It’s The Rice

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It’s a tricky thing, trying to summarize nearly three weeks of travel, teaching, learning, observing, discussing, and sharing in a few lines. February 1-19 Tom Woody and I made such a trip to the Philippines. Various things leave strong impressions. The young sister, a widow at 25 with three children, who loves to sing and prefers the soprano or bass lines of hymns in the English language. The old man who has started several congregations and baptized most of the inhabitants of remote villages but can’t walk the long distances or climb the steep hills so well anymore at 84, and can’t see the print of his Bible, but continues to encourage the brethren and seek the truth. The third class rice that tastes of mold, being eaten gladly by destitute brethren who barely survive from harvest to harvest, when there is a harvest. The dozens of children gathered around the bamboo walls of the meeting places to see and hear the American visitors, children that often out number the adults present. Brothers and sisters who come to Bible study with long knives or machetes in hand, because these are the tools of their livelihood and they’ve taken time off from farming or woodgathering to come and hear a message from God’s word. Backless slat benches moved repeatedly during morning studies to escape the sun pouring through openings in an incomplete roof that awaits additional materials. The “preacher” who is known to have sinned grievously and still tries to take the lead. A bottle of aspirin carefully divided among villagers plagued with fevers and headaches and malaria symptoms. A young brother sickened with a toothache who tries to refuse money to see a dentist because others need it more. Confusion and distress over teachings some American preachers use to try to divide and control the churches. Generous sharing of chickens and eggs from scanty flocks for visiting Americans. “Weak” bridges with boards laid over holes so that they can still be driven across. All this and much, much more.

Many in the Philippines show a good spirit, a desire to know the truth and serve the Lord. Poverty is not a hindrance to entrance into the kingdom of heaven, but poverty can be very discouraging. I’m thankful that generous brethren here have been willing to give, to join in fellowship with brethren overseas, that they may have some of their needs supplied and be encouraged in love. We will never overcome poverty in this world, but it is praiseworthy to help poor brethren and encourage them to continue in faith, and to support the preaching of the gospel. I want to say thank you to all those brethren and congregations who have done so, whether in the Philippines or your own communities or elsewhere on this globe. May God indeed provide an abundant harvest from the seed you help to scatter.

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