GMA Report 2015
Noel A. Espinosa
The school-year 2014-2015 closed with a lone graduate in the person of Ramen Caliwag, pastor of Scripture Alone Baptist Church in San Simon, Pampanga. While Pastor Ramen is a lone graduate, that does not make the school-year lean in harvest. On the contrary. Ramen came from the Bible Baptist affiliation, with all its reputation for excesses of views and haughtiness. HetestifiestothetransforminginfluenceofhisGMAstudiesonhislifeandministry. Hecounts,asthelastinginfluenceof GMA, “the pastoral applications in every lesson… reminding us that theology must result to Christlikeness.” Our singular graduate of 2015 represents the mandate of GMA – a man trained, “to preach the Word of God, and pastor the Church of Christ.”
After a brief ministry as an interim tutor – teaching the important Pauline letters of Corinthian correspondence and Romans – we bid farewell to Pastor Gilbert McAdam. He is scheduled to leave the Philippines for good to settle in a pastoral ministry in his native Scotland. He will leave a vacuum that we look to the Lord to fill with a good tutor. This need is intensified by theanticipatedretirement(forgood?)ofPastorEllisfromteachingtheHistoryCourse. Itisaretirementthathadtobe delayed due to exigency, but he intends to make good of it after this semester. His tutorship is irreplaceable. But it is requisite that we have someone to fill that vacancy. Pray that the Lord may touch the right men for the positions. Tutoring in GMA is never just about the substance of teaching; it is about diligence, scholarship, and character.
At the opening of the school-year 2015-2016, there were six new students who enrolled. One of those, Jun Medalla, is a deacon of our church. He had to go into semi-retirement from his job to handle the load of GMA. He has a supportive family. His wife and two children – twins! – are members of the church. Another member of our church, Ben Patrick Vispo is hoping to graduate in March. We anticipate eight students to graduate. This will be the most number of graduation in our history. Pray that each student graduating will represent a church in our community of Reformed Baptist churches. We have one fulfilled last January 16 when Erwin Cadalin (Batch 2010) was ordained as pastor of the newly covenanted church of Morong. We thank the Lord for this bountiful harvest!
During the first semester of 2015, we had a guest who sat in all our classes. David Birse is a member of the First Baptist Church of Leominster in Massachusetts, where Dr. Lars Larson is the pastor. At the end of the semester, David gave a gracious testimony of his experience of GMA. Excerpts of his testimony are printed in the GMA Progress Report of First Semester 2015. A very encouraging note are his words: Grace Ministerial Academy may well be the best kept global secret in all academia. The world naturally would not recognize its worth, being in darkness. Yet it’s a treasure, a diamond in the proverbial rough.
In the mercy of the Lord, I have enjoyed stable health in 2015. No hospital and no absence, like there was in 2014. Ironically, it was in 2015 and early this year that I saw a number of dear brethren and loved ones pass into eternity. This culminated in the demise of my father, which I learned five minutes after preaching in our afternoon service of Jan 10.
Amidst these difficult losses, a decision that has been hanging needed to be done. After almost a year of prayer and dialogue with Pastor Rodel Lasco of San Pablo, under the counsel of Pastor Brian Ellis, we have come to a growing conviction of a call for sacrifice on both of us and our churches for the sake of reformation cause. Last Sunday, Jan 17, we simultaneously read a joint statement to our churches. In summary, we intend to make the year 2016 a year of transition. When the transition runs its course, I will seek retirement from my church ministry to give myself full time to reformation work. Pastor Rodel, contingent on congregational consent, will seek the pastoral office of GBC. This announcement, Rodel reported to me, was met with a lot of objections in his church. In my church, because it has had more years of preparation, people know it was forthcoming. Still there was a sobering hush in the congregation broken only by sobbing and tears. Both Pastor Rodel and I are pledged to proceed to this only as we have the conscience and consent of our congregation. It goes without saying that this intention is forged in the furnace of agonizing reflection. Pastor Rodel and I, after more than three decades of ministry, are knit to our churches. It tears our souls. But we both agree that the interest of the kingdom Christ must be above personal interest and convenience.
As GMA approaches its 20th year of ministry with a lot of challenges, I look back with incredulous amazement that such a milestone could be reached. It would have been impossible without the consistent support of your eldership and membership. Your consistent corporate commitment to this noble task, without doubt, will cushion my own difficult transition. Let us together face the challenges of 2016 with Paul’s words to Timothy ringing in our ears, O Timothy, guard what was committed to your trust! (1 Timothy 6:20). May the Lord’s countenance shine upon our every step this year.
Your Servant in His cause, NAE