I’d been invited to this church by a missionary friend from Costa Mesa, CA. The church’s physical location was a bit hidden, and though Google Maps took me to the address, I simply couldn’t locate the building. After walking for about 40 minutes in 85-degree heat with equal humidity, I wandered for another 30 minutes, asking locals where the church might be. No one knew . . . Until a tricycle driver took me on and within about 5 minutes had me at the church’s front doors. It was down an alley and behind another building on the street. I’d been walking for over an hour in the heat, wearing levis and a dress shirt — and now both pants and shirt were dripping sweat. What a grand entrance I made. My friend had told the pastor I was coming and when I walked in — late — some guy said, “You must be Sir Rick.” (They give all the old guys the honor title of “Sir”). And completely humiliated, I said, “And You must be Pastor Dan.” He didn’t laugh out loud, but his eyes gave him away; he was roaring inside!
My friend Pastor Abe said this church was likely one of the most promising places in Mindanao from which he expected a Disciple-Making Movement to break out. They’ve already planted 6 churches in remote tribal areas comprised mostly of Muslims. The church building itself wasn’t anything fancy; had plastic stackable chairs and maybe 180 people gathered for worship. But the people.
I sat with Nathan at lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the church service, and I wish I’d taken his picture. Nathan stands about 5’4” tall and says he weighs 63 kg (about 138 pounds). He’s probably in his late 60’s or early 70’s, wears old-school black-rimmed glasses, and has one eye that goes a bit funky. Says he watches his sugar and meat intake to keep from having to take unnecessary meds, and he walks. A lot. But what a story. As we chatted, he told me he’d been ambushed not once, but twice during the late ’80’s by Islamic radicals. He pulled up his sleeve to show me the chunk of bicep/triceps muscle that was just . . . Gone. Bullet wound. Then he showed me his leg and I saw a giant scar where another bullet had shattered his tibia and then he said he still had a bullet lodged in his chest. And he was still smiling!
I asked how he’d come to the place where he could be a leader in a church reaching out to Muslims when they’d nearly killed him twice. He was quiet for a moment and then said, “After reading the Word of God from my Gideon Bible during my 3-month rehabilitation after the ambush, I saw that God loved these men too. I was able to forgive and forget.”
I don’t doubt that with people like Pastor Dan and Nathan, this church will be the launching pad for a dramatic work of God not only here in Davao, but throughout Mindanao!