When I look back on our time with Open Doors Church, Cavite, Phillippines recently I am reminded of the words in Acts 2: “All the believers were together and had everything in common…they ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of the people.” As with the early church, there was a group of people who lived near to each other and were frequently in out of each other’s houses. They ministered together, attending the prison, school, youth and prayer times, as well as constantly preparing and eating food together. They did it with great cheerfulness and fun too. Vast tables were laden with fish, rice, vegetables, bread and fruit and we seemed to be constantly eating, feasting morning, noon and night!
Despite only being with them for four days we had a wonderful insight into the life of the church and its ministry. Being met at the airport we were greeted by a huge banner with ‘Welcome to Vinu and Julie, Guy and Heather’ printed brightly and hearty hugs and smiles. We quickly realised that we were part of this family too, not bystanders but each one of us joining in and playing our part.
The first morning we were taken to Bulihan jail where all four of us had the opportunity to speak to the 60+ male prisoners crowded into the hot rooms. Despite seeing photos from Andy’s previous trips we were still taken aback by the incredibly cramped conditions behind the steel bars and the quiet anticipation as row after row of men sitting cross-legged and waiting. The church has faithfully visited each week sharing worship songs, testimonies and food, earning the respect of the prisoners and the staff alike who have commented on how their presence brings peace and calm to the inmates, even if for a short time.
On the second day, we were taken to the local Burol Elementary school where each of us was expected to go and teach a class. It’s been a while since I’ve stood in front of a group of school kids but I thoroughly enjoyed my lesson about Samuel hearing the voice of God. I was amazed at the attentiveness of the children and their delight in the simple games and story I brought. The staff too although slightly more distracted, listening to Guy speak to them about leadership and we felt they really welcomed the input of this little church.
In the evening we all took part with our testimonies at the youth event where youngsters from 10-20 years old gathered for worship and teaching. The music seemed loud in the quiet neighbourhood where many of the church members live, but nobody seemed to mind and the youngsters were thrilled to receive prophetic words over their lives. Us older ones took
ourselves off to bed afterward but the young people stayed sitting out in the street, eating, chatting until gone one in the morning! Sunday was spent with the whole church with Guy and Vinu sharing the teaching together and Julie and I got a temporary rest and just listened! They spoke of the vision and values of the Commission family and then welcomed the elders and the church into that family. Guy likened it to a small branch on the bigger branch of Commission and the large tree of Newfrontiers. They were all very excited about this development. We then spent some time praying for the long queue of adults and children who patiently waited. Healing was anticipated as many had serious health challenges. It was a huge blessing to be able to partner with Vinu and Julie into this new nation. We shared stories, doubled up with the preaching and presented a helpful visual aid to the relationship and sense of family that works within our network of churches. Their perspective was very insightful too as the Indian and Phillipino culture has some overlap. I think we also challenged their perspective about hierarchical church leadership as they saw us laughing and teasing each other.
One woman admitted to being overwhelmed at being described as a sister and yet this is what we are, families together across the world, on a mission, each with their own unique call and culture, equal in our standing as brothers and sisters in Christ. We look forward with anticipation to seeing this relationship develop. Our prayer is for leaders to be raised and lives touched by the gospel among this warm and friendly community long into the future.