It was my first time joining the monthly mission trip to Camotes Island weeks ago. There were seven of us in the team and this was, so far, my only participation ever since our church committed to equip and train members of some of the local congregations in the island for six months.

It was quite a long travel - a two-hour drive to the port, an almost two-hour ferry trip, and another drive to the church. While I honestly would have preferred to stay at home and spend my weekend resting, the interesting narrative of the team who visited a month before has drawn me to join the gospel expedition.

The first day was spent with lectures and activities - a few of my brothers led the discussions in the morning while we spent the afternoon with group sessions. On the second day, we divided ourselves into two groups and attended Sunday services separately in different churches. What I find interesting in the whole scene is that the majority of the attendees were women - mothers and elderly ones mixed with a few young people which was entirely opposite of our church’s set-up where most are young adults.

The visible desire of the attendees to learn from the workshops along with their constant appreciation and thanksgiving had me praising God for how He worked so amazingly in their lives. The experience led me to see how God is actively working to preserve His chosen ones and make them persevere. 

It is God who preserves His saints

During the Sunday service, I sat beside a member who is probably in her late 60s and we talked a bit about how their church struggled with finding a pastor who will faithfully use the pulpit to preach and teach the Word. According to her, they have installed several ministers only to be led toward false teachings. 

What I find moving is how God has been gracious in preserving the church - keeping them steadfast and saturated in His Word to be able to discern and resist such deceptive messages. It is impossible to know God apart from the Scriptures and so it is clear to me how these people have been devoted to God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to determine which preachers are drifting away from the text. 

Even with the limited Biblical resources and remoteness of the place, God's mysterious yet powerful action allowed the gospel to reach the island and produce thriving saints who gather week in and out seeking Him in His Word despite not having an elder for a season. 

The evident work of the Spirit is such an encouraging testimony to a believer like me who often grows weary and is drained by the demands of city life. My worldly worries, which have consumed me the past few weeks, and misplaced affections over fleeting spectacles were confronted by the unwavering reliance of the people on the gospel and their constant pursuit of Him. 

The encounter with them altered my disoriented focus, shifted my perspective and pointed me back to my calling to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27), to set my mind on things above (Colossians. 3:2), and to keep myself in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life (Jude 1:21).

It is God who provides for our endurance

How God saved the people on the island is one thing. How He sustains them is another - it is a display of His faithful character. 

The group session has allowed me to have closer interactions with the brethren. Our conversations included the challenges of living as disciples in the place. It is truly enticing to live like the rest of the world - to only care about the "here and now," to labor only for yourself, and ignore the call of serving others. 

However, the church's dependence on God's daily sustenance and trust in His generosity is manifested in their service towards each other and the community surrounding them. It is overwhelming how, in many circumstances, the Lord has used several people to establish His church, supply their needs, and strengthen them to endure.

While they have limited study materials and financial obstacles, the Lord has proven to be the great provider of their needs allowing them to still be proactive in their ministries reaching out to kids and families around town. 

Not only have I been reminded of the Lord’s unwavering reliability, but I was also rebuked for my ungratefulness - how I frequently overlook the privileges and blessings provided for me. It has become my awful habit to complain about how far the meeting place for the Bible study is or how hot it is to stroll outside and do ministry. These grumbles only reflect how I do not see everything as grace - the freedom to exercise my faith in public, the financial capacity to meet in comfortable spaces, and the availability of resources to further serve the ministry.

I thank God that I was led to these communities. His toil on others also benefited my soul -  a break that took me to re-examine my thoughts, routines, and priorities. 

While I do not know what could have been if I decided to stay at home that weekend, I am convinced that it was a necessary experience to remember Christ's work in me and to press on this walk for the praise and glory of His Name. 

There is still a lot to pray for and labor to accomplish in the churches of Camotes Island but there is confidence in knowing there is no shortage of funds or lack of elders or anything that can hinder what God intends to do to and through His people. He who began the good work in His children will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6)