I am the Lord; That is my name!
I will not give my glory to another
or my praise to idols.Isaiah 42:8
This morning I planned on sharing God's truth with the officers of the municipal PNP. Instead, God led me to another group of people. He brought me to my first direct encounter with the spirits that plague this community.
During the flag ceremony this morning at the municipal plaza, the events of last week were talked about. Various officials discussed the response to the high school by official and unofficial responders.
I was there with my companion, Steve, so that we could present for the Philippine National Police during the Moral Recovery Program. As the flag ceremony continued, many of the police and health care workers began leaving in vehicles parked at the plaza. When I asked if everything was okay, one of the officers told me that things were once again happening at the high school.
I accompanied several people to the high school in an ambulance. When we arrived, I went to the grandstands where several students were once again shaking and screaming out.
As I understand it, the 7 affected students were all among those who had been affected last week. I began praying for J. She was placed on a stretcher and driven across the field to a classroom in the back of a pickup truck with several attendants. The two other students who were at the grandstands were also taken to classrooms.
When we got into the classroom, J was attended by a doctor. As the doctor attended her physical symptoms and whispered prayers, I continued to pray for her. After a while, J calmed down.
Later, my friend, Steve, joined me and we were left in the room with just J and her mother B. Steve spoke with J in dialect. As the discussion progressed J chose to ask Jesus to be her Lord. When I asked B if Jesus is her Lord she said that He is. But when we asked her if she and her family also followed the pagan traditions and sacrifices, she admitted that they do. I told her how important it is that they abandon those practices. The spirits just destroy and never bring life. She has seen how the spirits have treated her daughter this past week. Steve and I tried to emphasize that she cannot serve Christ and continue in those traditions. She chose to rededicate her life to Christ. I talked with her to help her understand that she would face many difficult decisions because of her renewed walk with Christ. I am hopeful that Lisa and I may be able to walk with J and B as they learn to make Jesus their Lord.
Afterwards we were invited to a meeting at the school. The governor of the province as well as other local officials were there to meet with the teachers to plan a course of action. I was so disappointed at the plan. It was decided to continue with a dual-approach, having a mass (and perhaps an exorcism at the school) and having the elders perform more of their rites. As the meeting progressed, I prayed that God would either give me a request from the leaders of the meeting to speak and boldness to do so or that He would prevent anyone from asking my opinion and restraint on my part. Although I was hoping for the first, He gave me the grace to keep my mouth shut at that time.
Later in the day, Lisa and I were on our way to the market when the police officers at the assistance center (a small police outpost at the main crossroads in town) called to us. We had a great opportunity to share with them. At the meeting today, God did not open the door to share with the leaders. But with J and B and with these officers we were able to talk about how God will not share His glory with another. You cannot call on God and the spirits and expect Him to respond. He is not an option.
Throughout the day's events, two images came to mind about the situation in Bontoc. The first is that Bontoc the community of Bontoc is responding to a heart attack with two band-aids. One band-aid represents the pagan traditions of sacrifice and such. The other band-aid is a watered-down, and powerless Christianity where God is little more than another option with which to deal with problems in the spiritual realm. So the community applies both band-aids in the hopes that one will solve the problem. In reality, the heart attack may not be immediately fatal and the symptoms will likely subside for a time, but it has little to do with the application of either band-aid. Until the people recognize God as the only option, the only solution, there will be no real healing.
The other image is of an annoying dog. The dog represents the spirits which are so bothersome here. The dog keeps following the people around looking for handouts and generally being irritating. In response, they give the dog food and hope it will go away. They are concerned because the dog never goes away for long, but have accepted it as how life is. They can't see that as long as you continue to leave the door open and give the dog what it wants, it will never go away.
Continue to pray for our community.