Our mission calls field evangelists “church planters.” Charles (my husband) takes his title seriously and is always looking for suitable soil. One day he turned down a road [in the Philippines] at random and was giving out tracts along the way when he came upon some men who showed much interest. They invited him to their barrio (farming community) to lead them in Bible study. Charles asked if there was a home where they could meet. “Oh, we’ll meet in our chapel,” they replied. “We have a chapel but no priest.”
Charles protested, explaining that he is not a Catholic. “That’s all right,” they insisted. “We are.” The situation seemed strange, but what Charles found the first Saturday he met with them was stranger still.
These seekers in Bucayab barrio had met to pray every night for more than two years. They had an altar of earth and stone, and in the dirt floor at one side is a hole in the ground, as though for drainage. They had prepared a place so that individuals could lie down and look into the hole as they prayed. They were looking for a miracle. Some claimed to have seen Jesus, moon and stars, fire and other sights. Others said they had smelled the ointment with which Jesus was anointed. A bottle containing clay from the hole was their medicine. They dissolved clay in water for medicinal use.
Charles did not denounce their customs, but led them in a study about Jesus and the way of salvation. The people brought their own Bibles, and each saw for himself what God’s Word says. They no longer have to look into the hole to see Jesus. He is living in their hearts. Twenty-four of the group have accepted Christ and have been baptized.
It has been exciting to look on as the Holy Spirit has revealed the truth to these people. First, they gave up looking into the hole. They found they could see much more in the Bible. The number of candles they burned kept diminishing, until they were down to one. For weeks they kept that one candle burning. Can you imagine our joy when we drove up one Saturday night to see that the last candle was gone?
Soon they will put away the statues, too. They do not pray to the images, but it is their tradition to keep them on display. Soon the Holy Spirit will lead the believers to discard them.
On a recent Saturday night in Bucayab Charles and the people sang praise to God, led by some of the teenagers. Many new people had come to find out why some were being baptized. New Christians stood and told how their lives had changed since they had been saved: “I used to steal; now I don’t.” “I used to always use bad words, but no more.” “I was always looking for the meaning to life — I’ve found it.”
After a three-hour Bible study led by one of the new Christians, three more individuals accepted Christ.
Originally published as “Suitable Soil for Planting” by Dorothy Brock, The Commission, February 1974, p. 32.