Finish the Race
Your head is down, but focused. You've trained hard and today is the day. You're dressed in your favorite running shorts and have your best running shoes laced up. The roar of the crowd becomes louder, but you take a deep breath to keep your focus. The roll of thunder grumbles in the background, but you know that not even a thunderstorm will hold you back today. You look down at the starting line and smile. That starting line may symbolize the start of the race, but you know that you didn't reach this line on your own. Your teachers, coaches, and pastors all played a crucial role to put you there. The whistle blows, you start running and in no time, you lift the baton up and you feel it hit the hand of your teammate.
Ministry to Philippines Spans More Than 40 Years
"Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)
For Missouri native Bill Barker, 1973 marked the beginning of his race. And along the way, God had strategically placed his teammates.
That year, Bill began attending Faith Baptist Church in Smithville, MO under the leadership of Pastor Dennis Ebert. A few years later, he moved to Springfield, MO to attend Baptist Bible College where he began attending Grace Bible Baptist Chruch where he met Eric and Gwinda Fors, leaders in the college ministry.
In 1978, the race continued as the Lord began to work in Bill's life when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at a local revival in Bonner Sprins, KS. That same year, Pastor Ebert and his family along with the Fors were commissioned and sent off as missionaries in the Philippines. With no previous knowledge of each other, the Fors were sent to the Western Visayas in central Philippines and the Eberts to Luzon (Manila area) in northern Philippines. Today, 45 years later, God is using His Word in the Philippines to continue the race.
Many years later in 2018, after volunteering at a local Bible assembly event in Richmond, MO, Bill was prompted to take a newly assembled Bible to his longtime friend and retired ministry leader Gwinda, living in Springfield, MO. At the time, Bill had no idea the Bible was printed in the Ilonggo language (a regional language spoken in the Philippines), the exact people that Gwinda and her late husband had ministered to more than 40 years ago.
Above: A typical Filipino Bible that is usually pieced together from many other Bibles alongside a Bible provided by From Our Hands to Their Hands.
From that point on, God continued to guide their journey and it was then that the non-profit organization, From Our Hands to Their Hands was formed. Gwinda and Bill began to pray that this ministry could reach more people in the Philippines by providing Bibles to remote parts of the Country.
In 2018, Bill, Gwinda, and her grandson, Mitch Fors, travelled to the Philippines for their first team trip. They brought Bibles, packed in their suitcases, and shared them with local rural and mountain churches and schools.
In 2019, the ministry with the help of Bearing Precious Seed (a scripture publishing company), Gospel Tract Society, and Country Meadows Baptist Church, filled a 20-foot container with Bibles, tracts, and John and Romans books, made possible through money raised from supporters and a local Walk-a-thon. The Bibles and other literature were distributed to pastors, lay people, schools and police in Northern and Southern Negros, an island in the Visayas.
In December 2019, Terry Ogle, a longtime friend of Bill's, joined him on his second trip to the Philippines where they shared discipleship with more than 500 fellow pastors. In conjunction with the Bible and Literature Ministry Foundation (BLMF), they were able to bring 4,000 Tagalog Bibles to Pastor Ebert in Manilla.
The discipleship lessons were later translated into three languages by local Filipino pastors and college professors. The Bibles were distributed by Sandy Diono, Roger Arisgado, Noel Espeso, and Joel Guanzaon (A.K.A. the "Fab Four") to local schools.
Above: A container truck that arrived in March 2021 carrying Bibles and other literature
While COVID-19 prevented additional Bibles from being assembled, God was still working within the ministry. A second container was shipped carrying 180,000 books of John & Romans, 7,000 Ilonggo Bibles, 4,000 Tagalog Bibles, 2,000 English Bibles and 1.8 million gospel tracts with the help of Bearing Precious Seed, BLMF and the Gospel Tract Society. The container arrived in the Philippines in March 2021.
Brother Sandy continued the journey of leading even more Filipinos to Christ when he led three delivery men to Christ when the literature was delivered. Sandy is one of the "Fab Four" who are currently in charge of the distribution of the Bibles and literature daily to schools, mountain churches, and the public. This container was possible thanks to the money raised from supporters and churches in the United States.
The team has been on the search for more efficient and economic ways to ship goods to the Philippines. One of the solutions was the Balikbayan Box, which is used by Filipinos living outside of the Philippines. Balikbayan, which in Tagalog means "returning to one's country" was invented so that Filipinos living in the United States could send gifts at a reduced price back to their home country, particularly in poorer areas. This year the ministry will be using these same boxes to ship Bible literature, song books, discipleship material and tracts at a reduced rate to the Philippines. As of December 2021, the ministry has sent 100 balikbayan boxes.
God continues to increase the number of legs in the race as the team continues to pray for its next steps. Please prayerfully consider what God would have you do regarding our ministry needs. We serve an amazing God and he continues to supply daily through our ministry, From Our Hands to Their Hands.