Friday, January 28, 2005

I don’t know where to start. It seems like a year ago since I posted my last blog though it has only been a few days. I would have written earlier but I have not had an internet connection, nor have I had the time or energy. The moment Janet and I have a minute free we instantly fall asleep. The joke around here is “We are trying to kill Steve Ray. Too much to do, no time from rest“. We we get home our motto will be “We survived the Philippines!“

The need is so great here. I hate to say no to these warm and eager people. What do you say to the head nun of a Catholic school with 3,000 students who sincerely asks you to speak to the 12th grade class? How can I say no?

Since I last wrote I spoke early in the morning to over 100 El Shaddai preachers. El Shaddai is a Catholic lay organization with over 10 million members worldwide. I told their ministers my conversion story and then challenged them on many fronts. I told them to stay faithful to the teachings of the Church and to work hard to stop the cults and sects from stealing away the faithful. They laughed and cried.

Janet and I had a wonderful lunch with their founder and leader Mike Valerde. He invited me to come back and speak to their weekly gathering of 375,000 – 1 million people who meet for fellowship ALL NIGHT Saturday with a Mass on Sunday morning. I agreed.

Then on to Mary the Queen parish for a talk and lunch with the leaders. Then on to a discussion group and dinner. Then to a breakfast and talk with a group of influential bishops and business leaders. A professor on the panel challenged and said the Bible was fiction and Catholicism just one of many good options. I could not let his 20 minute reaction to my talk go unchallenged so I had to charitably confront him. He was a good man and I enjoyed our discussion.

Then on to an interview with the largest newpaper, the Philippine Star. The article will be in the paper on Tuesday and accessible on the internet (I think). Then without rest we rushed to a lunch with Madame Gretchen, the wife of the owner of the largest beer brewery in the Philippines – San Miguel beer – and the company that handles the bottling for all Coke products. She is a devote and excited Catholic and very interested in apologetics. She had Protestant family member and we discussed the faith for several hours. A Protestant TV personality was also there – Cito, the “Larry King of the Philippines”. We had some very animated discussion! But I liked the guy and we enjoyed each other’s company and the discussion.

But we had to rush a large dinner with sponsors and then to a parish talk with about 1,000 people in Manila. It was the St. James Catholic Church and the crowd was lively and filled with faith. They have sold about 2,000 – 3,000 copies of Crossing the Tiber while I am here and all the proceeds go to support the apologetics groups.

My wife and I are exhausted and my voice sounds like a frog croaking. But the need is so great. The islands are being invaded by sects and cults, not only from the United States and Europe, but from within the Philippines themselves. They are such warm and trusting people. They love the Lord and the Church but they are severely under catechized. They easily fall prey to the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

“Leave the Catholic Church — get born again!” Everywhere storefront Protestant groups are starting up. Everywhere we see Mormon temples rising beautiful above the poverty of the life below. The indigenous Englesia ni Christo is devastating the land. The work is great and I have poured myself into the job with abandon. I do not charge anything (only the plane fare) because most are poor and cannot pay.

I love these people and Janet and I have decided to come here every year for two weeks to speak, teach and help. I have already been invited back by three archbishops and the head of El Shaddai and many others. How can I say no.

That is enough for now. That just covers part of what we did Monday and Tuesday. I will try to tell more of the story in a day or two. But, like usual, we have to run.

 Keep up in your prayers. I will be speaking in Davao in Mindanao all weekend to thousands of people. It is the first ever Catholic Conference in this major city. Pray my voice will hold out and my strength be renewed. Thanks.

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