Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday's Update From Dumaguete

I hope all of our friends back home had a wonderful Memorial Day holiday. Although very busy today, and 12 time zones from home, my thoughts have often been about those whom we honor on this special day – those who have given their lives in defense of our great nation.

As a child, Memorial Day was special to me. It was that day in the spring when Dad was off from work and the school year was coming to an end. Dad would load the trunk of the car with wreaths and other floral arrangements, and Mom would prepare a picnic lunch. Then we three kids would pile into the back seat of the car (no seat belts in those days) to make long trip down State Route 10 to Logan, WV for our annual “Decoration Day” activities. It was always a day packed with great fun for my brothers and my Logan County cousins.

We visited the cemeteries that were sacred spots to my maternal grand parents. The little graveyard on the hill overlooking the little community of Chauncey. There, in a little fenced enclosure were the graves of Mamaw Stidham’s family. Her mother’s marker was there, as well as those of several other family members. Mamaw always knelt at the gravesides of two of her own children, Hessie (who died of leukemia at age 12) and “Little Buddy” (who was only three months old when the Lord took him). I could not comprehend it then, but now my heart breaks at the thought of the grief my grandmother must have experienced to lose two precious children!

Following the time at Chauncey, our three car caravan would travel to a place that my Grandfather called Sunbeam. There we would exit the cars, everyone would carry a wreath or mowing instruments and walk across a railroad trestle and along the track for what seemed to be a mile or more. At a certain place (only Papaw knew the spot) we left the tracks and climbed a steep hill to the grave site of his parents, Asbuury and Lucinda Stidham. These graves were barely discernable in the growth of underbrush in the deeply forested hillside. Sickles and trimmers were used to clear away the brush before the wreaths were lovingly placed upon the graves of my great grand parents.

After the picnic lunch with the entire family, our five loaded back into the car for the 69 crooked miles of Rt. 10 that would take us back home. There was one more stop for us along the way home. That was Forest Lawn Cemetery in Peck’s Mill, where Dad’s mother and father were buried. That large, well manicured cemetery stood in stark contrast to the overgrown grave yards we had visited earlier in the day. It was always a breathtaking sight to see the hundreds of little American Flags adorning the graves of the veterans across the rolling hills of Forest Lawn. Dad would explain to us that this is what that holiday was about.

My grandfather buried there was a “Doughboy” in France during World War I. It is hard for me to believe that today only one veteran of World War I still survives. Time passes quickly. Dad was a veteran of World War II, and those vets are also leaving us in great numbers every day. I thought of them today as I walked on one of the 7000 islands here in the Philippines where thousands of young American men shed their blood and gave their lives for the cause of freedom. May those who have died here, and in other remote areas of the world, be remembered today with love and devotion. May we say in unison today, “Thank you. We will never forget your sacrifice.”


Today was the first of our two day Pastor/Church Leader Seminar, “Practical Helps for Effective Ministry”.

Fifty Five gentlemen and ladies were in attendance at the beginning session. Each of the registrants received a program, biography of each teacher, spiral notebook, pen, and packet of printed notes. I welcomed each of the registrants and we asked a dear friend from several years back (Pastor Roberto Martin from Bais City) to lead us in prayer. The program then opened with 20 minutes of praise and worship music. Daniel and Amanda led the congregation in a time of joyful celebration. Then Jay began the first session on Bible study, prayer, preparation, and presentation of the Gospel message. While aimed particularly at the pastors, this lesson was also helpful for any Bible teacher or Bible Study leader. Jay will conclude this series of lessons on Tuesday morning.

I began the afternoon session with a lesson on “The Characteristics of Great Leaders” using two Bible characters (Caleb and John the Baptist) as examples. On Tuesday, I will conclude my unit with “Developing Leaders Through Discipleship”. What a blessing it was to share with these precious folks!

Robby Pearson completed the day’s teaching with “Casting the Net” in an important session on personal evangelism. Tuesday he will conclude with “Drawing the Net”.

Along with providing us with great music, Amanda, Janna, and Daniel handled all the registration activities for us. Joey Spurgeon was a tremendous help, working the sound, running our power point presentations, and video taping much of the proceedings. While the seminar team labored here, Bobby Wood and Billy Cox spent the entire day at the New Life Church where they were constructing a porch type canopy over the entrance of the church building. They made great progress and expect to finish it on Tuesday.


To say this seminar was well received would be a tremendous understatement. Just seeing the joy on the faces of these pastors and many of their wives was a blessing in itself. We gave away more than 80 Bibles, reference books and Bible Study guides. Thirty more will be given away on Tuesday along with three very special study Bibles.

In one of the drawings, Marissa Martin, a pastor’s wife from Bais City, ran to the table when her name was called and grabbed a thin line bible with a snap cover and clutched it to her chest. “I have been praying for one of these for years!” she said through tears streaming down her face.

One gentleman who is a teacher at a Bible Institute in Mindanao told Jay, “You don’t know how important something like this is to these pastors. What we need here and throughout Asia is ‘traveling education’ because these men do not have the means to attend Bible Colleges and Seminaries. Please do not let this be the last time you do this!”

Each attendee was honored to receive the gifts and to eat the delicious meal prepared by the hotel staff. Most of these men and women would never have the opportunity to meet in such a comfortable venue and receive the gifts provided by our friends back home.

Saying “Thank you” for supporting this mission work just doesn’t seem to say enough. You who have given to this effort, and the earlier efforts have helped make an eternal difference in the lives of many.


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