It’s my fourth day here in the Central Mindanao city of Valencia in Bukidnon province. Malaybalay city, about an hour’s bus ride to the north, may be the capital but Valencia is the larger city in terms of population and commerce. It’s progress and potential can be measured by the fact that a second Jolibee outlet has been opened in recent years and just lately a 24-hr McDo has just been inaugurated. I guess that’s the easier way to measure the economic growth of a place. But the earning capacity is not enough to compete with the more prosperous cities outside Bukidnon which have SM Malls.
But material prosperity is just skin deep. The real issue is how far has the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrated this mountainous landlocked locale. I was happy to see many Christian churches along the highway and I hear that successful mission endeavors abound in the mountains. I was also elated to hear that many have recently taken a second look at the teachings they have held and the traditions they have practiced in light of the truth of God’s word. Historic Reformed doctrine has attracted quite a number.
Having a church plant in Valencia and wishing to do our share in the work of reformation, we began a pastors conference here last year (actually the second, the first one was hosted by our sister church in Cebu) which was well-attended. This annual pastors conference had as its theme this year the controversial topic of The Doctrines of Grace.
I was encouraged to see close to 100 participants. More could have come had their churches not sponsored camps and conferences on the same dates. There were a few pastoras but these were actually the wives of the pastors who came. Here, in many instances, the pastor’s wife automatically becomes a pastora. But these women were kind enough to help in the food and accommodations and we allowed them to sit-in at the back. They were not passive participants though as you could hear their amens along with the men and at some points the high notes of their praise upstaged the men’s singing.
Pastors and leaders came from as far as Bohol in the Visayas and Cotabato in the South. The province of Misamis Oriental in the north was well represented by participants coming from Naawan, Opol, Cagayan de Oro and Gingoog. We had people from Agusan del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao city itself. But the majority were from Bukidnon province.
By and large, the spirit of the two-day nine-message conference was good. I preached on TUP and my co-speaker preached on LI. That makes up TULIP, the acrostic that expresses God’s sovereign grace in salvation. Like the conference in our sister church in Cubao there were a few pointless, sometimes even provocative questions in the Q and A but I believe that most who came were sincere to learn and to be taught.
For some, the theme was an eye-opener. For others who are reforming, especially those who are at the receiving end of criticism from their peers and superiors, the conference was an encouragement to press on. Still, for others whose numbers have dwindled ever since they began teaching these truths, the meeting was comforting.
May these pastors go home to their respective places as noble Bereans not just to intellectualize the word but to see these truths humble them in their own lives and ministries that glory would be given where it belongs, to God rather than to man.
After the conference, I had the opportunity of preaching to 400 young people at the Higaonon youth conference up in the hills of Malaybalay, Bukidnon. I pray that these youth would bear the yoke of Christ early and be saved young.