Dr. Rick Martin has served on the mission field for twenty-nine years. He is the founder and pastor of Iloilo Baptist Church in Iloilo City, located on the Island of Panai in the Philippines. The church was started in the downstairs garage of an apartment building, but quickly began to grow due to God’s hand of blessing. Today, the church is still reaching souls with the Gospel through soulwinning and discipleship and by ministering to over 5,000 souls on a weekly basis. In accordance with the Great Commission, Iloilo Baptist Church has sent out fifty missionaries, and Iloilo Baptist College has become a sending station for pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and Christian schoolteachers. Over 600 churches and sixteen Bible colleges have been started by graduates of Iloilo Baptist College and members of Iloilo Baptist Church.
It is evident that Rick Martin serves the Lord with great joy. His amiable spirit is contagious to all those who meet him. We sat down and interviewed Dr. Martin about the outpouring of blessings God has allowed him to experience for nearly three decades of ministry service.
Tell us about your family, how many children you have, and where they are today.
Dr. Martin: I have two children. Rachel is twenty and just finished her second year of Bible college. My son, Ricky, is twenty seven and is back in the Philippines as a missionary working with us in Iloilo City.
How did you first hear the Gospel and what led you to accept Christ as your Saviour?
Dr. Martin: I grew up in a good home. My dad was a pastor, but I wasn’t saved. After graduating from high school, I attended Bible college. However, it was not a Baptist institution. One evening someone invited me to a special meeting at a Baptist church in Joplin, Missouri. I went and listened to the preacher who spoke on the subject, “It’s Fun Being Saved.” I thought that was really unusual. I went back on Thursday night and that evening he spoke on how you could be sure you are going to Heaven when you die. That night, while all alone up in the balcony, I prayed and asked Christ to be my Saviour. I went back to the dorm that night and the Holy Spirit began to teach me the Bible. Saturday night I led my girlfriend to the Lord, but then the Lord told me she wasn’t the right person, so I broke up with her. I ended up leading several people to the Lord that first week. I met my wife two weeks later, and we started dating and were married in 1973.
How did God call you to be a missionary?
Dr. Martin: In March 1976, I attended pastors’ school in Hammond, Indiana, as a student at Hyles-Anderson College. The last thing I ever thought I would be was a missionary. One night, Bob Hughes, who was a missionary to the Philippines, came to the service. He was dying of cancer, and he had just been released from the hospital in Dallas, Texas. He spoke for about ten minutes that night, but when he had finished, I turned to my wife and said, “Becky, we’re going to the Philippines.” God called me to go at that time. She said, “Okay, that’s great.” A few months later I made a survey trip. We did deputation for one year and then went to the Philippines.
How did Iloilo Baptist Church get started?
Dr. Martin: We went to the Philippines in 1977 and a week or two later started a Bible study—a common way to start a church in the Philippines. It is a little different than a Bible study in the States. Basically, it’s soulwinning. Once someone is saved, you teach them the Bible. So, we started having a Bible study and that first night the people were very open. I thought we would have a hundred people there. We had the Bible study in our apartment and it wasn’t very big at all. We had all kinds of people promise they would come but only eight people showed up. It was a little disappointing. The first night I went across the street and led some teenagers to the Lord. One of the girl’s names was Cheryl Salinap. And she has been one of our most faithful members over all these years. I learned the lesson that if you are faithful when you are discouraged, you will see results.
Then, we had services at night for six months. We didn’t have morning services because I noticed that in the Philippines most of the churches have a very small attendance at night compared to the morning services. I really wanted to emphasize the night services so we started at night. The first morning service we had was in April of 1978, and we had a little over three hundred people. Then it went down to about two hundred, but that is how we started.
What would you tell someone who was contemplating the call of God, perhaps even going to the mission field?
Dr. Martin: I would encourage them to go to their pastor and ask him his advice. Make sure it is confirmed like in Acts 13. The call of Paul and Barnabas was confirmed by the leaders of the church.
As a missionary, do you feel that you have made any sacrifices compared to someone who lives in America?
Dr. Martin: Not for me. I have never considered it a job. There are difficult times. For some wives, I would consider it sacrificial for them to give up their homes and go overseas. The man is going because that is his calling, but for a woman it is difficult comparatively.
What are some of your goals as a missionary?
Dr. Martin: As a missionary our main purpose is to start churches through training people. We have several foreign missionaries out of our church now in Africa and Haiti. A number of our own men have started their own Bible colleges in the Philippines. We are on a large island with about 2,800 villages. Our goal some day is to have a church in every village. The people are very receptive, but many of our fellows have night institutes for married people because it is hard for married people to go away to school. Many of our graduates, about 250 of them, have their own institutes in which they train three or four men each. It has been a very effective way of starting churches.
Looking back over your years in the ministry, what are some of the things you might change or do differently?
Dr. Martin: I really don’t know. The Lord was very good to let me have the same ministry in the early years as I have now. I make personal mistakes…thousands of them (laughs)…you wouldn’t have enough room in your paper to print all of them. But as far as actual goals, I don’t really have anything I would change about our ministry. There are a lot of personal regrets…things you say and things you do…but our strategy has worked. We are seeing people saved. I would never want to change anything that would hinder that.
Do you have any form of discipleship in your church and if so, how does it work?
Dr. Martin: On Friday nights we have a meeting at 6:30 with Pastor Johnny Lay, who leads our discipleship program. He has a lesson for all of our workers from 6:30 to 7:00. Then, from 7:00-7:30 we divide up into discipleship groups by division. We have thirty-two adult divisions in our church. It is really more like our Sunday school follow-up, the way it is organized. They are responsible for all of the converts who come into their division. Then at 7:30, we divide up by Sunday school classes. At 7:00 I meet with all of the pastors’ kids. We have over eighty pastors’ kids in our Bible school. One of my ministries, outside of starting churches, is training our own staff kids and pastors’ kids in our Bible school. It is one of my burdens.
How have you seen preaching affect peoples’ lives, just in your ministry?
Dr. Martin: I used to think I would preach a sermon and then everyone would change. It’s not like that. I don’t usually know when God has done something through the preaching. I usually find out about it later. I just try to be faithful. I have always done my best in preparing to preach.
I understand recently you had a trial, some of your facilities burned. Could you tell us a little about what happened and how God is using this tragedy?
Dr. Martin: We had a fire one night during church toward the end of my sermon. It was funny because the people started yelling, and I thought there was some fight in the street next to the church. They kept yelling and then people started leaving. I started saying, “Don’t leave, don’t leave!” Then I found out it was a fire, and I was still trying to get them to go slowly until I was the only one left in the church. It was a Friday night and it was very frightening. But it was an amazing night. I saw all the best come out of our people. About four of our pastors lost their homes. We lost a dormitory that housed forty-six students. We had twenty-one houses that burned down and three businesses. Later that night past midnight, I was talking with two of our pastors who had lost their homes and they insisted that we do something for the neighbors first. They are very poor people. So, we started doing that. I wouldn’t want to have another fire, but it’s been a blessing. There were over seventy firemen at the scene and two of the firemen were injured. One was Ernesto. Another was Romel, who broke his arm in two places while fighting the fire. He was standing on a roof right next to our church and broke his arm but kept fighting the fire. Finally, he was exhausted and had to come down. Then he ran to the other side and starting fighting the fire. So, we honored him in our church a couple weeks after the fire and that night he got saved.
How do you find yourself responding to trials like that?
Dr. Martin: Sometimes I respond better than others. The Lord always has something good in the bad that happens, though we don’t always see it. You wonder why God would take someone like Brother Mark Lawrence home to Heaven (a pastor in Oregon and a friend of Lancaster Baptist Church who died recently). One of our pastors was in a coma for five years before he died. His wife, who is one of the best workers in our church, is still serving God. His death taught our people about God’s grace. His wife serves God now more than when her husband was alive. So, there have been many things that have happened like that. We don’t want them to happen, but when they do we know the Lord has a reason.
You have a lot of people who go to the Philippines on missions trips. Tell us a little about how you host them and what the schedule includes.
Dr. Martin: It depends on who comes. Sometimes we have pastors who visit. It also depends on what time of the year they come. If they come during the school year, we are able to get into the public schools and that is really a joy. In the Philippines, the constitution states that any religious group can go into any school and teach their religion on a voluntary basis. If you have a good relationship with the principal, it makes it pretty easy for you. People really like it when they come to visit. We sent a group from Lancaster Baptist Church two years ago on the “Every Home Every Village” campaign, where they covered one village in one day. They really enjoyed that. There are many ministries: the ministry to the lepers, street children’s ministry, Bible classes for poor children and many others. We send them out to our graduates’ churches, way out in the sticks sometimes. I try to find out what the pastors really like…how much danger they will accept (laughs).
There are a lot of young people in youth groups who have never been on a missions trip. Why would you encourage young people to visit the mission field?
Dr. Martin: I would encourage them because it is an investment in their futures. I think a young person who would go to any country, especially a third world country, with an open mind—God will do something that will change his outlook on life. I have seen it happen many times. God calls some of them to the mission field. I have seen how it has changed them and their churches. Later, we hear about the good things that are happening in their churches. Americans have so much and though that is not necessarily wrong, it helps to see people who live completely different—who have less privileges. That is such a great part of going on a missionary trip.
What are some blessings you have seen as a result of staying faithful in your ministry?
Dr. Martin: I have been able to see my children serve God. That has to be right at the top. My wife, I have a great wife. You have to have a lot of grace to live in a different country all of your adult life. I love to see people get saved. I love living in a country where people are so open. I really thank God that he sent me to the Philippines. As a Christian you want to see fruit and I really have to admire those who go to countries where they are not seeing a lot of fruit, because it is very difficult.
To pastors who may be on the verge of quitting—what would you say to encourage them?
Dr. Martin: It helps to have a sense of humor. More than that, walking with the Lord. Every spiritual problem I have had goes back to a relationship with the Lord. Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” This teaches that we will have perfect peace if we keep our eyes on God. I have been discouraged before, but it was only when I didn’t keep my eyes on Him.
What do you feel is your primary roll as a missionary?
Dr. Martin: I like 2 Timothy 2:2 where it says “… commit thou to faithful men.” I believe that is my roll as far as ministry—to train men who will train other men to start churches. I really have a burden to start churches. All of our men have caught that vision. They have a burden to start churches. They have a great desire to see our island have churches everywhere. That is exciting. I never thought I would see that happen.
How has being a missionary affected your family?
Dr. Martin: One advantage we had was my kids were born in the Philippines. Sometimes teenagers feel bitter about being taken away from what they had. But my children were born on the mission field. For my son, Iloilo City is home and for my daughter it is as well. They grew up loving our church. My son loves it in the Philippines and for his wife, it is an adjustment for her, but she’s an angel. He has a great wife.
It depends on when the kids go. If they are young children, normally they adapt. A lot of it also depends on the parents. If the parents have negative attitudes about the ministry and always complaining, the kids won’t want to go back and be missionaries. I have known several who don’t want anything to do with being a missionary because their parents were overly negative about the work of God. You can’t hide all of the problems from your children, but they need to see you have fun.
Our kids got involved in the different ministries. My son would go with me to the fishing port and go soulwinning. My daughter worked with my wife. My wife has worked with a neighborhood next to our church ever since we got there, reaching children. Now many of the children who are grown are still coming to church and my wife is still working in that ministry and it’s doing very well. During the summer, Rachel helps her with that ministry. They have been very active, and we have a lot to do in our place. We have lots of activities including sports, music, and many others. One time my daughter went to the states for her heart check-up. I asked her if she wanted to stay longer and she said, “No, there’s nothing to do here, Daddy.”
What has been your experience with Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast Baptist College?
Dr. Martin: I like the attitude of the young people who come to visit us on their mission trips. They might be there for a week or two, but they always have a good attitude and want to serve. They always want to go out soulwinning, and that is very impressive, because not all young people have hearts to serve the Lord. But the ones you have sent to our place have been great. Hopefully, we will have a lot of missionaries come to the Philippines and go to other countries because of this school. I am very encouraged with the emphasis on missions at West Coast Baptist College. You have Dr. Sisk here, and of course, he’s a long time friend. I am also excited about having two of your graduates like Clark Graham and his wife Rachel coming to the mission field to help us…you’re sending some of your best people to the mission field.
I love Pastor Chappell. I believe in what he is doing. We have someone in our ministry who prays every day for him. They could be students, staff members, or members of our church. Years ago when I met him, I really believed in him. The first time we met, he came to our city on a Thursday and we spent the whole day together. I really liked his spirit. I know in a church, where God’s hand is moving in such an evident way, that Satan attacks harder in various forms. I just have a burden that God would protect him and bless him. He has tremendous insight. Dr. Chappell grew up on the mission field in Korea and that gave him a heart for missions—I think more so than the average pastor.