God’s promise of the spiritual progress of His people is unambiguous. Consider the words of Psalm 92:12-14, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing”.
O, how refreshing and reviving are those assuring words in the Scriptures! Our progress in our pilgrim journey is not an unrealistic expectation, but a reality that God has promised. Like the palm trees and cedars of Lebanon, which steadily grow in their differing climatic and soil conditions, God’s redeemed people will grow where God’s providence would plant them. Even if their circumstances are hostile, like the arid and barren wilderness, they will flourish like the fruitful palm trees in the desert.
Each day of our life in Christ is meant to be a pilgrim’s progress! So let us not give ourselves to despondence or doubt, fatigue or fear. The great thing we must strive for is growing perpetually in the Lord, even amid hostile circumstances. Learn increasingly how good and great the Lord is, by increasingly trusting the Lord and casting your cares on Him. As Scripture says enthusiastically to all believers, “But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).
In the new year, may we desire to grow in the Lord. Let us desire more grace and knowledge of the LORD. Let us seek the LORD always. Then, in the new year, we shall flourish and yield more spiritual fruit for the Lord’s glory. Blessed New Year!
Report by Pr Cornelius Koshy
We thank God for a wonderful gathering of about 160 brethren who gathered in three cities in the Philippines, from the 18th to 22nd December 2023, to hear God’s Word being preached (on the theme: “Prepare to Meet Thy God”), to visit brethren in Cebu City, Bogo City and Tagbilaran City, as well as to sing at the Christmas Cantatas held in these three cities.
As dawn broke on the morning of Monday (18 December), about 120 participants arrived in Cebu City from Singapore, as well as from different cities in Bohol, Negros and Luzon (Pangasinan and La Union). It was a joyful reunion of many brethren whom we had not seen in a long time! After a much-needed rest from a night of travel, we moved to a larger hotel where the five meetings of the Bible Witness Retreat would be held. Rev. Reggor Galarpe, Rev. Donald dela Cruz, Pr Edsel Locot, Pr Eliezer Ortega and myself preached a sermon each on the theme: “Prepare to Meet Thy God”. We thank God for many local brethren from Cebu City who joined us for the retreat.
On Tuesday (19 December) night, many more came to attend the first of three Christmas Cantatas entitled, “Glad Tidings of Great Joy”. These are family members and friends of brethren from Gethsemane BPC (Cebu). We thank God for preparing 42 singers from the Gethsemane Church Choir, Youth Choir and Children’s Choir with good health and the voice to sing. These singers diligently practised in the weeks preceding the retreat and, together with the Bible Witness Media Ministry, we thank God we could present six medleys under the themes, “How Great Thou Art!”; “How Great Our Joy!”; and “How Great Thy Coming!”. Pastor Koshy, who was with us in the retreat, exhorted us on “10 Wonders of Christ”, taken from John 1:1-14.
Wednesday (20 December) was a day of much travelling by land. After a sumptuous lunch prepared by brethren from Cebu church, followed by a quick visit of their worship premises at 13 First Street, Happy Valley, a convoy of three 45-seater coaches travelled about 100km northward, to Bogo City. Because of heavy traffic during the Christmas season, our journey by coach took about four hours, and we reached the meeting place in Bogo just in time for the start of our second Christmas programme. We were delighted to meet some brethren and many of their relatives and friends who patiently waited for our arrival. That night, though the choir members were tired from the day’s travelling, God strengthened the singers and musicians who sang and played in the second Christmas Cantata! In his sermon, Pastor Koshy challenged all to consecrate themselves to Jesus who condescended for us. After some fellowship with the brethren, we had to quickly travel back to Cebu City, and we thank God for a much faster journey back.
We started Thursday (21 December) bright and early! By 6am, we were all up, preparing for our ferry ride to Bohol Island. We thank God for clear skies and for an uneventful 2-hr sailing to Tagbilaran City, Bohol. Upon arrival, we travelled another 1½ hrs by coach, for lunch and some sightseeing of God’s beautiful creation at The Chocolate Hills – a geological formation of over 1,000 small green hills. Many climbed up a long flight of stairs to enjoy the panoramic views from a high vantage point. We then returned back to the city to rest at the hotel, in preparation for the third and final Christmas Cantata. We thank God for the Bohol brethren, and some others from Trinidad BP Mission Church (a church supported by True Life BP Church), who joined us. We thank God for Pastor and the choir who once again ministered to all of us.
On the final day, Friday (22 December), the team returned to Cebu City. After lunch and some rest in SM Seaside City Cebu, the team bade their farewells to the brethren from Cebu – some greeted us at the mall, while others came all the way to Mactan-Cebu Airport.
Truly, “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Psalm 126:3) All glory be to God for this golden opportunity we have enjoyed to fellowship with and minister to our brethren in the Philippines. We thank God for the Bible Witness Team, the Gethsemane Youth Fellowship Committee and Auxiliary Committee, in organising and executing the plans; as well as for all who gave cheerfully to expenses of this retreat, for all who joined us, and for all who prayed for us!
Elder Alan Choy
This year GYF-cum-BW retreat in Cebu (from 18 to 22 December 2023) was a blessed time of feasting on God’s Word and celebrating Christmas with the brethren in the Philippines mission churches. It was a great joy hearing all the preachers ministering God’s Word to us, and testifying of God’s wonderful works in their lives. “Prepare to Meet Thy God” is a most timely topic in these last of the last days before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot continue to carelessly live our lives without preparing to meet our God.
Praise God for a good number of about 100 brethren from Singapore visiting the mission churches in Cebu, Bogo and Bohol (via plane, coach, ferry) to see God’s hand upon the work in that part of the mission field. It was a testimony of the Lord’s goodness. The brethren in all these mission churches had invited their friends to come to hear our choir sing Christmas carols and the Gospel message by Pastor Koshy (taken from of John 1). May the uplifting singing by the choir and the Gospel messages preached, turn many to Christ in time to come. It was good to see our youths having good time of fellowship with the youths in Cebu, playing games and communing with one another. The Lord’s name is to be praised.
I had a good time of fellowship with the TGCM brethren in Cebu. What a great testimony of God’s working in transforming some of them from their broken past to a joyous life in Christ! Thank God for our missionaries and TGCM brethren, who worked hard to ensure our smooth transit from point to point and see to all our basic needs being met. Thank God for good weather and journey-mercies for the entire delegation during the trip, including the ferry ride to Bohol. Blessed be His name.
Eng Huat and Beng Yan
Praise and thank God for safety and good weather in our travelling to various places during the trip. We are blessed by the faithful preaching of the five messages which are a timely reminder to us to be prepared for the Lord’s return. We are encouraged by the diligence and hard work of the choir that sang beautifully and joyfully to glorify the birth of Christ. Pastor’s Gospel messages that were preached – in a quite different yet refreshing manner – remind us of God’s precious gift of Christ and His salvation grace, which make Christmas very meaningful for us.
The long trips between the different venues in Cebu city, Bogo and Bohol showed us the difficulties and hardship that our brethren in the Philippines face each week as they serve the Lord in worship. Thanks to all who planned the trip so well, and to all who took care of the logistical arrangements. Everything was carried out very smoothly. Praise and thank God for the sweet fellowship that we had with brethren from Singapore and the Philippines. All praise and glory to God in the Highest!
I want to praise God for a very memorable retreat, this being my first time joining the youths! It’s an honour to be able to sing with the youths and the children! I also praise God for helping the choir to sing assuredly, trusting in God’s help for His glory! Upon watching the recording shown during the Christmas service on 24 December 2023, and hearing Pastor’s preaching, I can only give praise to God for sustaining the choir to sing effectively for Him amidst ‘challenging’ circumstances (long travels, lack of rest, etc.). We can sing because God helps us to sing for His glory. All glory be to our great God!
We praise God for His enabling grace upon Pr Cornelius to effectively lead the choir, our wonderful pianists, and the brethren who did the set-up / recording, as well as Bro Yeh Wen who prepared countless ‘MIDI’ so we could learn and prepare to sing! The youths were so helpful in helping me to understand the scores, especially Sis Mehetabel and Sis Jesimiel who recorded some parts to help me learn. Moreover, by God’s providence, I only became sick after the third presentation. That resulted in me having to be ‘transported’ with another sister-in-Christ who was also unwell, which granted me an opportunity to fellowship with her! Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all brethren a blessed Christmas and a joyful New Year, one which is filled with peace and joy from the Lord!