|Constructing A Church|
|Monday, 26 March 2012 22:19|
I tried posting this just after the team left, but the internet has been off and on for the last few days.
The team from Hawaii arrived on Saturday, March 10th. It's a small team of seven from several churches around the Hawaii district. Most of the team is made up of FilAms (Filipino Americans). Only two of them have no ties to the Philippines, Pastor RJ and Molly.
Sunday morning we headed out from APNTS to the airport to catch a flight to Tuguegarao. It's only a 55 minute flight, but to drive there would take 10 to 11 hours. After we landed in Tuguegarao, we had to find transportation to Aparri. My original plan was to take a bus for the two-hour trip, but since our flight was delayed for three hours, there were no buses available once we arrived. Plan B was renting a private van, so that's what we did.
The trip from Tuguegarao to Aparri took us through some beautiful countryside that included rice fields, carabao, corn fields, and several other unidentified crops. We followed the Cagayan river for most of the way up to Aparri.
Once we arrived in Aparri we decided to grab a bite to eat. One of the only "decent" restaurants in Aparri is Jollibee (Filipino McDonalds). We had lunch there and waited for Pastor Ernie and Linda to meet us there.
The next stop was the boat dock. The church is located in Paruddun Norte, across the Cagayan river from the main part Aparri town. The church had a boat donated from Waolani Judd Nazarene School in Hawaii. So we used the church's boat and rented another boat to get the entire team and their gear across the river. It takes about 20 minutes to get across the river on a calm day.
After crossing the river, our next mode of transportation was a kuliglig. The kuliglig is a two-wheeled rice tiller pulling a two-wheeled trailer. During the off-season, rice farmers convert their rice tillers into kuligligs and make money by driving people around, kind of like taxis. Our kuliglig ride only lasted about 10 minutes, but I'm sure it's a ride the team will not soon forget!
Upon arriving at the church, we quickly unpacked and took a tour of the worksite. The 2-story church had all the walls constructed, the roof framing built and the floor joists for the second floor installed. It's a large building designed for multiple purposes. Pastor Babas wants to not only use the building for church, but he also wants to use it as a fellowship hall and a place that he can use for other ministries. The second floor will be the parsonage for the pastor that will eventually take over the church in a few years.
Here's the story behind the church. Ernie and Linda have lived in Hawaii for many, many years. About 20 years ago, Ernie felt called to come back to his hometown and start a church. The road back to Aparri was long and had many twists and turns in it, but in 2010 Ernie made it back to where God called him 20 years earlier.
Their goal is to start a church, which they've already done, and build a place for worship and ministry, which they are working on. Once they have the church up and running, Ernie would like to turn it over to a younger pastor and he and Linda will return to Hawaii where they can spend time with their family.
Let's get back to the team and their work.
Our first full day at the worksite was a rainout. Instead of working on the church, the team went to town for some more supplies. And, as you now know, going to town is no easy feat. We spent the rest of the day looking around town and shopping for building materials.
We woke up the next day to more rain, but this time the team was determined to get some work done. So we donned our best swimming apparel and got to work.
Our first assignment was to chisel out holes and channels in the wall to install electrical conduit and junction boxes. We had most of the team working on this, but there were a couple of team members who helped with the plumbing.
The rain finally stopped by late afternoon and the sun came out, which made the work a whole lot more enjoyable! But I think deep down some of the team members really liked working in the rain. It somehow built camaraderie within the team.
So the team spent their first work day chiseling with makeshift chisels made from rebar and working on the plumbing. It was hard work, especially in the rain, but I was proud of them for working so hard in such poor conditions. I could tell from the first day of work that this team was special.
The next workday we added a new tool... a grinder. We had the grinder the first day, but we didn't have the concrete blade for it. We had Ernie pick up a concrete blade when he was in town the day before. The grinder allowed the team to easily remove most of the concrete wall without using a chisel, which increased their productivity 10-fold. They were happy to see the grinder!
The plumbing crew spent most of the second day digging a trench for the sewer pipe from the church building to the septic tank. They were also able to install the main sewer pipe.
Over the next few days the team primed the outside walls for painting, helped install the electrical conduit throughout the building, pulled the wires through the conduit, laid the rebar and tied them together for the floor, and completed most of the plumbing for the first and second floor. That's a lot of work!
What's the title of this article? "Constructing a church."
With all of that work that I just mentioned, the team still hadn't began "Constructing a church." You see, God had something bigger planned for this team. Something that none of us could have expected. They came to help construct a church, but God wanted them to help construct the church.
It started one evening when the team decided to play a game of basketball with some of the youth in the community. I don't think any of them were ready to play full court basketball after a long day of work, but each one of them understood the big picture and that playing this game would go a long way in building relationships.
Everyone managed to make it through the game without getting hurt or passing out from the heat. After the game, I was able to share my testimony with about 15 to 20 people that were sitting around watching us play. After my testimony, I prayed with them and prayed the "sinners prayer". I didn't ask for any confirmation if they prayed the prayer, I just encouraged them to talk to Pastor Ernie and go to church on Sunday. I don't know how many or if any accepted Christ that night, but I know that seeds were planted!
The next night a couple of people were talking with one of the local ladies, Gretchen, that was helping us with food preparation. The conversation moved from a general conversation to Gretchen's relationship with Jesus. During this conversation, two other ladies, who were passing by, stopped to listen to what we were saying. In the end, all three ladies accepted Christ as their Savior! By the way, one of those ladies passing by was Gretchen's mom. I didn't know that until the next day.
Pretty awesome, huh? God provided us an opportunity to share my testimony and for us to lead three people to Christ. But God wasn't through constructing His church...
On Sunday, Pastor RJ (team leader) had the honor of being the first to preach in the new building. It was a special time! At the end of the sermon, RJ asked if there was anyone who wanted to enter into a relationship with Jesus. 56 people raised their hand! 30 children and 26 adults. Wow! How awesome is that? But God wasn't finished.
Monday the team went around the community handing out tracts announcing that we were going to show the Jesus Film that night. One of the people helping us that day was Gretchen. I believe that God has big plans for her. I don't know why, but I just get this feeling that she's going to be used in a mighty way.
Anyway, we walked to the elementary school where we gave each child and teacher a tract and let them know about the film showing. This created a little bit of tension when one of the teachers got upset because she was a Roman Catholic and didn't like it that we were propagating our religion to all the kids.
That night we set up the Jesus Film equipment next to the main road that runs through town. We chose to set it up on the community rice drying "pad". It's a large cement slab where the farmers spread out their rice and let the sun dry it out before they take it to the market.
We weren't really sure how many would come. We figured that most of the children that hung around us that week would show up, but other than those few kids, we didn't really know what to expect.
All I can say is that God wasn't finished constructing His church...
We had well over 200 people show up that night. There were people that we couldn't see standing across the street. There were people on their front porches listening to the film, there were others that were walking or driving by and stopped to listen.
At the end of the film, Pastor Elmo (Philippines Jesus Film Coordinator) invited those that wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior to stand up. Most of the immediate crowd stood up. I couldn't see to the road and I couldn't really see all the way around the rice drying pad, but some of the other team members said that there were people standing up all over the place. It was God constructing His church!
The best I can do is give you a conservative number of 50 people coming to Christ that night, but I believe there were many more. It was an amazing sight to see.
Yes, the team came to construct a church, but God had plans for the team to help construct His church, and they did! The victories belong to Christ alone, I'm just glad He allowed us to be a small part of it.
You don't have to have walls to have a church.
You don't have to have a designated sanctuary to hold a church service.
You don't have to have a bigger parking lot for church growth.
All you need is Christ at the center and the people to be obedient. He will take care of the details.Thank you, Lord for using the Hawaii District team to help build Your church!