On Saturday afternoons, you will find Pastor Bart in a nondescript backroom of his church, seated behind a simple wooden desk with a smartphone and a microphone in front of him. This is how he records the sermon for the following Sunday’s online church service.
“The COVID -19 pandemic forced us to stop gathering in the church,” he explains. “We had to stop our regular prayer meetings, our house visitations, and all other ministries to observe the government’s protocol on the restrictions of mass gathering.”
Pastor Bart leads a church in Caloocan, a city in Metro Manila, the National Capital Region of the Philippines. He never thought he would become a pastor. “I used to belong to a group of young people who did terrible things,” he looks back. “I drank alcohol all night to escape sadness and hopelessness. My parents thought I was disgraceful. But praise the Lord because Pastor Dave, a local minister, shared the Good News through the Project Philip Bible study program. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and now, I am using the same program in my community.”
Pastoring a church during the pandemic brought unprecedented challenges. “Usually, we don’t experience persecution,” Pastor Bart points out. “However, when we conduct home Bible studies, the community blames us for spreading the virus in the area. The neighbors even prevent us from carrying out online services inside the church, even though we follow the protocol of limiting the number of persons to ten. To avoid scandal, I pre-record my sermons in that church room. The other participants, including the worship leader, record their contributions to the service at their homes.”
Despite all the restrictions, some of Pastor Bart’s church members still caught the virus. “We have families that underwent fatal experiences,” he continues. “One of them who was even imprisoned for disobeying the government’s mandate during the lockdown; his wife suffered from depression and anxiety and attempted to end her life. Through visitation, prayer, and counseling, I was able to help her with depression.”
He continues, “The Bible League program plays a significant role in my ministry. I apply what I’ve learned from Project Philip to let the people know more about the love of Jesus.” Pastor Bart says. “Without your help, it would be difficult for me to fulfill my ministry during the pandemic. Your support not only brings hope; it also saves lives. Thank you!”