A Gospel Cum Medical Mission
by PCC, EPC and FERC at JRC,
Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao, Philippines
10-12 September 2014
by dn Dirk de Korne, edited by Ps Linus Chua

1. Background

PCC and ECP had its first experience with a gospel cum medical mission to the Philippines in 2011. At that time a group of 31 members, including a pastor, a doctor and a pastor-doctor, spent two days at the church compound to preach the gospel and see patients. Cagayan de Oro is a city of about 650,000 inhabitants and is located at the northern coastline of Mindanao. Since 2004 PCC has been in contact with Pastor Remegio Lapiz from the Jireh Reformed Church (JRC) and the medical work was intended to support the church with their gospel mission. JRC has been blessed with the Lord’s grace and new opportunities to share the gospel after the mission. Last year, two new members who came in contact with the church during the medical mission, publicly confessed their faith amidst the congregation.     

2. Objectives

It was against this background that in close cooperation between PCC and JRC new plans were made for a medical mission in the fall of 2014. The objectives for the mission are as follows:

1. To soften ground for JRC to evangelize to the local community

2. To augment and support the ministering of God’s Word

3. To administer works of mercy through medical care and treatment

4. To bear witness as Christians in doing good works.

3. Participants

The 15-strong international mission team was led by Pastor Linus, while Elder Dr. Gideon Ng (general practitioner) was in charge of the medical part. Dn Chee-Wai was in charge of the logistic preparations while in Singapore and Bro Dirk took over this role at the time the group actually departed to the Philippines. From PCC Dr Josiah Chai (neurologist), Sis Nancy Yong (pharmacist) and Sis Andrien (children program) joined. From FERC Singapore, four medical students participated: Bro Kevin Lim, Bro Clement Ng, Sis Tryphena Ng and Bro Wilnard Tan. And furthermore from EPC Australia Dr Nick Stacey (general practitioner) and the nurses Sis Becky Higgs, Sis Katie Higgs and Sis Zoe Wills. Finally, as if this were not enough nationalities, Sis Marieke Moens, a nurse from the Netherlands Reformed Congregation, joined.     

4. Travel and Preparation

The majority of the group travelled from Singapore around midnight, early Wednesday 9 September. The final part of the journey from Manila to Cagayan brought us there at 9.30am. We briefly met with Ps JJ and Brother Arthur, as they were just on their way back after the conference on The Five Points of Calvinism for pastors and theological students. In preparation for us, and based on their own experiences and meeting with cockroaches, they had arranged The Golden Stallion hotel for us. A sober and clean place, and according to them, a bit better than the original hotel booked…

After checking in we spend the rest of the day with preparations for the clinic days. The doctors and pharmacist went to different pharmacies and other shops to buy according to the plans made before. While we had brought in quite some medical equipment (all doctors brought their own, and some were borrowed from AcuMed group, TTSH and SNEC) we had decided to buy as much as possible from local pharmacies. It is often cheaper and helps the local economy as well as can build relationships between  the church and staff at these companies. Moreover, it saves transport and potential immigration issues.

In close collaboration with Sis Mercy and others, Sis Andrien bought materials for the children’s program and the rest of the team prepared the church premises into the temporary “Jireh Reformed Church Clinic”…

At the time everyone was back and the clinic was set up, Pastor Lapiz and Bro Kim brought us to the Jollibee in one of the malls. As if we were in Singapore… Some of us might have expected a more local environment as we  needed to realize that this mall thing is becoming ‘localized’ in the Philippines as in many places in the world.

Before enjoying a well-needed rest after a short rest on the plane during the last night, we gathered in Pastor Linus’ room where he closed the day with us by reading from Mark 9:14-26. A poor boy with a disastrous demon possession and thus has a pitiful condition. His entire childhood was marked by the disease. We also need to see and recognize needs and feelings of others and how helpless and insufficient we are in ourselves. 

5. Clinic Day 1

Thursday started with breakfast around 6.45am in the hotel. An hour later all were ready for transport to the church that was located conveniently just a 10 minute ride away. The first patients were already waiting outside and the registrations had started. 500 people with medical needs were ‘pre-selected’ by the church workers to be seen over the coming two days. Those who were not under supervision for chronic diseases were given priority. Some patients travelled there themselves; others were transported by Bro Kit in the church van. At around 8.30am all were invited to come in the church building where Pastor Linus shared an exposition on 1 John 3:4-6.

The law of God and its breaking was the focus. The example of David and Bathsheba was used to practically discuss what sin is and its consequences. We need to learn that sin is taken most serious by God. But we also know that Christ is a great Saviour. We must turn to the Lord for salvation.

After the message, all patients went out of the room and the clinic process started. The first batch was called in to be seen by the three triage nurses. Vital functions such as blood pressure were taken, all children were weighed, and the main complaints were noted down. The medical students assisted whenever possible. The patient took the medical record and walked over to the doctor’s clinic to be seen. The cards were dropped in a box and the patients distributed to one of the three doctors who was available.

A large proportion of the patients were children. The complaints were mainly related to having a cold and cough issues. However, there were a few that needed more serious care. One 7 year old boy had fallen a few weeks before and therefore severe pain in his hip. He had been to a hospital with his mother and the x-rays showed a hip fracture. His mother brought the boy and the photo’s to the clinic and Dr Gideon was asked for a second opinion. Well, it was clear what the issue was but treatment is another thing. The family was afraid that they could not afford a treatment. The mother was however urged to go to a public hospital and Jireh Reformed Church was required to take some of the expenses. The boy would have life-long issues with walking if not treated properly now.

At the start of the afternoon clinics, Jireh ministry student Bro Waren gave an exhortation based on Romans 8:1. He had translated his outline into English and shared with pastor Linus the day before to receive feedback before giving the exhortation.

At the first day afternoon, the patients were not asked to leave the church building after the meditation, however, this made it a bit difficult to control the flow and properly distinguish between those who were waiting for the doctor and for medication. So we made sure we did this for the two sessions on the next day.

The moment the patients were finished at Drs Josiah, Gideon or Nick’s clinic, the prescription was send to the pharmacy. While waiting for the medication to be dispensed, the patients received public health instruction. Using a PowerPoint presentation and instructive videos from the local District Health Office, everyone was educated on the importance of hand hygiene and healthy food and also on high-incidence diseases, as dengue fever and rabies. An interactive video clip asked everybody to practice all steps involved in proper hand washing. This was more than enthusiastically practiced by the watching children.

All children and adults (with the exception of pregnant and breastfeeding woman) received 5ml of deworming solution.

When the medication was ready and distributed, the patients received a health package. This package contained a bar of soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste. As indicated by the doctors and nurses, there were many, many dental problems. It would be blessing if we could have a dentist in the team next time!

At the end of a long first day, we had dinner in the church at around 7.45pm. We provided the means for the local team to cook for lunch and dinner, and what they prepared was really mouth-watering. There was rice with different types of meats (of course including the favourite pork) as well as a selection of vegetables. After the meal, Pastor Linus closed in the church, taking lessons from the same story about the boy with epilepsy but now from the gospel of Matthew 17:14-21. The father of the boy wanted to tell the Lord about his son’s situation. We learn that we need to seek the Lord earnestly and sincerely for our needs and not be indifferent or half-hearted.

6. Clinic Day 2

Based on the evaluation of the first day, we changed a few things in the set-up for the second. The triage nurses preferred to work on small tables, instead of behind one long one. One of the Jireh staff, Bro Greatmar, was assigned to weigh all the children to speed up this part of the process. And on request of the pharmacy, we stapled all patient cards that belonged to one family. This was to make sure that they were instructed correctly which medications needed to be taken in which dose by which family member. And for the public health package, we decided that patients needed to drop their card at the public health booth to receive a health package to prevent people from coming twice. For Filipino people love queuing for free stuff as much as Singaporeans do…

Pastor Linus preached from Acts 16:29-31. God worked in the life of the prison keeper and an earthquake was used for his repentance. ‘What must I do to be saved?’ We must come to God’s house weekly to hear His word preached. Bro Waren did the same message on Romans 8:1 as the day before at the start of the afternoon clinic program. 

Over the two days of clinic the team was able to see 623 patients. In addition to the 500 flyers distributed, more patients showed up and also some of the church members took the opportunity to receive a check-up. This means more than 100 patients per nurse and doctor per day. A real achievement and we are thankful to the Lord for providing the opportunity and strength.

In all stations (triage, consultation, public health and pharmacy) the local interpreters played a very important role. Not only did they provide the interaction with the necessary and appropriate language, but since the background of many was in nursing it brought also the medical understanding and culture closer to the foreigners. And, not in the least place, the close collaboration during these two days between members from the different reformed churches created and established ties. The many pictures taken (and visible on Facebook) say more than words. 

7. Children Program

While the clinic was on, close to 250 children took part in one of the four children’s programs in Ebenezer Reformed Learning Centre, in the basement of the church. Sister Mercy and sister Golda shared Bible stories and taught the singing of the WSC (question and answer 1). In the mornings they were told about the birth of Jesus Christ and in the afternoons about the multiplying of the five loaves and two fishes. They all memorized John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draws him.” The handicraft was either making their own ‘reel-wool’ sheep with cotton balls or a puppet made from a paper bag. The children received a drink and cookie at the end of the lesson and  a package with a pencil and eraser, crayons, a sharpener and colouring book to take home. 

We closed the second day in the church with the same story of the devil possessed boy, but now from Luke 9:37-43a. The Lord’s powerful works are showed in the healing of the boy. The people are rebuked for their unbelief and the unclean spirit is required to move out.

We enjoyed the wonderful singing of a few Psalms, with respective requests from the Filipino’s, the Australians, the Dutch and the Singaporeans. It was a great blessing to be able to sing the Psalms in unity with so many tongues. And we wished that we could have the same acoustics in our Singapore premises…

8. Saturday and the Lord’s Day

While Drs Gideon and Josiah and Sis Nancy made their way back to Singapore early morning, a few others took the opportunity to experience some of the natural surroundings by going for a white-water rafting trip on the Cagayan River. A great experience, with wild waters and beautiful views on the surrounding mountains. In the afternoon, we visited some of the neighbourhoods where the patients came from, as well as the house of Pastor Lapiz’ family. It was good to see the circumstances where many of the church members, including the oldest man of the church live. In the evening we had a taste of the local food, including ‘balut’ (a fertilized egg of about 14-16 days, with some bones and feathers already there) and even some durian. Again, we met at Pastor Linus’ room and closed the day with a reading from Psalm 27.

The next morning, we went off for the morning service that started at 9.30am. Pastor Linus preached both in the morning and evening with bro Kim Lapiz giving a summary of the sermons at the end of each service. In the morning, he preached on Psalm 92: the only Psalm that has a title ‘specifically for the Sabbath’. Verses 1-6 are focussed on the Sabbath as a day of thanksgiving and praise; vs. 7-11 of the Sabbath as a day of anticipation and vs. 12-15 of the Sabbath as a day of refreshment. The Sabbath is like a high mountain that we might climb week by week to see sights that we normally do not see and to regain our spiritual focus.

We had room for fellowship after the service and shared many things around the meal of a delicious roasted pig. At 2pm, the next service commenced and this time Pastor Linus preached on ‘An eternal contrast’ from the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. In continuation of the morning, this focussed on the Sabbath as a day of anticipation. In verses 19-21 we see the contrast between Lazarus and the rich man in this life, in verse 22 onwards the contrast in eternity. All must live life in light of eternity and life to come.

We left for Singapore early Monday morning, 4.45am. Even at this early time a large group of Jireh Reformed Church was at the hotel to send us off to the airport. What a blessing it has been to be able to share these few but very intensive days. That the Lord might bless all the 623 people that visited the clinic (all will receive follow-up visits by Jireh) and give them both physical and spiritual healing. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”(Acts 16:30-31).