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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


By Ken Horn
Nov. 6, 2011

The heavens opened and the waters rose. The people living on the Philippine island of Mindanao are accustomed to runaway precipitation — especially during the rainy season. But this was more than usual. Water fell from the sky incessantly for days, then weeks, pounding small villages — called barangays — near Surigao, a city of some 120,000 people. Twenty-two inches of rain fell in one 24-hour span. One of the barangays, Poctoy, was especially hard hit.

Flooding here is intensified by poverty. Squatters live in shacks along the road, making them especially susceptible to the harsh conditions. During the deluge, some homes were completely inundated, people’s lives and livelihoods endangered. Mudslides and rockslides threatened more danger.

It is, of course, raining when Assemblies of God missionary Rodney Stine drives me to the missions center in Surigao.

On the way we see people wading through shin-deep water. The inconvenience seems minor at the time, but the conditions can turn deadly quickly. We pass the aftermath of recent rockslides and mudslides where people lost their lives. Rodney helped pull the bodies out of the rubble.

The missions center is known as CALM — Children and Adults Learning Missions. The attractive compound seems out of place in the poverty-stricken vicinity. Open freely to nearby residents, it also accommodates church groups of up to several hundred for retreats and conferences.

The impact of Stine and his wife, Aida, on the community extends far beyond what occurs at the center. They have become involved in the community and its needs. Local officials consider Rodney a friend and have learned to rely on him for a variety of things.

Once, when Rodney was with the mayor of Poctoy, they observed a group of children fending for themselves on the street — not an unusual sight. Rodney urged the mayor to do something. Eventually the two men formed a board of six that is addressing the problem.

Even Rodney’s attendance at the local Rotary Club meetings has helped enlarge the ministry. Loi, a woman he met there, received the Lord and made the private hospital she owns available for a Bible study.

Aida Stine is originally from the Philippines. She was first called to be a missionary when American missionaries came to her home island in the late 1950s.

Rodney was a backslidden Assemblies of God youth when he recommitted his life to the Lord and sensed the need to be involved in missions.

Rodney and Aida met in Ecuador, where they were both serving as missionaries. They eventually married and felt led to pastor an AG church in Salisbury, Maryland, before coming to the Philippines in 1997. Aida, who speaks English and five Philippine dialects, lived in the United States for 20 years before returning to the islands.

During their first three years as missionaries, the Stines traveled to churches and villages showing the Jesus film, evangelizing and starting churches. They ministered in remote locations, often finding themselves without food or water for many hours in the intense heat and humidity. After the Lord provided a boat they enlarged their vision, evangelizing from island to island. The primitive remoteness dictated they carry their own generator with them.

Since then the boat outreach has remained viable. Convoy of Hope donated a newer boat, which has proved instrumental in continuing the island ministry. The surrounding area includes 54 reachable small islands.

Weather is a critical factor in reaching these islands.

“When the weather was good, we went to the islands,” Rodney says, reflecting on the couple’s early days of ministry. “During the rainy season, we didn’t.” Instead, they stayed on Mindanao, sometimes hauling their equipment through thick mud to remote locations.

The Jesus film was instrumental to their ministry when they first came to Poctoy in 1999. They used it effectively until the film eventually went bad because of use and moisture.

After that, vacation Bible schools became the lynchpin of their ministry. “We opened a church way up on the mountain,” says Rodney. “Now we have a pastor there with a flourishing congregation because of vacation Bible school.”

With this proven success, Aida looked for more ways to reach children. Going to the local school, she asked how she could help. “Mrs. Stine, there are a lot of malnourished kids here,” she was told, “and many with bad influences.” With this open door, the Stines began feeding and ministering to more and more children.

As the number of children grew, the Stines realized they needed a suitable permanent place to minister to them. Eventually, God provided their current spacious property at a remarkable price. They began building, and carpenters and other workers volunteered. Rodney planted trees, lining the perimeter of the property.

Sunday School was born and Bible studies grew. Every week people came to the Lord — in a variety of ways.

A chronically ill mother brought her children and experienced a dramatic healing. Locals heard about it and began coming, seeking a touch from God. Many were healed and the numbers grew.

Soon people were filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in other tongues. This precipitated a full-blown revival that lasted several months.

The revival was not without its challenges. Many villagers are involved in the occult, and several unsuccessful attempts were made to cast curses on the believers. Violence was a problem.

Once, Rodney found himself confronted by three men, one wielding a machete. He escaped unharmed. Sometime later, the son of the man with the machete began attending activities at the church. The boy gave his life to Christ, and later his hardened father followed. Now the son, whose father was called “the worst guy in the barangay,” is completing Bible college with plans to become a minister.

On Sunday, Aida scurries about, happily humming and making sure all is in readiness. Church will start late because attendees are navigating flooded roads and fields. But they will come. Only those who physically can’t make the journey will be missing.

People trickle in for Sunday School. Classes will be combined today because some classrooms are unusable due to leaking roofs. Throughout the class time and the following morning service, more people arrive. Classes and services are conducted in English and two local dialects.

Children are clearly the key ingredient. CALM hires a small bus, called a jitney, to transport children on Sundays. Surprisingly, Rodney initially wanted nothing to do with children’s ministry, claiming it just wasn’t “his thing.” But Aida’s success soon dictated he become involved. Now he loves it.

Women are another important facet of the center. For many months Aida prayed for a “Dorcas-type” of woman to come. Nena, a widow and seamstress, became the answer to that prayer. She came, committed her life to the Lord and was one of 13 people baptized in water at one service. Later while giving her testimony, she began speaking in tongues for the first time in her life. Although she has faced persecution for her commitment, Nena has won many of her family to the Lord.

The full day of worship and Bible study continues. The children — and many of the adults — memorize Scripture in prodigious amounts. At the service this morning, one child recites many of the 70 Bible verses she has learned.

Throughout the day Rodney and Aida point out converts and tell me the remarkable stories of how they came to the Lord. All were won with friendship evangelism.

Pointing to one well-dressed and well-groomed man, Rodney says, “That is the man I thought was going to butcher me. He’s a real miracle.” As I looked at him I thought of the man who was delivered from a legion of demons and sat “clothed, and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15, KJV).

The Stines make sure villagers who arrive physically hungry do not leave that way. All attendees receive a supply of food after each service, and one fortunate person has his or her name drawn for a large supply of rice.

When I leave Surigao, I have seen enough rain to last me for quite some time. But I could never see enough of the fruitful ministry God has led Rodney and Aida Stine to have among the needy islanders of the Philippines. ?I had witnessed a veritable cloudburst of blessing.

KEN HORN is editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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