Singin’ in the Rain in Cebu, Philippines
In my capacity as chairman of the nonprofit Shepherd’s Hill International, I often visit Arapal, the 25 acre plot of volcanic ground in northern Cebu, Philippines. Arapal is owned and operated by Phillipno Christians and is the only evangelistic effort I know of in the Philippines that incorporates organic farming into its evangelistic efforts. I have traveled to Arapal four times over the years while on the board of Shepherd’s Hill, and each time I go, they teach me new things. I learn new things about farming, animal husbandry, water conservation, and this time …… guileless worship. The way they do it bears closer scrutiny because it is as child-like ……and I mean that in the most complimentary way ….. as I have witnessed in my 66 years.
Let me set the stage: As I sat in our Sunday morning men’s Bible study, surrounded by 15-20 local farmers, the oldest of whom was literally carried down the mountain to our class, I made my own observations.
First: Only 2 wore watches. No wonder we started 15 min late I thought! I later realized watches provide almost nothing by way of value-added for these men. The sun told them what they needed to know about time, and our worship times made little sense (or difference) anyway. We started when everyone showed up and finished when we got hungry about 3 hours later. Hmmm.
Second: Heavy winds blew the intermittent rain horizontally across us as the class studied Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I don’t mean a drop or two, I mean I was sitting in water after 3 min. They have no church building in Arapal (but we’re building one…..see pictures attached). They’ve been worshiping in the elements for almost 10 years now. Forget house church….they have over 200 in attendance and most of them can barely fit their own families into their tiny homes. They actually like the rain because it cools them down from the avg 90 degree heat with 85% humidity. The pages were coming out of the Bible of our teacher. As two pages blew out of his grasp and headed for the mountains, a young man in our circle snatched them out of the air and quickly returned them to the teacher, who took them and never missed a beat of his lesson. Then I noticed all his pages were loose! He had rubber bands all around his Bible. Hmmm.
Third: I preached during the service with still wet baggy pants. Nobody seemed to care. The carefully dressed ladies didn’t seem to care their hair was being blown sideways, and the men had instant comb-overs. They worship like Nathaniel…..without guile. Hmmm.
Lastly: We were singing hymns in the rain. It finally quit raining (and was instantly 90 degrees again ….so my pants dried), but the singing was virtually the same with/without the rain, which is to say it was vigorous, yea unto deafening. They sang in the Cebuano language, but who could miss the message of Soldiers of Christ Arise. Having sat through some somnambulant stateside efforts of Bringing in the Sheaves, their singing is to that what a howitzer is to a popgun. Hmmm.
As I now reflect on that Sunday service, I am humbled ….. yet again …… by the loveliness of first-generation Christians in the Philippines. Shepherd’s Hill is tethered to these people in a very real way. We send them your donations and they till the soil and the hearts of the poorest of the poor in northern Cebu. With Give a Goat and other programs of self-sufficiency, SHI is helping provide hope to the hopeless. I unabashedly ask for your support in this worthy effort. Find us online at shepherdshill.org and join with us as we learn more lessons from Arapal.
Chairman, Shepherd’s Hill International