By: Ptr. Bing Simpas
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) This verse leaped in our hearts as we, Pastor Greg and I obeyed the Lord to leave Iloilo and sailed to Davao on February 2, 1994 with our two-month old baby Micah to answer the call of God. As I looked back, I have seen how God lovingly tested our faith and obedience.
It took nearly a month for us to find the exact place where God lead us to start a ministry. Since Davao is a very big region, we had a hard time venturing from one place to another until on February 28, 1994, we were finally settled in Tagum City which was known as the Gold City at that time. We embarked on the journey one step at a time, believing that God has a plan and He will bring into fruition all the work that He has started.
We had our first Sunday Service on March 7, 1994, just the three of us. We dressed ourselves in our best Sunday dress and worshiped the Lord. On the second Sunday, there was one additional person worshiping with us, our first member. On the third Sunday, there were two, and the next were four. Eventually, the numbers kept growing. By God’s grace, there were one to two new worshipers every Sunday.
The ministry is really enjoyable but on the other hand, there were struggles along the way. One of the hardest experiences that we encountered was to understand and to speak the local’s dialect since we are Ilonggos. We needed to learn fast and catch up with the Tagumenyos language so we can preach and minister in their vernacular. Another hurdle was homesickness, we considered it as the worst struggle in the early stages of the ministry as we do not have any relatives or friends in the unfamiliar place.
However, God has been so faithful. God had used us to bring salvation to the lost. We have witnessed the wonder working power of God in EFC-Tagum City. Formerly, we had four members who were in the Mayor’s List. Two of them were leaders of different notorious gangs, one was a drug user and a pusher at the same time which made him number 2 in the said List. The other one getting in-and-out of prison because of various crimes. Were it not for the Lord, these precious souls would not have experienced the freedom that they are living today. These are exemplary testimonies of how God has used the ministry in Tagum City to carry out God’s mission and to demonstrate miraculous transformations.
Not only did God performed His power to change the hearts of those people, He also used us as instruments to bring healing to a teacher who once experienced blindness. Her healing resulted to an opening of an outstation church in the Municipality of Kapalong. Ultimately, she offered her house to be a place of worship. At present, EFC-Kapalong is one of the growing churches in Davao del Norte Section. Additionally, in the year 2000, God had led us to meet a lady in Brgy. Tipaz where we preciously planted a growing outstation ministry, this lady is faithfully supporting the ministry until now and even became an instrument for her brothers to know the Lord. All of them are already in church, serving with us in the ministry. One of her brothers donated a lot for the church.
On March 31, 2019, we celebrated our 25th Year Church Anniversary Celebration. On the event, we had the opportunity to acknowledge the people who have been with us through the years. We prepared a Bible-related awards such as ‘Aaron and Hur’ Award. This award were given to Gene Salem, Risty Mencidor, Randy & Mila Estanislao, Alexan & Jeseca Delos Reyes & Adoracion Simpas. These members were always backing us up in prayers and encouraging us during our times of struggles just as what those Bible characters did for Moses during Joshua’s battle.
Another award is the ‘Shunammite’ Award, like the Shunammite woman who took care of the welfare and needs of God’s servant, we gave the award to Danilo & Arlene Dagatan, Joel & Adalene Osnan. We also gave an ‘Epaphroditus’ Award, it is for the members who are always ready to help, in sickness or health, the award goes to Gilbert & Sharee Salem, John & Rina Pal. The ‘Loyalty’ Award were given to Violeta Torrefranca, Lorena Villamor and Teresita Margate . These members stood faithfully for the church amidst persecution.
Moreover, Awards of ‘Appreciation’ were also given to Thomas Mencidor for donating his property for the church, Antonie Palma Gil for his remarkable service during our pioneering years, Micah Lalugan for helping and for partnership in the ministry. Lastly, a ‘Special’ Award is presented to Gilbert Salem, this member has been faithfully serving the Lord at a young age even until he has his own family. He was never absent in any church activities.
Rev. Peter and Rev. Christine Wee, JECPP Southern Mindanao Regional Director, celebrated with us in this joyous occasion. Pastor Christine encouraged the congregation with the message entitled “A Thousand Times More”, which was cited in Deut. 1:10. Her message uplifted the church to continue in believing and expecting more from the Lord. They also blessed us with a token of appreciation for our service in the Kingdom of God and faithfulness in the ministry for 25 years.
In this Church’s Anniversary, we coined a theme or hashtag ‘#cozwearefamily’. It speaks about all the tears, laughter, discouragement, rejoicing, defeat, and victories we experienced along the way as one EFC-Tagum City family. The Lord has brought us this far and we are grateful today as we celebrate great blessings upon our church. As one family, we reminisced on the journey that was started by the Lord. We are celebrating His love together.
We pray that we, EFC Tagum, will continue to stick to God’s promises and will stay united to move forward believing that in the many years ahead, we will still be standing as a church until Jesus returns. He has promised that He will never leave us, nor forsake us, we are sure that with God on our side, the future is bright. Glory to God in the highest!