International Missions Update:
Philippine Gospel Association
February 2022 | Written by Linda Balugo, Edited by Steve Moberg
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’” (Matthew 25: 35-36, ESV)
These verses are the motivation for Dr. Linda Faith Q. Balugo’s work as the International Director for the Philippine Gospel Association, and she says they thank God for what He is doing in many people’s lives through their ministry. “The pandemic brought about by the COVID-19 virus has greatly affected ministry activities for over a year in Cebu and Davao.”
The Philippines is one of the countries in Southeast Asia with high cases of COVID-19 infection. Their health department strongly mandated restrictions on travel and gatherings of more than 30-50 people, and imposed health protocols to mitigate the spread of the disease. But the need for medicines for sick people, especially in the villages, doesn’t stop, not even the Word of God.
PGA volunteer teams do house-to-house visitations to provide health care, bringing vitamins and necessary medicines to ailing patients. Dr. Balugo says, “Aside from financial constraints, people won’t go to a clinic or hospital for fear of catching the virus, an ironic mentality that has crept into the minds of most Filipino people. On July 25, 2021, an old lady with a toothache and knee joint pains came to see Pastor Wingwing. The lady is known in the village as a spiritist, practicing animism, a common practice in the tribal communities. After an online consultation with me, Pastor Wingwing gave the necessary medicines to the lady. The gospel of salvation was shared. As the pastor led her in prayer, she surrendered her old beliefs and practices to the Lord. She accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior, Healer, and One True Living God! Please pray as Pastor Wingwing and Darlyn disciple her as she grows in her faith in Jesus. Pray also that the whole family will be saved.”
In Cebu, PGA reaches out to the children each month by giving bookmarks with memory verses, helping the children in Maghaway stay on track in learning God’s Word. Dr. Linda comments that “we are thankful that our missionaries can be the hands and feet of Jesus to share, encourage and give hope during these challenging times.” She says things have eased in the last year. PGA teams were able to go on medical missions as the need arose. They were finally able to give school supplies to the children, whose schools have changed to online and modular classes since the start of the pandemic.
In Davao, missionaries have continued with home Bible-study meetings and discipleship-training programs in various tribal communities. With the rising cases of the Omicron variant, there’s still one worship service every Sunday in Maa, Davao for all the three churches established in the area within the past six years. In December 2021, Bible study for the youth group resumed in Tugbok. This is another suburb where PGA missionaries pioneered a home church last year.
Dr. Balugo is appreciative of their partnership with Gashland. “We are forever grateful for your quarterly support to PGA and its missionaries. Indeed, it has always been a blessing! Pastor Wingwing built a mission house and a multipurpose center in the mountain village. The center served as a place for Bible study, feeding the children, and a venue for showing the Jesus film resulting in new believers in Christ! A staff member of Save The Children heard of the ministry Pastor Wingwing and Darlyn are doing in far-flung villages. Arrangements were made for Pastor Wingwing and Darlyn to handle the module and tutorial classes in two mountain tribal communities beginning during January. Classes are held twice a week. This gave them an opportunity to teach the children about Jesus.”
A strong typhoon hit Cebu on the evening of December 16, 2021, causing massive destruction of houses including the PGA Children Center. Local residents were made aware of the coming storm but didn’t expect Typhoon Odette would bring such great devastation. Dr. Linda thanks God that no lives were lost! Dr. Bads Gestopa and the team did Relief Operations in Maghaway on Saturday, January 15, 2022. People lined up with joyful expectations, even with the sun’s scorching heat of over 100 degrees. Three hundred families received bags of assorted food items and 5 kilos of rice. Three hundred children were given vitamins (those who were underweight were given two bottles). That day was also the kick-off of PGA’s program “Operation Timbang, Batang Himsog (Weight Awareness for Healthy Kids)” for the kids this year. The identified malnourished children will undergo Health and Nutrition Rehabilitation.
One member of the volunteer team shared, “You can see the unspeakable joy in the faces of the people, even with the masks on. Everyone was extremely happy and thankful beyond measure.” Some came to Dr. Balugo’s husband, James, to thank him, but he told them, “Thank God above all because this would not have been possible” without Him. In addition, calamity aid was given to the children’s center caretaker and four PGA volunteers who lost their homes or had them damaged severely. There were tears of joy with this unexpected financial assistance. After this typhoon was the first time the village had received this type of aid! Dr. Linda says “everybody sends their love and thanks for these untold blessings! Our heartfelt thanks to all of you at Gashland Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Your generous response to the urgent need enabled PGA teams to undertake relief efforts to help our brethren in Maghaway, and in other badly devastated areas in Olango Island and south of Cebu. All glory and honor to God!”
She adds, “Again, thank you for your prayers and faithful support through the years. I thank God for the partnership we have in fulfilling the Great Commission through the ministry of Philippine Gospel Association. May the Lord bless you in return for making a difference in the lives of many Filipino people.”
Dr. Bads Gestopa sharing about God’s love; Dr. Maribel Katagiri
PGA Volunteer Jenecel Echavez distributing food packs
Pastor Wingwing & the spiritist woman