SIRUMA REBUILDING PROJECT – FINAL REPORT
Project Purpose and Goal: Rebuild three (3) places of worship for God’s people- Rebuild, rejoice, revive !!
The Phillipine Islands, being in the Southeast Asia “Hurricane Belt”, gets hit with an average of 10 or more hurricanes (“typhoons”) every year. Some of them, specially over the past 5 years, are strong enough to be categorized as ‘super-typhoons’ (Cat 4 or 5) with center winds of between 140 to 160 mph or worse. They have been very destructive, causing massive and unprecedented destruction to infrastructure, buildings/houses, and economic framework everywhere.
Because of the high cost of construction (materials, labor and manpower) versus the average daily wages (especially outside the major urban centers), a high number of church buildings are constructed with inexpensive and weaker construction materials. The structures can’t withstand the destructive hurricane forces of both wind and water, and either end up being totally destroyed, or having their roofs and walls blown away/destroyed, leaving a standing skeleton, which happened to the church building in Siruma, Camarines Sur (around 10 hours away by land from Manila). Despite this discouraging situation, the small congregation (around 25 members) continued meeting in the pastor’s house, and continued to pray for God’s sustaining grace and provisions.
We tried to reach them in late 2016, but were prevented from doing so because of massive destruction to connecting roads and bridges caused by typhoon “NINA”.. Some of the congregation got discouraged, and went to other accessible churches nearby, but the pastor and his family, with some believers who remained, persevered on, tried to rebuild piece by piece and continued seeking help and assistance. Most of the congregation members are farmers and fishermen, with just enough subsistence to support their families. It appeared as a helpless situation. The pastor was young. Oh how we desired to help, encourage and revive their flagging spirits!
Details of what was accomplished and who participated
When the pastor and the congregation received the good news that IDES was willing to partner with Harvest for Christ Foundation to enable them to rebuild their place of worship, they were overjoyed! God listened, and in His own time sent precious help and His people to bear testimony of God’s faithfulness and grace. The pastor was overwhelmed with joy, and so visibly moved that a small, inconspicuous body of believers like Siruma church can catch not only God’s eyes and ears, but the attention and help of benevolent organizations like IDES and Harvest for Christ Foundation.
Perhaps, God took this trial of his faith to engrave deep in his heart of hearts, (and ours as well), the eternal truth that “… if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can tell this mountain to move, AND IT SHALL MOVE…” Oh how God showed us all!
A year before, we had asked several volunteers to join us in prayer, and the ‘Siruma church prayer warriors’ was born. Several of them even personally went to the site, visited and encouraged the congregation, and brought clothes and other needed food supplies. Our volunteers went away moved and so encouraged after seeing the faith and prayerful hope of the believers. One of them posted her feelings in her Facebook blog:
“I was wrong!
Just when I thought that I am the one who will teach/inspire them to trust and obey, and just be happy in serving Jesus………it was them- the people in Siruma Peninsula and Naga Church of Christ who taught me great lessons in life. Mission impossible? No, everything is possible with God. #contentment#thankfulheart#perseverance”
The HFCF Disaster Assistance Team, in coordination with the pastor, took the lead in finalizing the plans, organizing the labor/schedule, purchasing the construction materials and networking with nearby key church leaders. The pastor led the labor team which was composed of the members of the Siruma congregation, and some hired carpenters, masons and electricians.
Our ultimate goals were two-fold: first, to rebuild a much-stronger place of worship which can withstand the strong typhoons and the regular monsoon wind/rain which regularly hit the province. Secondly, and more importantly for us all, we hoped to rebuild a spiritually-stronger congregation of believers who persevered and never wavered in believing that God will provide. Now, with a much-stronger faith and conviction, this congregation of believers will in turn spread the truth of the Gospel, and their personal testimony that, “… for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded, that He is able to keep that I have committed …” Ask me, I was there.’
Even we at the Harvest for Christ Foundation Disaster Assistance Team need, from time to time, to slow down, and be still before our God, and again and again be reminded that, “For I am the Lord of Hosts. Is there anything too difficult for me?”
In addition to the rebuilding of the Siruma church building, because of additional donations from donors, we were able to help two more churches:
1) a nearby congregation, the Naga City Church (around an hour away from Siruma church) which badly needed to have the church building roof/ceiling replaced. The roof was severely damaged by typhoon “Nina” too in 2016, but the church did not have sufficient funds to replace it. The roof/ceiling has been totally replaced now. The congregation rejoiced over this, and is so grateful to God and to IDES/HFCF.
2) the Burgos church in Metro Manila- it needed major restoration/repair after a previous typhoon damaged the outer back portion of the building. After the restoration efforts, which were additionally funded by the church local donors, there is now a new baptistery, a restored waiting/reception area, a larger children’s Sunday school classroom, and a renovated pastor’s family kitchen/dining room. Also, rain/flood waters do not overflow into the back portion of the building. The pastor posted the pictures and this testimony in Facebook:
“Before and after pictures of Burgos Church of Christ at Montalban… Mercy and grace showered in the Church thru IDES and HFCF Inc. (Translation: ‘The small and narrow pastoral house has two rooms now, including a visitor’s room. The Children’s Department area is larger, and we now have a baptistery!’) Praise the name of the Lord.”
How this project is assisting your ministry in sharing the Gospel
The greatest benefit when we minister to a church pastor and God’s congregation of believers (as in these three church building projects) is that the encouragement and joy is multiplied ten-fold or twenty-fold to the rest of the believers in the congregation. Instead of just the pastor bearing witness to God’s hands moving in his behalf, the congregation personally see it too. They have all been sharing and shouldering a common burden, asking God for a common need for His grace. Persevering with a common faith in the promises of God. Not unlike the friends of the paralytic man who bore their sick friend, and had the audacity to tear open the roof of a house so they can lower their sick friend into the presence of the healing Savior so He can heal their friend- – after the healing, the joy and rejoicing overflows to all who bore him. And since they all are directly touched by the miracle which they have been praying for, the testimony and its conviction is similarly multiplied. And so it is with the congregation of believers. And how much more in the Pastor’s heart?
Perhaps now, the congregation will really believe daily and stand on what their pastor has been telling them in the pulpit : “ My God shall provide all your needs, according to His riches in glory, by Christ Jesus. ( Phil. 4:19)”. The need was much, much bigger than they can even provide or hope for, and now they all see how God has provided! Perhaps, just like Job, they can also now say, believe and testify: “My ears had heard of you (my pastor said so), but now my eyes have seen you…” (Job 42:5).
It’s so exciting to personally see, pray and labor with, and testify with the recipients of God’s amazing grace and provisions from the start until the end, that “He who started the good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” It’s even more exciting to anticipate what God will accomplish through His believers who now have seen His hand move more powerfully and intimately in their behalf. The Gospel becomes more real and true and redemptive (in their hearts now)… their testimony to the unbelievers more powerful. The joy of the Lord now overflows from within, and not something they look and hope for during Sundays. The Gospel becomes alive in the red-and-white witness of the believers.
Just as in the Medical Missions, God’s redemptive words and work continues on even after the Assistance Team has left.
As one Christian jail worker said,” Of course God is already there in the prison compound even before I come,,, I come because it’s my task to make Him visible.” All the glory belongs to Him.
For the Siruma congregation, HFCF plans to bring in a Medical/Dental MissionTeam during their Anniversary celebration/thanksgiving in 2019. We likewise look forward to supporting the young pastor starting year 2020.
Summary of specific outcomes:
- Three (3) congregations assisted: One ( Siruma Church) building rebuilt, and two (Naga City church and Burgos church) buildings restored/repaired
- A total of more than 350 believers assisted/revived in having their places of worship rebuilt/renovated
- Siruma church – being processed now for registration with Philippine Security and Exchange Commission, and the property is now in the name of the church (most of the small congregations in the rural areas are not SEC-registered/ protected, and the properties are still under a person’s private ownership).
- New baptistery at the Burgos church of Christ
TESTIMONIALS/APPRECIATION FROM THE PASTORS OF THESE THREE CONGREGATIONS:
- Jesrel Aberia (Siruma Church of Christ) – “ God is indeed so good! Thank youso much for the priceless assistance you and IDES have extended to us here in Siruma. This is such an indescribable gift you have given us, and I praise God for His faithfulness. May God bless HFCF and IDES so much more!”
- Arnel Gajolin ( Burgos Church of Christ at Montalban): … “Mercy and grace showered in the Church thru IDES and HFCF Inc… ‘The small and narrow pastoral house has two rooms now, including a visitor’s room. The Children’s Department area is larger, and we now have a baptistery!’ Praise the name of the Lord.”
- Recem Grencio (Naga City church of Christ)- “ Thank you so much to you and IDES, and to your family as well. Your father and your family have been helping us for so long ever since I was a small child, supporting my father and his ministry here in Naga City Church. Again, my deepest gratitude.”
My personal testimony regarding the Naga City Church and its current pastor- my late father Diego (a minister) and late mother Maria (a Sunday school superintendent/ mentor and trainor) were intimately involved in the Naga City church and the minister then, Amadeo Grencio (late father of Recem, current minister). My parents were financially supporting Amadeo in 1985 in his new ministry at the church in Naga. They visited Naga Church several times to help and encourage him. In late 1988, Amadeo was abducted, then executed, by the New People’s Army (then the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines) for advocating to his congregation the non-payment of ‘people’s taxes’ to the CPP. The family never recovered the body of Amadeo.
I was then functioning as the forwarding agent for Amadeo, and knew him personally. I was shaken by his death. Instead of leaving the church and Naga City, Amadeo’s wife took over the leadership of the small congregation, sent his eldest son Recem to the Manila Bible Seminary to study for the ministry. After graduation, Recem took over as the senior pastor of the Naga City church.
When the Harvest for Christ Foundation was registered/ incorporated in 2004, we immediately started supporting Recem and the Naga City church. Now, the Naga City church of Christ is the one of the biggest congregations in the Bicol Region, and helps the smaller congregations nearby (like the Siruma church). Once more, a very powerful testimony that God is in control over the lives of His servants! Indeed, “… the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”.
PHOTOS: SIRUMA CHURCH BUILDING
BEFORE THE PROJECT:
AFTER THE PROJECT: ( WINDOWS/DOORS TO BE DELIVERED AND INSTALLED)