We serve a God of miracles

Words cannot begin to express how much we appreciate your prayers over the past two and a half weeks. My apologies for taking so long to get back to you with an update on Howard’s condition, but life is just now approaching “normal”. On Monday, April 25, the staff at the County Hospital in Timisoara did the CAT scan on Howard’s neck and back. The radiologist did not come in until Tuesday to view the test results and consult with the doctors on his case. They told Howard that he had 5 broken vertebrae in his neck and back, they were out of alignment, and surgery would be required to correct the problem. They said he could have the surgery there in Romania or could fly back to America on a regular commercial flight, as long as it was Business Class or First Class so he could recline, but he needed the surgery as soon as possible. Any delay could lead to paralysis or even death until his neck was stabilized. Howard chose to return to America so they released him from the hospital on condition that he return to America for surgery. It was Holy Week in Romania which follows the Orthodox calendar. Howard preached Thursday night, Friday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night May 1 without pain.

As soon as he was done preaching, the pain returned and he had to lay back down to rest. Tuesday, May 3 was a 28 hour day for me from the time the alarm went off at 5 AM in Timisoara, Romania until my head finally hit my pillow at 1 AM (CDT) at home in Omaha. (By then it was already 9 AM on Wed in Timisoara.) Our return tickets on Lufthansa were worthless because their official doctor decided it was impossible for Howard to sit upright for take offs and landings, so instead of upgrading him to Business Class as we requested, they said he would not be allowed on board unless carried on a stretcher & attended by a private nurse – at our expense, of course! Instead we bought new tickets with KLM / Delta Airlines with money God had provided just 24 hours earlier and they treated us like royalty! Because it was right after the Orthodox Easter celebration in Romania, the flights were filled with Romanians and others returning to western Europe and/or America so Business Class and First Class were booked solid but God gave Howard the grace to sit up for the entire journey in spite of the pain. By the time we reached Detroit, we were beyond exhausted, yet your prayers sustained us and got us home safely when our flesh couldn’t handle it any more. Even when our flight from Detroit to Omaha was delayed 4 hours because of mechanical problems, the people at Delta bent over backwards to make the trip home as smooth as possible.

We spent most of the next day Wednesday at the ER at Immanuel Hospital in Omaha. They ran an MRI, 2 CAT scans, and X-rays on Howard. They confirmed he had broken vertebrae in his neck & upper back, just as the hospital in Timisoara told us. But sometime between the tests in Timisoara and the tests in Omaha 8 days later, God put the broken bones into perfect alignment and NO SURGERY is required! Howard didn’t even need to be admitted to the hospital! The doctor in ER told Howard he was the luckiest man alive, but Howard set the record straight by declaring “luck” had nothing to do with it! It was God answering the prayers of His people! Thank you for being a part of this miracle through your prayers!!!!

Then last Friday we went to a follow up appointment with a spine surgeon at the Nebraska Spine & Pain Center. He showed us some of the test results. It turned out that Howard had 7 broken vertibrae, including 2 compression fractures further down his back that the other CAT scan had missed. One of the bones in his neck was actually broken in two places! Yet all the bones were in perfect alignment and there was no evidence of damage to any nerves or ligaments! Again the doctor confirmed that no surgery was required. After looking at the test results, he was amazed that Howard had walked into the facility and was sitting there talking to him. He called Howard “the most fortunate man he knew”. Again Howard had the opportunity to share about God’s ability to heal in answer to prayer. They gave Howard a new cervical collar, padded this time, and told him that he would have to wear it for about 3 months. We have a return appointment in two more weeks to check on his progress. Thank you for your continued prayers as a rear guard. The enemy is angry and he keeps trying to attack anyone and everyone around us but in Christ we are more than conquerors. Please continue to lift that umbrella of protection over us, our family and friends, our church and our pastor (all of whom have been targets). God is getting ready to do something awesome and victory is just ahead! Be blessed!

GOD LOVES YOU!!!
Rev. Howard & Barbara Gard
Church Triumphant
www.churchtriumphant.com
hgard@juno.com

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Urgent Prayer Request

Howard is in need of urgent prayer.  We are currently in Romania which is 8
hours ahead of Central time & 10 hours ahead Pacific time.  Here it is
late Saturday afternoon.  This morning, Howard walked out on the terrace
here at the church where we are staying.  He leaned over the railing to
watch a cat down below.  He was leaning on the flower box, not the
railing.  The flower box gave way and he fell head first on the ground, a
distance of about 5 feet.  He thought he hurt is upper back because he
was in intense pain.  He was able to get up off the ground by himself, to
walk around, to climb the stairs, without a problem.  I called a friend
here who is a nurse and told her what happened.  She called the
paramedics who came and took him to the county hospital which is nearby.
They took some x rays and found that he broke 3 vertebrae in his neck and
1 in his upper back – cervical #5,6,7 and 1 in the thorax (probably #8
but I don’t know for sure).  They admitted him and, when the rest of the
staff returns on Monday, they will do an MRI.  Then they will know if
they have to do surgery or can just put him in a cast to stabilize his
neck.  It is only God’s hand of protection that he is not already
paralyzed and that great danger still exists until his neck can be
stabilized.  We are praying and asking God for a miracle.  Just by
“coincidence” the American ambassador is here in Timisoara tonight in
case we need his help.  Please pray with us that God will give us a
miracle and he will be completely healed.  Thank you in advance for your
prayers.  Blessings!
GOD LOVES YOU!!!
Rev. Howard & Barbara Gard

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Special Praise Report & Prayer Request

Dear Prayer Warriors;
God has blessed us with an unexpected opportunity. We received a totally unexpected invitation to return to Romania this spring for a brief visit. It is an opportunity to renew old friendships but, more than that, an opportunity to minister to and bless Logos Church in Timisoara where we ministered for the six years we lived in that beautiful city. We strongly believe that God is sending us back to bless and encourage them and to strengthen them in the Word of God for the days ahead. They are believing God for a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit, bringing the lost and lonely back to Him. We praise God for being a small part of what He is preparing to do and has already begun in their midst. We will be flying out to Timisoara on April 12, with layovers in Houston and Munich, arriving on April 13, and returning on May 3, by way of Munich and Chicago. The entire trip, including airfare, will cost about $3,000. Anything you can give toward this missions trip will be greatly appreciated. Most of all, we ask for your prayers for the journey, for good connections, for divine appointments, and for God’s hand of protection on us and our belongings during the entire time we are gone. As you are well aware, Europe is not the safest place for Americans to be traveling right now, but there is no place on earth safer than being in the center of God’s will. Thank you in advance for your prayers.
GOD LOVES YOU!!!
Rev. Howard & Barbara Gard
Church Triumphant
PO Box 111576
Omaha, NE 68111
www.churchtriumphant.com
hgard@juno.com

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2013-2015 Newsletter

“WHEN YOU PASS THROUGH THE WATERS, I WILL BE WITH YOU…WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH THE FIRE, YOU SHALL NOT BE BURNED” ISA. 43:2

 

These last 2 ½ years, the ministry of Church Triumphant has been through the fire and through the flood but we have found God’s promises are true and He is truly faithful at all times and in all circumstances. We give Him all the glory.

When God blessed us with the opportunity to return to the Philippines in April, 2012, we had no idea how critical that visit would prove to be. God was sending us there to strengthen and solidify the foundation of the work there because He knew what lay ahead.  We were able to establish and install new leadership with a clear vision of what God was calling the ministry in the Philippines to accomplish.

DISASTER

On December 4, 2012, Mindanao was hit by Super Typhoon Bopha (called Pablo in the Philippines). This massive storm (equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane) was 331 miles across when it struck southern Mindanao with wind speeds of 175 mph, traveling across the region where most of our churches are located.  It dropped three times the normal rainfall for December in a matter of hours.  701,224 families were affected in 40 cities and 34 provinces.  167,295 homes were damaged or destroyed.  1,100 people lost their lives.  $603 million of property damage was verified and $410 million worth of crops were destroyed.

So many homes were destroyed in the villages

So many homes were destroyed in the villages

Floods and high winds destroyed everything that grew above ground.

Floods and high winds destroyed everything that grew above ground.

Every church we had in southern Mindanao was either damaged or destroyed. The entire suburb where our headquarters church is located had to be evacuated because of flooding.  The water was knee high in their homes.  It was February, 2013, before the electricity could be restored.  Most of our church families, including our pastors, in the villages lost everything.  Some were injured but not one of our church people lost their lives!

One of our destroyed churches.

One of our destroyed churches.

This was once a church roof.

This was once a church roof.

Even in great physical loss, God was with His people, sparing their lives and giving them hope in the midst of hopeless situations. Where the church walls were still standing even though the roof was gone, the people gathered there to worship the Lord.  Where the churches were totally destroyed, the villagers met in the empty field to sing their songs of praise and thanksgiving to God for sparing their lives.  Those who were among the 250,000 in evacuation centers found a place to gather daily for prayer and worship.  They had lost everything but their faith in Jesus Christ and He sustained them.  More than that, He gave them a burden to share their faith with others around them.

We responded to the emergency by using the internet to post prayer requests and updates, but we could not justify the expense of sending out a newsletter even to ask for help when money was desperately needed for food, safe drinking water, and shelter for so many of our people. God supplied through you, our faithful donors, and the needs were met and the rebuilding began.

During 2013, we were able to repair or replace our churches across Mindanao. Not only were we able to replace the roof of the church in Melale where the Bible School met, but we were able to add electricity.  That enabled us to train two groups simultaneously – young people during the day and married people in the evening after they came home from their fields or their jobs, enabling them to care for the needs of their families while also preparing for ministry and church planting in obedience to God’s call.

ANOTHER DISASTER

Just as things seemed to be returning to normal, the Visayas and northern Mindanao were hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) on November 7, 2013, devastating most of the center of the nation. It was the deadliest typhoon in modern Philippine history, killing at least 6,300 people.  Sustained winds were measured at up to 196 mph, making it the strongest typhoon recorded at landfall when it came ashore on Samar Island in the Visayas. The damage was catastrophic on the islands of Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Capiz, Negros, and northern Iloilo, affecting about 11 million people altogether and causing $2.052 billion in damage across the Philippines, including northern and central Mindanao.  The city of Tacloban on Leyte was effectively destroyed by a 17 ft. storm surge.

By the grace of God, northern Mindanao was spared the worst of the high winds and storm surge but the damage was extensive. Our churches in northern Mindanao that had escaped damage a year earlier were heavily damaged or destroyed.  Many of our churches in central Mindanao who were just recovering from damage caused by Super Typhoon Pablo were again damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Yet even in the midst of these challenges, God’s hand of protection was evident. About three months before Yolanda hit, the coconut plantation that owned the land on which the coastal village of Tubay was located decided they wanted to extend their plantation all the way to the sea.  The entire village, including our church on the beach that God had spared when the massive earthquake and tsunamis hit Indonesia several years ago, was forced to move several miles inland.  When Super Typhoon Yolanda hit just north of there, the resulting storm surge that hit northern Mindanao was not nearly as bad as what hit Leyte but the area where Tubay had been was totally demolished!  Because of God’s protection, the only loss was some freshly planted coconut trees but all the people were safe further inland.

Again we used all our resources to send emergency help to sustain our people who had lost everything and to help them repair their damaged homes and churches. Again, God provided through you, our faithful givers, and again the churches were repaired or rebuilt.  But it has not stopped there.  God used the massive destruction to awaken in our people a greater hunger to walk with God and a greater burden for the lost.  More students than ever are preparing for ministry.  A new Bible school has been added in Agusan in north central Mindanao.  New churches are being planted faster than we can build them.  The harvest truly is plentiful and the number of laborers continues to grow.  Even now, we have a list of 14 new congregations who do not yet have buildings.  God is indeed reaping a great harvest of souls across Mindanao.

WHAT ABOUT AMERICA?

If we look at America with our natural eyes, it would be so easy to become discouraged. Disastrous conditions seem to be everywhere.  Whether it is massive flooding across the South from Texas and Oklahoma all the way to South Carolina or raging wildfires that have brought devastation across California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, from bitter cold winters to oppressive heat and droughts so severe that lakes are drying up and communities risk losing their water supply, natural disasters are everywhere!

Beyond that, people have struggled in their personal lives. Joblessness, sickness, loss of loved ones, violence, hatred, lawlessness, divisiveness, blatant immorality, financial instability, the list seems to go on forever.  Where can we turn for answers?  The same God who brought victory out of the chaos on Mindanao is the same God who wants to walk with you through the midst of whatever storm you may be going through.  It doesn’t matter what that storm is.  It may be literal, emotional, financial, physical, or spiritual.  God has not changed.  He will walk with you through every storm and He will speak peace into your spirit.

If you look at America through the eyes of the spirit, you will see that God is doing exactly what He promised He would do. Everything that can be shaken is being shaken so that what remains is unshakable.  God is getting this nation ready for a great harvest of souls.  Even those who don’t know Him are sensing that something is about to happen and they are looking for something to hold onto as everything around them is falling apart.

You have the answer they are looking for! Be looking up and lifting up your head but also be looking around to see the harvest field that is all around you.  God is looking for ordinary people who love Him that He can use to reach this lost and dying world before it is eternally too late.  Let Him use you, just as He used ordinary Believers to reach lost souls on Mindanao.  There are only two qualifications.  You must love God and have a personal relationship with Him and you must be willing to let Him love people through you.

The Holiday season is quickly approaching. As you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, please pray and ask the Lord what He would have you do to help advance the Kingdom of God on Mindanao as we continue to train workers to plant churches and help build church buildings in villages that are hearing the Good News of salvation for the very first time.  For many, this will be the first time they have reason to celebrate Thanksgiving and to worship the Savior who gave His life to restore them to a covenant relationship with the Creator God who has become their Heavenly Father.  Thank you in advance for making a difference in their lives that will count for eternity!

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Special Prayer Request

We would like to ask you to join us in prayer for a very special need. Our Romanian Director’s daughter Bianca who is currently living in America with her husband and three young children needs our prayers. She has been having health problems for a while but the doctors have just now found the cause. Recent tests show that she has a brain tumor and will need to have surgery. Jesus is still the Great Physician! Please pray with us for God to touch Bianca with His healing power and restore her to complete wholeness for His honor and glory. She is a gifted musician who loves God with all her heart. Pray for her husband and family as well that God will wrap His loving arms around them and strengthen them during this difficult time. Thank you in advance for your prayers. Blessings!
GOD LOVES YOU!!!
Rev. Howard & Barbara Gard
Church Triumphant
www.churchtriumphant.com
hgard@juno.com

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Prayer Update

A family stands outside what is left of their home.

We want to thank you so very much for your prayers for this ministry and for the people of Mindanao as they recover from the devastation of Typhoon Bopha. The final numbers are in and they give a fuller picture of the extent of the tragedy. 701,224 families were affected in 40 cities and 34 provinces. 167,295 homes were damaged or destroyed. More than 1,100 people lost their lives. $603 million of property damage was documented and $410 million worth of crops were destroyed.

Floods and high winds destroyed everything that grew above ground.

 

Pastor Albert was finally able to send us photos of some of the damage to our churches and the homes and farms of our people. These photos give a picture of what happened.

Pastor Albert's home was flooded along with most of the suburb of Uraya

So many homes were destroyed in the villages

 

Seeing all the destruction would make you think the people are disheartened, discouraged, and perhaps blaming God for their loss. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are praising God for His goodness and faithfulness. They are rejoicing in His hand of protection.

Even well built churches could not stand against the hurricane force winds of a typhoon.

 

They are rebuilding their homes and starting over. They continue to gather together to worship the Lord whether or not the church still has a roof.

This church has lost its roof like so many of our village churches.

Where the church is completely destroyed, they meet in the field where the church used to be to praise Jehovah Jireh who will never leave them or forsake them. We have been able to rebuild the church in Pupoyohan that was totally destroyed and a new church has been planted in the village of Datu Ampunan. The Believers are more determined than ever to reach those who have yet to hear the message of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ who is a Shelter even in the time of storm.

This was once a church roof.

 

Thank you so much for your prayers that have sustained them and lifted them up to the throne of grace.

We would like to ask you to join us in also praying for a very different kind of need. God has burdened our heart to share His message of hope and encouragement across America but our van is worn out to the point that it is no longer a reliable means of transportation. Because we have poured everything we have into the ministry on Mindanao at this critical time, we have no funds with which to purchase a better vehicle for ourselves. Please join us in prayer that God will provide this need so we can continue to bless the Body of Christ in America and bring His Word of Life to His people who are hurting in this hour. Thank you again for your faithfulness in prayer. May God bless you abundantly.
GOD LOVES YOU!!!
Rev. Howard & Barbara Gard
Church Triumphant
www.churchtriumphant.com
hgard@juno.com

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Prayer Update

Please continue to pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ on Mindanao in the wake of Typhoon Bopha which struck 10 days ago. The latest count has 540 confirmed dead, 900 still missing, and 400,000 evacuated because their homes have been damaged, destroyed, or flooded. 17 of our churches are confirmed damaged or destroyed along with the homes of the pastors and members. Communications are still down in many remote areas. Below is the latest report from Pastor Albert Asang, our national Director. As you can see, the situation is still desperate.

We really need your help right now. Perhaps your church could take up a special Christmas offering to meet the needs of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ who have been left with nothing. Please continue to lift them in prayer. Blessings!
GOD LOVES YOU!!!
Rev. Howard & Barbara Gard
Church Triumphant
www.churchtriumphant.com
hgard@juno.com

Dear Sir and Ma’am,

I’m sorry for the delayed of my report cause last monday i was in Sua-on. I got sick ! I bring a little help of our pastor in Sua-on and the rest of the money we use to buy food for our pastors in my home and the picture that I told you that I send right now I cannot send it due to our computer that has no electricity until now in our house. And I cannot use the disk to internet cafe cause the disk is already phase out. And the other pastors is still in my house until now . Even I’m so weak but I have to go to internet cafe to send some reports about what happened to us and our pastors. Maybe 4 to 6 months period of recovery for their livelihood that was damaged by the typhoon. It’s look like a desert now in the mountain that is green before and many of people are asking help from us. especially food and medicine for those who are sick and to repair their house in our churches that was totally collapsed by the typhoon. May the Lord provide this great needs and some people told us that the electricity will be connected again on February 2013 . Thank you Sir and Ma’am for your kind and consideration for us and for our churches that was victim of the typhoon. May God bless you more !

In his service,
Albert Asang

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Urgent Prayer Request

Please be praying for our Brothers and Sisters on Mindanao who have been hit by a devastating Typhoon which came ashore before dawn on Tuesday, December 4 and swept across the unprotected island which has historically been missed by typhoons that have always hit farther north in Luzon. Only one other Typhoon of this size has hit so close to the equater in all of recorded history. The typhoon was 331 miles across. By the grace of God the winds dropped to sustained speeds of 110 mph before it hit. The path of the typhoon took it across the region where most of our churches are located. The storm dropped three times the rain they normally receive in the entire month of December in just a few hours. The death toll is at 418 and rising with another 400+ still missing as entire villages have been washed away. 250,000 have had to be evacuated because their homes are damaged, destroyed, or underwater. We were finally able to make contact with Pastor Albert Asang, our Philippines Director. He and his family are safe but they have had to be evacuated because the entire village is flooded. The water is knee high in their homes. They have been without electricity for a week. He has only been able to make contact with three of our churches – in Sua-on, in Salvacion, and in Kipalili.

Our church in Sua-on was also destroyed

 

Our church/Bible school in Salvacion was destroyed

All three churches have been damaged or completely destroyed along with the pastors’ homes. We have heard on the news that 44 villagers were killed in Andap where another of our churches is located when an evacuation center was destroyed by a landslide. Our people on Mindanao are in desperate need of food, safe drinking water, shelter, and money to rebuild their homes and their churches.

This pastor's home in Kipalili was destroyed and the church was badly damaged

Please pray for them in this hour of great trial. Pray that rescuers can reach the rest of the villages that are cut off because of landslides and heavy flooding. Praise God for His hand of protection and provision. Pray that Pastor Albert can quickly make contact with the rest of our churches and get an accurate picture of the extent of the damages. Pray for wisdom and finances that we will know best how to meet the needs in the most efficient way. Pray that in the midst of this great tragedy Jesus Christ will be glorified and thousands of souls will come to salvation because of it. Thank you so much for your prayers. We serve a great God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we can ask or think when we put our trust and our confidence in Him.
Blessings!
Howard & Barbara Gard
Church Triumphant

This is our church in Andap where 44 villagers were killed in a landslide caused by the typhoon

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Praise, Prayer, and Opportunity

These are times of great sorrow and great hope for the ministry on Mindanao. We have great sorrow because Pastor Jekel Sangelia from Rosario, one of our Board members that we taught back in April, lost his wife to lupus on Sunday, November 11 and Pastor Oscar Guimbal, a former Board member that we trained in 2001-2 who has headed up our agricultural training program, lost his father on November 9. We rejoice that they are with the Lord but mourn with those who mourn their loss. Please join with us in lifting them up in prayer.

Pastor Jekel (right) and Pastor Oscar (left)

We have great hope as the Bible school students diligently prepare for graduation as the waiting list for the next sessions continue to grow. A new church has been planted in Upper Ampawid with the help of the students who are also helping with the pastoral responsibilities. We have already had the ground breaking and the building is under construction even now. There is such hunger for God among the mountain tribal people and we look forward to more churches being planted as the students complete their studies and launch out into ministry.

Bible school class

We praise God for a great opportunity that He has placed before us and ask that you join us in prayer that we may take advantage. As you know we have been praying for God to provide a truck to help the ministry on Mindanao become self supporting. In faith the tribal people have been planting their crops and the harvest has come in but we need a truck to transport the extra to the lowlands so it can be sold in the marketplace. We have looked at several trucks in the hopes of finding one we can buy. God has opened such an opportunity for us. The owner wants to sell us the truck but was asking $3,500 as down payment, a sum we did not have.

We need this truck for ministry

Now God has softened his heart. He will sell us the truck for the same price ($6,000) but at a payment of $1,000 a month for 6 months and we can use the truck as soon as we come up with the initial payment of $1,000 by December 1. Please pray that God will speak to His person/people to commit to $1,000 a month (or portion thereof) for 6 months above and beyond their current giving. Please let us know if you want to be a part of God’s miracle provision for His people on Mindanao. The truck will provide transportation for ministry teams to go up the mountain for evangelistic outreach and for produce from the tribal farms to come down the mountain to provide income to the people so their tithes can help the ministry there to become self supporting. Please join us in prayer that God will provide for this pressing need and ask Him if He wants you to be a part of the answer. Be sure to designate your gift “for the truck”. We thank you in advance for your prayers. May God bless you abundantly in this season of harvest and Happy Thanksgiving!
Howard & Barbara Gard

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Winter / Spring 2012 Newsletter

Winter/Spring 2012

“I WILL PRAISE YOU, O LORD, WITH MY WHOLE HEART; I WILL TELL OF ALL YOUR MARVELOUS WORKS” Ps. 9:1

With all the problems and challenges that we are confronted with in this world, it is easy to get discouraged and feel like giving up. When you look to people for answers, you will always be disappointed. But when you look up and seek the face of God, it puts everything back into perspective. Jesus said it best in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Marvelous Works in West Africa

In our last newsletter, we shared about the door of opportunity God had opened for us in Africa in November and December, 2011. Our original plans included Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and Kenya but nothing seemed to be coming together as it should. As we prayed, we felt a check in our spirits that God was directing us to go to West Africa but that He was closing the door to Kenya. As soon as we emailed the Brother in Kenya that we would not be able to come at that time, everything else fell into place and we were able to save $1,000 on airline tickets alone.

We want to thank you so much for your prayers and your faithful gifts that made our trip there possible. God moved in marvelous ways in supplying our needs, guiding our footsteps, and protecting us from danger. Our visas cost far more than we had anticipated but God supplied the need and our passports with the necessary visas were returned to us the day before we were scheduled to fly from Omaha, Nebraska to Lome, Togo by way of Newark and Brussels.

During our two weeks in West Africa, we had opportunity to minister at 3 Bible school graduations, 3 ordinations, and 3 pastors’ conferences – 1 each in Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. These 3 countries are much in need of our prayers. There is a legacy of great darkness in this region, the home of both voodoo and the slave trade, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of hope and of light. It was very revealing as we visited a slavery museum in the ancient city/kingdom of Badagry on the coast of Nigeria where it borders Benin. The guide kept asking “Would you rather be a slave trader or a slave?” as if those were the only options. Do you want to be an oppressor or among the oppressed? Thank God! Jesus came to set the captive free. Both the oppressor and the oppressed can now become a new creation in Christ Jesus! Badagry was a major slave port but it was also where the Gospel was first preached in Nigeria.

The Believers in West Africa were so encouraged to know that not all Americans have fallen for a perverted “prosperity gospel” that exalts material prosperity and spiritual compromise as “proof” of God’s favor and ridicules those who stand for inward holiness and Biblical integrity even when it means personal sacrifice. That perverted theology has robbed much of the Church in West Africa of their missionary zeal to reach the lost. It was a joy to be able to encourage those who are still standing for Biblical faith and personal commitment to righteousness and a burden for souls. God’s people everywhere are hungry for those who will preach God’s Word without compromise or sugar coating. The Believers we met are sick of having their ears “tickled” while they see greed and corruption on every side.

Yes, we saw tremendous poverty and blatant corruption but we also saw humble Believers who were lost in worship, children who were pouring out their hearts to Jesus in unashamed adoration, and young people gathering for all night sessions of intercessory prayer, determined to see the Church restored to the power they read about in the book of Acts. They are willing to pay whatever price it takes to see the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the oppressed set free. Please join with us in lifting these committed Christians in your prayers. Pray especially for Sarah and Augustine Onu, our hosts on this journey, that God will perfect the transforming work that He is doing in and through them. Please also pray for Pastor Mathieu Hounkpe, Director of the IAM Bible School in Togo, whose wife recently went home to be with the Lord.

Howard ordaining Pastor Mathieu in his village church in Benin

We thought we had enough money to cover our expenses once we arrived in Africa, but we ran out of funds half way through as we were preparing to cross the border into Nigeria. We cried out to God to meet the need because we were cut off from the outside world – not even the internet! We had been telling people that God was their Source and not America or Europe. God wanted to confirm that word and He did. The last service we had was an ordination service in the small church Augustine and Sarah Onu pastor in Nigeria on Sunday afternoon, December 4. During the service, the presence and anointing of God was there in such a powerful way. After the service as we were enjoying the celebration feast, Pastor Augustine walked up to us with the most amazed look on his face. With tears in his eyes, he shared that the offering from Sunday morning combined with the offering taken at the ordination service was enough to cover all our expenses in Nigeria with a little left over! God truly is the God of more than enough!! Thank you for being a part of this miracle through your prayers.

Marvelous Works on Mindanao

We were overwhelmed by the goodness of God when He opened a door that had been closed to us for 6 years and made it possible for us to return to Mindanao just in time to celebrate Resurrection Sunday and the 11th anniversary of the ministry there. Those 6 years had been a time of great challenge as the enemy tried to do everything he could to destroy the work. At times it looked like he would succeed but Jesus gave us a promise when He said, “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18). The ministry on Mindanao has been through the fire but it has come out stronger and purer than ever.

The breakthrough came after those who were involved in the ministry for financial advantage or to build their own kingdoms became discouraged and left. Those who were trusting in America or Australia to meet their needs left to join other ministries who seemed to have more resources. The few who were left stopped trying to accomplish anything through their own efforts and admitted to themselves that “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Ps 127:1). So on February 27, the leaders and pastors set aside 3 days to gather for fasting and prayer, repenting for trying to serve God through their own efforts and trusting in their own abilities instead of submitting to Him and trusting only in Him to supply their needs. God met with them in a marvelous way. There was repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and a renewed determination to serve God, no matter what. Then on March 12-14, all the people gathered for a Holy Spirit Conference. Just as the leaders had humbled themselves and been restored, the people came under conviction of their failure to serve God from a pure heart. Many back sliders returned to the Lord. Many who had been resistant to the Gospel repented and were born again. It was a time of great rejoicing and refreshing from being in the presence of God Almighty.

The powers of darkness were defeated by the light of God’s glory. Two days later we received a phone call from a pastor in Colorado saying that God had given him a burden to pray for us and for the ministry on Mindanao. We told him about how God was moving and mentioned the upcoming anniversary celebration. He told us we needed to be there and that his church would pay for the airline tickets and cover all the expenses for the conference. What joy swept through the Believers on Mindanao when we called and asked if they could postpone the anniversary celebration until after Easter so we would have time to get airline tickets because we were coming to be a part of what God was doing in their midst!

To say that God did a marvelous work among them would be an understatement. This trip to Mindanao was the most anointed time we had ever experienced. When the Believers on Mindanao fully surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, everything came together in God’s perfect will and timing. We arrived in the Philippines on Good Friday and preached our first message on Resurrection Sunday as we watched God resurrect the ministry of Church Triumphant on Mindanao before our eyes. The sweet presence of the Holy Spirit filled that little church in Uraya, a suburb of Tagum City in southern Mindanao as the people sang about the Risen Lord.

The following day began the 11th anniversary celebration and pastors’ conference with the theme of “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness”. The presence of God was there in every service. The young people were enthusiastic as they worshipped the Lord from the depths of their hearts. Broken hearts were mended. Hope was restored. Bodies were healed. Bondages were broken. The oppressed were set free.

The last day of the conference we had a business meeting with the pastors that was unlike any we had ever attended. We began by officially installing Pastor Albert Asang as the new Director of the ministry there. We had asked him to take over the leadership in 2009 after we had to remove his brother Allan Asang because he was misusing ministry resources and being deceptive in his communication with us. Pastor Albert had been in charge of the Bible schools and church planting and had shown himself faithful and had kept the ministry alive at great personal sacrifice. Then we watched as the pastors chose a new governing Board to replace the previous Board who had not fulfilled their responsibilities but had left Albert to carry on almost single handedly because they were too busy building their own “kingdoms” to bother with holding the ministry to the tribal people together. It was the most unique election we had ever experienced. As a person was nominated, a wave of approving comments swept through the group. This happened not once but all four times for the four positions on the board under Albert’s able leadership. Every nomination was greeted with unanimous approval!

All of the new board members are young men in their 30’s and 40’s who are pastoring village churches and have shown natural leadership ability and a commitment to pay any price to serve the Lord. They are men of vision with a good dose of common sense and not afraid of hard work. The first thing they did after being voted in was to ask Pastor Albert if he would persuade us to teach them the Bible school curriculum as none of them had been given the opportunity for formal Bible training. They loved God’s Word and had been studying on their own but wanted to learn all they could from us while we were there.

So we spent our last week there in Uraya teaching the IAM Basic Bible Course to 8 eager students – the new Board members, Joralyn whose husband Jamjem was a new Board member, Jonathan who was Pastor Albert’s associate pastor in Uraya, Elmer a youth leader in Uraya, and Leonido a village pastor from central Mindanao who struggled to read and write English but who was determined to learn all he could about the Bible. They were such hard workers and so hungry for God’s Word that we were able to teach them 6 weeks worth of classes in 4 ½ days! The more we spent time with them, the more we were impressed with the depth of their love for Jesus Christ, the integrity of their character, and the quality of their questions. They were there to learn so they could better serve their Lord.

After all the pastors and leaders had left to return home, we were surprised Saturday morning when Allan Asang, our disgraced former Director, showed up at Albert’s house where we were staying after avoiding us the entire time we were there. It was the first time Albert and Allan had spoken face to face in five years. Allan would call from time to time but only to ask for money. Over breakfast we lovingly confronted Allan about his failures in the ministry and how he had opened a door to deception by believing a lie from a false prophet who told him that he would find buried treasure and become a millionaire. When he tried to blame his problems on his wife, we brought it back to him and his responsibility before God to be the spiritual head of his family.

As we spoke, the presence of God filled that tiny house. Allan broke down into tears of genuine repentance and humility. He asked Albert to forgive him for the first time in his life. He asked us to forgive him for nearly destroying the ministry. He cried out to God to have mercy on him. God did a marvelous work of deliverance in Allan’s life and restored him to the family of God. It was such a time of sweet fellowship as repentance, forgiveness, and spiritual healing flowed. Allan understands that he will never again be in a place of leadership but we believe that God is in the process of restoring him to a place of ministry as the gifted evangelist he once was to the tribal people. He knows that his first priority is to renew and strengthen his personal relationship with God. It is our hope and prayer that God will restore his marriage and family that have been completely destroyed but that will depend in part on his wife Ruby who also is in great need of repentance and deliverance. Please remember them in your prayers.

Our last full day on Mindanao was Sunday and we were scheduled to speak at Jamjem and Joralyn’s church in the village of Kipalili. But there was a problem. It had rained Saturday night and the road was impassible to the van that was going to take us there. There was only one solution. Jamjem came down the mountain by motorcycle and we headed off through the mud to Kipalili – Howard riding behind Pastor Albert on the motorcycle we had bought for him with your help and Barbara riding behind Pastor Jamjem.

The 30 miles by highway weren’t so bad but the 20 miles of dirt roads through the banana plantation, between the rice fields, and up into the mountains were a real challenge. Often the path between mud filled ruts was only large enough for a motorcycle wheel. There were times we weren’t sure we could make it through but, praise God, we did. The welcome we received from the Believers in Kipalili made it worth every heart stopping minute. Proudly they showed us their church with the block walls and cement floor they had built to replace the original wooden church with dirt floors we had built when the Gospel first came to Kipalili in 2001. Again the sweet presence of the Lord was there to minister to needs as the Word was preached.

After the service, we enjoyed a time of fellowship and a delicious meal before heading down the mountain for the fellowship dinner in the Uraya church to end our time on Mindanao. We had barely reached the outskirts of Kipalili on our way down the mountain when it began to sprinkle. Then it rained! Then it poured!! The only thing scarier than riding up a mountain through the mud on the back of a motorcycle, is riding down the mountain through the mud and the pouring rain on the back of a motorcycle when you are soaked clear through to the skin and can hardly see the road (or what’s left of it) in front of you. O the joys of missionary life. J

Marvelous Works Through You

You may not ever go to the Philippines or West Africa but God is using you to transform lives there every day. When you pray and you give to make it possible for us to go as your representatives and as ambassadors for Jesus Christ, you share in all the blessings and all the rewards. We would like to close with a note that was addressed to us but really it was written to you as well for we could not have gone if you had not sent us and we could not be effective if you had not prayed for us.

“We thank God for sending angels like you to minister life in our lives. We were broken. God mended us. We were sick, weak, and weary. God healed and strengthened us. We were sad. God laughed with us. We were rejected. God embraced us. We were down. God lifted us up in prayer and teaching of His Word through tears of life. And He did it through you.”

GOD LOVES YOU!!!
Rev. Howard & Barbara Gard
Church Triumphant
www.churchtriumphant.com
hgard@juno.com

Walking to church in Uraya

 

Sunday morning worship in Uraya

Our Bible School students

Ready to ride to Kipalili

This is actually a better part in the road to Kipalili where we ministered in this church

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