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After nearly 26 hours of travel time, the team arrived in Iloilo City around 9:00 in the morning on Tuesday. When we landed in Manila, we all enjoyed some coffee and Cinnabons (a little taste of America)! Once arriving in Iloilo, we were picked up by Ranie, Oscar and Mike and taken to the Century 21 Hotel. After lunch, we met the Doan Baptist Church camp team at the church and had a good long meeting regarding the week of training and the weekend camps to follow. It was really exciting to hear what has gone on here since last January. They had several E-camps (evangelistic camps) with an estimated 500 young people coming to Christ.

Before we even got started on the training day I had the privilege to speak to their “seminary students.” There were about 150 of them for chapel at 7:15 am. What were they thinking having chapel at that time in the morning? It went great, though! We had a wonderful time.  Let me see if I can give an idea of how this training is going on. We are running two tracks of training: one track is for the E-camps. Anybody who is new or has only attended one E-camp will attend this side of the training. Everyone else is attending a new track of training they are calling D-camp (discipleship camps). Both the E-camps and D-camps are weekend camps that are geared towards directly helping the churches in the region the camp is held. Andrew and the Filipino camp team have mostly been handling all the training for the E-camps while Matt Collier and I have been handling the training for the D-camp side. We ended the main part of the training around 5:00 pm yesterday. Matt Collier and I quickly ran back to the hotel to change because we were involved in the Wednesday night prayer service. I sang Koert’s arrangement of “Beneath the Cross” and Matt preached a great message on trusting the power of the Gospel (II Corinthians 4). That service finished around 7:00 pm. We quickly ran downstairs, grabbed a bite to eat and started choir practice. I was pleasantly surprised with how well they did. I’m teaching them “All I Ever Want to Be” and “How Sweet the Sound” which is an arrangement of “Amazing Grace”. After finishing choir rehearsal around 8:20 pm, we had one final preaching time. I was able to speak on II Cor. 12:15 –  ‘Spending and Being Spent’. The day finished up around 9:30 pm and we headed back to the hotel.

Report by Matt Herbster

Day Two of the training went well. Andrew, Matt C. and I all stayed very busy teaching throughout the day. Shane was very busy getting pictures, video and doing interviews. David is our “do-it-all” man. Anything we need he is ready to handle and take care of. He has been our “teacher of Spoons.” The students have absolutely LOVED it! He also is my roommate here in Iloilo so we have gotten to know each other more personally than we really cared!  When we weren’t teaching, we were busy having meetings with the camp team in preparation for the weekend. David and I will be together at a camp in a town they call Antique (pronounced Anteekay). Matt C. and Andrew will be going to a campsite in a town called Gebbs. Shane will be going back and forth to both camps getting as many good pictures and video as he can.

We started training at the church at 8:30. Each morning we walk through the city from the hotel to the church. It is about a 5 minute walk around parked cars, across busy streets and crowded sidewalks. The smells and sights are very unusual. On the first day we walked past a traveling pet store. There were fish, mice, malnourished puppies, and other critters in cages on the side walk for sale (think flea market). There are usually a couple of sidewalk cafes set up complete with card tables, chairs and a tarp draped between trees for the ceiling. Of course there is the awful smell of Jack Fruit. I have no idea if that is the real name or if Matt Collier just made that up, but whatever it is called it is the biggest and worst smelling fruit ever. On the sidewalks are all kinds of high school age uniformed children heading to or from their classes. Jeepneys of every variety are everywhere. Motorcycles and bicycles with side cars are the other transportation of choice. Matter of fact, just as I was typing this, I saw a motorcycle side car go by with easily 10 people on board. Matt C. said he has seen at least 18 on there before. I’m sure you want be able to get the full picture of the scene here, but you have to understand that 5 white guys (all nearly 6 foot or taller) walking through these streets causes quite a stir.

We leave for camp tomorrow. Looking at the schedule, we won’t be getting much sleep. That’s alright. Sleep is overrated!  We can sleep when we get back to The Wilds. (yeah right) Their rise time is at 5:30 and breakfast is at 6:00. They say that the campers can’t sleep because they are so excited about being at camp so they wake up around 4:00 in the morning. They felt 4:00 was too early for breakfast (thankfully) so they scheduled breakfast for 6:00. I have no idea what our sleeping or bath conditions will be like, but I’m expecting it to be pretty primitive. At least the ocean is nearby if we start getting too smelly. Doesn’t salt water have some sort of disinfecting purpose?

Report by Matt Herbster

We just returned from two weekend camps here on the island of Panay. Andrew and I went north to a village called San Rafael while David and Matt Herbster went south to a town called Antique. I’ll leave it to Matt to report about their camp, but here are some highlights from the D-camp. After holding 5 different evangelistic oriented camps, the leadership team here decided that they needed to help some of the area churches encourage the newly saved young people. Probably around 75% of the campers who attended camp this weekend were saved within the last year at E-camps. The site was a remote Bible school that has been built entirely by nationals. Many of the younger Bible school students attended camp as well.

A highlight of this trip for me was to work closely with Mike and Jeru. Mike is directing the E-camp efforts here – Jeru works with campus ministry, but also helps out with the camps. Andrew and I had a lot of good interaction with them during the camp (as well as a lot of fun). It is so exciting to hear of their dreams for the future of camping in the Philippines and beyond. They did a great job running the camp in their own easy-going style while following a biblical philosophy of ministry. It was a joy to work with them. We are continuing to fine-tune details, but the over-all picture is bright.

We ended up having about 120 campers in San Rafael. The campsite was primitive, but adequate. Activities were held on a small field on top of a high hill and in a gym-like multi-purpose building. We only ended up chasing a dozen or so balls down the 150 foot drop. Basketball in the blazing equatorial sun was the main free-time event, but two hours about wiped us Americans out! The kids had a blast – didn’t want to leave after camp was done. Cat in the Hat was a highlight as we tried to introduce some new games into their repertoire.

We really weren’t sure how much English the kids were going to pick up and so we arranged to have a national pastor summarize the messages at the end in their local dialect. Surprisingly, the kids understood English pretty well – it was more a barrier with the younger kids. I think they were shy about speaking English, but they warmed up quickly. We met some dear kids. One young man named Joseph was just starved for attention and love. Apparently, his parents had thrown him out of the house at a young age and he had been on his own for a while. He wrote me this touching note: “Dear Pastor Matt, Good day, thank you for God’s message that you sowed for us. I thank God that he use you to impart his Word because I touch them message and to help me to change my heart. God bless you.”

By the end of the week, we saw 36 young people surrender to full time Christian service. Others decided to obey the Lord in believer’s baptism. What a joy!

We had one power outage all weekend – during the climax of my Friday night message. We got through that without much trouble. Andrew preached Saturday night. I have never heard such a commotion from the numerous dog population – one growled and barked loudly right outside the “wall” of the open air gym. Others yelped and carried on most of the message. But the climax came when one of them came into the gym and walked right down the center aisle. We teased Andrew about the demon dogs and the one who walked the aisle. But, in spite of that, the Lord greatly used the message of that night and touched many hearts.

As for the fighting bugs – the guys chose two really cool names for the teams this week: Red Raga Ragas and the Blue Bagangas. Both are types of local bugs. That, along with the massive gecko who inhabited the roof of the bamboo hut we stayed in added to the excitement of the week (seriously, I’ve seen a lot of geckos in a lot of countries, but that is by far the biggest I’ve come across.)

Report by Matt Collier

We are sitting here in the Manila airport, getting ready to board our 16 hour flight to L.A. Our last several days were spent on a different island, Bohol, training a group of Christian workers who are interested in using E-camp as an outreach of their college campus ministries. Ven is in charge of the entire island and they are active in 5 different college campuses. Many of those who attended the training are new believers. What a refreshing spirit! This training is the first step in this process since many of them have never experienced camp of any type. As a result, Andrew, Matt H. and I spent extra time on philosophy of camping and the advantages of it. One of our great joys this trip was to work closely with several of the E-camp team members – on this trip, Mike, Dex and Ranie all came with us to Bohol. We were able to include them in the training as well and it was exciting to hear them teaching the training from their own perspective and using the insights that they had learned over the past year of doing camp themselves. Their team is doing an excellent job. The quality of national leadership here is excellent and the potential for expansion is boundless. As this year has unfolded, they have received more and more requests to help other areas hold E-camps: both in their nation and beyond. They are simply limited by personnel and finances.

The group we are working with is also active in campus work throughout the Philippines and we believe that camping and the campus work will complement each other nicely. They are seeing a great harvest of souls among these young people who are in the middle of making important life decisions. Many of these are open to full-time Christian work as missions. Even at this training on Bohol, there were campus workers from three other islands attending as well. Depending on how this opportunity develops, there may be other openings as well. Looking back on this trip, I believe that we were able to accomplish our overall goals. We were able to assist the camp team in training staff for a discipleship focused follow-up camp. We were also able to work closely with the staff members at both camps, observing them in action and helping them make adjustments for more effective camps in the future. They listened well and continue to be teachable. I think it was a good time for us to go. Our trips there will be less frequent now since they do not need us for ongoing running of the camps but more for advice on new opportunities.

Our team had a great time together and along the way were able to experience quite a few cultural aspects of the Philippines as well – including balut (partially developed duck eggs), fresh seafood (as in right out of the ocean), the chocolate hills on Bohol (over 1200 large hills rising suddenly out of the ground) and snorkeling in a Pacific ocean coral reef. This has been the best documented trip in CA history, so there are plenty of pictures and video clips for those who are interested. But the entire team also worked extremely hard as well – going on little sleep the entire trip. It has been a joy to work with them. The Lord continues to greatly bless this harvest field. We are continuing to pursue our over-all vision of training Asians beyond the Philippines as well.

Report by Matt Collier

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