When two discouraged pastors packed their bags and uttered a goodbye prayer for their struggling church, God held them back with a love so deep for the people of Bogo. They just couldn’t let go of the mission field.
This is a testimony of how a struggling pioneering church in a remote part of Northern Cebu, Philippines, emerged as a reproducing and mission giving church.
Reading a success story in the Church Planting endeavor is certainly a great joy, especially so when it is about persevering in God’s calling. Pastor Gerry Fernandez and his wife are such examples. As novice church planters back then, they joyfully arrived in the mission field in April 1996 with enthusiasm to take on the cleanest and greenest town in the Philippines – Bogo, a town located towards the tip of Northern Cebu some 100 km away from Cebu City. This town has grown to a population of 75,000 people scattered over 29 Barangays and become prosperous through the sugar industry.
It was indeed very tough in the pioneering years of planting Evangel Bogo Church. Gathering the people to church was extremely hard. An even tougher experience for them was when Pastor Gerry needed to discipline the very few members he had who openly despised his leadership because of his young age. Moreover, problems in their church finance began to add strain on their marriage. It was during these trying moments that the allurement from Pastor Gerry’s father for them to return to a ‘better life’ in Bukidnon seemed too good to refuse. You see, Pastor Gerry, being the only son in his family, stands to be the sole heir of his father’s vast land in Bukidnon.
Pasotr Gerry left all these fortune to serve Jesus. But after three years of seemingly fruitless endeavor, the desperate, discouraged, and wounded couple packed up to head back to Bukidnon. However, before they left the church they felt the need to pray before saying goodbye to their mission field. As they were praying, something amazing happened. The presence of God came down and touched them so deeply that they began to groan. God birthed in their hearts right there and then a deeper love and burden for the people in Bogo. They heard the voice of God urging them to stay on in their mission field. Praise God, they both obeyed the Lord. What was most beautiful was that God not only renewed their love for the people, but He also healed their marriage! They experienced a tremendous sense of unity, a deeper love for each other and a greater understanding in working together as a husband and wife team.
The year 2000 was the year when Bogo church had a turnaround as they began reaping in joy! God brought in Bro. Noel dela Pena’s entire household to the fellowship and after a few months the whole family was water baptized. Their family and relatives followed them to church. And until now they are still reaching out to their loved ones and friends. God has been adding more and more people to the house of God every Sunday. As of now Evangel Bogo has a regular attendance of 30 people.
Today, the pastor who was once despised for his youth is effectively challenging many young people in his church to serve God. Bro Jeffrey Metante, a fruit of their youth ministry is now a church planter in Daan Bantayan Church. Many other young people in Bogo Church are following suit, helping Pastor Gerry to plant churches in Northern Cebu. Indeed, God has extended their territories. Evangel San Remegio, Banban, Malingin and Panliwad-on have been birthed through this humble church in Bogo. Because of their faithfulness and ability to be a reproducing church another barrio church in Catmon Town has been assigned to Cebu North Section. This church, located about 30 km from Cebu City, was actually pioneered in September 2003. Today, this one year old church is ready to reproduce herself in another nearby barrio before this year end. Glory to God!
Besides planting churches, Evangel Bogo is also the first outstation church in Central and Eastern Visayas Region to launch out by faith in MISSIONS GIVING in the year 2002. Pastor Gerry believes that God can raise his church to be a mission minded and missions giving church, capable of supporting their volunteer workers sent out to plant churches. His vision? He believes that before the end of this year Evangel Bogo will hit the 50th mark in adult attendance! As for the years ahead, he dreams of Evangel Bogo having their own church building and their church planting ministry expanding all over Cebu North Section.
This year, the recent Regional Director of Central and Eastern Visayas Region, has been conducting sectional gatherings in the different sections. The goal is to strengthen the main churches with their pastors, workers and leaders. The revived main churches will in turn strengthen the other churches under them.
The 3rd Sectional Gathering was held in the North Section hosted by Pastor Gerry Fernandez and his dear wife Pastora Aileen. They gathered some of their workers under their supervision including Bro. Nelson and Sis. Lilibeth from Tacloban City. Around 20 over delegates attended the day sessions. The evening services were also attended by members of Bogo Church, and some old folks of Catmon Church came too. It was so encouraging to see Sis. Flores’ elderly father, Bro. Salomeo, in all the sessions with the rest of the delegates. We were amazed by his stamina considering he is already 89 years old! We learned from Sis Flores later that her father was so hungry for the Word of God that he eagerly agreed to attend these revival meetings, though they were held more than 60 km away from his hometown! Indeed, no one is ever too old to serve God.
A powerful message was shared on ‘Killing the Giant’- the classic story of David the Shepherd Boy is conquering the giant Goliath. Simply, it was about David, trusting His Great God and The Lord is fighting the battle for him and for His own Name and Honor. The Holy Spirit moved and comforted Sis.Flores’ father who had been mourning for the loss of his son who died two months ago. For the first time in two months he was able to enjoy a good night’s sleep. Praise God!
It was also very uplifting to see the Lord’s hand upon Pastors Gerry and Aileen’s ministry. During the sectional gathering the praise and worship were truly anointed. We were so thrilled to discover that the youthful worship leader, Sis Jennifer, turned out to be the daughter of Bro Noel, Bogo’s first baptized convert! Another worship leader in the gathering was Pastora Aileen’s sister, Sis. Lilibeth, who is preparing herself to join ECME soon. What marvelous blessings God is pouring upon their ministry!
The people were further challenged, with messages on the Call to Transformation and the Commitment to Transformation. This is a call for every church to take a proactive role in meeting the needs in the community God has placed them as Christ’s Ambassadors. They began to see their potential in Christ and sensed God’s divine purpose for their lives and their church. Everyone just lifted their hands and voices and praised God during the altar ministry. We could sense the breakthrough and release in the lives of the workers as they responded in faith to God’s Word. In our spirit, we believed that God was preparing something greater for the Cebu North Section.
God also used Pas. Jay Bautista to remind the workers the importance of developing an intimate relationship with the Heavenly Father. Service is an outflow of our relationship with God and must be out of love, lest the ministry becomes a burden. There was a deep repentance from the sin of prayerlessness among the people and a visible expression of love for God.
God has never failed to visit every section gathering, especially this one in the north. The last night was really wonderful. Another powerful message wasbeing preached about a life-transforming message on plundering our enemy. The story of the four lepers in 2 kings 7, imparted. The story revealed how God used the 4 outcast lepers to deliver the Israelites from the great famine. The lepers took great risks in marching towards the enemies’ camp, plundered their goods and took responsibility by sharing the plunder with the rest of the Israelites. Thus, the four despised lepers saved the entire nation from famine. This message impacted the lives of the workers greatly. Many cried and wept before the Lord as God reached down to us. The Holy Spirit liberated the delegates and gave them such boldness to stay on the offensive side all the time. For if God is for us, who can be against us? The revitalized workers, strengthened leaders and encouraged , members are now ready to take the gospel of Christ to conquer more territories in Cebu North for the glory of God in the coming year ahead!