Philippines, Asia

PHI02 - ECPM - Personal Support of Elvin T Buenviaje: Partnership Reports

Other Reports Available:

Print friendly version

Back to Partnership

Report Date: April 4, 2017

Report from BHW Philippines Partnership Facilitator


I visited the Philippines at the end of March 2017. While there I visited a church planting team currently being supported near to Brookes Point on Palawan Island and also spent time with the ECPM team in Manila. This report covers all the Philippines partnerships. 

interim leaderThe most significant event in the recent past of ECPM is the death of the leader, Elvin Buenviaje. Since that time the Board has appointed Marwin Villanueva as the interim leader of the work. He is only part-time, one day a week, as he is a businessman and not able to be full-time. The BHW Executive decided that, as we had been supporting Elvin, we would continue to support his family at a reducing amount to finish towards the end of 2017. In talking with the team they feel this is appropriate. 

ECPM is gaining some traction in terms of acceptance by churches. In the last couple of years, the number of churches that want to partner with ECPM has increased. There are at least six wanting to start but they only have the capacity for five teams plus the two campus teams. They have to say no or wait. 

They have begun mission awareness and mobilization trips in conjunction with a Christian camp. They have taken some groups already but see that this will increase in the future. 


Recent Events

PHI01 - Rudi and Flor Ortiz

Rudi and Flor are still working away but are starting to reduce their involvement. They are in their 70's now so that is to be expected. They still mentor teams and people, oversee the camp and the Ranao Ranao church which has ongoing strong connections to ECPM. 

In talking with the ECPM team we agreed that BHW would reduce their support over the next couple of years. They are very thankful for the support they receive. The ECPM team will be out there in a few weeks and will explain this to them and their family. 

Two of their children are working so they have the capacity and the responsibility to care for their parents now.  

PHI02 - Elvin's family

doing okThe BHW Executive agreed to continue funding Ichie and the family for some months at a reduced rate. The team at ECPM think this is fair. Their eldest daughter is now working at Philippines Airlines so there is some other income and Ichie is still teaching at secondary school.

The second child would like to go to a marine college to train as a ship engineer. The youngest is somewhat challenged socially and intellectually and is a concern to them all. The team takes the monthly funds to them personally so they get to spend time with the family. The family is getting good emotional support both as a family and each of them individually. 

Ichie finds it very difficult to talk about Elvin and also to touch any of his stuff. They are meant to move to a different house but she cannot bring herself to sort through it all, she becomes very emotional when she thinks about it or people like me who knew Elvin come and visit.  

PHI03 - Compassionate Fund

In discussions with the team we decided that this would be stopped. It is now not enough to be able to help much. They do use it from time to time mainly for medicines but it is not enough to deal with anything medical. The business that BHW funded is generating funds and they would use some of that if there was a need. 

PHI04 - Ella Santos 

great coupleIn many ways, Ella is the brains of this team. Without her they would be in trouble. The other people are great, but she has the theological foundation, the ability to develop training materials and resources and the personality for effective delivery. She is also a very nice person and people like her. She was married in late 2016 and has not been well. She had an ectopic pregnancy which required urgent surgery. Because she was not within the last stages of pregnancy and was rushed to the Emergency Department, it was treated as a surgical case, not an obstetric one so her insurance would not help. They have therefore racked up a bill of PHP160,000 (US$3,100). This is putting some pressure on them as they still have quite a lot to pay off. 

Her husband Ephraim is a very nice guy. He is very supportive, a nurse but he works in a call centre dealing with health insurance. He also is involved with ECPM as a volunteer. Ella and Vic and a group of volunteers (Board members and other people they know and trust) deliver the teaching modules but Ella is the main person and has been for a long time since Elvin has not been active. 

PHI05 - Church Planting Team

long way from anywhereWhile there I visited the Tula Tula church plant. The village is in the hills behind Brookes Point. There are no roads into the village, it’s a 30–40 minute walk from the end of the nearest road. Some of the people live another hour or more walk up into the hills. 

It is a dangerous area. Leftist rebels pass through the area periodically to recruit people. Recently they were in the area threatening people but they were told to get lost and these families were now Christians. 

The team of four came into this area less than two years ago and about 45 have been baptised in that time. There is a lot of momentum underway and Julius (Jojo), the key guy, is passionate about continuing to push this as a movement right through the hill area here.

While in the village we heard many stories of life change from various families. Most of the men were out working so it was mainly the women who gathered. The biggest issue they have to face is the animist belief in spirits and the medicine they use. However, there was a lot of confusion in the village previously. Arguing, fighting and family issues. Since people have become Christians a lot of peace has come into families and villages. They told their stories with great joy and laughter. They have seen many people healed since leaving their medicines behind. 

church planting teamJojo and Gemma (photo) come here at least once a week to visit and Bing lives in the village. Life is very hard in the hills and they have to work every day growing upland rice and vegetables to survive. There is no chance of being lazy here. A family requires almost 100 kg of rice a month to live.

This team will graduate in August this year but the work will continue and spread further into the hills. Jojo is the key to this, more than Sam even. He is passionate about going further, reaching more villages. ECPM is considering if they will do another team in this area. If Jojo is able to keep his vision going, quite a lot could develop around him and he would be a potential partner in the future. 

I was able to dig a little deeper into how the teams operate and how the support works. Part of the dynamics of Elvin’s influence was that he kept things close to himself and could not, or did not, explain things as clearly as was required. However they are much better at this now. 

villagersThe BHW church planting team support goes to the support of one couple in the team and the cost of administration of the team. Administration means: 1) some office admin, 2) travel to the location to deliver the modules – 4 times a year, 3) one retreat a year for the team and 4) one extra pastoral visit if required. I was under the impression that BHW fully supported a team, but it is only partial support. Valuable, but partial. So, in the Talu Talu team, we support Jojo and Gemma and the delivery of the programme. The other two team members have their own supporters through ECPM. 

The full support of a team ranges between US$4,500 to US$6,000 depending on the number of team members and the marital status of the personnel. 

PHI07 - Campus Ministry

This continues to be an important part of the ECPM ministry. They are working in two areas presently, one in Bicol near to where Rudy and Flor live. The other is in Palawan. At the moment the key person is shifting from Aborlan to Puerto Princesa so it is on hold for a few months until this has been finalised. The programme for the campus ministry is three years instead of two in the church planting. There are extra modules for the students based around particular student issues and some extra skills training. 

The local churches are responsible to house and feed the team when they come and the budget covers the materials and travel for the team to present the modules. They get key people together from different churches. In Bicol there are six and in Palawan four. They train and mentor them and then those people go to their different campuses and start Christian groups. They see a lot of on-flow from this and connection between the campus ministry and church planting. For example, in Ranao Ranao, students from the campus were invited to come to church and became Christians. The church then sent them out as church planters and four new fellowships have started as an indirect result of the campus ministry. Mentoring becomes a large part of this ministry while in training and after the programme has been completed. 

We heard a nice little story about the impact of the campus ministry. Jimmy was one of the young people converted while at university. The team that was being mentored in Aborlan introduced him to Christ. He continued his study and became a school teacher. He has been appointed one of three school teachers in Tula Tula where this team is working. The team see this as a real provision from God. 

PHI10a - Personal Support Vic Enriquez 

nice guyVic is a very nice guy and an ideal person to be doing the delivery of programmes. He is an elder in the local Tay Tay brethren church. His wife is very much involved with him though home takes up her time. They have been very disappointed this last year as their eldest daughter got pregnant to someone from the youth group and she was eight months pregnant before she even told them. She is still a school girl and attended church and youth group. This upset Vic, put a great deal of stress on the family and caused him to doubt his role in ECPM. He was stood down from leadership in the church and very embarrassed. However, he has worked very hard, with help, to spend more time with his family and lead in a much more relational, friendly kind of way. His daughter gave birth to a daughter who is now seven months old and who is the apple of Vic’s eye. Family relationships are now better than they have ever been. However, it has also placed other pressures on him as his wife now looks after the baby while the daughter has gone back to school. 

The reality is that the food cart did not kick back into business after the earlier setback. It has been sold and the funds put into the general fund of ECPM. Elvin decreed that Vic should be supported from the general income of ECPM. This fund is from money they receive as donations or from any extra they make on exchange rates etc. However, there are many issues around this now. 

i) They give Vic PHP950/month (US$180). This is nowhere near enough for a family man to live on in the city and he has no other income. A school teacher gets around US$400/month. We have been giving Ella US$250/month as a single woman. 

ii) The work load has increased with Elvin dying, the work growing and Ella not being well. 

iii) Funding him out of general funds is causing ECPM a great deal of financial stress. They have used up their small reserves and the last three months they have made a loss. This cannot continue and they realise it. 

The Income Generating Activity (see next point) is functioning but not to full capacity, one day it will and it is developing, so they have not been able to contribute much yet into the general fund. 

I propose we should pick up funding Vic at the same rate as we fund Ella (US$250/month). This is important for both Vic and the organisation. Three years ago, when I last visited, I wouldn't have thought this was a good idea as I was not that impressed with the general feel, the amount of energy and even the number of opportunities they had. But it is very different now and with the possibility that Ella will start a family, Vic will become an increasingly important person in terms of programme delivery. 

This should be reviewed in two years to see what has developed in terms of income from the business and the other circumstances, Ella’s status and availability etc. Of course, if she stops working with ECPM then our funding would drop. 

PHI11 - Business Income Generating Activity

Marwin is still developing this. With the funds sent he purchased eight printers, put them into a company and generated an income of around PHP15,000 per month for ECPM. At the moment, all that money is still sitting in an account apart from a small amount put into ECPM. The contract with the company finished in December 2016 and they did not renew it. He has another printer in another business and with the contract and selling consumables gets in around PHP3,000/month. 

He is developing another opportunity which should kick in soon, it has commenced but will grow and the current fund will be used to start that with new printers. This is a larger company and he expects once it’s functioning that some funds will be available. He wants to protect the original capital amount in case this sort of thing happens again. I think he is doing it wisely and at some stage in the future this will begin to generate profit. They want that money to go towards funding another team. 

The second hand printers have little or no value so he gave them to some of their key people, Board members and volunteer trainers who are full-time workers. They were very grateful to get them and use them for ministry.  


Partnership's Influence within the Community

villagersThis is hard to estimate as I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to other people outside the Christian community, in fact I only met Christians.

Pastor Sam leads a group of churches called Christian Gospel Churches. They broke away from the main brethren church in Brookes Point and have established a number of churches around the district. They are one group ECPM is partnering with in this area of Palawan. Sam is a really nice, humble guy with a deep passion for the good news. 

His wife’s father was the mayor of Brookes Point for many years through the Marcos era. After his death, she was asked to stand for mayor and after two failed attempts, became the mayor for nine years. She now works for the Governor of Palawan heading up the Social Services Department. She lives in Puerto Princesa during the week and comes back at weekends. 

He is very complimentary about ECPM, their methods and people. The team that BHW has been sponsoring in Tula Tula is part of this group of churches. He hopes that ECPM will continue with another team as they want to continue expanding into the hill area. 


villagersIdeas for the Future

It is three years since I last visited here. I think this is now a vital, vibrant ministry. It is fragile in terms of personnel but it is grappling with church planting principles in a much more sustainable way. 

I suggest I revisit here in two years rather than wait for three like last time. 


Current Issues and Challenges

General funds which are being compromised through lack of support for Vic.


Prayer and Praise Points

1) The success of the current church planting teams
2) The increase in the number of churches that want to engage with them as a result of the impact they are observing
3) The need for more resources, especially for Vic
4) Ongoing prayer for Ichie and family, the wife of the late Elvin
5) For Ella as she continues to recuperate



doing well as a teamAs I have said in other places, I think the team has found it’s niche and is functioning well. It is emerging into a post Elvin era that has many opportunities. The influence from church planting movements is obvious and the model of church they are promoting is much more sustainable. 

I would suggest that we strategically increase support by adopting the suggestions I have made in the report. 

It is obvious that if Ella gets pregnant this will place extra burdens on the team. I encouraged them to be looking for other people who could come into the team without disturbing the good thing that it is.