One of the great methods of sharing the gospel in the Philippines is through sports, particularly basketball. The Lord laid the groundwork through the US military. The Philippines became hooked on basketball, Japan on baseball. For those who enjoy playing, putting on a uniform in the morning and taking it off at night is an athlete’s dream. All of us would even shower with our unforms on at night to have it ready for the next day. We would do that for a month, playing 2-3 games a day. Greater than the love for the game was our love in sharing the gospel with thousands of people wherever we played in the Philippines, from large cities to rural villages. The opportunity to challenge young men from the US and Australia with an experience in missions was wonderful but to see people come to Christ, to see thousands of Filipinos sign up to receive Emmaus courses and be contacted personally was thrilling. Because of the nature of this ministry, we didn’t always know or meet the people personally who were impacted by the message. But God has a way of reminding us of His promise that He is at work.
I was invited to be the camp speaker one summer at the assembly Family Camp at the Emmaus Bible Camp north of Manila. It is held simultaneously with the Emmaus Bible School. The facilities are the basic camp atmosphere, dormitories with a central bathhouse. So, the male campers and students all share the same central washhouse facilities. One morning around 6 am I was preparing for the day and a young man came in. I greeted him and asked him where he was from. He answered he was from a city named General Santos City on the island of Mindanao in the southwestern Philippines. (Now to put distances in perspective, look at the Philippines as a triangle. Brooke’s Point, Palawan where we live and minister is on the southwestern side of the Philippines, 500 miles from Manila. General Santos City is on the southeastern side of the Philippines and is 1,000 miles from Manila. From Brooke’s Point to General Santos City is 2,000 across the southern Philippines by open sea.) I mentioned in response to this young man that I had been to his city (approximately 500,000 population at that time) with a basketball team 12 years earlier. He responded that he had seen an American basketball team and watched the game. He was nine years old. He mentioned an incident when one of the American players broke the rim on a dunk. I chuckled to myself. I had passed the ball for the assist when it was broken! He went on to say that the message I gave at the game was the first time he had ever heard the gospel. There were around 4,000 people watching that game. The extra time taken to repair the rim so that the game could continue gave us more time to share our testimonies and to share the gospel. The young boy had signed up for an Emmaus course and his name was given to the local assembly for follow up. He had accepted the Lord from that contact. Twelve yeas later our talk in the washroom at camp, 1,000 miles away from where he accepted the Lord, was an encouragement and reminder to both of us of how God works. He was studying at the Bible School in preparation to return to serve the Lord in his home assembly. Doesn’t that give us confidence in how God works? Who knows how many stories in heaven will reveal what we don’t see here on earth.
Craig was born in the Philippines to missionary parents. He came to the States to finish high school and college. After marrying Margaret they were commended by Asheville Gospel Chapel in 1972 to the Lord’s work in the Philippines. They have completed the translation of the whole Bible in Palawano, the ethnic minority language.
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