HOSEA NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2023
Greetings from the mission field this October
A new church has been built at Malpalo in the area of Calinta, a region that is targeted by terrorists. We felt it was necessary to construct this building because the previous one was in very poor condition. On my last trip to Malpalo, rebels attacked in the middle of a church meeting, and the area was evacuated but we were left stuck there. The congregation included many children and the building stood on bamboo supports with knee-high walls made from nipa palm leaves. So there was minimal shelter from rain let alone terrorist bullets! Nathan and I were very visible targets but at least the children could hide behind the leaf walls. I really didn't know what to do in this terrifying situation.
New Church building, Malpalo Calinta
We eventually managed to flee the area but we were horrified to see a vehicle full of terrorists coming towards us, with gunmen hanging off the sides and roof too. There had been a battle to take a road bridge nearby and the rebels had been repulsed, so they were rushing away to help their comrades elsewhere. God's timing is always just right, as in their hurry the gunmen did not recognise who we were and the road and its bridge were clear for our escape at exactly the right time! On reflection I felt that the brave pastor of the Malpalo church really deserved a new building. Of course it needed to be quite nondescript to avoid attracting terrorist attention, and I am delighted to say that it has now been completed.
Reorientation for the ex-terrorists
In the main Hosea School in Mamburao a training event was arranged for ex-terrorists and their families in September. The military arranged the program for the first day while the second day was reserved for preaching the gospel. Thankfully army leaders understand how important it is for these people to hear the good news of Jesus. Many of them have spent all their lives within the terrorist organization, so they have to learn to adjust to normal society and to be given the opportunity for a completely new beginning. If a terrorist surrenders voluntarily to the authorities they are not prosecuted but they and their families are taken care of by the authorities.
In the early days the military would bring groups of surrendered terrorists to our Hosea School, where they were given information of how they could restart their lives going forward and the school also functioned as their initial accommodation. We found that evenings provided the best opportunity for personal evangelism and face-to-face discussions with these people, and many of them came to faith. For such rehabilitation events the school building is closely guarded by the military and the surrounding community are kept completely unaware of what is going on inside the premises. Our school yard has high walls so events inside can be kept secret. Outsiders do not know about the military guard nor who is actually receiving training inside. Such reorientation programs are held outside school terms so that the children are out of school.
Baptisms and a new outreach
Another baptismal service has been held by a Hosea congregation. Frequently outsiders come along just to observe and listen to what is going on, and they may well bring friends and family members along and then more people come to faith leading to more baptisms! Church members enjoy the opportunity to be active in their faith including preaching the gospel in different areas, both near their homes and beyond. This is how effective ministry is carried out by the whole church community.
Nathan and the Hosea team made an outreach trip to Romblo Island where the gospel had never previously been preached. There the local tribes people had great occasion to wonder as they saw for the first time in their lives a very tall white man! But perhaps they were also shocked and surprised to see how healthy the visitors were, as illness and disease is so common amongst the tribes. The gospel message was readily received with many conversions and our team also provided food. We always aim to bring the gospel and humanitarian aid to areas that are unreached previously and where others have chosen not to go.
Matthew 25:40 : And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’