Why I am Going to the Philippines

In an earlier post, I explained the spiritual health and vibrancy of Philippines UBF as an indigenous ministry with humble godly servantship. When I last visited them in February 2011, God moved my heart to decide to move there in the future, initially by myself. I discussed this with my wife, with Dr. William and Sarah Altobar, the leaders of Philippines UBF, and I received their blessing to stay at the center in Manila. So I will be there for three months, from July 28 till Oct 25, 2011. This post is to ask for your prayer, and to suggest to you the possibility of prayerfully going out as a missionary according to God’s leading in your life.

How am I able to be away from my job for three months? By the grace of God, and by the grace of my wife, God has enabled me to be semi-retired. I have a medical practice in Chicago for a decade with 3 doctors working for me. My wife has managed the practice administratively. Recently, my son Paul began to work for us, and he has been a tremendous help in relieving my wife’s burden. In a sense, I worked myself out of a job, which is a good thing, I think.

How did I come to make such a decision? When I saw so many students come for Bible study to the two new church plants in Antipolo and the University of the East (both in Manila), God prompted my heart. The primary test would be my wife’s approval. I thought that if I asked her about staying in Manila for many months, she would say, “Are you crazy!” Instead, to my shock, she said, “I felt the same way as well.”

What would I do there? I told Dr. William that I would not take over the ministry or lead the ministry. He has done a far better job than I ever could. So, this is a sort of three-month sabbatical to read, study, pray, share life and fellowship, and to become a part of their vibrant ministry.

What about my ministry at West Loop? We have eight other godly families at West Loop UBF, including with Rhoel and Elena, who are all the practical stewards of the ministry. Since her inception in January 2008, my prayer was always for the ministry to run without me, for all the leaders are such pure hearted responsible people, who are far better than I. Likely, I am working myself out of a job here as well. Praise the Lord!

Why am I doing this? Partly, it is to visit my 94-year old mom in Malaysia more easily. It is a day’s flight from Chicago, but only a three and a half hour flight from Manila. Mainly, I have been reflecting on two verses for 2011. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil 2:12-13). This is my prayer and pursuit of my upward heavenly calling in Christ, and the working out of my salvation with fear and trembling.

What next? I don’t know. My fear is that I am going to be lonely, because I have never been separated from my wife for more than three weeks over the last 30 years of our insanely happy marriage.

Do pray for me. And come visit if you are able to. Brendan Daley and 3 kids of John and Maria Peace are presently there. You will live in relative poverty, but you will have a jolly good time!


  1. God be with you! Will you be giving a message at West Loop before you leave?

    • Thanks, Oscar. Actually, for the 1st time in my life, I will be giving 8 sermons on “Genesis from a Gospel perspective” in 8 consecutive weeks. I have done so for the last 6 weeks, with 2 more Sundays to go, before I leave. My sermons are based on Tim Keller’s Genesis sermons and they are blogged here: http://bentohwestloop.blogspot.com/

    • I didn’t know that! Aw, I wish I could have been there for the sermon on Isaac and Rebecca, guess why, hahaha. I might be able to catch your last one next week.

    • This Sun, July 17, I am still on Isaac and Rebekah, but not the romantic Genesis chap 24, but the nastiest Genesis chap 27, where everybody deceives everybody else: http://bentohwestloop.blogspot.com/2011/07/problem-of-blessing-gen-2718-34.html

      On my last Sun, I will speak on Genesis 28 on the stairway to heaven, which I am currently still working on.

    • Did you post the message on Gen 24 on the westloop website? I’d like to read it. Will you continue to comment on this website while you’re in the Phillipines?

    • I have not been covering every passage in Genesis, but I do hope to eventually. Genesis 24 probably requires a lot more thought, because I have applied it in ways in which the author never intended, such as “be a servant like Abraham’s servant,” and our favorite one in UBF: “marry by faith like Isaac and Rebekah.”

      Sorry to say, but though the above teachings are not unbiblical, it is not at all the intent of the author of Genesis, nor is it the correct exegesis of the Bible passage.

      Yes, Oscar, I will continue to comment in the Philippines, since we have good internet access in the UBF center where I will be staying.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Ben! I am really gald for you and your family. Skype might be a good way to keep in touch with people, if you can get a connection.

    And your explanations of West Loop Church are like living water to my soul. I really wish other directors and pastors would follow your example.

    • Thanks, Brian. I did what I did at West Loop primarily because I felt that our “middle tier leaders” (not new Bible students, and not the top leaders) seemed to be left out. It was just my feeble attempt to encourage our “middle leaders” to go ahead and grab the bull by the horns, which everyone has done so far better than I could have. A subsidiary reason is that I really didn’t want to hold the ball all by myself!

  3. Darren Gruett

    Thanks for the candid remarks regarding your job and ministry. Your humility and joy are inspirational. May God bless you on your trip.

    • Thanks Darren. After visiting Venezuela a few times, perhaps you could come by to Manila.

    • Darren Gruett

      It is interesting you should mention that, because I was just thinking about that the other day since I have never been to the Philippines. Perhaps in the next couple of years I will have the opportunity to do that.

  4. Jason Roth

    This sounds like God’s leading. You’ll surely be blessed. May God bless your time in the Philippines and also your family who stays in the U.S. Praying for you.

  5. Going to miss ya doc! Give em Heaven!

  6. I will be heading out from Chicago today. I was full of excitement a few months ago when I first made the decision to go for an extended period of time. But as the time drew closer, and now that it is a reality I have butterflies in my stomach.

    At best I have some uneasiness, discomfort and trepidation.

    At worst I am freaking out.

    I also feel a little sorry for my wife, since I will not be with her for 3 months for the first time in 30 years of marriage.

    But I am at peace with God and with myself. I am living by faith in His goodness and love.

    Thanks for your prayers and support.

  7. Since I have free Wifi at Nagoya airport, this is my travelogue. I’m a few hours flight away from Manila, arriving at 10:30 pm, July 29, their time, which is 9:30 am Fri Chicago time.

    I’m reading Turning Points by Mark Noll on the plane. Mother Barry gave me the book yesterday before I left. It about a dozen decisive moments in the history of Christianity. Truly God is great in accomplishing his plan and purpose to perfection, despite all of our screw ups!

  8. Hardly slept because of jet lag. Woke up at 6 am for Daily Bread on my first morning in Manila with 6 other brothers. Discussed Jesus’ crucifixion and death from Mark 15.

    1st rude awakening was that the 3 MP3 players that I brought with me in my checked in luggage was MISSING! It cost $70 each as a gift from West Loop UBF, and Rhoel loaded it with 26 Genesis sermons and 9 marriage sermons on Eph 5:21-32 by Tim Keller.

    Hopefully, whoever took the MP3 listens to the sermons and becomes a Christian.

  9. Ist day evening: We had a group Bible study with 24 people. I led a Bible study on how David’s “hesed” loving kindness for Mephibosheth mirror’s God’s unfathomable love for us in 1 Sam 9:1-13: http://bentohwestloop.blogspot.com/2011/07/surprising-love-1-samuel-91-13.html

    Lots of mosquito bites. They seem to prefer foreigners’ blood for whatever reason.

    • Dr. Ben, thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your assistant (leader) to last Saturday group Bible Study. Though my astigmatism killing me during the bible study, I was surprised on King David’s kindness toward his enemies. But I hope and I’m praying that I will learn to give more importance to Jesus Christ kindness. And thank God that you will stay with us for 3 months…:)

      By the way I’m at our province right now. Trying to find a way to materialize the brothers gift to Ate Arlene’s and S.Andrew’s wedding. Sorry that I didn’t told you that I’m leaving to province last Monday, because someone said to me that you are sleeping and I don’t want to bother you. I’ll be back this Friday. Thank You Dr. Ben and God Bless

  10. It’s 5:30 am, Sun morning, and I have been up all night, since it is 4:30 pm Chicago time. The first happy comical delightful moment: The mp3s were not stolen!

    When I spoke to my wife via internet, she rebuked me for forgetting that she had carefully tucked the mp3s into my socks, which she tucked into my dress shoes, which then she packed in my bag. So I found 2 of them, and am yet to find where she hid the 3rd one.

    Thank God for such a good helper!

  11. Awesome to hear your journey details, Ben! I’ve found those gremlins to be terrible thieves too!

  12. Nathan Turner

    Ben, it’s great to hear that you made it safely and didn’t actually lose your mp3s. :) I hope your trip is blessed, and I look forward to hearing more stories.

  13. Thanks Brian. Finally found all 3 mp3s hidden in my sock in my bag!

    2nd night of no sleep at all from jet lag.

    2nd morning daily bread with 11 brothers at 6 am.

    Gave the sermon on Gen 3:1-9 half awake. So sleepy from sleep deprevation that I could not concentrate or focus, and failed to make half the points that I wanted to! http://bentohwestloop.blogspot.com/2011/05/understanding-gospel-from-fall-genesis.html

  14. Ben, when you mean your wife rebuked you, do you mean that she “socked” it to ya?

  15. Slept for 2 hours plus last night from 11 pm to 2 am. What a great progress from no sleep the 1st 2 nights!

    Kyra, a nurse, couldn’t attend the morning worship service because of work. She came after work in the afternoon, but I was asleep. She waited until I woke up at 7 pm so that I could share the Sun sermon with her. When studying with her, it inspired me to write this post: http://bentohwestloop.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-jesus-said-scriptures-are-about.html

  16. dr. ben, get some of the brothers to help you stay awake during the day — watch a movie with them, play soccer, etc.. and then maybe jack can help you sleep at night.

  17. Our coworkers from U of C UBF arrived Wed (Joshua Hong, Renato and Joanne Zapata, Andrew) for the wedding on Sat between Andrew and Arlene.

    On Wed evening, I led a group Bible study with 27 people on the 3 chapters of Zephaniah. Though Zephaniah is regarded as a minor prophet, it contains a major message of the gospel: http://bentohwestloop.blogspot.com/2011/08/god-heart-of-love-zeph-11-320.html

  18. About 25 people participated at a Bible study at the University of the Philippines Manila (UPM), the top university in the Philippines. Andrew Jaegers, the bridegroom led a gracious Bible study. His bride Arlene Miranda has been serving at UPM for the last 5-6 years.

    The Bible study was held outdoors and ended when it had become dark. But after Bible study no one wanted to leave! Everyone just stayed to chat with joy and laughter. What an amazing work of grace among our Filipino brothers and sisters!

  19. On Sat we had a remarkably joyful and gracious wedding between Andrew of U of C UBF and Arlene of Philippines UBF. I gave the welcoming wedding address (Isa 52:5); Joshua Hong gave the wedding address (Rom 1:5), and William Altobar officiated the ring exchange and marriage vows.

    On Sun I gave a sermon on Gen 4:1-16 entitled “Sin, Grace and Salvation”: http://bentohwestloop.blogspot.com/2011/06/why-cain-killed-abel-genesis-41-16.html

  20. Hershey Hope D.R

    God is Amazing. Dr. Ben for showing His Purpose to your LIFE. we keep on praying for you.. And also to your Mission.. God bless