The Philippines - 2015



God’s presence and blessing were very evident during the second half of our visit to The Philippines.  At Antipolo in the Manila slums,  I preached the Deuteronomy 30 lesson. The church service was fun with six of the young people I baptized last March attending the service in spite of attendance being down at Antipolo due to the misconduct of one of the previous pastors which necessitated closing the church for six months. It had reopened just three weeks before my arrival. Pastors Charles Roda and his wife Mileu are now taking over. 


Sunday evening service was in the new church of Pastor Edmar Samante. The church is located in the poorest area, nestled between shops on a busy alley.  The building has no outer wall so the sanctuary just opens into the alley. The service was anointed as I taught on “The Feasts and Festivals Revealing Jesus.”


We flew out from Manila the next morning and arrived in Tacloban on Leyte Island an hour later, and were greeted by Pastor Ramos from Gandera (Marben’s cousin). From there we drove five hours across Leyte Island and on to Samar Island via the longest bridge in The Philippines.  We stayed at Gandera for the next six nights as we reached out to village churches and on to Calbayon City in this poorest area of The Philippines. Since last March, we have sent 67 LBC boxes to Gandera as they have a hospital, orphanage, and their Assemblies Christian School next door and they operate five Assemblies churches in this area. (At left, Gandera maternity ward)

Tuesday morning we visited the orphanage, school and hospital. In the afternoon we drove to Calbayon City, the second largest city on Samar Island, and shopped for groceries. I treated the gang to coffee at Starbucks-like shop but they all had tuna treats and smoothies. Then we visited my favorite pastor here, Danny Montes who was very happy for the visit. We were not scheduled to preach in Calbayon as all arrangements were made to preach at Gandera. Pastor Montes’ church is being reroofed so was in disrepair.  I was not able to accept his invitation to preach on Saturday or Sunday; however I was able to come on Wednesday.  I agreed to stay overnight and return to Gandera on Thursday.  Pastor Montes was thrilled and called the seminary students to clean up the roofing materials in the sanctuary and set a special service for Wednesday night. We returned to Gandera for dinner and then service there. I did my testimonial and 17 recommitted their lives to Christ.

Early the next morning we drove into the mountains in the jungle to a satellite church of Gandera in the village of Pologan. It took 90 minutes to get there, driving on dirt rut roads  and rocks. The 4-wheel drive struggled but we finally made it to this quaint village. The church has suffered greatly in the three typhoons that have hit Samar in the last two years. The front third of the church building has been replaced by temporary palm branches and leaves and bamboo. Pastor John said most members of the 75 members of this church lost their homes and many lost loved ones during the storms. The congregation is mainly life-long Catholics but there is no Catholic church in the village. I emphasized the need for a personal relationship with Jesus for salvation in my sermon. Pastor Ramos translated for me, and did a great job. Most came forward to rededicate their lives and many claimed healing during the anointing time.  

We journeyed back to Gandara arriving at 5:15 pm and Pastor Danny Montes from Calbayon arrived to take me to his church for the special evening service and to spend the night. Bible college students made up most of the congregation that night.  The service was blessed as I again taught on “The Feasts and Festivals Revealing Jesus.” Pastor Montes and I visited for the evening and he invited me to come anytime to stay and teach in the over 300 satellite churches they operate on adjoining islands.

Thursday morning we were up at 6 am and after coffee and oatmeal, I returned to Gandera just in time to leave for another village service--again off-road in mountains and about a two-hour trip. Pagsangman Village is bigger than Pologan but very similar. Most people from the service the day before hiked to this village to hear us again and two trucks from Gandera followed us to the gathering. I decided to preach on Acts 14, the calling of Timothy by Paul. The people were very receptive and we ended up with two leaving their wheelchairs behind. Much healing and praising followed! It is incredible seeing the Holy Spirit at work here.

Back at Gandera after dinner, we were sitting in the living room and a big rat ran in from the outside, circling the room. It ran up my leg, across a couch, jumped on Pia, ran up and across her arms and over Weng’s lap, crossed the room and jumped onto a table, and out a window!  It was HUGE and made quite the show.

Friday evening we were scheduled for two services but they decided to merge the youth service with the afternoon service and it was great idea. The little church was packed and the crowd very enthusiastic. I preached on “The Fisherman.”  Many youth came forward to rededicate their lives at the end of the service.

On Saturday, as if “the rat” was not exciting enough, I went downstairs and was greeted by screams and fleeing women. It seems a poisonous snake had entered the living room from outside! Pastor Ramos said it was a small coral snake!  His wife shut the door but it poked its head under the door showing determination to come in so it had to be dispatched.

Saturday service was in the village of Buenavista, a small remote barangay or town. The Pastora was very enthusiastic in this lively church! The service went from 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm. I preached on the call to missions and then Deuteronomy 30. Back at Gandera the power failed, so we just went to bed at 7:30 pm.  Three services were scheduled for Sunday so Marben preached with Pia at one, while Weng and I held the service for Pastor Ramos in the Gandera Assemblies in the morning. I presented the teaching on “The Feasts and Festivals Revealing Jesus.”  Six people asked me for copies of my sermon afterwards and I was happy to download and print my notes from my computer. 

In the afternoon we boarded a large flatbed truck with many folks seated on the truck bed on plastic chairs! We headed to a remote village called Aurora Blanco, past Buenavista in the mountains. We set up the plastic chairs and benches in the street as their church was destroyed by a typhoon. There are many Philippine Army troops around this area as it was a communist-controlled area for years and is still suspect. The week before, 42 troops had been killed by Muslim terrorists here so the army is nervous and active with roadblocks every few miles. After several songs and prayers, I began teaching. It started raining but umbrellas came out and people gathered under building eaves and shelters. I taught on “The call of Timothy by Paul” in Acts 14 and 16. I had to use my memory, as my notes melted in the rain! The teaching went well and many came for anointing prayer and healing. Two who were in wheelchairs walked and many other healings were evidenced! One lady asked over and over if I was The Pope!! Many here believed I actually was Pope Francis! However he had already left and returned to Rome three weeks ago.

We were then rushed back to Gandera as I was scheduled at 7:30 pm at Paul Montes’ church while Marben preached at a youth rally. I arrived at Montes’ church soaking wet (from preaching out in the rain at Aurora Blanco) and hungry, but we plowed forward. I again preached on Deuteronomy 30 and talked about the history of Caleb Ministry, at his request. This pastor is the younger brother of Danny Montes in Calbayou City where I taught Wednesday. He invited me to come after hearing from his brother on Wednesday night. The next morning at 6 am we drove to Tacloban airport and flew to Manila with a connecting flight to Daveo, Mindineau.

We arrived in Daveo about 10 pm and our hosts were very accommodating, but by this time I had a severe cold. I taught Tuesday Bible Study and then preached Thursday in Pacenbo City, Saturday and Sunday morning.  Friday I was given a great privilege. Ten more police were slaughtered by terrorists Wednesday night. The police chaplain asked me to conduct a memorial service at the police academy for the families and fellow officers. It was a great honor and was followed by a private breakfast hosted by the chief, his assistants and Mayor James Gamao. 

We then immediately headed off to the airport for our flight to Cebu Island and Cebu City. There we stay at the Assemblies compound of Pastor Willie Naverette where he still proudly sports my watch he kept last year. We preached Tuesday and Sunday morning at his church. Wednesday we traveled by minivan to Toledo five hours up the island and stayed there with Pastor Gorem. In Toledo our living conditions were Spartan but we were enthusiastically received at the modest services. A team of 13 YWAM youth attached themselves to our ministry, showing up for meals and services the four days we were there. On Saturday I returned to prepare for Sunday morning at Pastor Willie’s Assemblies church and then Sunday evening with Hilario Alfeche and his wife at their modest church at the dump.

Hilario is an incredible man. For 21 years his church has been located in the city dump on several sites as he moves about as the dump is reconfigured.  He is extremely modest as is his wife. He has only a second grade education and was raised in the very dump in which he holds church services. He says the biggest offering he has ever received in a service was 30 pesos!  There are 50 pesos to a dollar! He begs food from restaurants to feed the dump kids. We have sent him six LBC boxes and he continually talks about how much they have meant. He carried a paper sack when he came to Pastor Willie’s church our first night there to ask me to come and preach in his modest church. In the sack he had a pair of shoes he had gotten from our LBC box. He wore them only in church and when visiting us!

The service in the dump Sunday night was the last of this trip. I taught fittingly about the calling of Timothy, a monser or half-breed Jew and Greek by the apostle Paul as told in Acts 14 and 16, where Paul saw his heart and not his outward appearance. It was a fitting message to end this journey, and was taken to heart in that modest church in the city dump of Cebu.



Thank you for all your prayers and support which made this trip possible! 

Jerry Brian Riess



Wow, here I am again in The Philippine Islands! Processed through SeaTac Airport at 10 pm Tuesday evening, January 13th, my flight on Eva Air (Taiwan Airways) departed on schedule and was a relatively uneventful flight as I managed to sleep most of the 17 hours to Taiwan. After a brief layover of three and a half hours, I was again on EVA Air to Manila! Food on both flights was diabetic meals of rice cake rounds, unflavored yogurt, steamed chicken and vegetables. Because of time changes, and the International Date Line, I arrived at Manila at approximately noon on Thursday, January 15th, and I was promptly met by Bishop Marben Lagmay and Pastora Beverly Estacio. One complication of the arrival was that three hours later, Pope Francis arrived for a Papal Visit, the fourth in history to The Philippines, the most Catholic country in Asia, and perhaps the world!  Security was at an extremely high level; all bags were scrupulously searched, and pat-downs become the norm. Our papers were also thoroughly scrutinized, but in time, I processed through and met up with a very tired Bishop Marben and Beverly. They immediately complained of having to be at the airport seven hours earlier in order to be permitted in to meet me, and then I reminded them I had been traveling 27 hours at this juncture to be there. We decided it was a toss-up. Our ride from the airport was provided by the personal driver of Pastora Pia Chamelle whom I had met in Maui in August. She sent her car and driver to bring us from the airport to the condominium owned by her family in Manila which became our home base. For the Pope’s visit, most roads were closed off, and all contact with the outside world such as by internet, telephone and television was suspended by the government, except for essential police business. My flight, which arrived at 11:55 am, was the last permitted to land in order to secure airspace for The Pope’s arrival, four hours later!

The streets were alive with banners, flags, and greetings for The Pope everywhere. It was quite a sight since the banners displayed His Lightness, quotes or scriptures, and then signatures of the logos of sponsors for the banner--everything from GE, Honda, Ford, Nestle’s foods, to a neighborhood beauty salon or bakery! Nearly every lamppost was adorned along the route he will take, and there were troops, police, security and paramilitary personnel three or four deep along the entire route, holding back throngs of well-wishers. The television and radio stations all broadcasted exclusively six days minute-by-minute coverage. Even when the Pope was sleeping or dining or in private session, there were reruns of the daily coverage. Occasionally, a 60-minute tribute was broadcasted or a forum comprised of Vatican representatives and local Catholic officials came on to explain or expand on the events, and then there were daily question-and-answer sessions by the media at the Manila Grand Hotel. However, it was all clearly orchestrated in every detail--nothing embarrassing nor confrontational nor derogatory was permitted, not even to the slightest degree! When the Pope shortened a visit or a speech or an event, the Vatican representative came on to announce: “His imminence prepared to pronounce the following which is an official declaration of what he intends so it must be reported as it was intended in full as though it occurred.” (Huh?) My impression is that The Pope is a very sincere man and is truly concerned for the poor and for repairing much of the tainted image of the Catholic Church.  However in this he is quite controlling, and the representatives kept him from seeing the truly poor and needy of the slum areas such as Antipolo. During a prior visit of an earlier Pope to Manila an assassination was attempted in which he was stabbed repeatedly and nearly died. Consequently, you can understand their concern for the safety of Pope Francis.  Therefore his visits were restricted severely to photo-op sites and events with only a reference to the truly needy in this developing country. This was disappointing to me but more so because the media never called him nor the Vatican representatives on it .

Complicating matters further, along with the Pope’s arrival, came a Pacific typhoon hitting Manila, Semante, Leyte--the exact sites he was slated to visit.  It also impacted our travels, along with the weird permitted travel routes left open!

Arriving at the condominium in Makati District of Manila, it was in enormous contrast to my anticipated stay at the Antipolo Manila slums and our “One Goat” church. That area was totally blocked off and we were not even able to retrieve my belongings left there last year. However, if you are forced to accept a substitute accommodation, the McDonald’s Condominium is not a bad alternative. I was given a private room with separate bath! I think I have the best bed in the country!  The driver turned over the keys to the 2014 Toyota Minivan to Marben, and we were left in the care of the lands keeper and his wife, who prepared our meals and looked to any needs we had.  The caretaker and his wife and son live on the property in a small shack in the back where she cooked outside on a wok and then brought the food in for us.  (We are on the second floor as the first floor is another complete suite but as yet is unfurnished.)  At about 4 pm she presented us with dinner, and since Marben had told her I eat chicken or pork, she served us a plate of pork chops she had overcooked to be sure there was not a scintilla of fat left!  It is like eating pork jerky, if your teeth are strong.  One chop and a banana are sufficient. Marben and Beverly dine on traditional seafood and rice, in several forms. Clearly she tried and I am grateful but looking forward to finding my LBC box from Seattle with my oatmeal and liquid diet drink.

At 7 pm, the Pope was in his hotel and we were permitted to use some streets. The plan was to go to Pastor Ruly’s church to preach, as Antipolo was off limits officially the entire week.  Marben’s driving was as hair-raising as always, but in Manila you find most are erratic drivers!  Dodging trucks, buses, tricycles, desperate pedestrians, and livestock at incredible speeds,  we arrived at Pastor Ruly and Ona’s church-home, only to learn there is no service because the streets were closed and public events cancelled. I played basketball with some of the kids, very little and very big, and they decided I am not from the NBA, which is worshipped here by youth! It was great fun.  While I was in the courtyard, Pastora Ona was preparing yet another cremated pork chop, along with assorted fish, seaweeds, potions and I do not know what else!  I dined on the cucumbers and tomatoes gratefully as we visited around the table and the crowd watched reruns of the Pope’s journey from the airport to the hotel on TV.  Pastor Charles Roda and his wife Mee-la arrived to greet me. They came up from Lapu-Lapu to be reassured we will be visiting their churches. Pastor Ruly recounted the many gifts they received from the LBC boxes, and how grateful they are. Finally, Pastora Marlita Semante arrives. She is a sister to Pastor Ruly, and she was as welcoming as ever. She had mapped out a plan for Friday night involving her son Pastor Edmar Semante and his youth group in the church of Pastor Ruly’s older brother, which technically is outside Manila and therefore was not in curfew!

Returning to the condominium for the evening, I enjoy (I cannot stress this enough) a warm shower and soft bed in air-conditioned luxury!  Back in 1982 my wife Karen and I visited Manila during our journey with World Concern to China. We were given the General MacArthur Suite at the Manila Mandarin Hotel for two nights, which was a 5-star accommodation. This was 6-star by comparison!  Waking at 7 am to instant hot coffee, followed by the now obligatory cremated pork chop, I decided to fast, just taking liquids.   The day was spent resting, organizing and watching the movements of the Pope minute-by-minute on the four Manila TV stations. Fortunately, Channel 9 limited itself to English announcing so I could understand. At 4 pm the Pope arrived at the Grand Hotel across town so we got into the Toyota and ventured the back roads around the city and maneuvered ourselves out to Youth Night and the very gracious family of Pastor Edmar Semante. He has five children including one set of twins, and heads up the youth ministry on the large church compound at Passig City.  Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Pastor Ruly and several deacons. Since it was very hot inside the basement fellowship hall, we decide to sit outside and feed the mosquitos, if you get my drift!

Marlita arrived along with several other pastors from the area and we began the service, a Friday Night Youth Fellowship for the neighborhood. After a precious worship time, Marben was introduced and he then presented me to the group.  They asked a lot of questions about Caleb Ministries and then I presented my teaching on Deuteronomy 30:4-10. This was followed by fellowship time and then our Caleb Movie gift of “Facing The Giants.”  We gift our movies to many of the youth programs here monthly just as we present them in Seattle.

Returning to the condominium at 11 pm, we rested until 2:30 am when the airplane arrived from Maui bringing Pastora Pia and others. They have come as a contingent to stay the week as there is a big family wedding scheduled for Friday, January 23, for one of her cousins. In all, the owners of the condominium Marin and Cho, and five other family members have arrived. We were welcomed to stay but decided it best to leave Manila because our activities were too restricted by the curfews, and, a typhoon was coming in which would hamper things further. We loaded our belongings in the car and the driver took us to the Para Bus Southy terminal and we boarded at 4 am--Beverly, Marben, and myself--and headed north to LaUnion, about an 8-hour bus ride.

Arriving about 1 pm in LaUnion, our hosts were Beverly’s family. Their “home” is actually a commercial café space they had just moved into themselves recently. It was unfurnished except for a propane camp stove, two charcoal stoves used on back porch, a dining room table, and some plastic stools. They cook food for area restaurants, sitting on the floor and preparing the dishes which are then delivered around the neighborhood.  They have five youngsters they look after during the day, two of which are Beverly’s brother’s children. He drives a motortryke for a living and lives here along with his wife. They watched The Pope on the television, sitting in the front room on the floor. I was gifted the use of the second room along with Marben, on grass mats.  Dinner was leftovers from returned restaurant food but I elected to continue fasting, and since there was no bottled water, I passed on that as well to protect myself. Sleep was very difficult due to the heat. One fan is brought in but the halls, floors and even porch outside were covered with people sleeping on mats. My three trips to the outside toilet were precarious as I stepped around and over bodies, hoping to keep my balance and not awaken others with my flash light. It was a difficult night.

Sunday morning breakfast was a cremated port chop, rice, and instant coffee. Marben and Beverly had fish that appeared to be trout which they chopped up in their rice. The mother brought me a small bread roll, freshly baked without butter or jam, and it was delicious.

We then journeyed out by motortryke to a small mountain village church of Pastora Vida C. Dulay. The Lord Jesus Christ Church, Caramoan East, Rosario, LaUnion. The ride inside the Motortryke was cramped but brief, only about 40 minutes. It was crowded as we had biker, Marben, Beverly, her mother, and myself, plus an LBC box of clothes and gifts, to bring up the narrow mountain concrete ribbon pathway.  The Pastora was very pleased we made the journey. This church is where Beverly attended when she was four years old and they have her photo on their wall showing her classmates.  The service went very well, followed by giving out the contents of our LBC box.

From the village church we went to Rosario LaUnion Hospital to pray with a lady from the church who was dying. In a small ward with eight filled beds, I anointed and prayed with her and then in turn with several others at their request.

Upon returning back to the restaurant where we were staying, we discovered the key had been misplaced and we were locked out! Asked if they wanted in, the mother said yes! So I pried open the front window and pulled off the metal grate, and the motorcyclist slid in and opened the door. I then replaced the grate and window. American ingenuity!

We rested on the mat and then Marben went to San Fernando by bus to rent our minivan. He returned four hours later and announced we must go as they expected us at another church.  Heading north, we took to the hills in our “climbing minivan” and about hour found a basketball court (concrete pad and baskets) out in the middle of nowhere. Here was Jesus Reigns Ministry, Pastora Amor Lumianog and Pastora Cecilea R. McBride, 3rd floor Narcallea Building, Poblacion east, Rosario, LaUnion 09105966721. A tractor, two heavy duty farm trucks, a few motorcycles, and lots of people were coming down paths and trails to attend the outdoor service, many seeing for the first time a white person, a missionary, and a guest speaker in the 11-year history of this open-air church.  Worship time was great with children performing favorite songs and dances and then it was time for me to preach.  Again I used Deuteronomy 30 as my lesson as it presents a clear picture of God’s plan for our redemption, and the words came easily even though darkness obscured my notes. Just as I was finishing, the clouds showered us, scattering folks in all directions. I thanked the Lord for His timing.  A local farmer beckoned us to take cover on his porch and we gathered with many people crowding in also. There, we prayed individually for many, anointing and asking Jesus to touch each as their needs were presented. We gifted many with goods from our LBC boxes and prayed an anointing on their church and their pastors. I was surprised to find such an organized and fully-staffed ministry team out here in this wilderness far from the beaten path. It was an honor to be here for such a blessed night.

We returned to LaUnion and the restaurant site late Sunday evening, our plans of driving north during the night dispelled by the storm. Instead, we had a rice cake round and went to bed on our mats for a second night. Monday morning the storm had passed and Marben and I awaited a bus from Manila carrying my LBC box someone fetched from Antipolo. The bus never arrived so at 2 pm we headed north for Santa Maria. Beverly elected to stay with her family in LaUnion.  We stopped in Candon City for dinner at Jollibee.  Spaghetti and chicken joy (chicken piece with dipping gravy cup) is just $1.50 and my usual order. Marben had the same. We arrived in Santa Maria about 6 pm, enduring more heavy rains and traffic as the typhoon in Manila sheds north towards Ilocos provinces. At Santa Maria we arrived at the small apartment built into the Eloheim Covenant Community Church. The water is not working so we use well buckets from the back to bring in washing water.  The church suffered flooding just two months ago and is still recovering. My room complete with door on posts bed awaited but there are no amenities so Marben calls his son Cholo for a place for us to wash up. We headed over there, just ten minutes away but when we arrived, there were already many pastors waiting, the word of our arrival having spread quickly. Marben has not been here since we both left last March. At Cholo’s we gathered around a large table and open hearth on the patio and had a wonderful time of worship, singing, prayer, and Bible study as some of the ladies prepared a dinner for all. It was truly awesome and joyful as we sang and discussed scripture and teachings surrounding the passage in Romans on becoming “sons of God.” Picture us, my clothes sticking to my skin, clutching my shaving kit, expecting to be given time to wash and clean up from six days’ travel, but no one will let me leave, wanting to talk more and pray more and worship more! It was as if they are afraid I will not come back! They have been in touch with Marben but it is difficult for them to contact me as few here speak English.  Dinner is a pork stir-fry, rice, and several fish dishes but Cholo sends out for yogurt and fresh fruit for me! I feel so welcome and so missed by this family. They cannot stop asking questions about the Skype transmission from Maui and the marvel that it worked so well. Finally at 11 pm, the children had to be put to bed so I finally get to clean up.

Returning to the church with a bottle of drinking water, I awoke at 8 am and found Auntie Cora has followed up from Manila by bus (9 hours) and many of the young pastors have arrived bringing me fruit and yogurt! God is good! Auntie Cora is 71 years old and co-pastor at the Antipolo slums church! Two of the young pastors from last year’s trip to Pilar have just brought in my LBC box of supplies I shipped last October for this trip. I now had sufficient clothes, meds and oatmeal for the journey. They were very excited for my return and found furnishings for my bare room. Jo-el and Jamar are about 20 and full of energy and mischief.

Marben announced that we must go as someone was waiting to see me. Heading out of town we stopped at a rural bus stop and suddenly Joy appears, now with a two-year-old daughter. Marben warned not to “Pastor” as the daughter might repeat it to her father, getting Joy into trouble.  Five years ago she ran from the ministry for an abusive boyfriend twice her age. Marben and I rescued her and she asked us for funds to get to Hong Kong to an Aunt. We gave her $300 but she changed her mind and gave him the money. I had not heard from her since but she has stayed in touch with Auntie Cora and asked to see me. We went to a dining area in Candon City inside a Home Depot type store and had lunch. She was constantly asking forgiveness, which we gladly extended. Her husband is still abusive but she does not wish to leave and felt she needed to explain to us. We had a good visit and then she returned home.

Back at Santa Maria, a pastors’ teaching seminar was going on when we arrived and they asked that I teach, so I taught on “The Feasts and Festivals.” It was great being back with these wonderful servants! They were so anxious to learn that we taught and studied in the hot afternoon for nearly two hours! After finishing, they asked if they could copy my nine pages of notes. As always, I agreed. Pastora Ruby collected my notes while Pastora Ophelia collected what coins each had to make a common fund for the Xeroxing machine at the market. Some had but a couple of pesos, but others had more and it simply was pooled without question. Later that evening at the Bible Study she returned my notes and handed each of the others a neat packet of the nine sheets, stapled, with their name on it. She even had three packets left for others who missed the meeting.

About 5 pm, Marben announced that we must leave for teaching in 15 minutes. An hour later he showed up at my room and we left, going to Nalvo Beach, about 10 minutes’ drive in our rental Toyota, to Beth and Babars’ house.  We started as a group of eight or nine for dinner, and when we finished, over 30 others had arrived for the meeting, representing a wide age spectrum.  We sang several worship songs followed by prayer, and then I was asked to speak. I preached on Caesaria Philippi and Peter identifying Jesus as The Christ. It was a strong teaching and lasted nearly 90 minutes but no one stirred or complained. They asked me to build on it at the Wednesday evening service, which I will.

Wednesday we were at the Eloheim Covenant Church in Santa Maria and apparently we will stay about a week. Breakfast was two cremated pork chops and a boiled egg. Glad to have my LBC box with oatmeal! After I washed and set in motion clothes washing, Pia arrived on the bus from Manila with her friend Weng, a companion she had with her in Maui for the wedding last October. They are longtime friends but Weng lives in Manila and Pia in Maui so see each other only on special occasions. Good to see them. They were “engineering” the wedding to take place in Vigan, 45 miles from Santa Maria in two days. After the wedding, she will travel with us full time. We went to a club internet so I could finally let folks back home know I am safe. Internet was cut off by the Government during the Pope’s visit, and he has now left.  However, we still had no access in Santa Maria as Beverly had the access tools to satellite in LaUnion. When I finally got access to internet, I had 78 messages and 112 junk mail messages. Some were very important such as Boeing asking that I verify the Caleb Ministry as non-profit. But their web site would not recognize my password so I could not get that done from here. Frustrating!  I asked Scott to work on it. Some donors give through Boeing payroll deduction and it results in matching grants so this is an important issue to resolve. But on Club Internet the lines are never secure, and it is difficult with their old equipment to get work done.

Auntie Cora went with me to the Internet and back, and we utilized a motorized tryke again. I am getting in and out better in them but it still messes with my back as I am too tall. When Marben returned we went to Barangay Bourga to visit a family from the church. Pia, Weng, Marben and I stayed for lunch which was fried native chicken, very tough. The rest was unidentifiable and every one was visiting in Filipino so I settled for the one piece of chicken, chewing gristle hours until later I swear! Then we visited a family whose daughter I dedicated six years ago. It was her birthday so the family wanted my blessing again. Her name is Angela Grace. They had a big celebration but we could not stay, since we were due at the church for counseling. I then prepared the night leaders’ lesson and rested. At 6 pm Auntie Cora came for a visit and then two other ladies as well.

At 7 pm, Marben left with Pia and Weng for parts unknown and the present Pastor of Eloheim Church, Pastora Jean, advised the team was ready for the Leadership Meeting. Going to the sanctuary, I found about 25 of the pastors were present. They started with prayer and worship songs and then I had them bring their chairs closer for teaching. My subject was Philippians 4:4-7 and how The Lord guards the mind and the heart against attacks of the enemy. It was well received and by 8:30 pm Marben had returned with Pia and Weng. He concluded the meeting with his teaching on Noah’s Ark, using Genesis 6:5-22.

Thursday morning I awoke to a visit by Auntie Cora and two more cremated pork chops and two boiled eggs. She kindly asked Lulinda, my assigned cook and housekeeper who does not speak English, to cut back on the pork chops and eggs and instead bring some fruit and vegetables. Auntie Cora stayed for a long visit as we discussed many things. It was a good time. At 11, Lulinda brought steamed vegetables and coffee for lunch. It was a wonderful change. There was still no word from Marben but most likely he was in Vigan with Pia and Weng working on tomorrow’s wedding plans at the Vigan hotel.

At 5 pm, Lulinda again brings the steamed vegetables for dinner, but no coffee. (They are tea drinkers.) The vegetables were perfect in a small portion just as I had asked through Auntie Cora: cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips, mushrooms, and a few tidbits of chicken. They were served with a sliced tomato. PERFECT!  Following dinner, it was riding in a motortryke and off to another Bible study-church, this one in the garden cabana adjoining a soda bottling plant. There were about 40 there. I taught again on Peter, The Fragile Stone, as some asked for more about Peter from Tuesday’s teaching at Nalvo Beach. It went exceedingly well and I was so pleased, comfortable and appreciated by these young people and their enthusiasm! Dinner was rice noodles with vegetable slivers and spring rolls, as you would get in most USA Chinese restaurants. I had already eaten, so just had water and obligatory tea. The host offered as much soda pop as anyone wanted, as long as it is “bubble-up” or “orangarangatang,” their brands.

I wanted to walk back as it is just four kilometers to the church, but the kids would not permit it. At the church, Marben still had not arrived back from Vigan where they were doing the wedding preparations for tomorrow. I read some Beth Moore on my kindle and then went to sleep at 11 pm. Saturday morning very quiet as I spent time reading more of Beth Moore, prepared notes for the wedding and revised my notes on sermons I had been giving in the last four days.

Friday arrived and it was one of those days traveling evangelists disdain. Marben was very involved in setting up wedding arrangements in Vigan, 49 kilometers away, looking after Pia and her friend Weng who were staying in Vigan at the hotel Ahab where the wedding will take place, and arranging the roast pig in Santa Maria for the wedding, which was being prepared by Joy as part of Joy’s business. She actually operates a kiosk “store” and does catering of things on side. Marben announced early in the morning that he would be busy running errands so I prepared myself with reading and revising sermon notes. I am presently reading two Beth Moore books which are helping to give better understanding for my sermons. Breakfast was one hard-boiled egg exactly as I requested. Marben said he would be back at 11 am for us to go to Candon City for lunch or the wedding so I made suitable preparations. He returned at noon and said we would have plenty of time as the wedding is not until 2:30 pm. Then he asked if I could wait until 3 pm for lunch as he had more errands to run. I asked if it's a definite 3 pm and he said yes and I agreed.  We picked up Auntie Cora and headed for Vigan at 1:30 pm, arriving at the Ahab bar and resort hotel at 2:20 pm.  I was ushered into the wedding area to sit and watch all of the setting up for a wedding scheduled to take place at five and which actually occurred at 6:30 pm.

People came and went, speaking with Marben and Auntie Cora, but sadly no one conversed in English. Marben was very busy on the cell phone while Auntie Cora was reminiscing with family and I was somewhat isolated. This is one of the hardest parts of missionary work--when you are alone. You have little control over your food and no control over your social life. I should have brought my Kindle but was assured by Marben they would not be necessary. Then, when the people I do know from Maui arrived, they said hello and then lapse into the conversation in Filipino with all of their friends and family. The result was to sit there at the wedding, knowing only a few people and being totally left out of all conversation. The wedding ceremony was very long, but quite impressive in an elegant resort setting. The program went on for over three hours and finally they reached the point where they served dinner. It consisted of rice, chicken and fish. I got through the evening, but as the time went on, I found the people I know are all deeply engaged in local conversations again. Finally, I wandered out into the parking lot and found a metal swing to entertain myself. The Hindu man who is a medical student here, and two local Filipino students visited with me for a while and then several others arrived. They seemed to be interested in selling drugs, finding a Filipino wife or simply finding a Filipino escort for the evening but I declined all of their offers and was somewhat amused.  The Hindu and I had a meaningful conversation concerning life in the Philippines and India, and I found him rather interesting. Once he started to partake of his marijuana, I left and went back to the wedding party. By now, many of the guests had left and my companions and their friends were deep in thought, reminiscing of the old days. Again I wished I had brought my Kindle with me to read. Finally, at 11 pm we ventured back to Santa Maria and I had a bowl of oatmeal in the night for my dinner.

Saturday Marvin said he would be gone all day but at the last minute he asked if I would like to join him on a trip since Pia and Weng are staying at the hotel in Vigan (where the wedding took place) and have invited us for breakfast. We arrived with Auntie Cora at 9:30 am but they have already eaten, and were anxious to get to town. Marben and Auntie Cora insisted we eat first and the hotel served us fried eggs and kippurs so I pulled out a packet of oatmeal and instant coffee and fixed my own. We then ventured to town where Marben made the final arrangements for purchasing our airfares to Cebu. From there we ventured to Guarte, a theme park in Vigan consisting of several zoo animals, some replicas of dinosaurs, and many booths and fair-type entertainment including rides in little surries pulled by Shetland ponies around a track. We spent about four hours there with our group of about 20 people, including nine or ten children. Marben and Pia were back at the hotel in business meetings so our leader was a Filipino I knew from Maui whom I call Ty but think of Arnold Schwarzenegger whenever I see him. He is loads of fun to be with but speaks little English.

We then returned to the hotel where some of the guests changed and then we went to the home of the bride for a luncheon put on by her family for the wedding party. It was very nice, except that Marben and Pia did not warn me that one dish included whitefish, which resulted in my getting somewhat ill. I realized that I needed to look out after myself a little more closely and stop relying upon them.

From there, we returned to the hotel and said goodbye to the wedding party for the night, and headed back towards Santa Maria. On the way, we stopped to visit a very nice elderly gentleman in his early 70s who had one leg amputated for diabetes two years ago. He had gone to school with Marben's older brothers and knew Auntie Cora from her early years. He told me much about both of them and we even sang some of the old hymns together--he and his wife, his sister-in-law, Marben, Auntie Cora and myself. His name is Pastor Daniel and he is very dedicated to the Assemblies belief system. We had a wonderful visit at the end of which he insisted on giving me bananas and biscuits to take as a gift for having visited him and prayed for him. He is a wonderful gentleman and I truly enjoyed spending time with him. I wisely took my Kindle along with me permitting me much time to read and not feel left out from the conversations. We arrived back in Santa Maria at 5:30 pm to rest up for Sunday services and dinner for the bridal party back at the groom’s home in Vigan. For those of you who do not know Vigan, it is the capital of the Ilocos Sur provinces in northern Luzon island and is a very picturesque city in Spanish Hacienda style with many small street cafés and street carts drawn by horses.

Saturday evening I read and prepared the Sunday message and then retired early, around 8 pm. It is unseasonably cool here, around 70 to 80 degrees and I am thriving but locals are freezing as it usually 90 to 110! The storms in Manila continue to affect our cool weather pattern.

Up at 5:30 am Sunday, I was greeted by instant coffee and a platter breakfast of two pork chops, a chicken thigh and leg, and sliced tomatoes. I ate one pork chop and the tomatoes and again asked Lulinda not to bring me so much food. My little room has a plate of fruit (2 apples, 2 oranges, 6 bananas), a pack of biscuits we know as Ritz crackers from Pastor Daniel, my Kirkland diet beverage and my oatmeal packets, in the event I get hungry.  Also, there are still 5 boxed yogurt drinks (like juice boxes) Joy gave me. Food is becoming very difficult because of my diabetes and seafood allergies. At ChowKing in LaUnion Marben ordered me a chicken dish but it included shrimp chips and an oyster sauce. I became suspicious and asked the waiter. When Marben realized, he scraped off the sauce and removed the chips. So I didn’t eat as it had been contaminated but he did not understand. Then yesterday at lunch Pia and Marben both stood silent as I was dished a white fish. Pia said she knew but felt it was none of her concern even though she is supposed to look after me.   My stomach was aching from tension and was queasy and I was waiting until l I returned home to drink my Kirkland beverage or have oatmeal.  Once I am permitted to skip a couple of meals I begin to feel better.

At 9 am, two Pastoras came and got me for morning service. I preached on the Feasts and Festivals. I had taught on this the other night at leadership meeting so the pastors were looking forward to it. With my friend Ophelia translating, it went very well. After the sermon, they asked that I bless two pastors being sent out.  As I anointed and prayed, the first collapsed under the Spirit, and was caught by the translator.  The Spirit was clearly present here throughout the service, and I feel so privileged and blessed to be here. After, they wanted me to stay for lunch but I said I was fasting and withdrew to my room. Auntie Cora came and insisted I attend if only to have coffee, so I relented but my stomach was very unsettled. Once I arrived, they all wanted me to eat with them just a little but I managed to escape back to my room. Lying down helps a great deal and I finally fell asleep.

Marben was to pick me up at noon to go to Vigan but typically it is already 4 pm and no word from him so I rejoined my Kindle, reading more Beth Moore. At 4:45 pm, Marben arrived along with Pia and Mariam, saying we must rush. I got into the Ford Ranger 150 extended cab pickup truck belonging to Cholo but driven by Marben of late, and we rushed north to the town of Massingal where we were the night before but this time to the boyhood home of the groom and, incidentally, Pia and Florence (Miriam’s husband). I then made the connection. He is the young man I anointed with oil last February when we visited here for lunch and met the McDonald’s owner who sponsored our Maui trip in October. He is an orphan raised by Pia’s family! That is why they all came from Hawaii for the wedding and are sponsoring the event. Auntie Cora and I escaped to a cabana and watched the dinner events unfold. Marben took a nap in the truck while all the men-folk (there are plenty as the family has 11 boys and 3 girls plus assorted orphans they raised here) unloaded the pickup bed with Caleb gifts of clothes and toys. A band warmed up on the patio open-space as 150 chairs were set up. It is then that Pia told me I was to PREACH after the buffet dinner. Nice timing. All my notes and Bible were in Santa Maria except my pocket Bible! She then bribed me with fresh papaya to share with Auntie Cora. Miriam visited us in the cabana and invited us to tomorrow night at her childhood home for yet another festive celebration. The groom told me that he and his bride were actually married six months ago in Manila and so they have been working up to doing the family plans ever since. Thus, no honeymoon is necessary!

The food was delicious and Pia took time to prepare a safe plate for me of roasted pig and rice and assorted vegetables. Cases of pop were passed about as was bottled water. About 200 guests appeared from all over. The instant sermon was my favorite topic, Deuteronomy 30, as it is close to memorized and my tiny-print Bible was capable of helping as a prop. The music was great and Miriam had hired them to come to her place again tonight. Apparently after that party, Pia’s extended family will return to Manila and she will spend Tuesday night with us at the village of Caraisan, Magsingal where we have been sending LBC boxes for her.  I caught one young man, about six years of age, peeing in a flower pot in the garden.  I admonished him and told him to get some pride and use the banyo like a grown up!  Later when I was introduced to the local Pastora, I discovered he is her son.  OOPS!  It was a fun night.

Many were slain as we prayed over them. I recall in particular a teen who came and grabbed my arm pleading with me to pray for him as he is messed up from a motorcycle accident. He has what he says is just 10% ability to function and is distraught. I gathered several other of the bikers and had them join me in laying on of hands, and it was a good lesson for all.  And, yes, he is being healed by Our Lord.  

The drive back to Santa Maria consisted of Florence, Pia, and Marben driving in shifts as all were very tired and it is an hour’s drive even without traffic. Arriving, we found Beverly waiting for me. She took the bus from Rosario LaUnion bringing me the internet wifi and using it as an excuse to talk. I do not know what happened in her life but she was removed as Pastora in Antipolo and has been defrocked in ministry and is being shunned by many including Auntie Cora. She wanted to come along on our mission and has her own funds but Marben said no, I find it sad that he used her to help when I arrived in Manila, even to point of staying with her family in LaUnion.  However, I believe he does not want to be associated with her around Pia’s family so he is very rude and abrasive to her. She visited my room to set up internet and I insisted the door be left open. She then talked a great deal with me and I prayed for and with her. Auntie Cora and Marben and Pia were all staying very close by so I turned up my music and fan to give privacy. Finally at 2 am I told her we must get to bed so she will have to leave. I also said that I did not think this mission trip was right for her as she needed to first rebuild her reputation by working in local ministry away from Marben because there is too much that has transpired. I pointed out her obvious talents and qualities and regarding matters of the heart, I told her to listen to her mother who is clearly an intelligent and devout woman. She has a 46-year-old “boyfriend” she met on the internet who is not Filipino and who wants to bring her to America and then marry. She is 22. I believe it to be a sex-slave trap and I understand why so many are afraid for her, but she is headstrong. She agreed with me to require him to first come to the Philippines and live with her family six months to learn Filipino culture before she goes anywhere with him. That should quench any ill motives he might have. Finally at 2:30 she left and I went to bed.

Monday I awoke and spent most of the morning catching up on the Internet and answering my many accumulated e-mails. I had no idea where Marben or Pia were, but understood we were to leave around noon for the childhood home of Marion some distance away for another wedding dinner. I was ready at noon, and proceeded to read my Kindle, enjoying the quiet time in a Beth Moore book. Suddenly at 4 pm Marben arrived and said it was time to leave at once to go to the dinner and that we would be gone overnight. This was a shock to me because I hadn't packed anything for an overnight stay nor did I have any warning that I would be gone for two days. This is somewhat typical and I quickly packed what I could. Marben had told me in Manila I would not need my overnight bag so I had nothing with me to pack a small cache of clothes and medicines. Pia came in at that point and handed me a take-out food lunch from Jollybee consisting of spaghetti and a piece of chicken. I dumped the contents and proceeded to pack in the jellybean takeout bag my medicines, glucometer meter, two sermons, and my shaving kit.  I asked Marben to add my red shirt and a pair of trousers from the laundry he was holding.

He packed the car and we headed out to Candon City, and then east to Salcedo, Ilocos Sur. Salcedo is about two hours east into the mountains. The road is very rugged and we arrived in the town somewhat exhausted. We were greeted by the elementary school principal who very proudly showed us his campus. It is indeed quite unique and has won many awards nationally for its emphasis upon science and teaching. From there we were greeted by people from Marion's home village of Sorioan who then transferred us to their heavy-duty vehicles to head down the road another hour across two rivers and into a very remote area across a long foot bridge. It was an exciting trip and we arrived at his aunt's house where we were served roast pig for dinner. The Assemblies of God pastor is named Adam. He was most hospitable in greeting me, but I think somewhat curious as to what I had to say. Following dinner, the village was called to the church and I preached on Deuteronomy 30 with Marben translating. It became a very animated service with many people slain in the spirit and there was much healing and praising of the Lord.

Ministry is a real pleasure here as we have gathered together much of the team from Maui I worked with in September-October. I have as helpers Pia, Marian, Florence, Marben, Weng, Boyet, Cholo, and the bride and groom, all trained in discipling and ministering. We all have been ministering on this trip but it was our first time all being together at one event. I was then led to a bamboo bench in the aunt’s house where I am to sleep tonight while most of the team members stay in the second floor of the church which has a considerable staircase. The next morning I passed on the breakfast fare and enjoyed a packet of my oatmeal and coffee. I then went for a walk with Pia. Returning to the house, Pia became involved in the cooking arrangements and I was invited on a walk with Boyet.  We even played a little basketball and then returned to the house and Miriam invited me to go on a walk to the graveyard to visit the graves of her parents. I agreed and it was a very pleasant jaunt about 4 km and we were accompanied by several of the neighbors. Visiting the graves was very important to her, because she has not been here in many years. We then returned to the house where a memorial service was held for Marion's parents and grandparents because she could not be here when they were interned. An ice cream wagon miraculously showed up at the cemetery and everyone enjoyed an ice cream cone except for me. Sadly, all of the men declined to come to the graveyard and missed out. Most of the neighbors came to the house and it was packed. We had a preaching time and a healing time, ministering to the people and then were served lunch at which, again, I enjoy oatmeal.

At three o'clock it was time to pack up and head out with most of the team heading directly to Manila in the larger vehicle and Marben, Pia and myself returning to Santa Maria to pack up our belongings to leave that evening when it would be cooler for the drive to Manila. The plan was to leave at 6 pm but then Cholo who was driving us decided to take us to a fancy goodbye meal in the area at the Vitalis Hotel. At 8 pm we arrived at the Hotel where he had preordered the “Buda” prepared with chicken and pork so I can partake. It arrived at our table as a large bamboo tray covered with mounds of rice, pieces of chicken and pork, vegetables and fancy “finger food” all to be eaten Filipino style with the three fingers. Sadly, they decorated the dishes with squid and shrimp and scallops. It made a beautiful presentation but I had to decline because of my allergies. The rest dug in as I reach for a packet of instant oatmeal in my chino pockets. After dinner we loaded our Ford Avanti and headed for Manila, arriving at 5:30 am at Antipolo, our home for six days. We refreshed at Makati in the condominium which is now occupied by Mariam and Florence and their wedding party. Our group is Pia, Marben, Cholo, Meko, and myself. The bride and groom Melinda and Moliea are now returning home and Marlita will join us as Miriam and Florence return to Maui.

Wednesday evening after resting from the long drive, we held a nice, informal Bible study last evening in a neighboring water bottling plant (Manila). It was a cool setting. Since it was the first time for all attending, I preached on the importance of the salvation message getting out. I also anointed each after the teaching and saw beautiful healings! God is so good!

It was now Thursday morning and I just had my oatmeal and some papaya and coffee for breakfast. The crowd had rice with fish and vegetables, fried eggs, fresh biscuits and peanut butter or Nutella, papaya, and coffee. Not exactly hardship camping. The Maui folks bring a degree of civilization to the setting, but much luggage as well. They are great to have along. I had a long visit with Pastor and Pastora Charles Roda yesterday, discussing in depth their handling of the Antipolo church as they just took it over there weeks ago. They also coordinated the LBC shipping and the candy pack distributions. It was very fruitful. I met them last year in Lapu-Lapu and in Cebu. Good devoted missionaries!  Tonight I am preaching in Antipolo “one goat” church.

Jerry Brian Riess

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