of them do not have the type of hand phones that can allow them to download and watch video lectures, love gifts for the Philippines missions are used for this purpose (see photo below).
Moreover, Crisa Zagado who has just graduated from FEBC and is now back in the Philippines can help to teach physically as well as virtually the courses for women. Many of them who are teaching the Bible to the children require equipping. There is a request by Gingoog Fundamental Baptist Church to refresh their Sunday school teachers with the knowledge and methods in teaching children. May the Lord guide and bless us as we desire to bring more to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ!
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