Grace Triumphant - Chapter 25 - Fellowship in the Gospel

CHAPTER 25
Fellowship in the Gospel

“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9)

That great devotional writer and speaker of a former generation, Dr. F. B. Meyer, once wrote, “Whilst willing to devote my energies to those with whom my belief necessarily allies me, yet I refuse to be a mere denominationalist and I glory most in being the brother of all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” Sentiments like that probably are more attractive to those in the mission field where by force of circumstances we are brought into direct contact with those in other Christian groups. While we are not prepared to give up those truths we find taught in the Scriptures, we can fellowship with God’s children who may not always accept some of those truths. The truth of separation can be carried too far when it leads us to refuse any fellowship with those of God’s children. Such fellowship does not mean that we necessarily approve of all their methods of service or their interpretations of Scripture. They are the Lord’s servants and to Him they will give account, not to us. The Apostle Paul was aware that some preached the Gospel with false motives, yet he rejoiced that the Gospel was preached (Phil. 1:15-18).

It is in the spirit of the foregoing that it has been esteemed a privilege to serve in some capacity with a number of other organizations through the years. For longer or shorter periods I have had the privilege of serving on councils or advisory boards of such groups as Christian Literature Crusade, Open Air Campaigners, and Back to the Bible Broadcast. For some 15 years it was my privilege to be associated with the latter organization, first as a member of the Philippine Advisory Council, then when the Philippine Bible Broadcasters were incorporated I met with them, first as a member and then as a consultant until I resigned in December 1979. By then, at the age of 81, it was necessary to cut back on some of my activities. Our son Kenneth is now a member of that board.

One activity from which I have not yet resigned is the advisory board of Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Centers. In an earlier chapter mention was made of the servicemen who came to our home in the years prior to the outbreak of war in the Pacific. Contact has been made with some of these men who survived the war, including prisoner of war camps in some cases in the Philippines and in Japan.

Jessie Miller was one of those, and he wrote his story in a tract, “Nine must die.” After the Death March from Bataan he was in camp in Tarlac where they were divided into squads of ten. “If one escaped, the nine would be shot,” said the Japanese. One of Jessie’s squad did escape and the nine found themselves lined up before a firing squad. With all the misery of starvation, malnutrition and illness, Jessie wished they would get it over with. Then his sufferings would be over—at home with the Lord. Just then the Lord spoke, “Jessie, are you willing to come back here as a missionary?” That seemed like an impossibility but Jesse replied, “Yes, Lord, I am.” He said that at that moment he knew the Japanese couldn’t shoot him! For some unknown reason (that is unknown to all except Jessie) they marched the men back to barracks and said “Tomorrow.” That tomorrow never came!

After years of prison camp and hard labor in Japan, J-Day came at last. Back home Jessie went to Biola and eventually came back to the Philippines as a missionary. After a few months he was off to Japan to claim as his bride a tall, blonde beauty, Netty, who was a missionary there. Soon after their return to Manila, a call came for an auxiliary chaplain to hold services for a detachment of the U.S. Air Force in Manila Port Area. This became an opening for a work among servicemen, which the Lord abundantly blessed in the salvation of a number of men.

We became closely associated with the Millers in this new venture and helped find locations for a servicemen’s center and also in conferences that were held for servicemen. This work was at first under the wing of Far Eastern Gospel Crusade with which the Millers then served. However, since this kind of effort was not within the planned outreach of this mission, it was mutually agreed that this ought to be a separate work. While we were on furlough in 1953-54, I was invited to go to Chicago for a conference with the Millers and some of the servicemen who had been saved. Through the courtesy of the OMF we were allowed to meet in their home there for a few days. This time was spent in defining objectives and drawing up a constitution for Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Centers, Inc.

Through the years this work has been greatly blessed by God. Some of the men first saved through this work have had a large part in its growth. Dick Patty who had formerly been at a center in Oxnard, California, came to open a center in Olongapo and later to build a center near the gate of the Subic Naval Base. Later on, a home was opened up near the Clark Air Force Base. Many are the men whose lives have been changed through coming to know Christ in these centers. One man was a typical old-time soldier whose face showed the effects of his dissolute life. His drinking, bad habits, and foul language all changed when he trusted Christ. His wife was not a believer, and when he went back home to her in the U.S., she left him. He was “too good” for her!
 
The Manila Center was closed but another was opened in Cavite near the Sangley Naval Base. When that facility was turned over to the Philippine Government, that center was closed. But during the years it was open, many were blessed. One man there professed to be a believer from an assembly in the Eastern U.S. He had been in Sunday school, and attended summer camp where he professed his faith in Christ. He was later baptized and received into the fellowship before going overseas. One night in Cavite, he was sick. Lying on his bunk he thought of the verse, “That which is born of flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” He came to a realization that though he had a Christian upbringing, had made a profession of faith, been baptized and received into church fellowship, actually he had never been born again. He settled that issue that night, and the subsequent change in his life was very evident.

Work among servicemen overseas is a fluctuating work in two ways. For one thing the military personnel have limited terms of service overseas, usually about two years. Centers catering to the Navy feel this more acutely as the ships come and go. With such mobility it is not possible to build up a work with the same people. On the other hand, political changes and war change the movements of the military. During the Vietnam War, OCSC opened centers in Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan; but these were all closed at the time of the military pullout from these places. Centers have been maintained in Japan and Korea aiming to provide “a home away from home” for servicemen and women. In the early years of this work it was mostly men who were being reached but now there are a number of women.

It was with considerable regret that the Hospitality House at Clark was closed late in 1981, shortly after they had celebrated 20 years in that location. The rented facilities were sold by the owner and efforts to find another suitable location proved ineffective. Another factor was that some church-oriented groups around that Air Force base were catering to the Christian fellows. In the early days of this work the main thrust was in the Far East, but now it is in the European countries and to some extent also in the United States. We count it a joy and privilege to have had some association with this effort which has been used by God in the salvation of many men and women.

After World War II a number of young missionaries came to the Philippines. Many of the pre-war missionaries did not return. These new missionaries with young families were soon concerned about the education of their children. A few tried sending their children to the Philippine public schools but there were problems in this. There were cross-cultural and language problems, even though English is the basis of education. Furthermore, the local curriculum made it difficult for the MK (missionary kid) to fit in at schools at home during furlough times.

Others tried teaching their children at home with the help of correspondence courses. For a few years we had used the Calvert system which was quite satisfactory, but it does take a lot of the parent’s time, and there is a lack of cooperation or competition with other children. Some of the missions had teachers for the children in their own mission, but it is difficult for a teacher to supervise and teach children in several grades and children miss much in the way of sports, music, and other extra-curricular activities.

Many years ago some missionaries, especially among the British, would send their children home to attend private boarding schools. This assured the children of a good education in their own culture, but it deprived them of the essential home life with their parents. In this way it was often an unsatisfactory arrangement because the children lost contact with their parents. A son of missionaries who had been educated in this way in later years asked us what we were doing about this problem. He advised us by all means to endeavor to keep our children with us. Being aware of the instability in his own spiritual life, I felt he had been speaking out of his own experience.

In 1955, a number of missionaries met together to discuss this vital concern of their children (or, in our case, our grandchildren). There was no doubt as to the need for such a school, but the big questions were: Who would operate it, where would the finances come from, and where should it be located. As to the last point, it was noted that such schools in tropical countries are generally in mountain resorts where the climate is cooler and healthier. Some therefore suggested the school should be in Baguio, the mountain resort, 150 miles north of Manila. It was noted that the Brent School was there, a private Episcopalian school. The final decision was to locate somewhere in the Manila area. A deciding factor was that many missionaries lived in the great Manila area and so many of the children could live at home. One result of this has been that only about one-third of the pupils have been boarding.

Many missionary schools are operated by one mission or by a group of cooperating missions. This means that a lot of the basic decisions are controlled by the offices or headquarters of these missions in the homeland. It was rather a momentous decision that the new school would not be mission-operated but missionary-operated. There would be a self-perpetuating board of men (and later would include women) who would be chosen from various missions who had children in the school. Along with this was the decision to ask missions represented in the student body to supply qualified teachers who would be supported through their own groups.

As to finances, there would, of course, be tuition and boarding fees and also fees for transportation. There would be an additional fee to help provide for expanding facilities. The needs were made known and gifts began to flow in for the school. I don’t know who first suggested the name Faith Academy, but it certainly has been through faith in God that the needs of all kinds have been supplied. Even the obtaining of a sizable loan to build the school was an act of faith, for it is rather remarkable that a large insurance company would lend such a sum to a bunch of missionaries.

It was my privilege to serve on the first Board of Trustees and as one of the first original incorporators in 1956 and 1957. The school was able to locate an old, large house on V. Mapa Street in Manila. Considerable renovation was needed but by July 1958, it was ready to serve as a school for 47 students and a boarding home for 12. The large yard with some acacia trees sufficed as a playground, though not suited for many sports activities.

We were home on furlough from the fall of 1958 until 1959. During this year the school grew and a separate home had to be rented for boarding. During that time the search was on for land which could be purchased for the school. Leonard was very much involved in this search. Land was located a few miles east of Manila on higher ground. The owner told Len, “Go and look out what you think you will need in that area.” Len marked off some 12 acres and when he returned to the owner with his proposal, he replied, “What have you left me? Nothing but hills and gullies!” Some thought it was too far out and too inaccessible. However, the Board decided to purchase that land and in response to faith the Lord supplied that need.

Right after our return from furlough, a few missionaries climbed one of those hills and in a simple prayer service informally dedicated it to the Lord’s service. Soon the bulldozers came in and cut down that hill. Thus, it was possible to provide a level area for school buildings and campus. The latter was down to hard rock, and the Board begrudged money for even a thin layer of topsoil for growing grass. Would anything ever grow there? It didn’t seem likely then. Those who view the plants and trees growing there now would have a hard time visualizing what it once was. But isn’t this an illustration of what God is constantly doing in the lives of men and women and even children, like those attending Faith Academy? The seed of God’s Word planted in hard stony hearts watered by prayer and tended by tender, loving care produces a harvest to the glory of God.

Two factors played a part in our getting a sizable loan from an insurance company. First, one of the Board members was a highly respected insurance actuary. He was known by officials of the insurance company. Also, that their president had been in Los Banos internment camp with us.

Accessibility to the property was provided when the surrounding country was developed as a high-class residential area, along with a golf and country club. Faith Academy was able to purchase a right to the use of their private road. At the time the price seemed high but over the years has proved worthwhile. During those years the Board elected me to be treasurer, but that was certainly not on the basis of experience. It meant a lot of extra work for me as the building was progressing. Thanks to a very efficient bookkeeper, I survived that ordeal. The Board was then estimating a possible enrollment of 300, double those who were then enrolled. In recent years the enrollment has been in excess of 500, so through the years there has been considerable expansion.

Transportation was provided for day students, and one of the first buses was a jeepney like those so common on Manila streets. Faith Academy couldn’t afford to buy new buses so acquired secondhand buses, some from U.S. armed forces surplus. Inevitably such buses would break down at times. The telephones of missionaries would ring early in the morning asking help to take children to the school. During those early years we had located a used bus which seemed to be in fairly good condition. The Board was undecided whether they could afford that expense. Among other things at that time, I was working several days a week on a committee for the revision of the Tagalog New Testament. One morning a mission treasurer stopped by the Bible House to hand me a check for Faith Academy from their mission. It was for a good amount and on the way home for lunch I was praying for guidance about what recommendations I would make to the Board for its use. Reaching home I told Anna about the check; I was quite elated. She startled me by saying, “Oh, that’s for the bus!” How could she make such a decision—she wasn’t even a Board member! Then I learned the dealer had called about the bus. They were desperately in need of cash that day. If we could come up with cash that same day, he would let us have the bus at a much lower figure, a real bargain. Lunch had to wait while I contacted some Board members and got their consent, then call the dealer and accept his offer. Another answer to prayer and faith.

Another concern and matter for prayer those days was finding water. A well digger had tried, but the holes he dug were all dry. Meantime we were hauling water in a small tanker for cement mixing and building needs. Geologists were consulted about the rock formation. They reported that a strata of hard rock of unknown thickness lay under our property, so the prospects of finding water were slim indeed. Had God led us that far and supplied the needs for building, only to lead us into a stalemate about water? There was much prayer going up to God from all the missionary community. Some people interested in the property around said to one Christian businessman, “Do those crazy missionaries think they can sit up on a hill and get water by just praying for it?” Well, we didn’t expect God to send a Moses and tell him to smite the rock, but we did believe the Lord would answer our prayers.

Just at that time some friends from the U.S. visited us. This brother, who had a keen interest in missions, was a successful builder and contractor. When Ken and Elaine took him up to the operations at Faith Academy, he was a bit concerned about the methods used by Filipino workmen. When he learned that there was still no certainty about water, he too began to think we were “crazy missionaries.” He thought we should have been sure of the water supply before beginning to build. This brother also had some experience in well drilling, and he suggested boring a hole near the northwest corner of the property. It became the Lord’s provision for water at that time.

Several years later, that first well was not producing enough water for the growing needs. So again water was an urgent prayer request. For a time the children were asked to bring drinking water each day for their own needs. Another hole was drilled. Some water was found but of uncertain amount. It was decided to dig deeper but soon ran into hard rock. When the hole was enlarged to develop what was there, it proved to be more than originally expected. Faith had again triumphed at Faith Academy.

When we returned to the Philippines in 1970, after furlough, we went to Baguio for two years to help care for the work there. Ken and Mary Lou Engle who had started that work were going home for a protracted furlough. There were young Christians who needed to be nurtured. While there, in November 1970, a very strong typhoon swept across the Manila area. We could not contact our folks by telephone as lines were down. From the news, we learned that the television tower near our house was down; then we got word through missionary radio contact that our folks were all right though some trees were down at our house. Also, that there had been extensive damage at Faith Academy. This was confirmed by a picture of the school in a newspaper, which reached us a couple of days later.

Later we learned that the gymnasium roof was blown away and two walls collapsed. Also part of the roof of the academic building was gone and library books were soaked with rain, besides other damage. Schools are automatically closed when typhoon signal #2 and #3 go up, so it was only the boarding children who were at the dorms. The home where Len and Esther were house-parents sat on the side of a hill. A porch extended the full length of the house overlooking the garden and the swimming pool. The strong wind lifted the roof of the porch, along with the heavy beams supporting it, and tossed the whole thing over the house onto the driveway at the back. The force of the wind was almost incredible. Two pickups with chains could hardly budge those beams off the driveway. One of the plate glass doors on to the porch was shattered. In the goodness of God, Marilou, our granddaughter, turned her back just as the door struck her. She was badly cut but it would have been worse had she been hit face-on. With trees and poles down, it was difficult to get her to a hospital for care.

Usually destructive typhoons pass quickly. So the next day was bright and sunny as the missionary community rallied to help. Children spread library books out to dry while adults began to clear away the debris. As news spread about the extensive damage, material and financial help poured in from local donors and from abroad. The U.S. Navy sent relief materials and workers from the Subic Navy Base by helicopter. This help enabled the school to be rebuilt with some features that would make it less vulnerable in the future.

It is easy to assess material gains but difficult to measure all the spiritual benefits. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the latter have been considerable. There have been times of revival and blessing in the history of the school. Lives have been challenged and changed. Faith has been stimulated, and fellowship between missionaries of various groups has been fostered. Many of the high school graduates have in later years been involved in full-time Christian service, some of them coming back to serve at Faith Academy. We have counted it a privilege to have had a small part in this venture of faith.