Spying Out The Land – Cebu, Philippines

“So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath.  They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)  When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.  That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there.  At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.  They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land.  They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” Numbers 13:21-27

Kyle & Joan Bartholomew, and John & Anna Malnegro, learned about Philippine history through the popular tourist sites in Cebu – including the battle between Lapu-Lapu and Magellan!

As the Israelites returned from their exploration of the promise land, they brought back a grape cluster so big that it took two men to carry it on a pole! They then presented this grape cluster to Moses and made a statement confirming all that God had said about the land, that “it does flow with milk and honey, here is the fruit!”  This was exactly how Joan and I felt after visiting Cebu, Philippines, with John and Anna Malnegro, the soon to be leaders of the Cebu Mission Team to be sent out at the 2017 Global Leadership Conference!   

Upon our arrival in Cebu, the Malnegros, Joan and I, picked up our bags at the baggage claim, where we were joined by our dear sister AJ Castillo who had also flown in on the same flight. We took a cab to a nearby restaurant called Inday Pina Sutukil—a popular seafood restaurant by the sea, where you pick out your fresh seafood of choice and then have it cooked right there for you! After an amazing meal, we met up with our host for the day, Joselo—the valiant leader of the current remnant group in Cebu—and walked next door to visit a very popular tourist site that had the statue of Lapu-Lapu, a hero of the Philippines. He is famous for being the first Filipino to resist Spanish colonization, and was responsible for killing the famous explorer Ferdinand Magellan in a great battle where the statue now stands, in the city now fittingly called Lapu-Lapu City! This reminded us that God will indeed use His spiritual heroes—John and Anna, in a similar way to conquer not only Cebu, but eventually the entire Visayas for Christ as they fight for the salvation of the Filipino people and resist Satan!

Next, we made our way to the many colleges that the Cebu Mission Team will be targeting. Of special note were: University of San Carlos (USC), University of Cebu, and University of the Philippines (UP) respectively! It was amazing to see how close the campuses were to each other and how many students were walking around—all of which will get an invitation to become true disciples of Jesus in a few short months!

JP’s mom, Stella, was baptized last Sunday! Though recent victims of a fire where they lost everything, Stella was overjoyed to be in the arms of God!

After a short rest from touring around the city, we met up with the group at Zebuchon—a very popular local chain restaurant!  We had a chance to try their specialty called “Cebu Lechon” and enjoyed a time of incredible fellowship where we were all dreaming of the soon to be church planting!

While fellowshipping, Anna Malnegro told us of a nearby attraction called Skywalk—a glass walkway on the top of a 39-storey hotel! She requested that we give it a try, and Joan—who is always up for anything that would make her heart race—enthusiastically agreed! Having always been afraid of heights I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this experience but was somehow persuaded to join AJ, Anna, and my wife. To say it was scary to walk on glass outside of the building on the 39th floor with strong winds and a breathtaking view is an understatement. However, I was reminded that we can often allow our personal fears to paralyze us spiritually. In order to do great things for God, the mission team will have to abandon fear and grab hold of faith in the many challenges that they will face in the near future!  Having had a full day, we all headed off to bed.

Kyle tried his best to be as fired up as Anna and Joan were on the Skywalk attraction in Cebu!

The next morning Joan and I enjoyed breakfast with John and Anna, who were so inspired after their first day of spying out the land, and excitedly shared about what they hoped God will allow them to accomplish in their first year as a church! We then headed off to the University of the Philippines and after walking on to campus, stomping our feet on the ground, and huddling together, we bowed our heads in prayer —declaring that God would give us victory over the campus and the entire city of Cebu!

After this, the valiant sisters got to work as they sat down with six women who were friends of Joselo and Jeff, and studied the Bible for several hours! Upon the completion of their study, they all agreed to attend our devotional that night. The devotional itself was an incredible time of great fellowship and prayer, and I had the opportunity to preach a lesson entitled “The Promises of God!” All in all, we had 25 in attendance, most of which were non-Christians who were seeking God! God had made it so clear to us that the fields of Cebu are ripe for harvest!

After our devotional, we all got into Joselo’s truck and drove up to the top of a mountain that is appropriately called, “Tops”!  This particular mountain gives a view of the whole city, and with the night sky, it was a magnificent sight to behold! We gathered together and prayed for the openness of the many souls of the city, as well as for a great victory upon the team’s arrival in August of this year. This experience reminded me of God’s words to Abraham as he looked up into the stars in the sky, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  (Genesis 15:5)

Czarene and Ariel pray for Iya, their new sister in Christ, before she gets baptized!

The next morning, after a brief time of fellowship with John and Anna, we met up with the group and headed off to visit Magellan’s Cross, which is housed in a chapel next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño on Magallanes Street. This is a Christian cross that Magellan set in the ground declaring that he would Christianize Cebu. His efforts were ultimately successful as the Philippines remains one of the few Christianized countries in South-East Asia. These men did not have the true gospel, and yet they were able to spread their message through sheer ambition. This was an incredible reminder of how much more we could do as true Christians, as we not only have the correct gospel, but also the Holy Spirit to guide us!

After “spying out the land” in Cebu, the Malnegros are excited to dream and scheme for what’s to come
in August 2017!

After meeting together for our last meal with the group, Joan and I headed off to the airport, leaving John and Anna behind to conduct a Sunday Worship Service the following day.  As we took off in the airplane and left the beautiful city of Cebu behind, we were so filled with joy as we couldn’t wait to return back to our home congregation in Metro Manila and share our many pictures taken, along with our positive report,“we went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.”  (Numbers 13:27)


Kyle Bartholomew

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