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Mission: Philippines 2008

Dispatches

By Gary Fallesen
President, Climbing For Christ

 

Thursday, Nov. 6 (9 p.m. Pacific time)

Thursday has been a 37-hour day so far as Derek and I flew back to the United States and back in time. We regained our lost Wednesday from last week when we crossed these same time zones going the other direction. So much was accomplished in such a short time. Praise God for all that He did with and through us.

Before leaving Manila on Thursday, Ace and I discussed the future of Mission: Philippines. Tentatively, the C4C Philippines Chapter is looking at a possible week-long survey trip to Tacadang and surrounding villages in January 2009. The goal is to measure the spiritual climate in the mountains of the Benguet province, particularly in Tacadang, Les Eng and Dalipey.

A sign on the trail welcoming foot traffic in the Cordillera mountains near Tacadang.

Work will continue throughout 2009, building to another Evangelic Expedition in September after the third annual Asia Pacific Adventure Ministry conference in Manila.

Ace will also continue the excellent work he is doing building C4C Philippines, which has grown to more than 50 members in a little over a year. This chapter meets every other week for Bible study and outings. It was a great encouragement to me to meet many of these brothers and sisters in Christ who are excited to serve the Lord through our unique ministry. Many new friendships were formed and it was difficult to say “until next time” at the airport.

Thursday, Nov. 6 (1:30 a.m. local time)

I was privileged to share my testimony and the HIStory of Climbing For Christ with 12 members and four friends of C4C Philippines last evening at Ace's church in the Manila subdivision of Las Pinas City. Each of the members has been involved with chapter events and meetings since C4C Philippines was organized a year ago. They are a blessing to me and the ministry of Climbing For Christ.

We focused on missions and the calling of C4C — to go where other missionaries cannot or will not. These brothers and sisters (Ace, Jhun, AA, Rhea, Meliza, Pat, Arthur, Rommel, Jasmin, Thots, Jason and Jherwyn) understand the vision and are focused on growing His kingdom here and to the ends of the earth.

Derek and I will begin traveling back to the States tonight. We carry with us the joy and encouragement of our Filipino family of believers. May they continue to shine His light for all to see.

“Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!”1 Corinthians 9:16 (NLT)

Wednesday, Nov. 5 (12:30 a.m. local time)

Tuesday was another long travel day, starting with our group waking up in Kibungan before 4 a.m. to catch the 5 a.m. bus to Baguio. We were on the “school bus” for a while as children boarded at stops along the way to get to school farther down the valley. The first bus took five hours and after eating and visiting the public market and park in Baguio, we caught our second bus back to Manila. This was a 6½-hour ride.

The team — an excellent group that the Lord wove together — began to break up before the drive to Manila. First, we left translator Danny and nurse Mariz in Baguio, where they live. Then we dropped John, Vince, Richard and Doc Cecil on the outskirts of Manila. That left Derek, Ace, Jade, Jhun and me to return to the starting point at the Manila bus station. We were riding the Victory Liner, which we thought was appropriate. We reached our destination in the city by late evening.

Mission: Philippines team photo in front of the school in Tacadang: (from left to right, top row) Mariz, Vince and Jade; (middle row) Gary, Danny, Richard, Jhun, and guide Charl; (bottom row) Derek, Doc Cecil, Ace, tourism worker Dianne, and Jon.

We have only begun to talk about all the work that will be done in Tacadang and other villages in the mountains near Kibungan in 2009. More will be discussed today as we look forward to a C4C Philippines Chapter meeting Wednesday evening and the opportunity for fellowship with more members in this beautiful country.

(Note: We just added a few photos from the past week. More to come.)

Monday, Nov. 3 (6:30 p.m. local time)

Jade, left to right, Danny and Richard descending from Tacadang.

We trekked a different (longer) route out of Tacadang. Some team members returned in eight hours (with an hour of relaxing at the river after more than 3,000 vertical feet of steep descent and hot 80-degree sun). The rest of the team arrived about two hours later. We are back at the missionary house in Kibungan tonight.

Before leaving Tacadang, we prayed for the village and the work that God has begun in the people there. During our Sunday evening debrief, when each member of the team expressed thanks for experiencing such a powerful time, Pastor Derek said: “We were on holy ground today. Angels were rejoicing.” We prayed they will continue to celebrate and watch over the hearts of new believers in Tacadang. May God’s kingdom continue to grow.

“...Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” — Luke 10:20

Sunday, Nov. 2 ( 7 p.m. local time)

“If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” — Luke 9:23

Pastor Henry Guylabo read Matthew 7:13-14 and talked about the difficult road to Tacadang. That set up perfectly the verse the Lord gave me (Luke 9:23) and my sharing of taking up the cross. I left the comfort of a newspaper career to serve the Lord full time, which brought me here today. What an amazing life journey.

Pastor Henry, left, seated next to Danny in the UCCP church.

We started the day worshiping at the local United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Fifteen families attend the UCCP church. Derek and I both delivered messages of encouragement to about 50 of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Team member Danny translated for us in the native language. We then went back to Tacadang Proper (about 20 minutes away), where we had slept overnight in the school’s first grade classroom. The people were waiting for our community worship and distribution of clothing and school and medical supplies. The Roman Catholic Church (St. Paul) allowed us to use their building, but we had too many people to get into the church, so we preached outdoors.

The Holy Spirit gave Derek and me a different message to deliver here. I told the crowd we were bringing them physical blessing from God, but something more important would be them returning blessing to Him. You bless God by believing in Him and loving Him. There are about 1,500 people in Tacadang (an estimated 500 families). Since there are only 15 families at Pastor Henry’s church and fewer believers at the Catholic Church, Tacadang is mostly lost.

Derek followed my prayer that we would spend eternity in heaven with these people by sharing the mesage of salvation. He closed by asking any who would like to accept Christ as Savior to come forward to pray with us. About 30 people accepted Jesus into their lives. We know we are not here to save souls, but to make disciples, so we will continue to work with the local church to grow the body of believers in ths remote village.

Pastor Derek, right, prays for Tacadang villagers who desired Jesus.

After worship, Ace and the C4C Philippines team distributed all the supplies that were brought here. Nurse Mariz (the only medical person who didn’t back out on this difficult trip) handed out vitamins and medicines. She and other team members surveyed the many health concerns. Ace also collected more requests in Tacadang and other neighboring villages (some another 6 hours of trekking away) for future deliveries. Tacadang and the Kibungan area mountain villages will be an ongoing mission for Climbing For Christ, specifically C4C Philippines. It was again humbling to see God touching so many in a thought-to-be unreachable location. We are blessed to take up the cross and serve the God of the possible.

 

Saturday, Nov. 1 (7 p.m. local time)

Heading up and up and up early in the trek to Tacadang. (Photo by Derek Fullerton)

It wasn't the razor grass or the leeches that slowed us down. It was the cramps that four of our 11 team members endured during our long trek over two steep mountains and into Tacadang in 80-degree heat. But as Ace said before we started climbing: “God is good.” God brought the team to Tacadang — some in 6½ hours and the rest in about 12 hours. (One of those making the long walk was Vince, who was celebrating his 31st birthday.)

We climbed over Mount Palpalyen and traversed Mount Pagpayan before seeing Tacadang come into view. Derek referred to the day as “trekking through a post card,” walking across suspension bridges and exposed ridges with amazing picturesque tree-covered mountains and ravines all around. We enjoyed the beauty of God's creation while lifting our eyes to the Lord (Psalm 121).

A young man from another village who was guiding us said Tacadang has no electricity and no roads. He said it in a negative way. But this remote village doesn't need either. Not if they have the Lord.

A villager told us there are “no security guards here.” Martis, a man who helped us bring up school and medical supplies, said, “God is our security.” God is good.

Friday, Oct. 31 (1:30 p.m. local time)

Loading the bus (with people and supplies) for the six-hour dirt-road ride
from Baguio to Kibungan. (Photo by Derek Fullerton)

It’s taken Derek and me 3½ days but we’ve finally reached the end of the road. We spent the first half of the day on two buses, driving from Manila to Baguio and then taking a smaller bus to Kibungan, where the road ends and the trail begins. The second six-hour bus ride was on twisting dirt roads into the mountains. “It helps your prayer life,” Ace joked about the bus ride. We were joined on this bus by the majority of our team: Ace, his son Jade, Jhun Hacbang, Cecil Mendoza (the Philippine president of Christian Camping International), Jon Arambullo, Vincent Renco, Richard Visco, and nurse Mariz Channgan. Three more nurses are said to be coming with Danny to join us before we start trekking at 5 a.m. Saturday. We are staying the rest of today and tonight at a Filipino missionary’s house in Kinbungan. The vice mayor of the village told us that Derek and I are only the second foreign missionaries to visit here. None have been to Tacadang, where we are heading tomorrow.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” — Deuteronomy 31:8

Thursday, Oct. 30 (9 a.m. local time)

After 17 hours on our 747 from LAX to Manila (via Guam), we arrived in the Philippines. We were nearly 2 hours early. A praise to go along with thanks.

Ace Concordia picked us up at the airport and the blessings began. We talked over coffee about Ace’s life, his ministry, and how Climbing For Christ Philippines has grown so quickly. His construction and hardware supply company, GO 37 (which stands for God-owned and God-operated), provided a platform for a workplace Bible study to grow into a church. We visited his church and met Pastor Dong, who lives about 12 hours away in Luzon and travels around the Philippines and Asia witnessing about God’s power. Pastor Dong was crippled by polio and deserted by his father as a boy. He sang for us with three young women who are blind and who are part of his ministry. All three were born blind, one because of a failed abortion. They have a vision that allows them to see the Lord working in our lives. Their song was about overcoming all things through Him who gives us strength.

We’ll need His strength in the days ahead. We have about 12 hours before we take a sleeper bus to Baguio (about 5 hours north of Manila), where we’ll meet more C4C Philippines members and travel another 5 hours to Kibungan. We’ll stay overnight Friday in Kibungan before making the day-long trek to Tacadang.

Ace told how the Lord led him to Tacadang originally. He met with friends from New Tribes Ministry who knew the area north of Luzon. He told them about a village he was thinking of visiting. They said, “Why go there? There’s a road there. Why don’t you go to Tacadang? Even missionaries who have been there (there have only been a few) don’t want to go back to Tacadang because it is so hard to reach.” It was a Climbing For Christ mission waiting to happen. And so we go.

(Note: We are 12 hours ahead of Eastern Time in the U.S. Until Sunday, Nov. 2, when we'll be 13 hours ahead. We skipped Wednesday, leaving Los Angeles Tuesday evening and arriving here on Thursday.)

Tuesday, Oct. 28

Derek and I flew to Los Angeles last night. Tonight we fly to Manila to meet Ace and others from Climbing For Christ Philippines. We don't arrive until Thursday morning, local time.

Ace is eagerly awaiting our visit. It was only 16 months ago that he sent an email to me as we were completing Mission: Indonesia. He said he wished Climbing For Christ was in his country and invited us to come climb some mountains with him. Now Climbing For Christ is alive and glorifying the Lord in the Philippines. Today, we added our 49th C4C Philippines member (up from the two that were members when Ace joined).

“I just recently read Isaiah 40,” Ace told me today. “The verses that I liked specially were verses 3, 9, and 31. The message is clear 'Prepare the way of the Lord.'”

... go up on a high mountain ... lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, 'Here is your God!'” Isaiah 40:9 (NIV)

Monday, Oct. 27

The church at Tacadang. (Photo by Ace Concordia)

The church at Tacadang is our destination. It is many days away as we prepare to leave our homes in the States to travel overseas. The church is alive in the Philippines and we look forward to reaching our brothers and sisters in the mountains of North Luzon.

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” — Psalm 27:4 (NIV)

The Word

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”
— 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)

The Team

U.S. – Gary Fallesen, Rochester, N.Y. and Derek Fullerton, Colorado Springs, Colo. Philippines – Jon Arambullo, Quezon City; Mariz Channgan, Baguio; Ace Concordia, Manila; Jade Concordia, Manila; Jhun Hacbang, Manila; Cecil Mendoza, Marikina; Vincent Renco, Quezon City; Danny Sison, Baguio, and Richard Visco, Angat, Bulacan.

 

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