Filipino village awakened to gospel by relief efforts

Jane Rodgers/Southern Baptist TEXAN

AGOJO, Philippines (BP) – A small-scale spiritual awakening continues in Agojo, a Filipino fishing village devastated by Typhoon Haiyan last November.

Nearly 80 Filipinos have made decisions for Christ followed by dozens of ocean baptisms and the start of multiple Simbalays, or Filipino home churches.

Garry and Sherry McDugle of Bois d’Arc Baptist Church in Palestine, Texas, are disaster relief chaplains with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and served in the Philippines from January through April, supervising volunteer teams from churches in Georgia and Texas.

The new Filipino believers face challenges and need prayer, volunteers said.

“Some will be ostracized from their families, friends and communities,” Garry McDugle said. “Here, it is not well-received for one to be baptized outside the Catholic faith.”

At the conclusion of one ocean baptismal service, the McDugles’ driver, Bert, expressed curiosity. After hearing the gospel, he, too, asked to be baptized.

Filipino pastor Ronald Calina conducts the beach services. At one evening service in March, 30 adults and 15 children prayed to receive Jesus.

The scene could have occurred on the Sea of Galilee, Sherry McDugle said. Fishing boats rocked gently offshore and nets were cast out, while the families of the fishermen – women, elderly parents and fishermen themselves – listened attentively to the gospel.

A young boy took Sherry McDugle’s hand and explained, smiling and pointing aloft, that he was not going to hell but to heaven.

While the gospel is at work, the physical work of recovery and rebuilding continues. Much progress can be seen at the local elementary school, painted by volunteers from the Georgia Baptist Convention. The Georgia contingent completed work on 80 sites, including installing windows in the Agojo daycare, Garry McDugle said.

“I just showed them the need, and they went for it,” McDugle said of the Georgia volunteers.

Teams from Texas, including volunteers from First Baptist, The Colony, and First Baptist, Brownsville, have also provided help.

“We have over 250 work orders,” Garry McDugle said.

He noted that 30 of the needed 55 10-foot by 10-foot shelters have been completed, and 10 carpentry teams remain busy.

Baptist Global Response and the SBTC have provided $100,000 in funds to meet the region’s needs, but individuals are still encouraged to donate to the effort. More disaster relief teams are also needed, said McDugle, who emphasized the effectiveness of even smaller two-person teams.

SBTC disaster relief teams have assisted schoolteachers who live outside the neighborhood but work at the Agojo elementary school. One, named Gina, is a mother of five whose husband suffered a stroke and pneumonia prior to the typhoon. Gina commutes to work 45 minutes twice daily by motorcycle. Her home was in the eye of the storm, and debris remained scattered about. As disaster relief workers prayed with Gina’s family, neighborhood residents also gathered to participate.

The family of Belinda, another teacher who lives just outside Agojo, huddled under a table during the typhoon’s blast. In the storm, Belinda’s husband lost his fishing boat, the family’s means of livelihood. Tears welled up in Belinda’s eyes as disaster relief workers arrived with sheets of corrugated metal to repair her home. She also requested and received a new Bible to replace the one she lost during the storm.

Stories abound of Filipinos coming to faith in Jesus Christ – stories such as Nenitea, a recently widowed laborer who, with her grown daughter, accepted Jesus as Savior. Jessa, a 16-year-old who was befriended and given a Bible by the McDugles more than a month ago, recently trusted Jesus, as did her best friend, her father and her family of six. Even the wife of the local Agojo elected official has expressed interest in learning more about Jesus.

“Please, please keep praying for everyone here,” Garry McDugle said.

“Jesus is wooing the community,” Sherry McDugle added.

God answered the prayer of an expectant mother, Shayne, another teacher in the Agojo elementary school. The young woman had feared that her husband would not be present for the delivery of their baby. He, like so many other Filipino spouses, works far from his family. Sherry McDugle prayed that the Lord would hear and answer the young mother’s prayer. The husband made it home in time for the birth, even though the baby arrived six days before the due date. Shayne is Catholic, but her husband is a Southern Baptist who had earlier trusted Christ through the ministry of International Mission Board missionary Mark Moses on the island.