We have just enjoyed an amazing week here in the city of Tagum, attending and participating in the Grace National Annual Conference (GNAC), with the theme 'Maximising Grace Ministry Potentials'. It was a well attended event with approximately 700 people from around the Philippines, plus Chetra and I and Ben Anderson, our International Director of TCM. The hall was filled with Pastors and Bible Women, Church workers and Missionaries, it was really quite wonderful and the lectures and sermons made a great impact. The choirs were wonderful also and we were privileged to be part of the International Grace Bible Institute of Tagum choir as well as Chetra joining a performance of the Philippines national anthem! I felt very proud of him for learning to sing the anthem in Tagalog and perform with his classmates in front of a huge conference of attendees! As we enjoyed the events of each day, I was so moved to see the older generation of pastors attending with their adult children, also being Pastors or Bible Women. It was precious to see the ripple effects of the Gospel in the lives of so many families present and of course, to recognise that the ripples of grace theology began here in 1958 due to the courage of two key TCM missionary couples; Vernon & Darlene Anderson, and Joe & Pauline Watkins. I feel honoured to be a part of their legacy, to see how the message of Christ's love and Salvation has grown in the Philippines and, to know first hand how it has spread to the regions beyond through those who continue in mission work.
Speaking of legacy and being part of something great, I was honoured to meet some wonderful elder faithful pastors who were thrilled that I was British and promptly asked after Barry Pumphrey, my own mentor (along with his dear wife Kathy), who was their fellow classmate in the early 70's! What a joy it was to connect with these men and the history of our own TCM UK representative. I love that Chetra and I get to be a part of this rich and glorious history of grace. Though we do not currently have a 'grace church' building in England, we certainly do have a grace church, since the Church is the people, not bricks and mortar... What we are as the 'Body of Christ' is far greater and precious than that! It is with great pride that I can say I am a product of the Grace Fellowship in the UK and of the incredibly faithful, God led efforts of the Saints there in England; most especially Barry and Kathy Pumphrey (whom Chetra and I fondly refer to as Uncle and Aunty). This reminds me that 'the Church' is not a religious institution, but its a family of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and there's nothing quite like it! We are so excited for the journey ahead and feel so blessed to be able to carry the message of God's grace forward to the unreached nations, knowing there is an army of faithful saints who have gone before us.
This time was also especially sweet as there were many reunions of those we have met and befriended over the past 11 months, including my former team leader in Cambodia, Pastor Ariel. On the final day with many goodbyes and handshakes and hugs, I felt rather emotional as we are coming to the end of our 1 year assignment here with only one month left to go, so this was a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with some very special ones before we return to Cambodia for our long term mission assignment back to 'our' beloved country.
Chetra and I are so very encourage and motivated for the ministry ahead of us, seeing the generations that have gone before us! As we met with our Director Ben, for ministry talk over coffee, he shared with us from 1 Thessalonians 1: "2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." -This passage will now be engraved on my heart as a reminder of GNAC 2023!