Imagine that you are a pastor in Forest Park, minding your own business, when a pastor you know in the Philippines calls and asks you to drop everything and come to teach and speak there for two weeks.
Oh, and by the way, you have to pay for all of your own expenses plus what it will cost to house and feed a total of 400 pastors at two conferences.
Tony Davidson from the Chicagoland Christian Center (just north of the Middle School) received that call and responded with a “yes.”
Tall, trim and youthful in appearance, Pastor Tony, as he likes to be called, looks like an evangelist. Only his full head of white hair betrays the fact that this pastor/evangelist has been around the block a few times.
The person doing the inviting was Pastor Nelson Ayala, president of the Agape Filipino American fellowship and an old friend of Davidson’s.
Davidson helped put together a team”including himself, two missionaries, and two Filipinos and boarded a plane towards the end of January for a twelve day, three city tour of the Philippines.
The first stop was in a town called Roxas City where Davidson was the main speaker at a conference for 150 pastors. His objectives were to encourage the pastors, give them training in church growth and help them apply God’s Word to everyday life.
“You have to understand,” he explained, “that pastors in the Philippines make $40-50 a month. On that salary, they simply could not afford to come to a conference like we were offering. That’s why we had to pay for their food, transportation and lodging.”
The accommodations, of course were not five star. The pastors slept in triple-decker bunks, eighteen men to a room.
Davidson also spoke to over 500 students at a time in assemblies hosted by Fillmore College and High School. A team of Filipinos in their late teens and early twenties opened the gatherings by leading singing.
Then Davidson spoke to them.
“Most of these students were at least nominally Christian,” he said, “so I tried to speak into their lives, to call them to make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ. My part was to be the Word of God with them. Other pastors from the area did follow up training with them in smaller groups. Around 600 students got saved at these assemblies.”
The second stop on the tour was a Manila suburb named Takatae. There Davidson led a two day seminar with the same objectives: to encourage and teach.
About 250 pastors attended.
Bacold City was the third town that the team visited. A seminary classmate of Davidson’s has built up an evangelical church there that has 2,000 people in attendance on Sunday.
Pastor Tony led a morning prayer meeting in an upstairs room of a McDonald’s restaurant, with about 50 people, from 7 to 10 a.m.
At that church, in the evening, he spoke at a midweek service to around 60 people.
Pastor Tony’s relationship with Filipino Christians began in 1984 when he accompanied evangelist Micky Bonner on a tour there. He remembered being told by Bonner that he would be the main speaker at a gathering at 6 a.m. the next day.
Doubting that anyone would show up at such an early hour, he was amazed to walk onto the stage and look out at a sea of 1,500 faces.
In his talk he urged those who were not living right with God to come forward at the end of the service, and to his further amazement, 1,100 came up to the stage. His last trip to the island nation was in October of 2000.
Davidson’s church, the Chicagoland Christian Center, is actively involved in his Filipino connection. The congregation takes up an offering every month as a mission project and has an ongoing collection of books for the shelves of the eighteen libraries which have been dedicated so far as resources for Filipino pastors.
Pastor Tony receives as much as he gives whenever he visits the Philippines.
“Any time I leave the United States,” he said, “I realize how blessed we are in this country. We throw away more than they have. The average Filipino has no car and no hot water and lives in a shack. We need to learn to be thankful.
“Another thing that impresses me,” he said, “is the humbleness and openness of the people and their hunger for the deeper things of God. Many times we only look within our own box. Many people around us are hurting. Only giving them a smile brightens their day, and it doesn’t cost you anything.”