Hope for a Philippine Island

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U-Turn for Christ Shares God’s Word & Meets Physical Needs

Story by Margot Bass
Photos by Steve Shambeck, October 2019

On a poverty-stricken Philippine island, God has changed hundreds of lives through believers partnering with U-Turn for Christ to share His hope and love. Now 10 island Calvary Chapels and many U.S. churches feed people the Word of God verse by verse.

Pastor Gerry in parade pointing

Above: U-Turn for Christ Founder Gerry Brown (bottom right) sends a colorful truck out to invite residents to an evangelistic crusade in Borongan, a city on the Philippine island of Samar.

Jennifer, emaciated and bed-ridden, rested uncomfortably on a hard, plastic cot in her tiny house in the village of Hernani in the Philippines. Her eyes were dull and sad, devoid of hope. Suffering from breast cancer and unable to afford medical care, she appeared much older than her 35 years. One day last October, Siobhan Segaar, Amy Larsen, and three other members of a U-Turn for Christ mission team came to comfort the dying woman. Ladies from the village crowded into the house, making the hot, close room even stuffier.

Amy from Revival Christian Fellowship in Menifee, CA, a cancer survivor and also a nurse, asked Jennifer, “Do you know if you’ll go to heaven?” Jennifer responded that she thought she would because she had been a good person. Amy urgently but kindly warned her that no one is good enough to go to heaven without a relationship with Jesus Christ, who died on a cross to pay for our sins. Realizing that Christ offered her true, eternal hope, Jennifer prayed to receive Jesus as Savior.

Siobhan recalled, amazed, “As soon as Jennifer opened her eyes, you could see she was a changed person. She was no longer suffering without hope—she knew she was going to heaven.” The nearly 30 women in the packed home also repeated the same prayer of salvation.

Missionary talks with girl

Above: Amy Larsen shares with a child. Amy helped lead a dying woman to Christ.

God’s Word in the Philippines

Last October, U-Turn for Christ, a Christ-centered discipleship and rehabilitation program for men and women based in Perris, CA, sent a team from the U.S. to Samar, an eastern Philippine island. Since 1997, U-Turn has been teaching men and women in Samar the Word of God, training pastors, planting Calvary Chapels, and serving residents in desperate need. U-Turn Founder and President Gerry Brown, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Romoland, CA, brings one mission team each year—followed up by a pastoral team that presents verse-by-verse teaching to local pastors.

Everyone on the mission trip is given the opportunity to share a testimony or teaching. Gerry related, “[In the U.S.] we’ve been so spoiled with all the Bible teaching we’ve heard—God wants us to share it with others. I tell them to prepare to be used by the Lord.”

Sharing the Gospel with children

Above: Malcolm Tracy (center) from Grants Pass addresses a crowd at an outreach.

“We’ve been so spoiled with all the Bible teaching we’ve heard. God wants us to share it with others.”—Pastor Gerry Brown

Missionary prays for prisoners

Above: Greg Segaar, a member of a U-Turn mission team, shares God’s Word with men in a Philippine prison last October.

Greg Segaar from Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA, Siobhan’s husband, spoke before nearly 3,000 people during a crusade in the city of Borongan. Though he felt inadequate, he knew that God would be faithful to draw people to Himself. He threaded Revelation 3:20 through his message: “Behold, I [Jesus] stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” He also shared the words of his late grandmother, who had passed away just a half hour before he left for this mission trip. “She wanted me to know how ready she was to be with the Lord. I described the amazing difference it makes to be dying and able to say, ‘I’m just ready.’” At least 200 people responded to the altar call.

Man sitting in jail

Above: Men in the crowded prison on Samar Island gratefully hear the Gospel and accept Jesus as Savior.

During their crusades and smaller outreaches, teams give away sacks of rice, bicycles, basketballs, and cell phones—all gifts “to show or remind them of salvation in Jesus Christ, the greatest free gift that’s ever been given,” Gerry said. “We need to do anything and everything we can to draw people who wouldn’t normally go to the church to hear the Word of God.” During the October trip, the team also visited prisons, hospitals, local schools, a university Christian Club, and with individual families. Local Calvary Chapel pastors provide follow-up discipleship to all those who accept Christ.

Missionaries laugh together

Above: Hayley McDonald (right) and team members share many laughs

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

“There’s nothing fancy about it,” said Joshua Walker of Revival Christian Fellowship, who was on his first trip to the Philippines. “We just said, ‘Jesus loves you,’ prayed for them, and loved them. So many people gave their lives to Christ those two weeks.”

Joshua Walker talks with family

Above: Joshua Walker reaches out to a little girl and her family during an outreach.

Malachy Tracy of CC Grants Pass, OR, dressed as a clown to cheer children in a hospital. “I came in and started dancing around like a fool. It was miserably hot, and the children looked exhausted and dehydrated. It was a joy to bring smiles to their faces and see them laugh,” Malachy recounted. “The parents were extremely grateful.” He and other team members moved from bed to bed, praying with the children and their parents.

Clown entertains kids in hospital

Above: Malachy Tracy from CC Grants Pass, OR, dressed as a clown, cheers up children in a Philippine hospital. Team members prayed with the grateful families.

Philippine Ministry Roots

After being stationed in the Philippines with the U.S. Navy between 1975-78, Gerry longed to return for mission work. That opportunity came in 1997 when U-Turn was invited to bring verse-by-verse teaching to local pastors on Samar Island. U-Turn started a Bible study in San Joaquin, in western Samar, which became their first Philippine church. Gerry stated, “[Through] the Calvary Chapel Bible Institute of the Philippines, we trained young national men to be pastors and began to send them throughout the island.” There are now 10 CCs in or near Samar, stretched from west to east. Gerry estimated that more than 30 non-Calvary Chapel churches on the island have also been trained to teach the Bible verse by verse.

Pastor Gerry Brown

Above: Gerry Brown (center) returned to the Philippines for mission work after military service.

Pastor Ron Brown of CC San Joaquin, Gerry’s brother, has served in the Philippines for 18 years. Ron explained, “The importance of the Word of God can never be overstated. Our commitment is to discipleship and instruction. We offer free room and board and academics at our campus near Borongan for any young believer who is recommended to us.”

Pastor leads worship

Above: A Filipino Calvary Chapel pastor leads the team in worship.

Pastor Lemuel Yabor pastors CC Lalawigan in a village outside of Borongan. Once known as the town drunk, he lived across the street from a Calvary Chapel. “He would mock the church, holding his beer can up and shaking it at the church,” Gerry recalled. “Today he’s a seasoned pastor, training up and discipling many of the pastors who have gone through the Bible college.” God’s Word changed his life, Gerry confirmed. “We invited him to sit with us in Bible college classes. I shared 1 Peter 5:8 with him: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He came drunk at first. But it only took a couple of times before God got ahold of his heart and he repented. From that moment on, he was in love with God’s Word. Even horrible fights with his wife ended as he began living for the Lord.”

Pastor Gerry encourages local pastors

Above: Gerry Brown (right) encourages local pastors with the Word of God.

Challenges in Samar

Although Samar is beautiful, Gerry said, it is undeveloped, mostly rural, and “needs help in everything from medical care to housing.” Typhoons are a regular threat. “Residents have very little. If they have a change of clothes and shoes, they’re considered wealthy. Children beg for school uniforms. Many eat just one meal a day—a bowl of rice and a green leaf or plant from their little gardens,” he noted. In the cities, he added, people are usually paid very low wages compared to the U.S. Life challenges include unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, child neglect and abandonment, and even human trafficking.

Greg shares with students

Above: Greg Segaar and a translator share Jesus with local school children.

To help ease the poverty, U-Turn brings two 50-pound boxes per mission team member with food, medical supplies, and new Bibles for pastors. U-Turn has also helped several people start small businesses—from motorcycle-sidecar taxis to small stores set up in locals’ homes. The grand prize at the Borongan crusade in October was a piglet. “If you have a piglet, you can raise it, breed it, start a pig farm, and change your whole livelihood,” Gerry declared.

Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12b-13

Missionary prays with young people

Above: Greg Segaar prays with children at Calvary Chapel San Julian on Samar Island.

The Answer

The ultimate answer for everyone, Gerry stressed, is a personal knowledge of Christ through the teaching of God’s Word. The Philippine people are very open to hearing the Gospel or praying to receive Jesus as Lord, especially in one-on-one encounters. “The [traditional church] on the island has given them an understanding that there is a God—they just don’t know Him in a personal way. When we open the Scriptures with them, they’re excited to have that relationship with the God they’ve heard about all their lives,” he expressed.

Gerry prays in hospital

Above: Gerry and team members comfort a man in the hospital.

Poverty can be a hindrance. Gerry continued, “Initially they come for all the wrong reasons. They think that Jesus is not only going to save them from their sin but from their poverty as well. But when the Word of God gets ahold of their hearts, all other things fade away. All that comes to matter is that they’re right with their Creator. They learn to hold fast to the Lord, even in poverty.”

baptism

Above: Pastor Gerry Brown, U-Turn for Christ, (right) and other leaders baptize new believers in the Philippines on the island of Samar after a fruitful mission trip to the island this past fall..

“When the Word of God gets ahold of their hearts, all other things fade away.”—Pastor Gerry Brown

Ron Brown further elaborated, “It becomes easier to resolve some issues of the Third World with the foundation of the Gospel. Our Christian walk helps us overcome obstacles in our path. As the fellowship matures in love, they love one another and help each other with their different [spiritual] gifts.”

Woman fellowships with girls

Above: Amy Larsen (left) connects with local girls.

Progress occurs but has been slow, Gerry observed. “We teach men that [however low] the income, they need to work to provide for their families. We teach parents to train up children in the way they should go, so that when they go to Manila, they don’t work at a place that’s immoral or dangerous,” Gerry imparted. “Also, we’ve guaranteed our pastors that their children would not be without finances to go to college if they desired … setting the example to families in the church.” Pastor Lemuel’s daughters, Mimi and ChiChi, are among children from church families returning to their villages as professionals. Mimi is a teacher, and ChiChi is a nurse.

Young man with boat

Above: A young Philippine man travels by boat, common transportation around Samar.

In 2013, Maribeth Villamor began attending CC Hernani after her husband’s death. The widow had become the provider for a family of nine—her four children, three siblings, and her ailing father. Then deadly Typhoon Yolanda devastated her village and destroyed her home. The Calvary Chapel churches in Samar and volunteers from CC Tucson, AZ, worked together to rebuild her home—four rooms and a bath. Ron explained, “Although it was a difficult time, the Holy Spirit was working in their lives. Maribeth became a women’s leader at the church and a spiritual leader for her family.” Two of her daughters and a niece, who attended youth functions and Bible studies over the years, were baptized by Pastor Gerry during last October’s mission trip. “It meant quite a lot to all of us who know them,” Ron added.

Scenic view of Samar

Above: The island of Samar is beautiful but bound by poverty. U-Turn for Christ has served there for more than 20 years, raising pastors, planting Calvary Chapels, sharing verse-by-verse teaching, and loving the people.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

To join a mission trip to the Philippines, contact uturnforchrist.com.

U-Turn for Christ
Uturnforchrist.com

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.