For Saints in the Burgos Philippines Stake, planting seeds of the gospel is like planting rice—it has become part of their daily lives.
The towns of Burgos, San Pedro, Roxas, Aurora, Caliguian, and Tabuk are situated in an endless expanse of green approximately 260 miles (420 km) north of Manila, and farming is the center of economic activity. These areas make up the Burgos Philippines Stake, organized in May 2001 from a district that had quadrupled its membership in three years. Seven wards and eight branches now form the stake, and growth continues to be tremendous in this part of the Lord’s vineyard.
Much of that growth stems from the early example of Burgos stake president Rogelio Sumaoang Martin. Brother Martin remembers when he and his family were the first and only members in Burgos. They had to attend church in the town of Roxas, 7 miles (12 km) away. Sometimes they did not have enough money for bus fare. Brother Martin promised the Lord that if He would provide him with just enough money to get him and his family to the Sunday meetings and leadership trainings, he would stay active.
So between harvests, Brother Martin caught birds to sell and gave manual services to other farms, from which he earned enough for the fare. There were also times when he borrowed a bicycle after leadership meetings that lasted until the last bus had left. This valiant brother sometimes pedaled the 12 kilometers home in the pitch black of night.
When missionaries started visiting him in Burgos, Brother Martin thought that if he brought his neighbors to church they could eventually have a meetinghouse of their own and his family need not go to faraway Roxas. He started referring his relatives and friends to the missionaries with a sense of urgency. At the first meeting in the town’s own little meetinghouse, 97 people were in attendance—only 30 of whom were members. The rest were interested in learning more about the gospel.
Brother Martin caught the vision. And so did others. As farmers, they understand the principle of thrusting in their sickle with all their might, thereby reaping what they sow. They take to heart the scripture that says, “The field is white already to harvest” (D&C 4:4) as they go about their daily tasks—weaving missionary work into the fabric of community life, as though planting and harvesting grain from their farmlands. One could look at the vast farmlands in which the Burgos Saints toil and expect an abundant harvest. One also sees a parallel in their work for the greatest harvest of all—the harvest of souls.
Also as farmers, they do not spend each day of the year on the farm. Their busiest months are during preparation of the soil for new planting. “We feel blessed that we have more time to do the Lord’s work,” says Remegio G. Cariaga, bishop of the Burgos First Ward, echoing sentiments of other Saints in the area.
“We may not have the luxuries that some urban employees enjoy, but we are not tied down to a clock,” President Martin says. “After planting, we have time to do the Lord’s work. That is our work.”
Many afternoons are spent in meetinghouses or in a nipa hut where members share a harvest of boiled lagkitan (native sweet corn), crisp turnips, or a bowl of dried watermelon seeds while discussing how they can help even more in the growth of the Church.
The leaders encourage their congregation to help in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man by sharing the gospel plan (see Moses 1:39). And today the Saints in Burgos, Philippines, continue to share the gospel with those around them. Others may wonder where they get the courage and confidence to boldly share the message of the gospel. To these Saints it is simply because they are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.