Reflections on My Trip to the Philippines

Philippines-Team_FotorIn a previous post I shared the background to my recent trip to the Philippines. Here’s a follow up report. It’s long, I know, but this is the short version!

The People

Ten people ended up going on the trip. Representing Sovereign Grace Ministries were Steve Cook and myself, along with Jena Baumer, who is serving as an intern. We also brought the five guys in the Norton Hall band: my son Devon, Jonny Barahona, Jared Hoffman, Jacob Bozarth, and Jeff Dyke. It was a great opportunity to partner with the Division of Biblical Worship at Southern Seminary in gospel mission. The team also included Lynn Baird, a Sovereign Grace pastor who has been visiting the Philippines for the past ten years, and his daughter Meghan.

The Events

Raised Hands 2The first event was a WorshipGod conference held Thursday morning through Saturday noon in Cebu, and graciously hosted by Living Word Christian Church, pastored by Mel Caparros. Nearly 1000 pastors, musicians, and church members from 50 churches participated in 5 main sessions and 4 breakout sessions, including ones on songwriting, arranging a band, and sound tech. We also had guests from Thailand, Papua New Guinea, and Singapore.

Ayala 2Sunday morning we led the singing and I preached at His Dwelling Church, pastored by Nilo Ebo, who attended the Sovereign Grace Pastors College two years ago. Sunday night we played an evangelistic concert on a beautiful outdoor stage in the middle of the Ayala Terraces Mall. Between 1500-2000 people showed up, including the mayor of Cebu City. A few hours after the concert the guys in Norton Hall flew back for school.

Monday morning the five of us who were left took a two hour boat ride over to Tagbilaran City, Bohol, to meet our host, Pastor Pete Valdez. We arrived in time for me to lead a symposium from 1-4 PM on Gathering Around the Gospel and Pastoring Through Song. From there we went to rehearse for “The Gathering” event, which took place from 7:30-9:30. Amazingly, around 1200 people showed up.

Collapsed RoofWe were scheduled to take a boat back to Cebu the next day and fly out late that night, but were awakened at 8 AM by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that lasted for about 20 seconds. No one on our team was hurt, but tragically a banquet hall roof on the grounds of our hotel collapsed, killing two employees. Although most roads around us were passable, you didn’t have to go far to find fallen debris, landslides, and buckled roads. Power was out for most of the day and no boats left Tagbilaran that day. Pete was intent on getting us on a boat the next morning, which he succeeded in doing. We flew back late Wednesday night, exhausted, grateful, and praying for those who would be serving those affected by the earthquake. [I have an update on the earthquake at the end of this post.]

A Few Things I Learned or Was Reminded Of

SmilesGratefulness, hospitality, servanthood, generosity, joy, and excellence don’t depend upon economic prosperity.
While the Philippines isn’t among the poorest countries of the world, it is far from the richest. Signs of poverty abound, especially in rural regions. But everywhere we went we met gracious and grateful people, eager to serve, and generous with their resources. Not every piece of equipment was the latest model or in the best condition, but everything was well taken care of and gladly shared with us. Before we arrived our hosts had  attended to a gazillion details with zealous precision, and as soon as they learned something was missed or had to be changed they were already working on it. The musicians in Tagbilaran City who filled in for the Norton Hall band on Monday night knew their parts cold.

You don’t need a piano, a sustain pedal, or a voice for that matter, to lead congregational worship.
After we arrived I learned that Nilo’s church doesn’t own a piano and couldn’t secure one. Jonny Barahona played a small synth but the sustain pedal didn’t work. He did a masterful job playing without sustain, and I actually enjoyed leading with no piano. But by Monday I had developed a cold and my vocal cords were shot. So I had no voice. Like, none. So I led the evening event with raspy words, and cut my message “Why Do We Sing?” down to about 20 minutes. Not one person mentioned they missed my singing that night. I tried not to take it personally.

Picture timeIf taking photos was an Olympic event Filipinos would easily be contenders for the gold medal.
Really. I have never seen so many pictures taken of me or those around me in my life. “1-2-3 – SMILE!” and “Just one more, just one more!” were mantras.  I was so influenced I couldn’t resist taking two pictures of everything. Often, the person who took the picture first would switch places with someone already in the group and have them take another picture. Sometimes, as others became aware of what was going on, 5, 10, even 15 people would add themselves to the group. When I asked about the picture taking phenomenon someone said that Filipinos love to share pictures with each other, and it can sometimes be a means of sharing the gospel when unbelievers want to know where the pictures were taken.

Prayer matters.
Prayer 2It didn’t surprise me to learn that late night prayer meetings had been going on weekly for the conference and other events for a couple months before we came. We experienced an unusual degree of strength, smooth administration, and encouraging conversations. One night we took about 10 minutes to break down in groups and pray for revival in the Philippines. It was a roar. A roar that caused me to think I often undervalue the place prayer plays in God’s plans.

The Filipino churches seem ripe for a move of God characterized by a deep love for God’s word, the gospel, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Many of the attendees at the conference came from Pentecostal churches, which in my experience can lean towards an emphasis on subjective emotion more than systematic Bible teaching and the primacy of the gospel. It was deeply encouraging and faith building to see their enthusiastic response to songs filled with rich theology and teachings grounded in Scripture.

The gospel is the power of God – everywhere.
People repeatedly expressed gratefulness for our focus on the gospel and told us how surprised they were by the effect. One pastor said he felt like he had been born again. Another expressed a conviction to be more careful about the songs they sing in their church. Many thanked us profusely for keeping Jesus Christ – crucified and risen – the main point of our songs and messages. Numerous pastors told us that this is what the Filipino churches need – gospel-centered songs and preaching. We couldn’t agree more. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:17). We have nothing better to offer.

In a very short time we developed a deep bond of affection for many of our Filipino brothers and sisters. As of  today, nearly 200 people have died from the earthquake, and aftershocks continue to leave many people fearful. More than a few people have written me to say the quake has brought a greater openness to the gospel. Please join us in praying that the aftershocks would subside, that the 36,000+ families with damaged or destroyed homes would find permanent shelter, that supplies would be abundant and quickly find their way to the neediest areas, and that people’s eyes and hearts would be open to the sovereign God who offers salvation to anyone who turns from their sins and trusts in Jesus Christ for forgiveness. If you live in the Philippines and know of any others ways to help, please feel free to leave a comment.



14 Responses to Reflections on My Trip to the Philippines

  1. Mathel October 22, 2013 at 8:54 AM #

    Pastor Bob, I thank God for allowing you and your team to serve Him here in the Philippines. Your lives were indeed an example to us all. Your message on the last day of the conference, Fight for Joy”, was indeed inspired by God. It is so timely with the earthquake and aftershocks we are experiencing here in Cebu and Bohol. Truly our fight for joy is never about us, and that God uses it for His glory. To Him alone be all the praise!

  2. Andrew Tvardzik October 22, 2013 at 12:54 PM #

    Thank you for faithfully serving.

  3. felix ballon October 22, 2013 at 3:01 PM #

    Grateful to the Lord for your ministry to the Philippines. I affirm your experience that Philippines is indeed ripe for such a movement of Gospel saturated Christianity.

  4. Czarkhan Pe October 22, 2013 at 6:35 PM #

    Pastor Bob, I thank God for having the opportunity to attend the conference, me and my churchmates flew from Manila to be there and it was worth it..
    God bless you richly as you continue to empower and encourage everyone about the power of the truth in music.. kudos to the team as well..
    Hoping next time you can have a conference in Manila :-)

  5. genevieve baguion October 23, 2013 at 1:04 AM #

    Dear Pastor Bob,

    Indeed, it was willed by our Almighty God that you and your team conducted a very empowering conference in our region in the Philippines. He has great plans for us. You have helped us to be equipped and be bold and courageous in doing the great commission

    Words are not enough to express our heartfelt gratitude.

    Thank you! we hope to see you in a couple of years.

    God’s favor be upon you all! :-)

  6. juena loren October 23, 2013 at 5:07 AM #

    Sir Bob,

    We thank and praise God for sending you and your team here in Cebu City. We’re blessed indeed. Thank God also for keeping you protected and safe in Bohol.

  7. nitoy gonzales October 25, 2013 at 11:14 PM #

    amen Ptr Bob…thank you for the visit here…wish you atleast stop by in our place…

  8. Ed October 26, 2013 at 1:05 PM #

    “Many of the attendees at the conference came from Pentecostal churches. which are often rooted more in subjective emotion than Scriptural authority and the gospel.”

    First off, I am thankful for the help you gave the churches in the Philippines. I was from a COG, Cleveland, Tenn affiliated church in the Philippines but is now with AG in the US.

    To say that Pentecostal churches are rooted in emotions is way off base. They may be emotional but doesn’t mean that Scripture and the gospel occupy less authority.

    As you have discovered, Pentecostals pray and worship with a passion. Why? Because that is the power of the gospel working in their lives. You can’t manufacture this. As you have seen, we don’t need technology or glitz to express our faith. I feel this is more organic and faithful to the first century and biblical model of Christianity.

    Filipino Pentecostals hold to the historic five Solae of the Protestant Reformation. What you have is an outdated impression of Pentecostals. If you have walked in a Filipino Pentecostal’s shoes then you will truly know one.
    But I excuse you since you are a foreigner.

    God bless you brother and I hope you have more conversations with Pentecostals to truly understand them.

    • Bob Kauflin October 28, 2013 at 4:56 PM #

      Ed, thanks for your encouraging words, thoughtful critique, and helpful information. I did not know that historically Filipino Pentecostals hold to the five Solae of the Protestant Reformation. That is very encouraging! I updated the language of my post to communicate what I was thinking more accurately.

  9. Paul Barreca November 5, 2013 at 5:57 PM #

    I laughed out loud at your description of Philippine picture taking! How very true! I have visited numerous times. Americans have much that we can learn from our Filipino brothers and sisters concerning joyfulness, fellowship and faith. They are the most joyful cultures I know. Thank you for serving there and for your report.

  10. Gen November 18, 2013 at 2:26 AM #

    Pastor Bob,

    You don’t need an apology if your impression of the mainstream pentecostal/charismatic churches here in the Philippines is
    “subjective emotion than Scriptural authority and the gospel.” I don’t find this offensive since this is true and very prevelant.
    I was raised by a pentecostal church, I can say they do know some of the five solae (even though vaguely), yet they don’t know how to apply it
    biblicaly in their church government and worship.

    “As you have discovered, Pentecostals pray and worship with a passion. Why? Because that is the power of the gospel working in their lives.”
    Oh really? Why is that in everytime i asked this question to them->”What is the GOspel? what makes it to be good news?” they can’t even explain it or bother to know it deeply?
    You see the problem of the majority of pentecostal churches is the lack of theological understanding of The Gospel and how it affects to our worship.
    I always hear reasons like this, “I don’t need to understand the GOspel deeply because I’m not a pastor! and I don’t need theology in Gospel or worship since it makes my headache!”.

    In everytime, i attend in a local pentecostal evangelistic concert, their lyrics lacks biblical depth and worst no Gospel at all! I even talked to them if they think they can get people to be saved by not proclaiming the Gospel. And I get a blank-face on them.

    They assumed that they proclaim the Gospel by the response on people’s emotions only! Not by a transformed mind and heart which comes from the absolute truth in the Gospel!

    I am very thankful that pastor Bob Kauflin was here in the philippines-to proclaim the Gospel by using Music as a tool and as a offering for worship!

  11. Gen November 18, 2013 at 3:23 AM #

    Let us reform here in the philippines the so called “praise and worship (which often denote feel-good music only and lacks theological depth in lyrics)” to be a

    “Gospel-centered worship! “

  12. Mon November 20, 2013 at 7:34 AM #

    “Let us reform here in the philippines the so called “praise and worship (which often denote feel-good music only and lacks theological depth in lyrics)” to be a

    “Gospel-centered worship! “”

    Yes, Gen. I agree. The solas were uncommon in Pentecostal churches. Even in AG churches Ive been to here in the US. Mentioned, but not adhered to as a basis for biblical interpretations.

    And another yes on reforming the “P&W music” in RP. But the same goes here in US, and in Australia, where most of RP’s resources come from.

  13. Alberto Rendon January 11, 2015 at 10:46 AM #

    It is great to visit this site….

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