A few weeks ago, I went to the Philippines to not only visit my family but also serve the local church and community. I visited several islands, reunited with old friends, established new friendships, and ministered to indigenous people and several churches. I saw first-hand the need to encourage believers and local pastors to persist in their call and mission. I listened to their stories, ate with them, and prayed for and with them.

On my first week, I was introduced to a local bi-vocational pastor. I met Pastor Philip Alfaro during our medical mission on Boracay Island serving the Ati Community (an indigenous people group). He is the pastor of Journey Church in Kalibo, Aklan. It was wonderful getting to speak with him about the challenges and blessings of pastoring a church.

I also met two village pastors in Dapitan City and Zamboanga Del Norte. Pastor Ramon Pescante pastors a small church and is struggling to balance fishing and pastoring as well as going to school. He is pursuing a degree in education so he can teach at a public school. His struggles reminded me of the issues many of our students at SCS face. The other local pastor was Olive Diaz. Pastor Diaz is a registered nurse but left her job to respond to God’s call in her life and just started a new church in one of the local villages. I was in awe of the stories and the sacrifices of both pastors. 

In addition to meeting new pastors, I was able to preach at our home church, Full Gospel Center Church in Iloilo City. The church not only serves the people there but goes forth and spreads the Good News with those living in the most dangerous areas of the Philippines. The senior pastor, Warren Aragona, was my youth pastor during my college days, but he constantly visits Muslim controlled areas of Marawi, Zamboanga, Basilan, and Sulu in the Southern Philippines. These are areas considered off-limits to Christian Missionaries because of Muslim terrorist groups controlling the area. The Full Gospel Center Church missions team recently planted new churches in these dangerous places knowing the mission of God is greater even than their own lives.

As I met with Pastor Aragona, he encouraged me to pray for the pioneering pastors who are assigned to these places. I know some of them personally. He even invited me to go with them and shared with me his desire to further the work of God from Southern Philippines to Sabah, Malaysia and eventually to the Middle East. He reminded me about my first missionary trip to Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia. “How would you like to go back there?” he asked me. “I know it’s not a coincidence that we are together today, and if I die doing this, may my life serves as an inspiration for you to follow,” he continued. His words inspire me to intentionally do my part in fulfilling the Great Commission everyday of my life. 

After preaching, I ministered to many people individually, challenged them to accept Christ, and prayed with them. By doing this, I realized the value of my mere presence. God used me to bring hope and encouragement to my fellow Christians and ministers. I am thankful for the opportunity to support the church and people I hold so dear to my heart.

Additionally, with the financial support of our local Filipino-American Association and members of our congregation in Harlingen, I was able to distribute school supplies to the 75 first graders at a local elementary school in Roxas City and another 30 students in my own village. It was a real joy seeing the smiles of students as they received their needed supplies.

I am still in awe of the ways God uses me even in places where Jesus and the church are not well known. I realized that I may be the last person that each pastor is in contact with before he or she makes the decision to continue or quit the ministry. Thus, may God continue to use me to strengthen and encourage my brothers and sisters whenever I have the opportunity even while on vacation. Amen!

This article was written by Pastor Primitivo Pagayon. He is the registrar and a professor at Stark College & Seminary and serves as the pastor of Jubilee Christian Fellowship in Harlingen, Texas.