(Meditating on Psalm 77)
We’re in Psalm 77 in our Journey Through the Psalms Friday, and how very timely to be discussing about it now that our Church, JESUS MIRACLE CRUSADE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY, had just celebrated the 12th Mindanao Peace Mission Anniversary last October 7.
This is all I could remember about it. I was resting comfortably on our new bed in our new townhouse watching the evening news. I caressed my bulging tummy; I was about 5 months pregnant with our first baby. I saw in the news how these emaciated prayer warriors together with their beloved pastor were battling and struggling against all the hardships they were in as their stay in the Abu Sayyaf camp was prolonged indefinitely. What little I can remember of it (because I didn’t really focus my attention, there were other things in my mind then that were more exciting – how selfish I had been!) was that, those Christian men were staying strong in their faith amidst all the perils around them. I remember thinking, “Why would anyone want to go to that hellish place?”
It would be three years later when my memory would be refreshed about that news, when I was brought to the feet of Jesus at JMCIM, dying and shaking from unexplainable fear. It would be months later, as we continued to serve the Lord and hope for His healing, that I learned that the Church where the Lord had mercifully brought us to was the one who bravely entered the Abu Sayyaf camp to pray for the 21 Sipadan hostages and help with their release.
Every year as the Church celebrated this victorious peace mission in Talipao, Jolo, Sulu in the island of Mindanao, I would hear about the amazing – A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! – testimonies of the 12 prayer warriors who had experienced the horrors of that place in the presence of the fierce Abu Sayyaf. Just a few weeks prior to JMCIM’s entrance to the camp, a Catholic priest, Fr. Gallardo, was captured by them. They extracted all his nails and plucked out his eyes before they brutally chopped off his head.
I cannot now write all the testimonies of God’s mighty deliverance during their three-month ordeal inside the enemy’s camp and the military assault that followed. How could Bible-wielding, weak and emaciated (from daily fasting up in the cruel mountains of Jolo, Sulu) Christian men escape the fierceness of the Abu Sayyaf and later on, the canons and bombs from military planes (for the government had declared an all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf but they (Abu Sayyaf) insisted that the JMCIM Christians would stay close to them)?
I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted. (Psalm 77: 1-2)
The bombs would drop from the military planes, cutting off trees and spattering the earth. The Abu Sayyaf would be fleeing to wherever they could escape, but the faith-full Christian men, always anticipating God’s mighty deliverance, would be on their knees, arms raised up to heaven, yielding their bodies to God’s protection WHICH.NEVER.FAILED. (Sobbing now).
And God delivered them triumphantly, all thirteen of them. They were not hurt by the Abu Sayyaf nor the bombs and canons of the military assault. HALLELUIAH!
But the beloved pastor suffered much. Due to prolonged fasting (he had fasted 40 days and 40 nights before entering the Abu Sayyaf camp and continued it during much of their stay in the mountains), his body weakened so much that he could hardly walk and talk. He is still recovering until now. I remember the apostle Paul’s words: I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17).
As the years passed and the Church continued to wait for the beloved pastor’s full recovery and as it travailed still in heartbreaking trials (the passing away of the beloved assistant pastor, Lina C. Almeda, among other trials of faith), some despaired (I was one of them) if the Lord’s eyes and miracles were still on His Church, JMCIM. But we were wrong in even letting that thought enter the mind. For God again showed His amazing miracles – healings, lives changed, deliverance – and let His powerful presence felt in the congregation every worship service.
I read Asaph’s laments and I can imagine the beloved pastor (and the beloved brethren) awake in the night, meditating on God and His wondrous works.
You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I have considered the days of old,
The years of ancient times.
6 I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate within my heart,
And my spirit makes diligent search.
7 Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
8 Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah (vv. 4-9)
I hold these precious words close to my heart. They serve as lamp in the dark, wisdom in weakness and confusion.
Last Sunday, October 7, the whole Church gathered together again to remember God’s goodness and celebrate His mighty deeds that He has shown. Once again, brethren, specially the prayer warriors of the victorious Talipao peace mission, shouted out their praise, testimonies, and celebratory messages in the pulpit. Human strength is not enough to shout out God’s wondrous works to the ends of the earth.
And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
14 You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples. (vv. 10-14)
Below, I share with you photos of this blessed event. I pray these will be a blessing to you.
- I thank beloved Bro. Edu Cortez of ExtremeDetails for providing the beautiful photos. God bless you so much more, Bro. Edu! (Lord willing, I hope to get some photography lessons from you in the coming days :)).
- I was blessed to have browsed the manuscript of the book written about the Talipao peace mission by an American (CIA) who had studied and followed through the whole event. I hope and pray that it will be published soon.