Tapped to serve: A visit to the Reformed Churches in the Philippines

jab-1From February 10-26, 2016, Rev. John A. Bouwers, pastor of Immanuel United Reformed Church in Jordan, ON, traveled to the Philippines where he taught and preached in a variety of Reformed churches.

The Theological Assistance to the Philippines (TAP) Ministry of Providence Canadian Reformed Church of Hamilton had asked Rev. Bouwers to make the teaching trip, and two TAP Ministry representatives traveled with him.

“Brothers Joe Bontekoe and John Langendoen, who head up the work of that committee, took excellent care of all the details and of me,” Rev. Bouwers says. “These brothers have considerable experience in the Philippines already, have made many wonderful connections, and, with all the busyness, the three of us were also able to enjoy wonderful fellowship together.”

On February 13 & 14, the three men visited Metro Manila, where on Saturday Rev. Bouwers conducted a seminar on “The Golden Chain of Our Salvation” for Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church in Imus. He delivered five addresses on God’s sovereign love and answered questions on the doctrines of grace. The over 60 people attending exceeded organizers’ expectations.

“The interest and engagement were intense and invigorating,” Rev. Bouwers says. “Most of the participants were young college students or professionals, many from a variety of non-reformed backgrounds who have begun to show great interest in these doctrines.”

The event was organized by Zion’s Pastor Lance Filio, who is a tent-maker, working as an electronics engineer in the telecommunications, internet and cable industry. A few attendees have expressed an interest in taking membership classes at Zion. The lectures can be heard at Zion’s website.

On the Lord’s Day, Rev. Bouwers preached from Galatians 6:1, 2 (at the church’s request) to both the Zion congregation and the congregation of Pasig Covenant Reformed Church. Although both meet in the Metro Manila area, the two are an hour’s drive apart, even on Sunday when traffic is relatively light in this city of well over 15 million people.

On Monday, February 15, the three North Americans traveled south to the Island of Mindanao. They spent most of their time in Cagayan de Oro, a city of 700,000 people, many of whom are very poor. TAP has done extensive work in this area in the past.

Each evening from Monday through Friday, Rev. Bouwers delivered one of the five lectures on “The Golden Chain of Our Salvation” in a public seminar. Every afternoon from Tuesday through Friday, he led workshops for church leaders on the history and content of the Canons of Dort. The daily session were held at Jireh Reformed (Congregational) Church.

on-steps“A number of the pastors were former Pentecostals or evangelicals who have now come to embrace the teachings of the Reformation,” he says. “The brothers here speak conscientiously about ‘continuing the Reformation’ and remain very grateful for the ongoing contributions of TAP to that end.”

Organizers were surprised on Thursday evening when a group of 20 Pentecostal preachers came to hear the message on irresistible grace. Rev. Bouwers reports that they seemed to appreciate what they heard about the effectual work of the Holy Spirit.

Another surprise occurred on Sunday morning. The small house church at which Rev. when Rev. Bouwers preached filled to overflowing as 20 visiting students from Faith International Academy joined the regular group. In the afternoon, Rev. Bouwers preached at the much larger venue of the Jireh Church. Members of the Balulang congregation also attended the service.

During the final week of the trip, the men traveled even farther south to Davao City. Pastor Vic Bernales of the Davao Covenant Reformed Church had asked Rev. Bouwers to conduct sessions on Issues for God’s servants, dealing with conflict and opposition. In the evenings, the pastors led four meditations on the story of the Prodigal Son that focused on the Amazing Love of the Father.

Congregations in this area are part of a federation named The Pearl of the Orient Covenant Reformed Church, and ecclesiastical organization has been shaped to some extent by URCNA and RCUS influences. But ecclesiastical fellowship among all the Reformed churches in the Philippines does not yet exist.

Rev. Bouwers notes, “We gently encouraged greater unity among all the brothers at every point, trusting however that any development would have to arise organically in their own midst by the gracious work of the Spirit.”

While the trip afforded many unique experiences of worship and fellowship, the most important things about believers remain the same all over the world.

“The hunger and appreciation for the Word of God in faraway places reminds and encourages us again of how rich we are in God’s amazing grace,” Rev. Bouwers says. “Jesus Christ is the same, our needs are the same, and His grace is amazing no matter where we minister.”

More information on the work of TAP is available at the ministry’s blog.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on paged 14 & 15 of the April 13, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

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