Grace Triumphant - Chapter 12 - A Decade of Activity


A Decade of Activity

 “And God is able to make all
grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all
things, may abound to every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)

The 1930’s was a busy time, a decade of activity in the work of the
Lord.  As it commenced we were just getting started in the work in
San Juan.  Though we were away for furlough from 1937 to 1938, the
work continued.  It was during that furlough that Lutgardo Ramos
went home to be with the Lord.  We greatly missed this dear man of
God just as we had earlier missed Brother Simeon Endaya.  From the
first we wanted to see the assembly truly indigenous, particularly with
its own elders.  In a pioneer work the missionary faces a
dilemma.  Should he continue to do almost everything
himself?  With his superior knowledge of the Word, he can probably
do things better himself.  However, there is danger of just
bringing into another culture what he has been accustomed to in his own
land.  That is an area where he needs to be sure of the teaching
of God’s Word and not follow his own traditions.  Or should he
turn things over to the nationals, even though things may not go as
smoothly or correctly, until they are better taught in the Word? 
We had no doubt the latter was the only way to build up an indigenous

As is often the case, the women outnumbered the men and were usually
more active and more spiritual.  Sometimes I wished some of the
women were men!  Why couldn’t they pray in the prayer
meeting?  That question was solved by dividing into groups for
prayer.  After a time of Bible study, the prayer requests are
presented.  Then we break into groups of three or four, young and
old, some in English and some in Tagalog.  In this way all are
involved and are able to take part.  The whole group comes
together for a final prayer.

Early in the work we started a custom which still continues.  That
is for the first week of the year there are prayer meetings every
evening.  In this way they try to establish a spiritual tone for
the whole year and pray about the projected plans for the coming
year.  At the present time, they have national workers come in to
give reports each evening so they can pray for the outreach in other
areas.  In one of these early series, I heard someone moving about
during prayer time.  This was not uncommon for people go out and
come in or go to the window to spit.  However, I did notice that
three men who had never prayed before, prayed that evening.  After
the meeting old Tea informed me that she had gone to her husband (they
rarely sat together) and nudged him to get up and pray.  Then she
went to the husband of her granddaughter and to some other
relative.  It may not have been the prompting of the Spirit but at
least it was effectual.

That dear sister, Timotea, was unusual in her ways.  She rarely
missed a meeting.  Sometimes she swam or waded across the stream
when the bamboo footbridge had been washed out.  She would go to
her daughter’s house to get dry clothes.  On one occasion we were
away for a little while.  When we returned, Tea told us about a
neighbor woman that she had led to the Lord.  This woman was
moving away and Tea thought she should be baptized.  So Tea
baptized her in the river!  At every service she would say
“Salamat sa Panginoon” (thank the Lord).  At her husband’s funeral
I thought to myself “She won’t say that today.”  I should have
known better.  After the committal service at the graveside, Tea
took my hand, “Salamat sa Panginoon—he is with the Lord now.” 
When she heard we were going on furlough, however, she was not so
thankful until we assured her we would return.  Perhaps the
smallest gift but also the most precious was the one peso she gave us
toward our fare.  She wanted to bring chickens and other things to
the ship until her family assured her we would be well fed on the
ship.  Once she did give us a kid of the goats, which our houseboy
killed and skinned.

In 1940, Morales Street near the chapel was being widened to become
what is now Aurora Blvd.  The widening would not involve the lot
on which the chapel was built but would make it a corner lot which the
owner wanted for his own use.  The assembly decided to look for
land to buy and found the present property on A. Lake Street. 
Their first intention was to buy only the front half, but through he
negligence of the agent we had to take the whole lot. In this God
overruled because now even that is too small.

One afternoon we all banded together to help move a house on the
property to another location.  Long bamboo poles were tied under
the house and scores of men lifted the house on those bamboos. 
Since I was a bit taller than the average Filipino it felt to me that
the whole weight was on my shoulder!  The old chapel was
dismantled so as to use as much of the material as possible in
rebuilding.  In 1941 it was all enclosed but still had a dirt

During the 1930’s, in addition to the work at the chapel and the
open-air meetings, there were children’s’ classes as I have already
mentioned.  The weekly visits to the Santol Sanitarium have also
been referred to earlier.  Anna had a Bible class on evening a
week in Abiertas’ Home, a home for unwed mothers.  Usually she
took some girls from San Juan to help her.  When we returned from
furlough in 1929 we bought a second-hand Essex (only old-timers will
remember those cars).  It served us well but needed a lot of
care.  Once we were going to Baguio when suddenly there was a
clatter under the hood and a terrible vibration.  When we stopped
to investigate we discovered that one of the four fan blades and broken
off.  Being a long way from any repair shop I decided the only was
to restore balance was to break off the opposite blade.  By
stopping at the bottom of the zigzag on the Kennon Road and by draining
our radiator and putting in cold water, we made it up the mountain with
out any difficulty.

Come down on that trip, as we got to the lowlands, the differential
gear was stripped.  We were towed into a garage in a nearby town
where the trouble was diagnosed.  No parts were available there,
so we left the car and traveled home by bus and train.  My
mechanic advised that a new part, even if we could find such, wouldn’t
mesh with the old gears.  With his help we were able to find a
complete unit for that old model in a junk shop.  I carried it up
north and had it installed and it worked perfectly.

So when Anna went out alone at night, he boys would say, “Let’s pray that Mom doesn’t have any car trouble.”  I wasn’t
the man who said to his wife, “I’ve had this car all these years and
never had a wreck,” and she replied, “You’ve had this wreck all these
years and never had a car!”  I hit a carabao on the rump once .
Fortunately I was going slowly so the carabao walked off as if nothing
had happened, but I had a bump in the fender and a smashed
headlight.  Before leaving on furlough someone gave me P37.00 for
it!  Registration which was due would have cost P35.00!

In 1931, the Manila Evangelistic Institute was commenced  by Dr.
Paul Cullen of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. 
A year or two later when they had no male missionaries in Manila, Miss
Ellen Martien asked if I would teach doctrine there.  I pointed
out that possibly my view of doctrine would not be acceptable. 
Holding up a Bible, Miss Martien said,  “Stay within the covers of
this Book and it will be acceptable.”  Under that arrangement, I
agreed and in addition to teaching doctrine, I also taught
Romans.  Later on Dr. Russell Bradley Jones took over direction of
the Institute, and I offered my resignation because of my lack of
scholastic qualifications.  He kindly refused my
resignation.  We enjoyed some happy fellowship with these
men.  One year I was asked to teach Revelation and Dr. Jones was
teaching Daniel.  As some of he view on prophecy differed from
mine, the students used to try to play one off against the other.

In December 1931, I first met Sandy Sutherland.  He was from an
assembly in Scotland and had gone to the U.S. for further
studies.  From there he came to the Philippines in connection with
ABWE and pioneered work in Palawan.  He was not happy with their
financial policies so severed connection with them and continued to
serve the Lord independently in southern Palawan.  He located at
Brookes Point and reached out from there.  Later on some of us in
Manila, along with some Filipino believers, contacted some of the
assemblies in Scotland about commending Sandy to the work of the Lord
here.  In October, 1936, Sandy and Maisie were married at the
Chinese Gospel Chapel, then on Gandara St. in Manila.   As I
was driving Sandy down to the wedding in our dirty, dilapidated old
car, he insisted that he and his bride would ride with us from the
chapel to the reception at Dr. and Mrs. Culley’s home.  I didn’t
have time to even get it washed!  True to its cantankerous style,
the old car would not start when the bridal pair got in, so we had to
get a push to start it.  Anyway, we said, their married life
started out with a good push!

In was in October, 1932 that the first issue of a monthly magazine, The
Philippine Evangelist, came off the press with Dr. Cullen as editor and
Mr. Wightman as publisher and printer.  For seven years I wrote
the Sunday school lesson notes for each week in that magazine. 
For part of the time I was assistant editor, taken over for Dr. Culley
whenever he was out of town.  This magazine had a useful ministry
through many parts of the Philippines in those years but perforce came
to an end when the war in the Pacific brought the Japanese to these
shores.  For some years the English Sunday school notes were
translated into Tagalog and printed as a supplement.

Dr. and Mrs. Culley were also instrumental in starting the Philippine
Keswick Conference.  It was intended mainly for students when they
were free from classes between Christmas and New Year.  The first
conference was held at Montalban below the gorge in December
1931.  Sandy and I were invited as speakers.  They had
borrowed one large canvas to shelter the ladies.  For the fellows
there were shelters of cogon grass.  Early one morning it began to
rain and the grass didn’t shed much rain.  Sandy and I put our
camp cots over our baggage and sat in the river where it was not quite
so chilly as the driving rain.  It was a precious time of
fellowship though somewhat wet!

Sometime later a committee was formed and I was asked to serve as
chairman.  With the help of students, we would prepare the
grounds.  Branches of acacia were pounded into the ground as
frames for seats in an open-door auditorium on the side of the
hill.  Many of them would be sprouting leaves by conference
time.  We rented two “bankas” (canoes) to make a raft to cross the
river and had tents and other supplies.

Those were times of much blessing in the lives of many.  The
testimonies at the campfire on the last night were thrilling.  One
young woman, a very attractive girl, said one evening, “I came here
with my own ideas for my life.  Now I only want God’s will to be
done.”  For her, how true was the hymn, “I know not what awaits
me, God kindly veils my eyes.”  She married a very fine pastor in
the Visayan Islands.  During the final days of Japanese
occupation, some of their troops went on a rampage.  That fine
young woman, with her two children, were brutally murdered by the
Japanese in front of the pastor whose life was spared.

Montalban was a picturesque spot with high and steep hills lining the
gorge.  Each evening it was a fascinating sight to see thousands
of bats swarm out of their caves and fly down the valley at
sundown.  One day a group of fellows climbed the mountain. 
Darkness overtook them and they were stranded on the ledge up there all
night.  They could see the camp so we kept a bonfire burning for
we had been able to contact them by voice but not reach them.  In
1938, that site was washed out by floods so a location was found on a
hacienda in the hills below Antipolo.  This included the partial
use of a larger farmhouse.   Today the Valley Golf and
Country Club occupies that place and Faith Academy is nearby.  In
1941, we were preparing for another conference there.  At noon
resting on the hillside I looked down across the valley to Manila and
wondered what would happen if war came.  It did come before we
could have that conference.  The work party for December 8th was
cancelled by news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Another activity in that decade of the 1930’s was radio ministry. 
On January 7, 1934, Dr. Paul Culley began a 15-minute program called
the “Gospel Singers.”  It was, I believe, the first evangelistic
program on the radio here in the Philippines.  At first the radio
company would not allow any preaching, as they were afraid of adverse
Roman Catholic reaction.  However, Dr. Culley got around that by
introducing each hymn and telling what it was about.  At the end
of that year Dr.Culley was leaving for furlough and asked Dr. Jones to
take it over.  But the latter was not a singer like Dr. Culley so
he made it plain that he would give a short message.

Dr. Jones invited me to bring the message on February 24, 1935. 
Obviously I had no experience of speaking into a microphone—we didn’t
even have a public address systems then.  We didn’t own a radio to
listen to others, so I was quite nervous and it was probably that which
induced a sore throat and husky voice.  But Dr. Jones wouldn’t let
me back out, so I brought the message I had prepared on "True

A year later, in March, 1936, when Dr. Jones was leaving the Islands he
asked me to take over the responsibility for the program.  By then
we called it “The Gospel Messengers.”  Our team was cosmopolitan:
Mrs. Edward Bomm, and American, was soprano, Miss Josefina Orteza, a
Filipino, was alto; Dr. Ho Seng Huang, a Chinese, the bass.  I
forget now who the tenor was but for a time Henkey Pouw, an Indonesian,
was the pianist.  That was before wire or tape recordings were
discovered so every program was live.  No opportunity to replay it
and correct any mistakes.  One Sunday evening our program was
moved up 15 minutes and we had not been notified.  Fortunately, we
were usually there in good time but that evening I was almost in a
panic when the quartet strolled in casually just a minute before going
on air.

Free booklets were offered on this program, and there was an
encouraging response.  One lady wrote that she was so tired of her
life she contemplated suicide.  Hearing the quartet singing, “All
this I have done for thee, What hast thou done for Me?”, she was
awakened to the goodness of God and the grace of Christ.

Another lady wrote about her difficulties with her family so we asked
if we could visit her.  When we did, she poured out her story and
we tried to extend to her the comfort of the Scriptures.  Before
Anna and I left, I asked if we might pray for her.  She seemed a
little surprised, possibly thinking we would need a shrine or
something.  In simple words I prayed for her and told the Lord
about her sad situation and asked Him to make Himself real to
her.  As I prayed I heard her crying.  After the prayer, she
looked at me with tears on her cheeks and said, “Never in my life have
I heard a prayer like that!”  It made me realize afresh the
privilege of talking to God in prayer.  So often we are prone to
take that privilege for granted.  The war intervened and we lost
contact.  Some twenty years later one of the teachers at Faith
Academy brought to the evening service in San Juan a neighbor who was a
believer.  This lady said, “Don’t you remember me?”  It was
embarrassing to admit that I did not, but it turned out she was the
lady with whom I had prayed.  She was now a believer in Christ.

The radio ministry was carried on by others during our furlough from
1937 to 1938 but upon our return I resumed it until December 7,
1941.  On that program I spoke on the Four Freedoms that President
Roosevelt had declared, but I applied them in a spiritual way.  At
the close I saw I had about a minute left so picked up a card which a
missionary had sent me on which were listed some of the “Fear Nots” of
Scripture.  Even as I spoke, the Japanese were on their way to
Pearl Harbor and next morning bombed places in the Philippines. 
We lost some of our freedom but learned too that we need not fear.

It was that radio ministry that led us into another sphere of activity
as we entered the 1940’s.  It was the custom of the U.S. Fleet in
the Far East to spend the summer at Tsingtao in China and the winter in
Manila Bay.  On a submarine tender, the USS Canopus, was a
Christian sailor, Virgil Wemmer.  He was discouraged because he
had not found a Gospel preaching church and could not locate a
Christian program on his radio.  He chanced on our program and
wrote that he was hungry for Christian fellowship, even though a few
fellows used to meet in the apartment that one Chief and his wife
rented in Manila.

We had often been concerned about U.S. servicemen in Manila. 
Quite a number were stationed in Manila or out at Fort McKinley. 
It seemed that nothing was being done in a spiritual way for
them.   In earlier years, the secretary of the YMCA at Fort
McKinley was a fine Christian.  But our hands were so full of
other work and we felt our first responsibility was to the
Filipinos.  Occasionally we had contacted some fellows. 
During our first term we were able to help a Navy man.  In a watch
night service he testified, “Once I thought Christianity was a matter
of right creeds, but now I know it is centered in a Person, the Lord
Jesus Christ.”  He seemed to be getting cold spiritually just
before he returned to the U.S.  We had not seen him for sometime,
but I learned when he was leaving.  Wrapping a New Testament with
his name I left it at the ship by which he was leaving.  While on
furlough I learned he was at Moody though I had not heard from
him.  When I called on him there, he told me that it was the New
Testament that brought him back into fellowship with the Lord and led
into his going into the Lord’s service as a teacher.

We met with Virgil Wemmer and some of the fellows at the apartment of
CPO King.  Soon after it was decided to look for another place to
meet with more room.  Many of the fellows would congregate at the
Army and Navy YMCA in the Walled City, so we asked Mr. Wightman for
permission to use the Gospel Hall in that district on Saturday
evenings.  Yet even this was not exactly suitable; what they
needed was a home atmosphere.  I thought our home was too far out
and too difficult to find, but the fellows didn’t think so.  So a
regular Saturday evening meeting was begun there.  Some would come
out in the afternoon and stay until Sunday afternoon.  We got
permission to use a vacant lot at the back where they put up lights and
a volleyball court.

One fellow said, “Since I left my home in the States, this is the first
time I have been in a home.”  One of the regulars, Archuletta, or
Archie, was a great pal with our boys.  He asked if he could bring
another fellow who was not a Christian.  A good bit of Saturday
afternoon was spent with that fellow, and he seemed very close to a
decision for Christ.  Finally he said, “I don’t know whether I
could hold out!  It is tough being on a submarine.  If I
could try it out for a week or two and see how it goes.”  I
assured him he couldn’t take Christ “on approval” to see if it
works.  I assured him that when he received Christ the needed
strength would be given him.  Whether or not he subsequently
trusted Christ, we don’t know.

One of the fellows who came to our home was John Tinkle, a really keen
Christian.  He had come to know the Lord at Long Beach,
California, through the ministry of Dawson Trotman in the early days of
the Navigator work.  He was an enthusiastic memorizer of Scripture
who had memorized some 600 verses.  He was keen on getting others
to the same.  As they washed and wiped dishes in the kitchen they
would drill on their verses.  Later John’s ship was sunk by the
Japanese in the battle of the Java Sea.  Some would say he went
down with his ship; his body did, but his spirit went home to be with
the Lord.

Two young fellows in the army Air Corps (before the days of USAF)
stationed at Nichols Air Base were nominal Christians.  John
Bristow and Jesse Miller were only 18, lonely and homesick.  One
Saturday evening they went to the YMCA thinking they might as well take
in a show, though they weren’t happy about doing that.  A sailor
invited them to go out to our home, which proved a turning point in
their lives.  However, John’s war experiences seemed to have
adversely affected his spiritual life and we lost touch with him. 
Up to that time Jesse had thought of the Bible as a book to carry to
church.  Then he learned it was to have a vital part in his
life.  Through the blessings he received in our home, Jesse made
up his mind that if ever he had a home of his own it would be open to
servicemen.  The story of how that determination came true must be
left to a later chapter.  We thank God for the contacts that were
made at that time and also for the influence that those Christian
fellows had upon our two teenage sons.  Sometimes it seemed our
time and strength was being stretched to the limit.  How much
longer could we keep it up?  Sandy and Maisie Sutherland were with
us for a while around Thanksgiving, 1941.  Sandy said, “Cyril, you
can’t keep up this pace.  You will have to give up
something.”  Only a few days later, after the Sutherlands had
returned to Palawan, the Lord took care of that situation with the
outbreak of war in the Pacific.