PORT DEPOSIT, Md.—If you think your church is dead or dying, adopt a couple people groups, and it will bring a new mindset and a new fire in your church’s heart, says Harold Phillips.
That’s exactly what has happened to Pleasant View Church in Port Deposit, Md., where he has served as senior pastor for over 21 years. Presently, his church has adopted two people groups: one in the Philippines and one in Ecuador.
He traveled this past summer to the Philippines to visit Southern Baptist missionaries in action, to teach at the Filipino Southern Baptist Seminary and to see other missionaries previously supported by his church.
Phillips believes it is important to go to where Southern Baptist missionaries are working rather than just supporting them from afar.
“We could see the work they are doing and pray with those they are discipling,” he said, explaining how it brings him joy to see that there are people who sacrificially leave their families behind to live in a foreign country doing hard, sometimes thankless and depressing, work.
“It made me proud to be a Southern Baptist!” he said, explaining the often difficult long uphill, grinding days missionaries face in doing work in largely unevangelized nations.
On this trip, Phillips was gratified to see godly, discipled Filipinos who now serve as Christian leaders at a Southern Baptist college and seminary. “It was great to see how previous years of missionary service have resulted into such great work,” he said.
While there, Phillips also had the opportunity to visit with a cooperating missionary from another denomination. *George (named changed for security reasons) is a missionary pastor serving in the dangerous mountains of Mindanao. He walked two hours and then rode a bus for six hours to visit Phillips at the Southern Baptist Seminary, where Phillips conducted leadership seminars.
On many occasions, George had traveled for eight hours by foot to mountain villages to distribute food and medicine to starving children. On one particular visit, a child approached him, telling him that his father, the General and Commander of a rebel Communist group, wanted to see him.
Knowing that his life was at risk, George visited the commander, who asked him, “Why are you bringing us food?” To which, he replied, “Because Jesus sent me here.”
The man, curious, commanded him, “Tell me about Jesus.” George acquiesced and shared the Gospel with the man, who got saved and then asked, “What’s your name?”
George told the commander his name, only to learn that he was on the commander’s hit list. “I have been assigned to kill you,” the commander, who had already killed 12 people, told him, “but I can’t kill you now because you are my brother!”
Ultimately, the commander quit raiding other villages and brought in a pastor and wife to his village. He built them a hut and brought his family to learn about Jesus.
It wasn’t long before other raiders came into the village demanding food. They tied the 300 villagers to nearby trees, threatening to kill them if they didn’t provide food. Finally, the commander promised them, “If you turn them lose, a missionary will bring you food.”
The commander contacted George, who then called Phillips to ask for fervent prayer—for protection from being killed and for food to provide for the village. Phillips promptly organized three days of fasting and prayer, inviting members of his church to pray for this man’s life and for the success of his mission. Phillips also sent money from the church to secure food.
All the while, George prepared a crusade, intending to share the Gospel on his return visit to the village. In addition to providing food, George showed the Jesus film and preached for four days to over 1,000 people, including the rebels, who came from nearby villages. Around 300 people got saved.
Among them was a village chief, who fell on his knees before the missionary asking how to become a Christian. Soon afterwards, the chief gave a piece of his property to the missionary to build a “prayer house” (rather than a “church” that could be burnt down).
Unbeknownst to George, oceans away, a member at Pleasant View Church approached Phillips with $3,000. “I want to donate this money to the Philippines mission,” the man told his pastor.
A week later, George called Phillips to tell them the exciting news about the village’s new “church.” But where would he get the money to buy the supplies to build it? To which, Phillips responded, “I already have your money!”
Over time, the church was built, and the village changed so much, that the building became readily known as the village church. It was named the Pleasant View Central Baptist Church, after its host church in Maryland.
To commemorate the partnership, the village chief gave Phillips a Filipino sword, which now resides in Phillips’s office with a photo of its namesake church.
That was three years ago, and since that time, the church already has four children churches.
In his trip to the Philippines this summer, Phillips purchased three water purification systems to help the village, through the church, have sanitary water. For extra measure, he bought another system for the neighboring village—the same village that had tied the villagers to the trees three years before.
These days, Pleasant View Church is very alive. Members presently are also focusing their sights on an orphanage in Ecuador, assisting a retired Army officer in rescuing children thrown away in the jungles and left to die. To date, the orphanage has 62 orphans. Pleasant View members traveled to the orphanage to help build a Christian school for the kids.
The ultimate goal is to train the children in Christian education and teach them to be missionaries to the same villages that discarded them.
“Now, that’s exciting stuff!” shared Phillips.
“And it’s all true! That’s what brings a church to life!”
This article originally appeared in BaptistLIFE.