It took 5 hours by bus. From there we hired a motorcycle with four of us on one bike! After a couple of hours of crossing rivers and climbing a mountain, the bike would go no further. So we hiked the rest of the way up the mountain.
As we trudged through mud and crossed flooded rivers on logs a hundred feet high, the Filipino pastors who accompanied me told me that I would be the first foreigner, the first white man, to have ever set foot in these mountains. So I was anticipating a look of surprise on the faces of the tribal people when we arrived.
The chief gathered everyone in the village together. But no-one seemed really surprised to see their first foreigner. It baffled me.
So I asked my interpreters to ask the chief why no-one was surprised at all. The chief’s answer, through double-interpretation, came back:
“Way back in ’79 we used to worship the spirits. The men used to spear each other. We had as many wives as we liked.
Then one day I had a dream where somebody dressed in white appeared to me and said, ‘You better repent of what you’re doing, and start worshipping the one true God in heaven.”
Then I was told in another dream to gather my whole village together and tell them also to repent and start worshipping the one true God in heaven. So our whole village began to believe in God.
Then I was told in further dreams to write down laws which the tribe should live by. Also I was told to build a building where the village could gather to worship.
The behavior of the tribe became so good that we gained the reputation of causing the least trouble to the Filipino government.
Then one day I got sick, and had to go down into the low lands to find a doctor. But the first person I met happened to be a pastor who took me in and showed me the bible. I was amazed to discover that almost word-for-word what was told me in the dreams was in that bible. So I knew that the God who had been appearing to me in the dreams was the same God who wrote the bible. So I asked the pastor to come and live in our village and teach us about God. The pastor moved his family there, spent years learning the language, and was now teaching them the Word of God.
And finally, said the chief, I was told that one day white people will come from a far away land and tell us more about what God wants us to do.
So no-one’s surprised to see you, we’ve been waiting for you since ‘79” he said.
They probably wondered what took me so long to get there!
I preached about The Plan of Salvation, Water Baptism and Receiving the Holy Spirit.
After I finished, in true tribal fashion the chief dismissed everyone including me, so the elders could have a closed discussion. Then after a while they gathered everyone together again. A spokesman for the elders gave the verdict:
“As an eldership we have discussed the message we have all just heard, and we have unanimously agreed that it is truly a message from God. Therefore as of now, we all accept it.”
So that’s how the whole village instantly accepted the gospel. They also accepted the message about receiving the Holy Spirit.
But when it came to Water Baptism, the chief wouldn’t give permission for the people to submit to baptism.
“But if you’ll help us build a new building for worship,” he said, “then I’ll allow the people to be baptized.” It had been a long time since his original building for worship was built.
At first I felt that if the chief’s obedience to God was pure, he should be willing to submit himself and his people to baptism irrespective of whether or not we helped him with a new building. But then God softened my heart. The Lord seemed to be impressing on me that these people didn’t actually have legal title to the land they occupied, nor were they formally educated, and since the chief felt that by submitting to baptism his people would be entering into a covenant-relationship with us, all he was doing is looking for a sign of our genuineness, so he knows he’s not putting his people at risk of being exploited or driven off their land – and then he’ll gladly submit to baptism.
So I shared my feelings with the Filipino pastors and one of them immediately gave the chief 100 pesos (which is only about five dollars). The chief immediately gave permission for the people to be baptized! I was amazed that was all it took, that was all he was looking for – a little sign of our genuineness. Despite the chief’s willingness to be baptized, however, we decided not to do so yet.
When I got back to Australia I shared this in a local church. I’d worked-out that to build a church in the mountain would only cost $2500 because all we’d need to do is hire a chain saw, buy corrugated roofing iron, and cement for the floor, because the wood could be cut down from the jungle.
“That’s a small price to see a whole village getting baptized and going on with Christ,” I said to the church.
While I was still speaking, the pastor jumped up, grabbed the microphone off me, and said to the congregation: “We’ll take-up an offering on that straightaway. And whatever you give in the offering tonight, we’ll match it dollar-for-dollar from existing church funds.”
I came away from that one meeting with almost the entire amount! We sent the money back to the Philippines, and the new church got built – from beautiful Philippine mahogany. At their first Thanksgiving church service, 1300 people were in attendance.
And the chief came true to his word and got baptized. The whole village assembled in row upon row down at the river and all got baptized in one day. Hallelujah!
As the children of the village have learned to sing in English:
Jesus how lovely you are
You are so gentle, so loving and kind.
You shine like the bright morning star
Jesus how lovely you are
japchurch at tpg.com.au