Wait for the Mangosteen tree
Aries Liboro serves as a pastor in Valenzuela City, in the north of Metro Manila. Aries is supported through GBM as a national worker. Here he reflects on the long process that leads to fruit in ministry.
The Mangosteen is a fruit tree that grows prolifically here in the Philippines, and across South East Asia. Its fruit has a reddish-purple rind when ripe, and white segments inside, somewhat like an orange. It requires patience. The Mangosteen tree can take up to ten years before it bears its first fruit, but then it keeps fruiting, and in a hot country you sit in its shade. The ministry we have here is very much like this tree. We can go on for many years and not see fruit in our ministry, but praise God, he does save people; he does give us fruit for our labours.
ReBAP Youth Camp
Each October we help organise the youth camp for the Reformed Baptist Association of churches here in the Philippines. Numbers have grown over the years, and typically we have around 170-200 campers. Last year’s theme was ‘I am his’. Three main sessions covered ‘New age living: the saints’, ‘Clothing: putting off and putting on’, and ‘The glorious future that awaits Christians.’ These sessions left a great impact on the listeners. Unbelievers were left with a challenging question: Am I in Christ? Or am I still under Adam? Believers were reminded of the glorious future that waits for those who are truly his.
There were three workshops. One covered the gap that develops between teenagers and parents. Another covered ‘Mind and soul: mental and spiritual health’. I especially liked the workshop on the digital age, looking at the right use of YouTube, Facebook, internet games etc., and warning against addiction in using the internet.
Every Saturday afternoon, we gather the young people who live in our housing subdivision. I play football with them and then we have a Bible study. Over nine years we have taught so many young people who live around us. Sometimes as many as forty came along, though twenty is more normal. During the rainy season the streets get flooded, but otherwise we meet every week.
We always make a point of teaching the gospel and then systematically go through the basic Christian doctrines, such as the Word, God, man, salvation etc. We have taught them the parables and the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus as well as working through books of the Bible.
When they reach seventeen they usually stop coming. Coming from poor families, they have to find work to try and help the family out. Many don’t go on to study in college, but start work straight away. But we always seem to get new young people to replace the ones that stop coming.
A couple of years ago the church acquired a van and we have been trying to bring these young people to church, in the hope that they will learn that this is really how they should spend their Sundays – meeting with God’s people to worship their Creator.
The church neighbourhood
We also have a youth ministry in our church building in the middle of Valenzuela. In a similar way, over the years we have had several youth groups who have come and gone. Last year most of our most recent youth group stopped coming, but then they will turn up at a church service! A number are regularly attending the worship services as well as the youth meeting in the afternoon.
I asked one of the young people what they think of the lessons they have heard. One said that they appreciate the fact that we teach what the Bible teaches. Most come from a Roman Catholic background, so they appreciate the fact that they get to see with their own eyes what the Bible really teaches. They ask questions about the end times and also what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, which is being promoted here in the Philippines.
May Day is a national holiday so this year we held a ‘sports fest’. I gave an evangelistic message at the start. Several young people who don’t come to church heard the gospel, and a couple of parents as well. A few weeks later we had our Daily Vacation Bible School and these teenagers came along! In all eighty-one children and young people came along over the five days, and High School young people were the biggest group. Some of this group now come to our Sunday youth group, and even to the church service.
Looking for fruit
It was eighteen years ago that we came here. At the beginning of our ministry we did see some conversions, but there was a period when many years went by without anyone saved or baptised. Praise God, these past couple of years we have seen several people who have finally come to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
One such person is Danlyn. She first came when she was ten. Her parents are not Christians. She started in the youth group and came to the church services when she was older. At one point we hardly saw her at all, but praise the Lord, two years ago she finally came to repentance and faith, was baptised and is now a member of the church. We plant the seed, and tend the sapling, but like the Mangosteen tree, it can take many years until we see the fruit.