Sunday, May 1, 2011

IVCF Beach Mission

This isn’t my usual kind of post, but I want to share this with friends and churchmates. It was a challenge trying to package such a rich experience in a neat, short article, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I jump from one thing to another in this particular entry.

Protestants constitute a small minority in the Philippines (about 3%, if I’m not mistaken), but what constitutes “Christianity” in our country nowadays? It seems as though too many of the already-too-few number of Filipinos who claim the title have reduced Biblical faith to a religious form of psychological self-help, the Christian church to a social support/advocacy group, and the great I AM to a celestial life-coach/vending machine.

This is truly tragic from a Biblical standpoint, as well as from a personal one. One of the first things that drew me to Christianity as a teenager was the transcendence of God (which is a neat way of saying that God is undomesticated, uncontainable, beyond comprehension, utterly vast, and wise and powerful). It’s one of the anchors that have kept me steady ever since; the confidence that life isn't about me; that I was created for a singular purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him now and forever.

That was what the IVCF Beach Mission to Olongapo was all about. It was a bunch of men and women joining hands under Christ’s banner. It was a band of brothers (and sisters) fighting the same fight for the same Lord.

(At this point, I’d better switch gears, or else you might mistake this journal/reflection for a sermon, and a bad one at that.)

Ready to set out for Olongapo
On the morning of April 21, 2011, an unlikely group consisting mostly of young professionals gathered for briefing and a prayer in the OMF compound along Commonwealth Avenue. Many of them were friends I would come across from time to time, and a good number were unfamiliar to me, but they would all be my comrades and fellow workers for the next five days.

Fast forward half a day, and our team of 18 had split into two groups. I was in the team assigned to help a small local church conduct their DVBS (daily vacation Bible study) for the next two days, while the other team went ahead to Pandaquit Beach to get started with the beach mission proper.

GTKY with the workers of Grace Family Worship Center
Tough Kids

Kuya James Ryan and I were assigned to handle the rowdy teenagers. These guys were nothing like the well-mannered youth I’m used to addressing. From the first session to the last, we had to fight for their attention and respect. Attendance was terrible (most of the kids only showed up for one or two of the 5 sessions). What’s more, they had an extremely casual attitude towards spiritual things. But there was this one girl who seem to be really affected by what she was learning. Kinikilabutan daw sa nababasa niya sa Bibliya. Although she didn’t make a commitment to Christ, we’re hoping and praying that she will, soon.

Talking with Kuya Glen, preparing to meet the teens
Learning How To Praise

The team may have been divided into two, but old Kuya Dave made sure we all stuck to the same program for Quiet Time. Without going into the details, let me just say that God enriched my understanding of QT. He taught me how to have it in pairs and groups, and how to involve Him more directly by using His word as a jump-off point for praise. For example, if we saw a phrase like “Then Paul went throughout the towns, preaching the word of God,” we make a mental note so that later on we could worship Him for revealing Himself through Scripture. I think this approach to QT was unfamiliar to most of the team and it took us a while to get used to it, but once we did, we delighted in this daily source of encouragement and renewal.

To the Beach!

"basketball," with Kuya Dave and I as rings
Sharing by pairs, sometimes solo
By Saturday afternoon the DVBS was finished and we rejoined the Beach team at Pandaquit. We had barely just settled down on the beach when the dear old man took us out on our excursion. The gameplan was simple: get into the water, invite people for tug-of-war, water “basketball,” and finally “bury the foreigner,” at which point one of us would use our specially designed ball to share the gospel to whatever crowd we had managed to gather. Just the idea of it seemed so absurd to me that I would have laughed if I hadn’t been so terrified.

Clad in our blue shirts, we followed Kuya Dave through the crowded beach and into the water. Looking back, I must have felt a bit like Thomas did in John 11:6, when Jesus planned to return to Jerusalem, where their enemies were—“Let us also go, that we may die with him."

But to my utter surprise, our plan worked wonderfully! People just… joined in. And I think starting out with fun and games really made participants and spectators alike more willing to listen to us once we started preaching. The effect was amazing and completely unexpected, on my part. Thank God it worked, because that’s what we kept doing until our last excursion on Monday morning!

Priceless Encounters

We had a bonfire every night.
It was a time for sharing testimonies and more evangelism.
There were some people on Pandaquit whom the team became so attached to that I just have to mention them here.

There was a young Japanese traveler whom we adopted. He stayed in our “cottage” (more like a shed with a table, really), traveled with us along the beach, and shared our meals. A Buddhist by culture but non-religious by practice, he was unfamiliar with Christianity, so we tried to witness to him by word and example (though I doubt he understood even half of what we were trying to say to him in English). Kuya Dave was able to minister to him a lot better, since he had been a missionary to Japan for twenty years and could speak Japanese well. I don’t know how much he really understood about Christian beliefs, but he was so touched by what he saw in us that before he left, he told Kuya Dave that he wanted to become a Christian. This is a stunning example of how important our testimonies are in drawing people to Christ!

Then there was the two teenage boys whom the Beach Team had shared the gospel to while my team was still handling DVBS. They accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, and what’s more is that they returned to the beach everyday to spend time with us, until we finally had to leave. They even started sharing the gospel, too!

With Kuya Dave and the adopteds
God of Wonders

These are only some of the awesome things that the Beach Mission Team experienced during those five short days. All glory to the Lord, the God of Wonders! He is the same God who will be with us as we return to our complicated lives, our struggling local churches, and the jaded hearts of Metro Manila.


  1. sir, blessed indeed by this. :) i praise God that you have been used by Him to be a vessel of His blessing to the people around! i was moved as i read this entry, kits. seeing the other side of you in your writing. hehe. :)

  2. Really, what other side? :P

    Anyway, I'm glad that God continues to use the BMT for His glory. Sana simula lang 'to. :D

  3. "Sana simula lang 'to." Amen and amen, señor.

  4. Lovely entry and very good writing. I feel blissful as I read this, almost daydreaming of one day getting out of the workplace to join exposure trips like this. I am encouraged, however sorry I am for myself for staying out of the loop. Praise God indeed!!

  5. This is just the beginning, Kits. We're hoping to continue it till the Lord comes. See you next year? :)

  6. @ k.Jemoi: Si, si, hermano!

    @ Divine: Thanks, Div. I'm glad the Lord encouraged you. I hope we can meet up one time and catch up. :)

    @ RG: Definitely yes, Lord willing!

  7. Yey you got to blog about it! :D
    The written account and photos enrich your kwento. Clear and to-the-point writing.

    Hope to join you guys next time! :)

  8. kitokits!!!! naiiyak ako sa tuwa(sana pala dumaan ako sa pundaquit, remember i was there that day)...Praise God for that wonderful experience....we just don't know the ripple effect of those few ministry days...i'm so blessed by the story of the japanese guy...sovereign talaga si God na marunong mag-japanese si kuya dave....ako rin dati i've had those surprising & delightful experiences of sharing the gospel to people na hindi ko alam kung makikita ko pa ulit...malamang sa heaven ko na lang malalaman kung ano nangyari sa kanila...nevertheless, overwhelmed by the privilege of witnessing... even though we are but unworthy slaves....i pray that this would be the attitude of your whole team after all is said and done--- Luke 17:10 "We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done."

  9. @ Koji: I look forward to it!

    @ a.Frances: Thanks for the reminder, ate. Please remember us also in your prayers. I think some of us were actually disappointed to return to city life. May the Lord help us apply the lessons of the BM to our lives in MM.