Hope for a Philippine Island

Hope for a Philippine Island—Part 1
Hope for a Philippine Island—Part 1

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Hope for a Philippine Island—Part 1

Story by Margot Bass
Photos by Steve Shambeck, taken before COVID-19

This story was first published in Fall 2020, Issue 85 of Calvary Chapel Magazine.

On a poverty-stricken Philippine island, God has changed hundreds of lives through believers partnering with U-Turn for Christ to share His hope and love. Now 10 island Calvary Chapels and many U.S. churches feed people the Word of God verse by verse.

Jennifer, emaciated and bed-ridden, rested uncomfortably on a hard, plastic cot in her tiny house in the village of Hernani in the Philippines. Her eyes were dull and sad, devoid of hope. Suffering from breast cancer and unable to afford medical care, she appeared much older than her 35 years. One day in October 2019, Siobhan Segaar, Amy Larsen, and three other members of a U-Turn for Christ mission team came to comfort the dying woman. Ladies from the village crowded into the house, making the hot, close room even stuffier.

Amy, from Revival Christian Fellowship in Menifee, CA—a cancer survivor and also a nurse—asked Jennifer, “Do you know if you’ll go to heaven?” Jennifer responded that she thought she would because she had been a good person. Amy urgently but kindly warned her that no one is good enough to go to heaven without a relationship with Jesus Christ, who died on a cross to pay for our sins. Realizing that Christ offered her true, eternal hope, Jennifer prayed to receive Jesus as Savior.

Siobhan recalled, amazed, “As soon as Jennifer opened her eyes, you could see she was a changed person. She was no longer suffering without hope—she knew she was going to heaven.” The nearly 30 women in the packed home also repeated the same prayer of salvation.

Pastor Gerry points next to car

U-Turn for Christ Founder Gerry Brown (bottom right) sends a colorful truck out to invite residents to an evangelistic crusade in Borongan, a city on the Philippine island of Samar.

God’s Word in the Philippines

In October 2019, U-Turn for Christ, a Christ-centered discipleship and rehabilitation program for men and women based in Perris, CA, sent a team from the U.S. to Samar, an eastern Philippine island. Since 1997, U-Turn has been teaching men and women in Samar the Word of God, training pastors, planting Calvary Chapels, and serving residents in desperate need. U-Turn Founder Gerry Brown, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Romoland, CA, brings one mission team each year—followed up by a pastoral team that presents verse-by-verse teaching to local pastors.

Everyone on the mission trip is given the opportunity to share a testimony or teaching. Gerry related, “[In the U.S.] we’ve been so spoiled with all the Bible teaching we’ve heard—God wants us to share it with others. I tell them to prepare to be used by the Lord.”

Pastor Gerry praying for people in jail

Greg Segaar, a member of a U-Turn mission team, shares God’s Word with men in a Philippine prison in October 2019.

Greg Segaar from Harvest Christian Fellowship, Siobhan’s husband, spoke before nearly 3,000 people during a crusade in the city of Borongan. Though he felt inadequate, he knew that God would be faithful to draw people to Himself. He threaded Revelation 3:20 through his message: “Behold, I [Jesus] stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” He also shared the words of his late grandmother, who had passed away just a half hour before he left for this mission trip. “She wanted me to know how ready she was to be with the Lord. I described the amazing difference it makes to be dying and able to say, ‘I’m just ready.’” At least 200 people responded to that altar call.

Man behind bars

Men in the crowded prison on Samar Island gratefully hear the Gospel and accept Jesus as Savior.

During their crusades and smaller outreaches, teams give away sacks of rice, bicycles, basketballs, and cell phones—all gifts “to show or remind them of salvation in Jesus Christ, the greatest free gift that’s ever been given,” Gerry said. “We need to do anything and everything we can to draw people who wouldn’t normally go to the church to hear the Word of God.” During that October 2019 trip, the team also visited prisons, hospitals, local schools, a university Christian Club, and with individual families. Local Calvary Chapel pastors provide follow-up discipleship to all those who accept Christ.

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

“There’s nothing fancy about it,” said Joshua Walker of Revival Christian Fellowship, who was on his first trip to the Philippines. “We just said, ‘Jesus loves you,’ prayed for them, and loved them. So many people gave their lives to Christ those two weeks.”

Clown in hospital

Malachy Tracy from Calvary Chapel Grants Pass, OR, dressed as a clown, cheers up children in a Philippine hospital. Team members prayed with the grateful families.

Malachy Tracy of Calvary Chapel Grants Pass, OR, dressed as a clown to cheer up children in a hospital. “I came in and started dancing around like a fool. It was miserably hot, and the children looked exhausted and dehydrated. It was a joy to bring smiles to their faces and see them laugh,” Malachy recounted. “The parents were extremely grateful.” He and other team members moved from bed to bed, praying with the children and their parents.

Philippine Ministry Roots

After being stationed in the Philippines with the U.S. Navy between 1975-78, Gerry longed to return for mission work. That opportunity came in 1997 when U-Turn was invited to bring verse-by-verse teaching to local pastors on Samar Island. U-Turn started a Bible study in San Joaquin, in western Samar, which became their first Philippine church. Gerry stated, “[Through] the Calvary Chapel Bible Institute of the Philippines, we trained young national men to be pastors and began to send them throughout the island.” There are now 10 CCs in or near Samar, stretched from west to east. Gerry estimated that more than 30 non-Calvary Chapel churches on the island have also been trained to teach the Bible verse by verse.

Kids worship

Malcolm Tracy (center) addresses a crowd at an outreach.

Pastor Ron Brown of Calvary Chapel San Joaquin, Gerry’s brother, has served in the Philippines for 18 years. Ron explained, “The importance of the Word of God can never be overstated. Our commitment is to discipleship and instruction. We offer free room and board and academics at our campus near Borongan for any young believer who is recommended to us.”

Pastor Lemuel Yabor pastors CC Lalawigan in a village outside of Borongan. Once known as the town drunk, he lived across the street from a Calvary Chapel. “He would mock the church, holding his beer can up and shaking it at the church,” Gerry recalled. “Today he’s a seasoned pastor, training up and discipling many of the pastors who have gone through the Bible college.” God’s Word changed his life, Gerry confirmed. “We invited him to sit with us in Bible college classes. I shared 1 Peter 5:8 with him: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He came drunk at first. But it only took a couple of times before God got ahold of his heart and he repented. From that moment on, he was in love with God’s Word. Even horrible fights with his wife ended as he began living for the Lord.”

To join a mission trip to the Philippines, contact uturnforchrist.com.

Man leading worship

A Filipino Calvary Chapel pastor (left) leads the U-Turn for Christ mission team in worship.


All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.