Harvest Bible College is a miracle.
The small building is situated, on farmland, an hour’s drive north of Davao City, in the Philippines. The college is home to twenty student pastors four days a month.
“It’s pretty intensive,” my host laughed good-naturedly as he gave me the tour.
I first met Simon Koch at our State Conference in 1997 and his passion for mission inspired me.
“Why don’t you visit us sometime,” my new friend quipped.
Six months later I walked through a broken gate, across an overgrown front yard and up a rickety flight of steps to shake hands with a man I had come to admire and love.
“Welcome, welcome, you are just in time. Tonight’s dinner is pot luck,” Simon explained. “On our last night together each student brings something to share.”
Unfortunately I was unprepared and there were no convenience stores in the neighborhood.
“That’s OK. You’re our guest and we feel honored to have you,” Simon reassured me.
For the next several minutes I watched the table being laden with all manner of exotic food. Then Simon led his students in a song of thanksgiving.
“Pastor, would you please go first,” my host motioned toward the table. Around the room twenty sets of eyes followed my every move. Some of the girls giggled as I examined each offering.
“I’m glad you chose the pork,” Simon intoned. “Solomon brought a fresh pig from his litter."
The young man smiled in response to the compliment.
“Tell our guest about your study method,” Simon encouraged his student.
Solomon stood to his feet and spoke in halting English. “The Lord blessed me with eleven baby pigs. So I gave each one an Old Testament name to help me with my exams.
“Can you remember them?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” Solomon smiled. “There was Abraham. He is the father of Israel. Then there was Isaac his son.”
A list of familiar characters followed.
“And who are we eating today?” my missionary friend asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“This is Antiochus Epiphanes. He was a very bad man.”
The students roared with laughter. It felt good to be with these people and I understood why Simon loved them so.
Too soon it was time to leave. As I passed the front office I paused to study a montage of photos.
“Simon, who are these people?” I asked.
A cloud passed over my host’s face. “They're students who lost their lives out in the field.”
The revelation shocked me and I spent several moments studying each face.
“Who is she?” I pointed to a young woman.
Simon took a deep breath. “That’s Imee,” he almost whispered. “She started a dozen bible studies for women.”
“What happened?” I wasn’t sure if the question was appropriate.
“She went up into the mountains and never came back.” Simon was obviously struggling with deep emotions.
A car horn announced my ride back to the city was ready.
“Let me walk with you, brother.” Simon carried my bag to the front gate. “When Imee was murdered I just wanted to run home and forget the whole thing,” Simon explained. “But my predecessor gave me some good advice.”
“What was that?” I asked.
“He said it wasn’t about me. These people come here to learn how to serve God. If they die they die for Him, not me.”
I nodded in agreement. As I took my seat I wound down the window to ask one more question.
“How much does a pig cost, buddy?”
“About twelve dollars.”
“Good,” I said handing over a twenty dollar note. “Buy one for next month’s pot luck,” I laughed.
Simon accepted the gift.
“What do you want to call it,” he asked as my vehicle moved off.
“John the Baptist,” I called back.
Somehow the name seemed appropriate.
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