Of The Stories
Of Three Servants
Thoughts On My Recent Trip To The Philippines
Elder Jeff Winfrey, Pastor
Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church
101 East Walnut Street
Dawson Springs, KY 42408
As I sit here with fingers on the keyboard, eyes on the monitor, and mind on a recent trip to the Philippines, I am not sure why I am penning these words. I am not the story here, and I truly have no story of my own to tell. Anything I might share with you of my adventures is insignificant compared to the stories of others far superior to me. Yet it seems that the real servants with the real stories are too busy serving their King to have the time to tell their stories. And it further seems that this hypocritical servant who has no real story is still trying to make himself the center of the story. You see, if I begin my telling of this story by patting myself on the back about how unworthy I am to tell the story, then perhaps I can convince my warped mind that you will be convinced about how humble I am. And if I can become convinced that you are convinced of this, then in my deceived heart I have become the story within the story. So my statements of humility are probably only disguised and self-deceiving ploys, and my words of confession about my false humility are even now only an effort to present myself to you with a false humility about my false humility. So let this selfish and deceitful servant cease from talking about himself and begin the telling of the story of those who truly do the business of their Father.
Now the telling of this story is far above me. In the first place, I do not know all the details pertaining to the day-to-day events. Yet the real problem with my telling this story is that it is God’s story and not man’s story. The story of the spreading of God’s truths and God’s ways by God’s servants in the Philippines is God’s story, and the main problem with my telling what is truly God’s story is that I have no idea of the communications that occurred between the Spirit of God and the hearts of the servants involved in the story. It is the moving of the Holy Spirit that moves servants to serve, and I am convinced that the greatest of all stories occurs in these private encounters where God moves and guides His servants in their service to Him. I am sure that these personal experiences are the real stories behind the story, but the telling of these things is beyond me.
So having said this, let me now begin to share with you my story of their stories. My story begins in 1998 when I accompanied eleven other American Primitive Baptists on my first trip to the Philippines. I returned from that first trip eleven years ago feeling certain that there had been a powerful presence of God in my heart and in our feeble efforts. A year later, five of us from the first group made a return trip. After that my zeal seemed to fade, but that was not the case for others in that group. Elders Travis Housley and Gus Harter seemed to have a burning in their bones about the Philippines that surpassed mine by leaps and bounds. Some men resist the moving and power of the Holy Spirit, while others say, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” In my lifetime I am thankful to have known a few servants who acted upon their God-given desires and accomplished God-honoring things. Travis and Gus (along with Gus’ wife, Betty Jo, who will be introduced a little later in the story) are such servants, and I am blessed to have known them and to have been influenced by their lives. I hope it is with blessings from my God that I now try to tell their stories. Yet as I tell the stories of these servants, please be reminded that God gets the glory for having moved and empowered them to do all that they have done in His cause. Moreover, my prayer is that God might use my story of their stories to encourage you to serve more diligently in God’s cause.
Now let me introduce to you Travis Housley, a man I consider to be a true servant of God. Perhaps very few among our people know Travis or for that matter have ever even heard of him. Yet God has blessed me to know him. It was well over twenty-five years ago that I began to know of the man, but in the last twenty-five years I have been blessed to come to know the man. (Or I might say that I have come to know the man as much as he might allow any man to know him.) He is not a man who is easy to get to know. He tends to share few things with men. He tends to spend little time with men. Some have accused men like Travis of choosing isolation over fellowship. I do not know the case of all men, but I feel that I do know the case of this man. While men like me have spent much of their lives pursuing the fellowship of men and trying to please men, Travis has remained content to have a fellowship with his God that the pursuits of men cannot attain. My assessment of Travis is that he is a man who spends a lot of personal time with His God and thus has little time left for social things with others. Yet though he has little time for the social things of others, he has plenty of time for the needs of others. Furthermore, I hope you will see as this story develops that God has very much blessed the tireless efforts of this man, Travis Housley, as he attempted to serve His God by serving the people in the Philippines.
Though it might not be pertinent to the story that I am trying to tell, let me digress for just a few moments and say some personal things about this man who has come to mean so much to me. When I was just a young man, we at the Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church called Travis Housley to be our pastor. Through the years I came to realize that he has an understanding of the principles of scripture that I believe equals, or even surpasses, most preachers among our people. As a matter of opinion, I further believe that his understanding surpasses most preachers throughout the history and circumference of Christianity. I once heard it said of him by a well-respected minister among our people that he was “the best kept secret that the Primitive Baptists have.” God blessed me to sit under this man’s teachings for several years, and through this I believe God was preparing even me to preach the gospel. Not only did I sit under his direct teaching of the written word, I also sat under his indirect teaching of how to walk with God in this world. He taught me God’s principles of doctrine, and he taught me God’s principles of living. I owe the man more than words can tell and more than I can ever repay. It was under his teaching that I experienced the call to preach the gospel, and it was under his guidance that I began to try to preach the word. It was under his teaching that I learned not only the words of Christ and what they mean, but I also learned the ways of Christ and what they mean. I am thankful to my God for providing me with a pastor who has led me in paths that I would not have traveled without his guidance.
Let us now return to our story of the Philippines. Travis had the zeal for evangelism in 1998—Not me. It was his pursuit that led us to the Philippines. Travis had had a zeal for evangelism long before 1998. The deception of Satan and the discouragements of men had caused him to miss what may have been an open door to China twenty plus years earlier. So when Travis heard of the efforts in the Philippines, he began to ask questions and make plans. Eventually his plans included me as his Silas. Many memories flood my mind as I recollect that first trip, but perhaps the greatest benefit I received was spending two weeks under the direct and continual influence of Travis, who was very much under the influence of the Holy Ghost. I could spend pages giving evidence of the Spirit’s presence on him, and through him on both of us, but that is not the point of the moment. Let me at this time just share with you one story from that trip that is very pertinent to our story at hand.
Travis and I were in the little town of Nabunturan on the island of Mindanao standing in front of Levi Sebuala’s home. A Filipino Primitive Baptist preacher named Ricardo Tabanyag, Jr. (Junio) approached Travis with not these exact words, but words very close to these, “I hear you are an electrical engineer. Is that true?” Travis responded that he was indeed an electrical engineer in addition to being a preacher.
To these words Junio said something like this. “In addition to being a preacher of the gospel I am a civil engineer, and I have a dream. The place, Matanao, where I pastor is a very poor village. The people have very little. The men know no trades to make money. The tribes in the mountains above come down at night and raid the village. The situation is very bad, but there is a river that comes out of the mountains. If we had electricity, we could see to defend ourselves at night. If we had electricity, I could teach the men to weld, and they could support their families. Surely with what you know as an electrical engineer, and what I know as a civil engineer, we could build a power plant on the river, and the lives of my people could be much improved.”
At this point, Travis began to shed tears. He normally shows very little external expression of his internal deep feelings, but he obviously was overwhelmed by the idea. I did not realize it at the time, but Travis would soon share with me that he had been praying for an extended time concerning the words in the 25th chapter of Matthew:
For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Travis’ persistent and fervent prayers had been how he should apply the particular teachings found in these words to his specific case. Upon hearing Junio’s dream, Travis knew the answer to his prayers. By the grace of God and with the help of God, he would get electricity to the impoverished remote village called Matanao.
Upon regaining his composure, Travis responded to Junio’s request with words similar to these. “Let me see the river. You have to take me to the river, so that I can see if it can be done.” The wheels were turning in the engineer’s mind. The heart was stirring in the servant’s chest. The prayer was being answered. The servant would be blessed with the answer to his prayer and with his opportunity to serve his Lord by serving others. There would soon be a light in that village.
Arrangements were made, and a day or two later we stood by the river that runs beside that far-away village. The “river” did not look so good to me. I felt like the Bible character, Naaman, must have felt. (2 Kings 5:12) My thought was that we had rivers in Kentucky where we made electricity that were far superior to this little stream. Travis asked if the river ran all the time. Junio assured him that there was a continuous flow of water. The rest of us could not see the action under the surface, but the engineer’s mind was computing. Travis looked toward the mountains above and back toward the valley below. He turned to Junio and proclaimed, “We can do it! The lack of volume can easily be overcome by the fast flow due to the steepness of the terrain.” The Lord had provided a sufficient source of energy. The potential power in the stream could be converted to plenty of electrical power to light up the town of Matanao.
For the remainder of the two weeks, we preached, we prayed, we planned for the future. We pushed ourselves day and night to the physical limit, and by the end of our journey I was exhausted. We finally boarded the plane for the long flight home, and I slept most of the way. But when I would awaken, I would find Travis toiling with long mathematical equations involved in turning flowing water into electricity. He was a man obsessed.
To make a long story short, it turned out that the mathematics involved in the generation of power at that stream were not necessary. Through the blessings of God, and endless hours of legwork on Travis’ part, connections were made between the power company in western Kentucky where Travis was a vice president and the power companies in the Philippines. Agreements were reached whereby used materials could be sent from America, and power lines could be extended in the Philippines. The first of these extensions was to a little poverty-stricken village called Matanao.
Since that time, forty five Filipino villages have received electrical power, and through these cooperative efforts thousands of peoples’ lives have been improved. The Lord opened door after door and blessed His servant to serve in phenomenal ways. There were many hurdles. Yet Travis kept praying, kept knocking, kept seeking, kept asking, kept going, kept working, kept on keeping on. Travis became a keynote speaker at national meetings of American electrical power companies. He shared his story of how the Lord had answered his prayer and of the opportunities to help the impoverished people of the Philippines. Electric companies from all over America came on board. CEO’s, officers, presidents and vice presidents of power companies all over America were writing personal checks, as well as, pledging company support to the efforts. At one point during these events I asked Travis what we at our church could do to help him financially. His answer was that he had a rather unusual problem in that he had more money than he knew how to spend. Praise God who opens the doors of opportunity and the windows of heaven!!
Travis continues to stay on track, the Lord continues to bless, and the mission continues to be accomplished. Huge shipments of materials are being sent. Many people are on board. Villages all over the island are being lit up.
Yet in addition to electrical power, Travis desired to help the poor people find means to support their families. Along these lines, a factory was opened in the Philippines for the purpose of rewinding used electric transformers sent from America. A sewing factory was begun in another village. (I was naked, and ye clothed me.) A furniture manufacturing factory was begun. The bunk beds that are now in use at the orphanage, Beauty for Ashes, were made at this factory. (I was a stranger, and ye took me in.) In a remote fishing village, an ice plant has been built since the introduction of electricity. The men could catch plenty of fish, but the fish would spoil before arriving at market. Now cold fresh fish can be sold. (I was hungry, and ye gave me meat.) In yet another village, loans were made for motors for fishing boats. The fishermen can now launch out to deeper waters, where the “big ones” are. In still other villages, goat and rabbit raising operations have been established. (I was hungry, and ye gave me meat.) These operations not only provide food and employment, but there are also agreements that a portion of the offspring animals will be given to others, so that new operations may be established. In all, fifty such “Livelihood Projects” have been established.
Travis continues his many hours of tireless work in coordinating these efforts. He averages about three trips a year to the Philippines. On one of his recent trips, he was approached by a woman who asked him, “Are you willing to get electricity to a village that is predominantly Muslim?” Perhaps much to her surprise, and to the surprise of many who read this, he told her he would. Travis was later picked up by men in a large vehicle and told to get into the back seat. The driver made many loops and circles. Travis assumed that this was to insure that no one was following them. Eventually they arrived in front of a building, and one of the men went in. After a time he returned and told Travis he could come in now. At this point Travis was escorted to a room where a man was seated—a man that Travis would later learn was the second most powerful Muslim on this island of unrest. When Travis entered the room, the man went into an extended rant of how the Muslim people had been mistreated and persecuted. Travis said the long moments were tense, and I am sure he felt fears as he stood before this very powerful and very angry man. (Or at least I am sure that I would have.) He said the man finally ended his tirade, and with a voice that seemed to be full of hatred spoke the words, “Now what can I do for you?”
To this question Travis immediately responded with the God-given words, “Sir, with all due respect, that is the question I have traveled 9000 miles to ask you. What can I do for you?” When he answered the furious man with these words, the whole atmosphere changed. The man calmed down, and plans were laid out to get electricity to the town. In January 2010, the “Livelihood Phase” of this project was completed. Electric pumps are now being used to draw good water from deep wells. In addition, a new water distribution system extends this fresh water supply to other villages in the surrounding area. (I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink.)
But before I leave this story of electrifying the Muslim town, let me share with you one more event. When the power is turned on for the first time in a village, it is customary to have big celebrations. And according to human nature, it is not surprising that there are lots of politicians taking credit, lots of back slapping accolades, and lots of speeches at these big celebrations. Travis is always called on to speak. So the first time or two that he was asked to speak, he shared with the people of the village the words that had inspired him from the 25th chapter of Matthew. He told them how the Lord had answered his prayers concerning these words with the opportunities to get electricity to the people of the Philippines. And he concluded his message with the thought that it was “by the help of Jesus Christ, and in the name of Jesus Christ, and to the praise of Jesus Christ” that he did these things. Well, after a time or two of hearing this message, a Filipino electrical engineer named Gil began to use Travis’ story from Matthew 25 as the way to introduce Travis as the featured speaker at these political rallies. Thus, since Gil always introduces Travis with the “serving Jesus through serving others” story, Travis now has to use something else in his message.
So, when it came time to turn the lights on in the Muslim village, the celebrations were the same as always. Those in charge made their speeches. Then came the time for Gil to introduce Travis. Gil took the platform and began to talk about Travis. He explained the teachings found in the 25th chapter of Matthew. He concluded with the proclamation that these lights had come “by the help of Jesus Christ, and in the name of Jesus Christ, and to the praise of Jesus Christ.” Travis confessed that the longer Gil talked about Jesus to these Muslims, the more he feared what might come from the words. But thank God, when the speech concluded, there was applause instead of executions.
And thank God for a man like Travis Housley, who in the name of Jesus Christ gets electricity and clean water to thirsty and impoverished people. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”—Jesus.
I could and perhaps should continue with stories about Travis, but let me turn now to the Harters. Gus and Betty Jo Harter are past seventy years of age. Betty Jo has been in poor health for years, sometimes very poor health. By most standards, they had paid their dues. They had served their years. They had done their time. It could have been the time to kick back and ease on out of this world. They had reached the point in life where the once faithful preacher re-preaches stale sermons, while the faithful wife smiles in sleepy approval. Surely they had kept the faith, fought the fight, and finished the course. They had finally reached the golden years of do nothing relaxation. This might be the case for others in their old age, but not for the Harters.
After rearing five natural children and being blessed with many grandchildren, the Harters adopted thirteen children and started all over again. These adoptions occurred in America before their eventual move to the Philippines. Now surely this would have been service enough for their Lord—two “old” people adopting thirteen homeless children and committing to all that would be involved in bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Yet they were not content. It was as if they could hear the cries of the Lord’s people from the other side of the world. Perhaps it was not the calls of the Lord’s people, but the very call of the Lord Himself that they were hearing. The Lord was calling them to His special work. And praise God they heard the call, and they answered the call with the words, “Lord, what will you have me to do?”
Gus, Betty Jo, and thirteen adopted children packed up thirty suitcases and flew west. As with Abraham of so long ago, they were “going not knowing.” They left their five children. They left their twenty-one grandchildren. They left one great grandchild. They left the pastorate of one of the largest Primitive Baptist churches in America. They left their home. They left beloved friends. They left the benefits afforded by American doctors, the security afforded by American government, the sanctuary afforded by American soil. They left their beloved American homeland.
Let me at this point share with you the first entry that was made in their journal White Unto Harvest. These words were written describing their departure to the Philippines. And let me suggest that you go to the website www.whiteuntoharvest.org and read what would end up being over seven years of a journal of their work in that land.
Tuesday, September 26, 2000
ATLANTA, GEORGIA (USA) – I arrived at the Harter home in Covington at 7:00 in the morning to help load suitcases for the trip to the Atlanta airport. A rainy cold front had come through the night before, and the dawn was red-clouded and crisp. The air was refreshingly cool after a long, dry summer. I walked up toward the big house on the knoll, overlooking acres of grassy meadows, fenced horses and a creek bubbling happily with recent rain. I thought then as at many other times in the last few months that God had indeed put a burden on Gus Harter, a burden heavy enough to make his spirit unrestful even in a setting of such natural bliss.
Men from Bethany Church had arrived earlier with large, empty vehicles to provide the cargo space for 30 suitcases. While we started loading, Elder Harter worked with Beatriz, Samantha, Hope and Laura to fit last-minute items into the final suitcase. Each of the 15 travelers was allowed two suitcases weighing up to 70 pounds, as well as a single carry-on bag. Betty Jo Harter and her girls had made use of every pound, and we soon warmed up despite the chill outside.
Around 9:15, the Harters left their former home in Covington and started a long journey toward a distant country. The words of Christ would surely resonate in their hearts at this moment: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
The caravan arrived at the airport around 10:00. Several more church members and friends arrived as a baggage handler wheeled cart after cart of suitcases past the excited Harter children to the ticket counter. The entire Harter family wore matching shirts with “Philippines” written on the front and “The Harter Family” on the back. Each of the children also wore a lanyard securing a laminated card showing the child’s name and itinerary: Atlanta, Detroit, Tokyo, Manila.
The people of Northwest Airlines were all kind and helpful. Sooner than I expected, our group passed through the airport security screen and boarded the shuttle train for a brief ride to the departure gate. We arrived at the gate around 11:00.
Once we could see the plane through the window, the reality of imminent parting set in. The mood was quiet among the adults, but the younger children were a bit giddy. They took frequent trips to the restroom, some with queasy stomachs. Some unpacked toys from their carry-on bags. Others watched planes and bustling ground traffic through the terminal windows. Most had never been in an airport before this day. There would be many firsts for them before this trip ended.
Flight 520 to Detroit was scheduled to depart at 12:10 PM. At 11:30, Elder Harter called everyone together. We huddled at gate D15, and Elder Harter said, “Marty, lead us in a word of prayer.” Elder Marty Smith prayed earnestly for safety and providence during the trip, and for the outpouring of the Spirit on the work abroad. Elder Harter then prayed, thanking God for friends, family and the church. As he said “Amen,” his daughters began to sing, “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds.” Through tears and swollen throats, we sang one verse.
At 11:40, the gate agents opened the jetway for preboarding. Elder Harter called for the children and stood at the entrance of the jetway. One by one, 13 children filed by. Each took a boarding pass and disappeared down the jetway. After a tearful farewell to their immediate family, Brother Gus and Sister Betty Jo turned away. Without looking back, they walked through the gate, turned a corner and disappeared from sight.
When he announced his planned departure for the Philippines, Elder Harter used Acts 20:17-35 as his text. Paul was giving up a church to go to a place where hardships were certain. On this day, we finished the chapter. “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.” – – Acts 20:36-38
We pray that we will once again see the faces of these dear ones, and that God will strengthen them to fulfill His purpose in calling them to go.
And let me now share with you some of the first words Gus penned in the journal—words of sorrow as he looked back.
The last Sunday at Bethany was an extremely emotional day. Saying final good-bye to these saints I had served for the past 30 years was painful. The children I had recently baptized clung to me and wept. The older members I have loved so long were sad as if they were attending an extended funeral. As I drove away in tears I had to determine not to dwell on what I was leaving but to think of the challenge of this new work. I knew that as our Lord was leading me away that he would provide a pastor to guide and care for this loving flock.
And now let me share with you some of the first words Betty Jo penned in the journal—words of hope as she looked forward.
Two weeks ago in Iligan 120 people some who attended the fellowship meeting wanted to be baptized. Gus and Brother Housley baptized all of them and actually both hurt their back because the ocean was so rough, the current strong and there were so many people to baptize. So just in the past month they have baptized 200, several preachers baptized and one church baptized. The Lord is miraculously showing us He meant for us to be here. The fields are “White Unto Harvest.”
Nearly nine years have passed since that momentous day where Gus and Travis baptized 120 Filipinos in the Pacific Ocean. During that time Travis drifted more and more toward helping the physically hungry and thirsty, while Gus focused on the spiritually hungry and thirsty. God had two good men on board for two similar, yet different causes. And each man was content to follow in whatever way God led. Travis chose to travel back and forth. Gus moved to the islands, and for over seven years Gus lived in those islands. He continued to teach, to baptize, and to further teach. Through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit and Gus’ tireless efforts, hundreds have been converted to the truths of God’s sovereign grace. Dozens and dozens of churches have been constituted on multiple islands. The work has indeed been wonderful in the full sense of the word—full of wonder. God is awesome!!
I could and should share many stories concerning the efforts of Gus in his service to the Lord. But time, and space, and a deep desire to get on to the story of Betty Jo cause me to leave these thoughts at this point and move on with the next part of the story. I again encourage you to go to www.whiteuntoharvest.org and read the journal of what God accomplished through the efforts of His servant, Gus Harter.
So far I have talked about Travis and Gus, two men I admire above most I have known, but let me now finally come to the story of Betty Jo Harter. This is the woman who while still in America was repeatedly awakened, and in a sense haunted, by the recurrent dreams of a child crying, “Mama, Mama!” And finally one day in the Philippines, she was brought to that particular Filipino child of her dreams.
This is the great grandmother who must have an unquenchable dose of that great sacrificial love that mothers have for children. She is now the mother of 26 children—five by birth and 21 by adoption. Her love for children led her to establish a home for homeless children that she named Beauty for Ashes.
This is the woman whose compassion for children, especially hurting children, led her to establish a malnutrition clinic in the Philippines—not a kitchen for the hungry, but a clinic for the starving. She sought out children who were literally skin and bones. Some were nurtured back to complete health. Some were found too late for full recovery.
On our recent trip, I met twin nine year old girls whose lives had been saved. Their minds were sharp, but their bodies were too damaged to recover from their starvation. In an effort to state their situation without exaggeration, I held my thumb beside one of their legs for comparison purposes. My thumb was wider than the nine year old leg. These two little girls’ lives were spared, but not their bodies.
In the latter stages of starvation children literally become blind due to malnutrition, but through the efforts of the staff at the clinic, sight was restored to many of the children who were brought to the facility in time. Through much study and self training, Betty Jo learned techniques unknown even to the Filipino doctors of that region. Through the grace of God and the guidance of Betty Jo, it is estimated that the clinic saved the lives of over 400 children.
(Incidentally, and regretfully, the malnutrition clinic no longer operates due to a lack of financial support since the Harters’ return to America. The orphanage continues to operate and at this point is doing well, but the clinic had to be closed. There is no other facility like it on the island. Nothing is taking its place. Due to extensive poverty the problem of malnutrition continues, but with the closing of the clinic there is now no one to help. Betty Jo says the people who worked in the clinic and have the skills to help the children are still there in the Philippines and could reestablish the facility and keep it going. I do not mean to turn this story into an advertisement like you might see on television, but I had a burden that would not go away that I should include this plea in my story. If you have a burden, and if enough people have a burden, then the clinic might live again to the honor of Jesus and for the help of His little ones.)
In support of the statements I have made in the previous paragraphs, let us now return to the journal and share with you some of Betty Jo’s own words. This excerpt from the journal was taken shortly after her move to the Philippines while she was in the early stages of her efforts to help the children of that land.
My purpose before I came was to help as many of these children as possible in any manner. My heart breaks for these starving little ones. Sometimes their legs at 12 years old are not as big around as my finger. One little girl I’m attached to is Rachel. Abandoned on the street, blind just now from malnutrition. Her eyes bulging and drying up all because of lack of vitamin A. Many are blind after seeing for a few years. Bloated with water, muscles wasted. Another John Paul, club footed, chained to his hut for the past 2 years because his grandfather couldn’t care for him because of TB. Twin girls I adore, 7 months old, 3 lbs. each on oxygen, antibiotics. I hold them for the mother while they’re suctioned from nose and throat. Mother has TB. There are severely malnourished. Not because the parents intentionally neglected them, but because there is nothing to eat but rice milk. Nothing for energy. No protein, they waste away.
If I did not take these little ones I now have they would have nowhere to go until I fulfill all requirements for an orphanage. Gus say please pray for accreditation soon before our house is running over! It really is. The Filipinos cannot adopt the children because of the economy here; also cannot afford to expand their family. I cannot see one and say, “My house is too full, my strength is small and so is my faith”. I weep, and bring them home and love and feed them. Please pray for me that the Lord will give me more wisdom than I deserve, and unbelievable strength. The strength He already has! I always want faith ahead of whatever I do just so I can “practice up”. It doesn’t come that way. I have faith in His promises alone, tread water, stand still when its dark until the light comes again.
Gus and I don’t see as much of one another as we would like because we are both working in different directions, only to come together to rejoice in the Lords hand in our endeavor.
I love you all and can feel the prayers on my behalf. Can witness the evidence in Gus ministry.
So much to do! So little time! Our days are full! Our cup runneth over!
Under the Shadow of the Almighty,
Betty Jo Harter
As I have shared with you these passionate words from early in her experience, let me now share with you excerpts from Betty Jo’s final writings before leaving the Philippines to move back to America. She had not been back to her homeland for over seven years, and I am sure she was anxious to come back to her loved ones here, but oh how it must have hurt to leave those loved ones there.
I knew this time was coming and I refused to think about it…I must now tell the children at the Children’s Home (I still refuse to call it an orphanage) that I was going to America for a long visit with my birth children, grand children and great grandchildren I had not seen in all these years. I could not at this time tell them I was leaving to live in the U.S.
The day came when we were to visit for the last time (for a very long time)… Without the Lord I could not have been able to bear it. The very thought, while driving there to the property, made me choke on my tears. We pulled up on the property and the children had gathered in the church. I did not want to gather in the church. I just wanted to mingle among them as they played under the mangoes and hold them one at a time. I did just that… what mixed emotions I felt; so very thankful that, as I scanned the property, I knew that the vision I had for the children was complete. What a wonderful, beautiful, serene setting to grow up. The church, open so that we could view the foliage, the small birds gliding in at the ceiling as we worship… Everything a reminder of God’s creation.
The cottages for the children across the lawn are perfectly situated to the church, the farming, the livestock and the school. What more could a child want? Thank you, dear friends, for the money which allowed this to happen. We visited, pulled out of the driveway and I sobbed, but I did get through it without the children seeing me cry.
I will bring my story of the stories of these faithful servants of Christ to a close with those words from Betty Jo. In the beginning I said that my stories of my recent trip were not worth telling compared to these servant’s stories. Yet as I close I cannot resist sharing with you some particular thoughts that did come to my mind during my trip and have been on my mind since the trip. Though better men than me preached better sermons than mine, I felt particularly blessed of the Lord to be able to preach the gospel again in that land of islands. I thank God for that. Though better men than me were perhaps delivered from greater dangers than mine, I felt the providence of God as He specifically delivered me from what I perceived to be one especially perilous moment on the trip. I thank God for that.
But perhaps I felt my strongest feelings as I stood on the property that goes by the name, Beauty for Ashes. I am choking back the tears even at this moment when I recollect that moment. As I held a little six year girl named Naomi in one arm and a little six year old girl named Hannah in the other, I felt the smile of God on my heart and on that place. As I looked into the smiling faces of those two little girls, I thought of my granddaughter who now lives with God. Oh how my heart yearned with a deep desire to take those two little girls home with me.
But as I looked around at that place called Beauty for Ashes, that place God had provided for these children through the efforts of Betty Jo and the gifts of many, the words of Job came to my mind. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. I realize that Job was face to face with God when he spoke those words, and in a sense they cannot be compared to my situation, but someway I felt at that moment that by faith I was face to face with that same God that Job had looked upon so long ago.
I could see Job’s God as I looked on that place called Beauty for Ashes. I had heard about it, but now my eye looked upon it. Others had told me of it, but now I saw for myself. I saw that Beauty for Ashes far exceeded anything I had ever heard or even imagined. And though I did not see the face of God, I saw the work of God as I looked into those happy faces of those two little girls, Naomi and Hannah. In those faces I saw the summation of a few years of dedication and many long days of hard work by a physically handicapped servant who had been empowered by a God without measure. As I looked into those happy faces, my heart burst forth with praise to my God for what He had done.
I am humbled to have known such a God! I am humbled by the efforts of these three servants. May God bless these three and those islands that mean so much to them and to Him. May God bless us all to serve Him for the few days we have left on this island that goes by the name of Earth.
May God bless you.