A Review of our 2015 Bible Conference in Tacloban, Philippines
Due to a complex combination of factors, the Philippines is a society in great need of practical solutions to poverty and lack of development. The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, lack of effective governance, and major shortfalls in access to basic education and health services are crippling the people of the Philippines. With all of these pressing needs, not only in the Philippines at large but even pointedly in the Tacloban area, why do we choose to prioritize the need to learn the Word of God?
Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.”
This message was addressed to those responsible for the moral education of the Hebrew people: the priesthood. Their society, as they knew it, was coming to an end and the prophet Hosea did not say it was due to a lack of food, water, shelter or health care. Hosea spoke for God and told the priests that the people were being destroyed because a lack of knowledge of God’s Word. Like Hosea, we believe that no society will experience the health God intended for them unless they learn his Word and implement it into the way they order and govern their world.
One of the main objectives of our recent trip to our hub location in Tacloban City was to facilitate a Bible Conference for youth. After we renovated our newly rented community center space, we welcomed 35 participants from 3 different islands of the Philippines. We taught on the self-sacrificial servant model of Jesus in Philippians 2 and the call we have as his followers to do likewise.
Among the participants of the conference there were many people who have suffered loss due to the state of their society.
Alison’s home was destroyed in Typhoon Haiyan when a barge stormed into his coastal village with the 15-20 ft storm surge.
Romelle was born with Polio. He was eventually abandoned by his parents and taken in by friends who supported him because he was unable to work due to his condition.
These are just two examples out of the 35 participants. As we led them in times of worship you could feel the urgency in their souls wanting to connect with God and experience the peace that only he can offer.
We spent one afternoon doing an outreach program for the children in a “temporary” resettlement camp still filled with people two years after the typhoon. Over 400 children packed into small open areas to hear the Bible Conference participants sing songs, perform dances, teach Bible stories and facilitate games that helped them forget, even if just for a moment, the hardships they have experienced at far too young an age. We finished the outreach by offering a modest meal to all of the families that attended.
To wrap up the conference we challenged the participants to consider how their commitment to follow the example of Jesus was calling them to a life of sacrifice. Participants shared how they wanted to do more to reach out and meet the practical needs they encounter on a daily basis. They shared how the teaching had impacted them and caused them to re-evaluate how their lives matched up with the calling of Jesus to “...look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” It is the lives of people living according to biblical principles that will bring about the order and well-being they are so desperate for in the Philippines. Only when people develop the moral substance that Jesus exemplified in entire life can they truly be people equipped to do the work of God in a way that overcomes the systemic issues of poverty and underdevelopment. We work towards that end, beginning every effort with biblical education.