Grace Triumphant - Chapter 9 - Back to Manila


Back to Manila

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the
wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the
things which are mighty.” (1 Cor. 1:27)

The time came for a decision as to our place of service for the
Lord.  Should we continue in Camarines Norte and endeavor to
establish an assembly work there?  Or should we return to Manila
and help build up the work in that area?  It was evident it would
take some time to establish an indigenous assembly in Indang.  A
few individuals had sought us out but they were from other
places.  Indang seemed to be too much under the influence of the
priest for the adults to quickly response to our message.  We were
rather isolated as travel to Manila was sometimes uncertain.  We
were alone and it didn’t seem likely that any work there would stand on
its own when it came time for furlough. So we decided to return to

At that time Brother Wightman had gone into business to support himself
while he continued to carry on the work in the Walled City.  We
rented an apartment in Ermita within walking distance to the Gospel
Hall.  There were many tests of faith in those days.  Before
going to Camarines there had been trials.  At one time we had a
book of tickets to buy bread but we could only afford a few cents on a
tin of guava jelly to put on the bread.  On January 9, 1923, I
wrote, “Funds low—promises great.”  That was before the days of
blaring radios, but next door the neighbor had a phonograph and a few
records, which we used from morning till night.  Many an evening
we walked to the waterfront and sat on the rocks to watch the famed
Manila sunset and get a little quiet.

When we lived in Ermita there were severe testings.  More than
once I would go out selling Scriptures in the morning to get enough
cash to buy some dried beans for our meals.  One morning we had
only some bread in the house.  But as we were getting dressed one
of the Filipino believers arrived from the province with a “pasalubong”
(a greeting gift) of eggs and fruit.  He never knew how he
provided our breakfast!  We knew the Lord had a purpose in
allowing such trials, which seemed so difficult at the time but there
is always an “afterwards” of blessing.  “Now no chastening for the
present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it
yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are
exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11).

It was some years later that I realized the Levites who were recipients
of the tithes of Israel were required to give a tithe also.  Since
we had been giving to the work of the Lord all that could be spared
above actual living costs, we had not thought of giving a share of what
we received.  Indeed was not all we received being spent in some
way in serving he Lord?  However, we can testify that from the
time we began to give a special portion to the Lord, we have never been
so severely tested as we were before.  Of course, some would say
that this was because by that time we were better known and no doubt
that was a contributing factor.

One Saturday evening we received a letter from a friend in Victoria
with a postscript expressing sympathy with us in the homecall of my
Mother.  It came as a shock because we had not heard that she was
even sick.  My sisters thought that rather than giving me the
shock of receiving a cable, they would write a letter giving all the
details.  That was before the days of airmail, and the friend’s
letter just happened to catch an earlier boat.  I was booked to
speak the next morning and the lesson was on the martyrdom of
Stephen.  It was not easy under those circumstances.  Some
time later Anna received word of the passing away of her younger sister
Mae.  However, this did not come as a sudden shock because she had
been ill for a long time.  Nevertheless it was hard to think of
that beautiful young woman taken away in her youth; but the comfort was
that both of these were “at home with the Lord.”

It was shortly after Mother’s home call that Kenneth was born on May 2,
1926, at the Mary Johnston Hospital.  In memory of Mother we gave
him the middle name of Sheldon, which was my Mother’s maiden
name.  He had bronchitis quite early and, though he got over it,
it seemed to affect his sleeping patterns.  He would resist our
efforts to put him to sleep in the evening, even to the extent of
rubbing his eyes.

Another discouraging problem of that first term was difficulties with
our fellow workers.  This caused a great deal of heartache. 
We were young and inexperienced, and there was no one else in our group
with whom we could confer.  Looking back over the years we now
know we should have reacted differently, but then we needed counseling
which was not available.  The experience has taught us the need
for patience and love even when faced with what we then saw as

Yet there were bright spots too as we resumed work in the Manila
area.  In addition to the regular services at the rented hall in
the Walled City, I helped out in a bookstore we had there, which
afforded a number of contacts.  Also at that time I began a
campaign of canvassing all the homes in the Walled City.  It took
some time for scores, if not hundreds, were living in the Old Spanish
houses, several in each room in very crowded conditions.  Some
lived in screened-off places on landings and stairways.  Almost
all morning might be spent in just one large house.  One day I was
talking to a group in a courtyard when a basin of water was dumped on
us from above.  It was apparently unintentional—the person threw
the water and then looked!  Later this coverage with Scripture was
extended through almost all the districts of Manila, south of the Pasig

The work at Masliang near Fort McKinley (now Fort Bonifacio)
continued.  However, the bamboo and thatch chapel was so
dilapidated that we decided to abandon it.  On the main road
leading into the camp at Guadalupe we found a storefront to rent and
the work of children’s classes and Gospel preaching continued. 
This area was also canvassed with literature and invitations, but the
response was quite meager.  People were slow to investigate some
new religion, as they viewed it.  During our furlough in 1929 this
work was dropped.

While I was taking care of the bookstore one morning, a young man who
had been attending the services came for a talk.  Simeon Endaya
was a quiet man, a postal clerk.  He told me that he had been
brought up a Roman Catholic and served as an altar boy.  Then the
family switched to the independent Aglipayan Church, a breakaway from
the Roman Church.  When Simeon was a high school student in Manila
he wandered into a Methodist Church.  There he was received as a
member and baptized by sprinkling for the second, maybe third,
time.  Through the testimony at the Gospel Hall he was now a
believer in Christ.  Did he need to be baptized by
immersion?  I gave him some references to study and told him to
see what the Lord wanted him to do and not take my word only.  He
was back the next morning asking to be immersed.

One evening in his work at the registry division of the post office, he
receipted for a large amount of money to be sent to the Culion
Leprosarium.  The ship that was going to Culion failed to sail the
next morning as scheduled.  On his return to the office Simeon
checked and finally found the bag, empty of its contents.  Outside
detectives were called in and they suspected Simeon seeing he had not
only received the bag but also discovered it empty.  All day they
grilled him but he maintained his innocence.  Towards evening one
detective accused him of hiding some information from them. 
Simeon replied, “Yes, there is one thing I haven’t told you.” 
They shouted, “Come on then, out with it.”  He said, “I haven’t
told you about my Savior.  Because of my faith in Him I could not
steal that money.”  He was released but kept under
surveillance.  Some months later a janitor at the post office
suddenly seemed to have a lot of money—he was the guilty party.

In giving his testimony at the prayer meeting, Simeon said something
like this.   “Throughout this experience I realized the peace
that keeps our hearts and minds.  You will say, ‘You had peace
because you knew you were innocent.’  But that was not the
case.  A co-worker of mine, who also was innocent, had no
peace.  He went to the Quiapo church to pray to the Black Christ
(a famous image) but still had no peace.”  Simeon had an
opportunity to witness to him about the source of real peace in Christ.

Often at the times of services at the Hall some of us would stand
outside and try to persuade passersby to come in.  One of these
was an elderly man, Lutgardo Ramos. Having been addicted to drink and
gambling he was dressed very poorly and was quite reluctant to enter
the hall.  Soon his life was drastically changed when he trusted
Christ as his Savior.  His wife was very much opposed.  She
stopped the children from coming to the Sunday school and took his
Bible away from him.  Even when we visited their home she
practically ignored us.  This was most unusual for Filipinos are
customarily hospitable.  Brother Ramos continued faithfully in
spite of the difficulties.  The change was evident even in the way
he dressed.  He often mentioned this when giving his
testimony.  In later years he helped us a great deal when we began
the work in San Juan.  He loved to preach the Gospel and
invariably from the Gospel of John.  He went home to be with the
Lord during our second furlough.

About the same time a very different type of man began attending the
meetings.  He was chief clerk of the Bureau of Health and well
educated.  In his search for the truth he had some contacts with
Seventh-Day Adventists but was not satisfied.  He found the truth
in Christ as he came to the hall and soon was active for the
Lord.  A meeting was started in his home in Paco district along
with the help of David Shepherd.  David was a self-supporting
missionary from Paisley, Scotland, managing a plate-making concern,
which prepared plates for printing Bibles for the American Bible
Society.  As the work in Paco grew, they rented a storefront in
1931.  Geronimo Mercado was burdened for the need in his hometown
of Tanay, Rizal.  He would leave his office at noon on Saturday
and go directly there.  Meetings would be held there Saturday
evening and Sunday morning, often in the open air when weather
permitted.  Later on this testimony was extended to the
neighboring towns of Pililla and Guisao.  A small bamboo chapel
was built in Pililla, and one of the converts baptized there was an old
man at the age of 96.

Sunday afternoon Geronimo would return to Paco for the services
there.  Another who helped for a while in these efforts was George
Burns.  He was a New Englander, a veteran who was partly disabled
in World War I.  He lived on his pension and had a zeal for
distributing tracts and personal witnessing.  Brother Mercado
later donated a lot for the building of a chapel in Tanay.  He
passed away during the latter part of World War II and his widow some
years later.  His daughters and their families are active in the
assembly in San Juan.  Geronimo Mercado had a gift of translation
and translated several worship hymns and also wrote some original
Tagalog hymns which are included in hymnbooks we are using still.

His younger brother, Sergio was saved in later years and after our
return to the Philippines in 1949, often went with us to Tanay to help
in the work there.  He also worked for the Bureau of Health, in
malaria control.  His work often took him away from home, and it
was on one of these trips that the bus he was riding on was ambushed by
dissidents.  Brother Sergio Mercado was one of the
casualties.  It was a great loss because he was a keen student of
the Word and a gifted speaker like his brother.

In 1927 serious communist disturbances in Central China led two
missionaries from there to join us for a time.  James Buckley was
from Ottawa, Canada and Fred Pucknell was from England.  Jim
bought an old Model-T Ford.  Only oldsters will remember those
vehicles by which Henry Ford put cars within the reach of the working
class.  They lacked the conveniences of modern cars.  But
they were simple enough that a mechanically minded owner could do most
repairs.  We took out the back seat and installed boxes to carry
supplies, equipment, and a stock of Scriptures.

We would leave early Monday morning and be on the road till Friday
evening.  Pulling into a town we would park near the public
market.  One would stay with the vehicle and sell Scriptures while
the other two would canvass from house to house.  In Las Pinas,
just south of Manila, there is a famous pipe organ made of bamboo by a
Spanish priest early in the 19th century.  As we were canvassing
there, and I was walking among the houses, there was some excitement
with men running in every direction.  A gambling game had hastily
broken up because they thought I was a police official.  When they
learned my mission they came back sheepishly and I had a crowd for a
brief witness.  In another town I stumbled on a gambling
session.  One man made the excuse that he had no money to buy a
Bible.  As I talked with others he won a bet, but still he wasn’t
ready to part with his money for the Scriptures.

In this way we could cover two or three towns a day.  In late
afternoon we would look for a place to spend the night under the canvas
we had with us.  It was usually easy to get the mayor or chief of
police to give us a permit for an open-air meeting.  In most towns
there is a plaza or square in the center of town, sometimes with a
bandstand.  These were good spots for meetings, except that in
many places the town church also faces on the plaza.  We stopped
in Cabuyao, Laguna, on our way home one Friday evening.  The chief
of police granted us a permit.  As we started our service we
noticed the priest promenading in front of his church.  Shortly
after a policeman came and informed us we had to stop by the mayor’s
orders.  We showed our permit from the chief of police.  The
policeman knew who was boss in the town, but I suggested that Jim go
with him to talk to the mayor while Fred and I carried on.  We
preached for a long time and then offered Scriptures for sale. 
The crowd gradually faded away but still no sight of Jim.  He kept
on talking until he was sure we had plenty of time to have our meeting!

In this way we covered all the Tagalog-speaking provinces.  It
wasn’t always easy to find a place to camp for the night.  On a
couple of occasions we got permission to spend the night in the
municipal building.  One of our trips lasted two weeks when we
crossed over to the east coast of Luzon, visiting Infanta by one road
and Atimonan by another.  This latter road took us over a steep
zigzag road crossing the hills, which are the backbone of the
Island.  At first the authorities were not going to allow us to go
because the grade is so steep at one point that with gravity feed the
gas wouldn’t flow into the motor.  We filled the tank and signed a
release and they let us through.  The old Ford made the grade
without difficulty but going down the other side was a different
story.  The brake bands were all worn out; even the reverse band
was gone by the time we finally reached level road again.  So we
had a repair job and had to be towed back by a truck.

In Lucena we came upon an elderly man who had a Tagalog Bible, which
was apparently well used.  He maintained he was a Roman Catholic
and was friendly when assured we were not Seventh-Day Adventists. 
He was evidently a believer, and before we left he gave us a little
message on the three uses of “Abba, Father” in the New Testament. 
This showed he was conversant with the Scriptures and also his
spiritual discernment.  However, he couldn’t justify some of the
Roman practice from the Bible.

On five such trips we visited 63 towns (only one of them twice) and
held 35 meetings.  About 7.000 Bibles, Testaments, and Gospels
were sold and more then 20,000 tracts distributed.  Many homes
were visited and personal contacts made.  The good seed of the
Word was sown.  How much of it fell on good ground, only eternity
will reveal.

Each year a large fair and carnival was held on what is now Rizal Park
in downtown Manila.  In 1921 Brother Wightman rented a space on
the temporary walls used for advertising.  He had John 3:16
painted on it in large letters.  That year a fire destroyed the
carnival while it was in progress.  Mr. Wightman went to see if he
could get a rebate since the text was not there for the full time of
the contract.  (It must have been his Scottish thrift.)  He
didn’t really expect it and didn’t get any rebate.  They told him
his text was prominently displayed in news photographs of the fire so
it had a wider audience.

The following year on the opening night I went with an armful of tracts
and began handing them out at the entrance.  I didn’t have to hand
them out, people just took them from me.  Some took a handful and
stood beside me helping.  In half an hour my armful was
gone.  I went around to see how many had been thrown away and
there were hardly any.  Another year we were stopped by the police
on the second night; if people threw them away we were contributing to
littering.  A commercial firm had hired a plane go broadcast
advertising leaflets from the air.  Instead of doing it in the
late afternoon when the crowds were there to pick them up, they
scattered them Sunday morning.  It was a case of massive littering.

In later years we rented a booth among the exhibits and sold Scriptures
and distributed literature.  With posters and slides and with
personal conversations there were many opportunities to make known the
way of salvation.  One evening a group of Roman Catholic
seminarians came by primed for a discussion.  I didn’t want this,
but with a crowd around I dared not back down.  I tried to use the
discussion and answering of questions as an opportunity to proclaim the
Gospel.  At one point they referred to the Pope as Head of the
Church.  I asked, “Do you believe the Bible?”  Since they
did, I referred to Colossians 1:18, reading it out to the interested
crowd.  Their reply was that the Church had two heads, one in
heaven and one on earth.  I retorted, “Now I can understand the
defect in your church.  Any body that has two heads is abnormal
and would be exhibited among the freaks here at the carnival.”  It
wasn’t the kindest thing to say, but it pleased the crowd and
discomfited them as well as bringing the discussion to an end.

For five years we had carried on under what were often discouraging
difficulties.  A vacation in the mountains was more than we could
afford, and we were getting weary.  However, in January 1928, the
Lord made it possible for us to spend some time in Baguio.  We
traveled third class by train to Damortis, Anna, Len, Ken, and I. 
Then by bus we climbed 5000 feet to Baguio by the Kennon Road. 
This was wide enough then for only one vehicle so the traffic was
controlled by a system of gates.  There were no sides on the bus
and as I sat on the outside seat at the front it seemed as if my feet
were often dangling over a deep ravine beside the road.  The
driver was careful but fast because he knew the road and knew he would
meet no oncoming traffic.  The view from the top of the final
zigzag was really impressive.

The house we rented belonged to the Methodists, beside Easter School,
an Anglican school for mountain children.  Behind the cottage was
a high hill from the top of which we could see Baguio on one side and
the Trinidad Valley on the other.  This fertile valley is famous
for growing vegetables and strawberries.  Fred Pucknell joined us
for part of the time.  One morning we took a taxi to the foot of
Mt. Sto. Tomas, seven kilometers out of Baguio.  From that point,
Fred and I followed an eight kilometer trail to the top where there was
a rest house.  We were tired and hungry when we arrived, so we
went inside to get warm and eat our lunch.  It was a mistake—while
we ate the clouds rolled in.  We really never had a glimpse of the
view over the surrounding mountains or the Lingayen Gulf below. 
We met some survey men there, and they offered to lead us to an Igorot
burial cave on the way down.  The entrance was quite low, but
inside we could stand up amid the skulls and skeletons.  Chiefs
had apparently been buried in a crude coffin made from a hollowed-out
pine tree.  Fred remarked that if he would have such a skull in
his room in China he would never have had to worry about thieves! 
The mountain people were formerly headhunters.  So to make sure we
retained that essential part of our anatomy, we did not disturb
anything.  In later years we climbed Sto. Tomas on a bright
moonlight night to see the gorgeous sunrise over the mountains. 
Then after breakfast at the rest house we would return home by early

On the way home from Baguio the train was very crowded.  Anna went
to the restroom.  Almost immediately a woman began knocking on the
door.  Naturally Anna thought it was someone who was impatient so
didn’t respond.  Then they called me to intervene.  The woman
was quite plump and because the train was crowded she was
standing.  When Anna closed the door it caught a part of her
fleshy arm and she couldn’t get free.  Above the noise of the
train and the crowd, I at last got Anna’s attention by shouting. 
When the woman was released there was a long ridge of flesh on her
upper arm.

A year previous to that we had begun to buy a house five miles from
downtown Manila in the suburb of San Juan.  It was a newly
developed area where the Wightmans had purchased a home.  A gift
form a good friend provided the down payment and the monthly
installments were less than we had been paying in rent.  One
reason for the move was that Leonard had developed rickets and we
needed a place where he could get out in the sunshine more.  With
our own place I could improve it myself, as we were able.

After our trip to Baguio we began to plan for furlough.  In those
days missionaries were expected to stay for a term of seven
years.  Some brethren in Britain expressed their concern that we
were only in our sixth year.  In January Fred Pucknell decided to
return to China, as things seemed quieter there.  In the meantime
Jim Buckley had been married to Margaret Dryden from Seattle.  Our
family had been friends for some years with the Dryden family. 
They were planning to stay on for the present in Manila, so we thought
it would be a good time to get away.