Philippines: Life and death
Trip Report: Tacadang/Les-eng Traverse
Life and death
By Ace Concordia
C4C Philippines coordinator
“So I guess we have no choice then,” said Michael Wall, a member of this year’s Tacadang mission team. I had just informed him that the river we were on might be the last water source on the trail to our pick-up point in the province of La Union.
It was our final day of hiking after a successful four-day ministry to the villages of Tacadang and Les-eng. During this last leg of the journey many members of the team composed of five Americans and nine Filipino climbers had no more water in their bottles. It was not an issue for the Filipinos to drink this river water, but for our foreign guests it was a risk. Being in a different country the simple act of drinking water can be a health problem. Not having the same immunity to local elements in the water may result in sickness. Even with the availability of a filter pump that Michael brought along for the trip was not a guarantee that the water would be safe. But since we all needed to be constantly hydrated to finish the climb water was essential at this point. So a decision had to be made in order to ensure that the mission would be accomplished.
We took out the pump and filtered river water into every one’s water bottle.
Our mission team at sunset in Tacadang. (Photo by Celso Callo)
It may seem like an easy call, but it isn’t. In my mind I was praying that the water would be kept pure by the Lord. I know of many ailments that can cause temporary or permanent health problems from the simple act of drinking water in the outdoors. After a successful mission climb the last thing I would want was for anyone on our team to get sick.
It’s never and easy decision when you know it might affect the life of another person. Regardless of how difficult it may be a choice has to be made in those kinds of situations. In the moment we have no idea if we have made the right one or how it will affect the future. We can only have faith that we did make the best choice possible. These decisions are not only made in the challenging environment of the outdoors; in fact, every day we make choices that will have an inevitable impact on what is forthcoming in our lives. We don’t realize we make life and death choices every day.
The hardest choices involve a change in our lives. While in the villages of Tacadang and Les-eng I met with many of the pastors and church laymen who have been serving there. During my time with them, as we handed out Kankanaey Bibles, I asked how many years they have been serving in the ministry. The most elderly of them had been serving for more than two decades. We joked about how some of them said they were supposed to be retired, but are still actually serving. During this interview I saw something I have failed to see before: a majority of those serving in the churches in Kibungan are elderly.
Ace Concordia, right, shares a Kankanaey Bible with the UCCP pastor in Tacandang. (Photo by Celso Callo)
Only during this time, after five years of climbing in Kibungan, had I noticed how wrinkled their faces are and how calloused their hands look. They have been serving for so long, but since there are no new disciples, there is no one to take over for them. They are forced to carry the cross a little bit farther. But their eyes could not deny they longed for help and relief.
Along with their weakening bodies the churches also seek re-enforcement. This troubled me for a while because how can the word given to us regarding “Mountains of fire” or a revival in Kibungan happen if the fires are slowly fading.
It wasn’t long before I met the answer to this question: Upon our stay in the village of Les-eng we needed an interpreter for the medical mission to help us pray for the patients. We were introduced to girl named Hylene Atonen. She was very shy and unsure of herself but she helped us with the prayer. During a break in our activities I went over to thank her for help and asked what she was doing in Les-eng. It turns out she was on vacation because she was to start her first church ministry in Kibungan very soon. She was in her late 20s and a graduate of a Bible School. She was the newest pastor in Kibungan. I was excited at knowing this.
She proceeded to tell me about how she had run from the Lord’s calling on her life, like Jonah, for many years. To the point where she was accidentally hit by a car that temporarily paralyzed one of her legs. She then realized that there was no happiness in not following God so she gave her life to Him and was assigned to be the pastor of a United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) church in Deckan Sagpat Kibungan.
Hylene, center, with C4C Philippines coordinator Ace Concordia and an old woman in Les-eng.
During our talk she was very insecure and doubtful of her ability to lead a church. That’s when I told her that it was a divine appointment that we met in a village in the middle of the Benguet mountain range. God had appointed that day for me along with Michael Wall (Durango, CO, USA) to share our testimonies of God’s faithfulness and how He has helped us overcome all of our mountains in ministry.
We talked to her for hours as we encouraged her to pursue the course she was on. She was the first of the next generation of pastors in Kibungan. She is a fire-starter! Praise God!
She would wipe away a tear every now and then as she expressed her praises to God on providing the strength in the time of her need. I promised to visit her and spend more time with her upon my return to Kibungan. This incident reminded me of Caroline Alacdis the Kankanaey youth now in Bible School in Baguio city. Once she finishes she will return to Kibungan and minister to her own people. God is faithful! He is sending in those who will help carry the heavy cross of the ministry in Kibungan. Strong, energetic, spirit-filled young men and women who will light the fires of revival in Kibungan. It is C4C’s task to support and encourage them to fan the embers of their grand calling.
I don’t know if Hyleen and Caroline know how important their decisions to serve Christ are. I don’t know if they realize how this will affect Kibungan’s future. I don’t know if they comprehend that they had just made a life-and-death choice for many Kankanaey who need hope and long to know God.
Many Christians may not realize it, but our choice to follow or not follow God’s plans for our lives is a life-and-death decision. Not just for us, but more so for the many more to whom your life was predestined to become a light of hope.
Your choice to support and give to ministries that spread the Gospel is critical. It could mean a person’s salvation in a seemingly forsaken village somewhere around the world. Or it could mean eternal separation from God for someone because you held back.
I believe that everything we do as Christians will impact not just tens, not just hundreds, but thousands of lives. Salvation isn’t just in the hands of the person praying the prayer of acceptance, it’s also in the hands of those God will use to bring the message. If no one goes or no one gives no one gets saved. Without hearing the Gospel there will be no acceptance.
So what’s your call? Life or death? Whatever it is, I only know one thing: it’s in your hands.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” – Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)
The Tacadang/Le-eng traverse was the second of four Evangelic Expeditions to the Philippines in 2013. Teams also will be sent to Badeo in September and Bekes/Cuiana in November.