Below is the December update from the Philippines. Thank you so much for praying and partnering with us here in Asia.
THE BIRTH OF A NEW CHURCH
As I mentioned in the previous update, we set our launch date for the first official gathering of the new church for Sunday, November 23. 34 people attended the first service. It was a day of celebration, and people seem excited about the new faith family. It is called Highland City Disciples. During the service and before the sermon, I prayed for my friend Joseph Maraon and asked the congregation to pray for him as I installed him as the Lead Pastor of the new church. It is his to lead now. I remain as an overseeing elder alongside him. But I am largely stepping out of the way now and just supporting how I can.
There is momentum and excitement now. 38 people attended the week 2 service. We did Sidewalk Sunday School for the normal group of around 65 children on Saturday morning, and then a youth fellowship was held on Saturday afternoon with 20 young people attending. Some of the young people are from different communities in the area, but they are uniting quickly and already wanting to work together to help with the Sidewalk Sunday School ministry. So Saturdays will be filled with a morning of children’s ministry and an afternoon of youth ministry.
A DIVINE PARTNERSHIP
Joseph (pictured above with his family) and I feel the Lord has brought us together as a team to do something here. So we have joined his former church in Trece Martires with this new church in Tagaytay City and have made them sister churches. Joseph turned his former church in Trece over to his assistant, Dion, and that church has embraced him as their new pastor. Joseph has had some leaders in the Trece church who are involved in ministry and some who have genuine pastoral calls on their lives, including Dion. But none of them have been able to go to Bible College. He said he was trying to find a way for them to attend a Bible College of some kind for equipping them for the ministry.
So with the church in Tagaytay now birthed and in good hands, I have been free to turn my attention to starting Encounter Generation School of Ministry, a one-year program involving classroom and field experience to equip current and future leaders and pastors.
PLANNING FOR A NETWORK
With the two sister churches in place and a School of Ministry beginning, we are trying to lay the foundation for what we hope will become a network of multiplying churches with their own school for equipping their leaders and future pastors. That was the dream in my heart before moving to Asia. Joseph also had a similar dream of planting multiple churches.
So while Joseph pastors the new church and continues to mentor disciples and leaders there, I will be 1) developing and teaching the School of Ministry and mentoring the students 2) writing systems, manuals and structures for the network and for all the individual churches and 3) writing discipleship programs and resources for current and future churches.
There are 8 students in this first School of Ministry. A few are lay leaders in the churches, via children’s ministry, worship, etc. One is Dion, the young man who took the lead pastor role of Joseph’s former church in Trece. There are also at least two or three other men who seem to have very genuine pastoral calls. So there is a real sense in which God has now given us the privilege to serve and equip several current and future leaders and pastors.
As all of this was happening, the birth of a new church, the start of a school, the Sidewalk Sunday School and feeding program to the children, I was reflecting on when God first called me into foreign missions 14 years ago. It was the year 2000, and I was a student of the School of Missionary Development in Jamaica, exploring a call to missions. Some of you were partnering with me and praying for me then!
I remember it like it was yesterday, as I laid in the bunk bed during one of our break times, I began to draw in my journal a picture of a campus with a church, a school of ministry and a soup kitchen for feeding those in need. It was a dream….
I realized the other day as we moved into our new facility for the church, that the building we are now renting, hosts the church, the school of ministry and the feeding program for the kids, the very things I drew in my journal in Jamaica 14 years ago.
God has been so gracious. I call this His church plant. I guess all of them are. But this one has sure been His gracious hand at work. During this holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am filled with gratitude because, though many challenges lay ahead and much is left to be done, I’ve watched the Lord write this story. The smiling faces of the children getting food and hearing God’s Word, the excitement of the young people to see our building and to be part of something, the new believers, the grateful mothers, the hungry leaders we are equipping. God wrote this story….And I never tire of His story.
I am still overwhelmed at the story of Immanuel coming to dwell with us, to save us and to restore and redeem. Christmas is about a King becoming part of His Creation to redeem His Creation! It’s an amazing story.
And I’m overwhelmed that He would allow us to be part of it. Perhaps that is why Encounter Generation School of Ministry’s tag line is: “Find Your Place in God’s Story.” My hope is that these ministry students, and all of us, live in a constant state of awe that God has invited us into His story and has given each of us a part. And thank you. While you live your part in His story there, thank you also for being a huge part of the story He is writing here in Asia. I’m grateful to you. Merry Christmas!
– David Gilliam