A gap between the houses
Joe Grimwood served as an Envision Internship with GBM in 2018, based some of the year at Mission Centre in Abingdon, and spending significant time on placements in other parts of the world. Having served on the Latvia team in September, from November to February he went to Manila to work alongside Brian and Necy Ellis and Cubao Reformed Baptist Church. Here he reflects on his time working among the urban poor.
From the street, it looks like a dark hole, a gap between the houses. The only give-
For a long time, Cubao Reformed Baptist Church in Metro Manila has been working tirelessly to help the poor in their area through Christian Compassion Ministries (CCM). As well as working in squatter areas like this one, they also run homes for abused or neglected children and a Drop-
CCM also organises events such as parenting classes and seminars for the young people to help families to be a close and supportive unit.
However, the greatest need is not physical, but spiritual. Two thousand years ago, a carpenter stood up in a synagogue in Northern Israel and quoted these words from Isaiah the prophet: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…’ The Church sees the need today to continue this work, to preach the good news of this man, the Son of God. This spiritual need is first and foremost. Physical help is of course also important; Jesus also had great compassion on the people even in that village, Nazareth, despite their great unbelief. These two needs are vital, and in love the Church is called to meet both.
It has been exciting to see how the Church is doing exactly that. I was mainly working with Levi Ilhig, who has recently been employed as the CCM chaplain to oversee the spiritual side of the ministry. He has been able to set up Bible studies in each of the squatter areas where CCM works. Each family in the sponsorship programme is encouraged to attend. Levi leads some of these sessions himself, while others are run by elders from the Church or trainee pastors from Grace Ministerial Academy, another ministry of the Church. These groups meet each week, some with just four attending and others with over a dozen, often mothers in their thirties. These are still developing, but the Word is being explained faithfully and is being heard, and the seed is being sown. One of the advantages of a strongly Catholic culture is that the Bible is treated with high regard. Those who come are also eager to share things to pray for, and it was great to see how the Bible study leaders were able to show their care and follow up on these in subsequent weeks.
There are many other ways that the gospel is being proclaimed. At each event that CCM organises, there is an evangelistic devotional. The social workers witness personally to the families during their home visits. There has been some fruit from this work, but still only a small percentage of the families sponsored have come to the Lord – but the Church believes in the power of God in his Word!
This willingness to engage with the Bible was evident in other settings, outside the squatter areas. Jerome Mangahas, a recent graduate, is organising some Bible studies with students from a nearby university. Students at the Church have been inviting their friends to look at the Bible together. At one of these studies, there were about a dozen people, all friends of one church member! Having recently been a student myself at a university with an active Christian Union, I was used to a Christian bringing one, maybe two friends along to something like this, but surely not this many! This is the opportunity that exists in the Philippines, even in the younger generation that is becoming ever more secularised. Pray that these Bible studies will continue as, typically among students, they can often be quite sporadic!
There is a real passion in the Church for the Bible. Sermons are very thorough and Bible-
restaurant with others from the Church. There are also groups running for people at different stages of life, including youth, singles and couples groups, with teaching appropriate for each group. For example, over Easter there is a camp being organised for the singles, with teaching on living wholeheartedly for God.
This concept of wholehearted living is one of the great challenges that I’ve seen from my time in the Philippines. For many, the Church and Jesus as its head is the complete centre of their lives. Part of the year-