Philippines UBF: Richness in Poverty

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6:20).

Check out this 12 min video picture montage of my 6 week stay in Philippines UBF. It was made by Jes of Antipolo UBF.

Mini Revival. Many new students are coming to Antipolo UBF, a church plant of Philippines UBF initiated 3 years ago by Dr. John Talavera (a Professor of Anatomy and Physiology) and his wife Hannah. I led Bible studies at their fellowship meetings 6 times over 6 weeks. 40 to 50 students came each time (15 student leaders among them), many of whom are new Christians. Almost all are younger than 20. 75% are girls. When I was returning to Chicago, we had exuberant, extended farewells at their Fri fellowship, Sun dinner, and Mon fellowship that included saying good byes, handshakes, tons of pics, much laughter, individual hugs, and even all together collective bear hugs which I had never experienced before. This “goodbyes” happened 3 times.

I have never felt so loved and welcomed! Sam Altobar, William’s son, said it is not unusual for some Filipino Christians to almost worship their popular pastor or church leader. When I experienced this, I wondered about it. But their joy was genuine and pure. It came from their love for Jesus, and their appreciation for our many Bible studies together. So I praised God for their joy in Jesus and the Word.

Secret sins. At a Bible study I said that secret sins that we hide will kill us, because Satan wants us to keep our sins privately to ourselves. But if we confess and share them before God and fellow Christians, Satan loses the power to control us through our sin. 2 weeks later a girl approached me and asked, “Can I share with you my secret sins?” As she shared she cried and asked me to pray for her to stop sinning. She gave me a faith bracelet and nice card thanking me for teaching the Bible to her.

Dump the boy! I also shared that Christian girls should exclude dating any boy who has a bad temper, is lazy, watches porno, and who does not love Jesus more than her. I said, “Dump any such boy!” A girl cried because unbeknownst to me she had been dating. Perhaps, I was too harsh. But she thanked me in the video montage saying, “Thank you for being a blessing to us. I will make (your teachings) my guide, especially when choosing a right partner.” Quite a few others cried as they confessed their brokenness. As a result, I began to be teased as one who makes girls cry.

Richness in poverty. Every student I met is poor. Some stop school because they are unable to pay their tuition. Countless students suffer from dysfunctional families. One girl has not seen her father for 15 years, since he left for the U.S. when she was 4 years old. A boy was abandoned by both his father and mother. Countless others suffer because of alcoholism, adultery, violence and incest. Thus, when they share about their parents, they cannot contain their tears, and their sorrow is palpable. Yet, the grace of Jesus is also real to them. Jesus’ words ring true: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”

Pillars. Thank God for the pillars of Philippines UBF: William, Sarah, Timothy, Esther, Jonathan, Grace, John, Hannah, Susan, Arlene, Minda, Gemma, etc. I learn so much from them compared with the little that I teach them. Their poverty in Spirit (Mt 5:3) enriches my life beyond measure each year that I visit them.

Do you experience richness in poverty?


  1. The work of the Holy Spirit is amazing, Dr. Ben. Forgive me for my criticism. Please be careful in how others look up to you. Many lose focus of God because their focus was on the Pastor. Your teachings (as long as they are Christ-Centered), are ultimately God’s teaching. Therefore, they should look up to God as a guide, His light for their feet (Psalm 119:105).

  2. We will Miss you Dr.Ben, we learned a lot from you. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom to all of us here in Antipolo Ministry.. Many of us are encouraged by the words of God you shared every time we have a fellowship, come back as soon as possible Dr.Ben, hahaha…Godbless po… =]