I have visited the Philippines nine different times now, and I want to share my experience with one small Christian Church there. It is located in a suburb of the greater Manila area known as Taguig.
You need to know, that Manila is a very modern city in lots of ways; however, much of the greater Manila area is noticeably Third-World. Taguig is just such a place. Our cab exited off a very modern highway and we looped around to the left onto a lesser artery. Shortly thereafter, we turned to the right onto a smaller street, that goes immediately into an area of Fort Bonifacio. The cabbie has just enough room to turn around as we pay him 100 pesos.
We have to go on foot the rest of the way, for there is scarcely room down the pathway for two people to walk side by side. The very small homes are built right against each other on both the right side and the left so that they literally touch with no space in between. Various homes along the way have bars over an opening to the pathway with items for sale: including canned goods, crackers, coke, fresh meat laying out without refrigeration or even the loading of airtime for cellular phones. A young boy greets us with a smile as he and his friends try to make conversation with us. Small vendors wonder if we will buy something from them along the way. My wife wants a coke and we give them twelve pesos ($0.25).
We turn left down another corridor and then left up a narrow concrete stairway. We turn right into a room with concrete block walls, a concrete floor and a makeshift roof. It is perhaps 12 feet x 22 feet more or less.
My wife knows a few of the people and they greet us enthusiastically. Soon worship begins and this is what I really want to talk to you about. These people, that have very little by American standards, sing joyfully from the bottom of their heart with all that is in them. They are so thankful and grateful to the Almighty for all that He has done for them. It makes tears come to my eyes even now as I write to you. They have an electric piano and a couple of guitars and a homemade drum.The very presence of Almighty God fills the room where we are, as Almighty God inhabits the praises of His people. This has to be a little bit like it is in heaven. There is scripture reading, testamonies, prayer and the pastor delivers an impassioned sermon under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
After church is over, some of the youth sing another song and another. It is very unusual in my thinking, and I am so impressed with how much they love YaHshua Jesus. Like I said, the service is already over, but they continue to worship on their own. The pastor has trained the youth to play instruments and do music. They are more mature-in-Christ than your average American. The adults and youth alike are such wonderful people. They share some food and kool-aid-like drinks and the fellowship is so good, that almost everyone hangs around for a long time. The people of the church literally treat me like a celebrity, making me feel like an important man.
You can tell that these people are genuine. There are no padded pews, no Sunday School rooms, no carpet, no air conditioner, no fancy pulpit, no nice bathroom. They are a very tight-knit group. The pastor makes little to no money for the work he does with the church, but he spends lots and lots of time doing the work, and many souls have come to Christ. The youth group is large and full of life from on high. My heart leaps for joy just worshipping with them and it is glorious being just a small part of people who love our Savior so very much. I don’t really want to share their names for fear that I would leave some of them out. They are precious souls to me and I am proud to be associated with these more-than-conquerors.
We are so spoiled in the United States, and I have to say, that I believe they are better off than we are. We have a lot more material things, but are we spiritually naked and blind? Have we lost our first love? Are we lukewarm? Do we think we have need of nothing? These are just a few of the questions we need to be asking ourselves. If life in the U.S. became like the life in third-world countries, would we still go to church? Would we still serve Almighty God? Would we still have the joy of our God in our hearts?