What if you went to church this Sunday, and after hearing the song leader announce the first number, turned to that page in your songbook only to find yourself looking at words written in Spanish? What if, then, you and the congregation (who don’t know Spanish well…or in some cases, at all) went on to sing not only that song, but several others in Spanish? What if the only songbook you had to sing from was in Spanish?
What impact would that have on your worship? Would it be edifying? Instructive? Would you be “singing with the understanding,” as Paul taught? (1 Corinthians 14:15).
This scenario is actually reality for thousands of our Filipino brethren. Over the years, well-meaning Americans have made English hymnals (e.g. Sacred Selections) available to the churches in the Philippines, and the Filipinos, unable to do any better, accepted the gift and made the best use of it they could. But the consequences have not been good. Singing in an unknown (or too little known) tongue, brethren have been making melody with their mouths, but not always with their hearts. They have been singing without the understanding. Consider the following information shared with me by our brother Roger Wanasen when asked about this:
“In a remote churches they don’t understand English at all.”
“Some brethren can read English word but they don’t understand the meaning of the word.”
“For example, “Toiling on” in the Ilokano language means ‘can’t hear.’”
“In the Visayan language, when they sing the word ‘Christ was crucified’ their understanding is ‘Christ committed suicide’….”
“…and many more. Those are only few example….”
And some understand the word with right meaning, but they don´t understand the message of the song.”
“There is some occasion that when I brought songbooks in their local dialect. I can see the joy of their singing because they understood what they are singing for.”
It would be wonderful if we could help them always understand what they are singing.
At my request, Brother Roger has supplied the following information concerning present hymnal needs among Filipino congregations. Three different language groups are in need of songbooks, at this time, and in the following numbers: (1) Visayan: 1000 books; (2) Ilokano: 1000 books; (3) Tagalog: 500 books (this is lower in priority, however).
Songbooks in these languages are already available for use if the funds were available to purchase them. The books are hardback, published in the Philippines, vary in length (Visayan- 224 songs, Ilokano- 312 songs, Tagolog- 583 songs), and are less expensive than the songbooks we use here in America. After doing some research, the best prices I found for new copies of our most common hymnals were: Sacred Selections ($12.50); Special Sacred Selections ($14.25); Songs of Faith and Praise ($12.49). These prices included any discounts for purchasing in large quantities. By contrast, the prices for Filipino hymnals are:
Visayan: $3/book (per 1,000)
Ilokano: $3/book (per 1,000)
Tagalog: $12/book (per 500) (larger book)
At these prices, if all 2,500 songbooks were purchased, the total cost would be $12,000. Excluding the lower-priority Tagalog hymnals, the cost would be $6,000. A great deal of money, either way, admittedly. So large a sum, in fact, that I was tempted to not follow through with my plan for writing this article. But would it not be money well spent, brethren? Either amount is far less than we put toward paving our parking lots, and it would be for something of far greater value in the eyes of God.
So although it feels a bit awkward to do so, I am writing to ask if members of the Lord’s body would be willing to help fund the purchase of some or all of these songbooks. Perhaps, we who have two or three different hymnals in our native tongue to choose from on any given Sunday could help our Filipino brethren have one.
Brother Joshua Riggins has agreed to help with this endeavor. As many of you know, Joshua is a banker by profession (as Paul was a tentmaker), and has for some time, now, been facilitating the distribution of donated funds to our brethren in the Philippines. Through his work (overseen by the elders of the Bloomfield, Indiana congregation), and that of his predecessor, Charles Biery, a time-tested means for secure, accountable, and trustworthy transmission of funds is already in place. For this effort, there seems no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Any individual or congregation who would like to help make it possible for our brethren in the Philippines to sing with the understanding can do so by sending contributions to:
church of Christ- Philippines P. O. Box 342 Bloomfield, IN 47424
Please specify on the check, or by accompanying letter, that the funds are intended for Filipino songbooks, so that Joshua can make certain they are used exclusively for that purpose. If/when sufficient funds have been collected for the most-needed songbooks—the 2,000 Visayan and Ilokano hymnals ($6,000)—I will make an announcement in The Gospel Message and via social media. Should enough be donated to also enable the purchase of the 500 additional Tagalog books ($6,000), I will announce that, as well. I will also gladly communicate privately with any individual or congregation who requests it. All of this, of course, if God permits. Additionally, Joshua and/or his elders can be contacted directly for information.
God has given us so much material wealth in this country. No nation in the history of the world has ever seen the like. Perhaps we can use some of it to help our Filipino brothers and sisters who give us such a good example in spiritual things.
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
“And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).