Trip Report: A Light for Les-eng (Mission: Philippines 2011)
By Ace Concordia
C4C Philippines coordinator
“That doesn’t look good.”
This is what I told Chris Estacio as I looked at his heavily swollen right ankle. He had twisted it while climbing to our target destination Les-eng in Kibungan Benguet province. Despite knowing he would have to walk on it to get back home, Chris had a smile on his face. “Kaya ko yan, sir” (“I can do it, sir”) was his positive response to my worried look.
The C4C mission team was two days away from our exit point in La Union, which would complete a traverse that started in Poblacion Kibungan, passed through the mountain village of Tacadang for the fifth time, and reached the village of Les-eng for the first time. We had carried Bibles, school supplies, and medicines to help the Kankanaey people who have become our beloved friends.
The most important package was not in any of the boxes that were carried by porters up the mountain. It was the love that C4C volunteers shared with the people of Kibungan, and it was in the message of the salvation of Christ that promises to set us free from our bondages.
Chris Estacio — somewhere over the rainbow. (Photo by Rodel Talde)
Chris Estacio was not supposed to be with us on this climb. He originally was signed up to join an event called the Freedom Climb organized by a big mountaineering organization here in the Philippines. It was an event that featured a Guinness Book of World Records attempt to have the most number of mountaineers summit multiple mountains at the same time on June 12 (Philippine Independence Day). Chris told me he was looking forward to have the Guinness certificate that would be given to those who participated in this event. He signed up to climb Mount Pulag. It was a chance at being a part of history. But God had other plans for Chris.
A few weeks before the Freedom Climb, Chris came across the C4C Philippines Facebook page and read about our upcoming mission climb called “A Light for Les-eng.” He felt God was telling him to join this mission climb. He didn’t want to. He struggled with it as the days of both events drew near. God would not let him go. With much doubt and hesitation Chris grudgingly texted me one day to ask if climbers from Baguio could join the mission climb. I said yes. Chris was on a detour bigger than he had ever thought. He was about to become a part of HIStory.
Chris joined up with the team in Baguio. He was quiet and reserved most of the time during the day-long climb to Tacadang. Sunday, June 12 (Independence Day) was a ministry day in Tacadang. We woke up early to attend the UCCP (United Church of Christ in the Philippines) service, and then went to the elementary school to perform a play about David and Goliath for the schoolchildren. We also gave out the school supplies and medicines for the community.
Ministry day was filled with fun and fellowship with our Kankanaey friends. At the end of the day as we were taking pictures with the children, God blessed us with a sight to behold: a double rainbow. It was a reassurance to us that God would fulfill His promises to those who are faithful to serve Him.
It has become tradition for the mission team to gather after dinner and share the most memorable part of their day. That night everyone was overflowing with testimonies of blessing, including Chris. When it was his turn to share he opened up how he almost did not join the mission climb, because he has been running away from God. Chris had gone to Bible school to serve in church many years ago. But in the last few years has found himself like Jonah, turning his back on his calling.
Chris shared about how the day had reminded him of his days in ministry, and that wonderful feeling that can only be experienced when you just love someone. Chris was pouring out his testimony in the midst of tears. He now realized why God wanted him to go to Kibungan with C4C.
“I thank God that I decided to come on this climb,” he said. “I almost made a mistake. The real Freedom Climb is not on Mount Pulag; the real Freedom Climb is on Tacadang. Because today Christ has set me free once more.”
That night Chris Estacio prayed to recommit his life to serving Christ.
Chris Estachio, third from left, was part of a C4C Philippines team that trekked to Les-eng and beyond. (Photo by Rodel Talde)
A C4C mission is not just about bringing hope and change to a community. It’s also about climbers being changed by each mission experience and being reminded constantly of the hope and love we can only find in Christ.
Chris made it home to Baguio after two days of hiking on one foot. He may have been injured, but his heart was now healed and has been made whole again.
When he got home Chris posted this on his Facebook page:
“As the saying goes, ‘Only one life, it will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.’ It’s all about Him and not us. We are here on a mission, not for our own fame and glory, but His. A light for Les-eng has just been lit. A record in heaven has been set.”
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” — Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)
Posted July 21, 2011