In 1990 I was appointed to be a pastor at the age of the 20 at one of the outreaches of Lumban Bible Church. For five years, serving in that small church, I felt that the joy of nourishing and giving direction to the people I served. Then the pastor of the main church resigned, and I was appointed to be the resident pastor there.
At that time I had no idea of the challenges I was going to be facing. A few years after I became resident pastor I was informed of a conflict that began three decades before. A conflict about leadership and the issue of land.
One day I received a letter from an attorney, informing us that the land the church is built on is not our property. I was shocked. I was shocked because many of the others in the church thought that the land had been intended for the church. They thought that the former church leader, whose name was on the land title, had long ago transferred the property over into the church’s name.
So the letter scared me. In the letter, we were told that if we did not buy the lot from the family, we would need to vacate the property.
But the building has a great story of God’s blessing among his people. The building has a great story about spiritual journeys of the people. Many got engaged and had their weddings there, and the dedications of their children were held there. I was dedicated in that particular church when I was a kid.
So I imagined that we would have to leave all that. Because many of our members are not that rich, and they said we would have to vacate the property if we could not buy it.
I prayed to God and asked for wisdom to respond to the letter. And I asked the board of deacons to discuss it—how are we going to process and how are we going to respond to the authority of the family who is asking us. So after a period of praying, the Lord gave us wisdom.
First, some of the deacons decided to talk to the attorney who wrote the letter, instead of taking the issue to court. We don’t embrace that idea. We follow what Jesus has taught us, that we should be reconciled with the people who were asking us to vacate the property.
The attorney made it clear that we had only two choices—to either vacate the land or to buy it. There was no option to transfer the church’s name to the land without purchasing the land itself.
It became clear that we needed to buy the land. But the price of the land was so high, 1.2 million pesos (equivalent to $27,000 US). So much. And church is composed of members whose jobs are mainly farming, embroidery, and fishing. Many of them are students.
As we processed this, I felt the Lord is speaking to me personally and to our church, that we should not fight against this system. Instead we prayed and the Lord gave us ideas for how to raise the money.
The Sunday School kids have piggy banks and they said, “We are going to give our pennies, our coins for the church.” The youth also raised funds. The adult members raised funds. And we also shared our need with our partners, in the US and with EMM [Eastern Mennonite Missions]. We had one member who said, “Ok, we’re going to give 250,000 pesos.” That’s a lot of money.
Another year, another 250, until the full amount was covered. And finally three decades of issues regarding the church property were solved.
And we wholeheartedly gave and paid what was asked of us. And the Lord, through the generosity of our brothers locally and abroad, was able to solve the conflict.
Now we have no more worries that there will come a time when a tractor will smash into the building, that the story will be erased. No more. Because God has been gracious.
The teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ helped us process this conflict: You have heard that you love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Now, as Jesus explained, love your neighbors and your enemies. And pray for those who do cruelty on you. They are also brothers and sisters.
This is something that we embrace. That we are not to fight with one another, but to live in peace with another. So after that, whenever I saw any of the members from this family, I could look them in the eye. Though I was not a part of the original conflict, I am thankful that I became a part of a story where Christ was glorified and the church developed and continues to carry out its mission.