written by Revs. Betty & Karen Cedergren
Of the three Founders, Revs. John, Betty and Karen Cedergren, Rev. Karen Cedergren was the first one to go to the Philippines. In the summer of 1978 at the age of 17, Rev. Karen went to the Philippines as cultural exchange student for three months. Without realizing at that time where it would all lead, Rev. Karen's trip to the Philippines as a 17 year-old began what has become a nearly 40 year (and running) relationship with the Filipino people. She fell in love with the beautiful country of the Philippines on that trip. Just two years later, at the age of 19, she returned to the Philippines with one suitcase, a guitar and a one way ticket as a young and zealous "faith missionary", staying for 6 months in Bilad, Camiling, Tarlac. It was during this trip that she fell in love with the Filipino people. She had only three messages or sermons from the Word of God during that stay and always prayed that she wouldn't get invited to guest speak in the same place or church a fourth time! About four months into her stay in Bilad in 1981, the Lord spoke into her heart, instructing her to return to America and enroll as a student of the Bible in RHEMA Bible Training Center, Tulsa, OK USA.
Upon arriving back in the US in order to obey God, Rev. Karen found that her parents were sensing that God was calling them to also move to Tulsa and attend RHEMA, so the three Cedergrens moved from Minnesota to Tulsa and Revs. John and Karen Cedergren enrolled for the first year program at RHEMA. Rev. Betty, being an elementary teacher by profession was able to get a job teaching Grade One students in a small private Christian school in Broken Arrow, OK called Hope Christian Academy, to help supplement the family income.
Towards the end of that school year, when Rev. Betty came home from school one day Rev. Karen asked her, "Mom, if you could have the desire of your heart, what would you ask of God for next year?" She thought for a moment about her desire to be able to enroll in the first year program at RHEMA, as Revs. John and Karen took their second year. This was her plan. But instead, out of her mouth came these words, "I think I want to be in the Philippines." Rev. Karen's reply went something like this, "You need to talk to Dad when he gets home. He has something to share with you." That evening Rev. John told her about his experience in class that day and because of what his instructor had said he found himself asking God to forgive him for being stubborn and bull headed. Into his conscious mind came these words. "DON'T GO TO SCHOOL NEXT YEAR, GO TO THE PHILIPPINES AND BUILD A BIBLE SCHOOL FOR ME." Immediately he responded with "Yes, Lord. What about Betty?" No answer. Sometime later Rev. Betty saw this verse in Proverbs 16:1. "The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord." God confirms His plans with His Word. Throughout their married life they had always made decisions together and now they were again in unity with this commission from God Almighty.
The Holy Spirit impressed Rev. Karen that two verses in particular should be imparted faithfully to every Rhema student. The first verse, Philippians 3:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” should become the GUIDING VERSE for their personal lives. The second verse, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God,” should become the GUIDING VERSE for their ministry life.
The year was 1982 and they had one year to get everything prepared. They prayed, visited churches, wrote letters, and shared the vision with anyone who would listen. Finally, on January 1, 1983, they arrived in the Philippines with "Brother Howell" (president and founder of Rhema Christian Center in Golden, MS) and stayed in Bilad, Camiling, Tarlac until May of 1983. While living in Bilad, they had time to pray about where this school should be located and what name should be given to it. They wanted to be in agreement here too. Standing on Matthew 18:19, they looked at many properties but couldn't agree on any of them. One day as they were in Tarlac to shop and to get money from the bank, they talked with a bank official who wanted to show them some property. He took them to the Max Llorente compound in Matatalaib and they were surprised at what they saw. Rev. Betty saw the big house and fruit trees of all kinds everywhere. Rev. John saw an L-shaped building which could be used as dormitories. Looking at each other Rev. John said, "I think this is the right place." And Rev. Betty answered with, "I know it is."
A lot of cleaning was done to get the big room ready for school to start in June. They did not advertise for students but they prayed and the Lord brought 34 students. Rev. Karen arrived in June after her graduation from the two year course at RHEMA and began to help with the teaching and development of the school's curriculum. This first year was interesting with so many stories. The first graduating class consisted of 6 men and 3 women. The following year, a student from the second class, Ariel Congreso, came to the office to share with us the rhema word he received for the school. It was from 2 Chronicles 7:16. "FOR NOW I HAVE CHOSEN AND CONSECRATED THIS HOUSE THAT MY NAME WILL BE THERE FOREVER, AND MY EYES AND MY HEART WILL BE THERE PERPETUALLY." What a great promise from a covenant keeping God.
They operated the school from the compound in Matatalaib for the first five years, from 1983-88. Then one day in early January, 1988, the owner called the Cedergrens to say the property had been sold. He gave them until the end of April to move out. More prayer for a new location was lifted toward heaven. The Cedergrens looked around but with no success. Finally, at the suggestion of a graduate, they went to look at land for sale in San Juan de Mata owned by Charito Planas. This beautiful land measured 9.7 hectares. The Lord touched the heart of Ms. Planas as she agreed to sell it to Rhema for P5 per square meter! There was only one nipa hut and one hand pump on the property. One day the caretaker said, "You should not buy this property because there is no water here, only one pump," but Rev. Betty decided God would not allow that and received this verse from the Lord in Isaiah 49:10, "They will not hunger or thirst. Neither will the scorching heat or sun strike them down. For He who has compassion on them will lead them and will guide them to springs of water." Today there are many wells and hand pumps around this campus. Someday there will be a wind generator and running water to all the new buildings.
God has been so faithful over the years to supply the needs of His ministry. It hasn't been an easy task but it has been rewarding. He is truly Jehovah Jireh, the provider.
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All donation and support money from the U.S. has been lovingly handled by Rhema Christian Center, USA, since the beginning. From the donations and support that came each month, the tithe went to RCC USA and the Cedergrens sowed another tithe to churches or ministries in the Philippines from the finances that were sent over by RCC USA. For years upon years, the three Cedergrens lived on only around 6-7% of Rhema's monthly income, yet neither they nor the students ever went hungry because the Lord continually and faithfully supplied all of their needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus, (Philippians 4:19). Revs. John and Betty owned a house in the U.S. They gave most of the rent money that they received from it for the needs of the ministry at Rhema, along with other personal incomes. When they decided to sell their house, even the sale money from that house went into help build and sustain the Bible School ministry. It was a joy for them, never a burden, to give of themselves and their possessions because they knew everything they had belonged to Him anyway and that they were merely caretakers of God's supply.
When people, called by God, think the ministry owes them something, they have wrong motives. It must be the desire of the child of God to live for Him and to be pleasing to Him. God always makes a way where there seems to be no way. An example of His way of doing things will show His unique method of multiplication. While they were constructing buildings on the new San Juan de Mata property, Rev. John would often take go to buy supplies at Kent Lumber, paying for his order in cash. Then he would give the receipts to Cora, the bookkeeper and at the end of the month she would say, "Sir John, we spent much more than we received this month. How should I record it?" This happened over and over again. Only God could do miracles such as this. What a privilege it is to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords and to do His will here on earth.
The government of God works by team work. Revs. John, Betty and Karen were a team. They prayerfully made their decisions together. The Father God, the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also a team working together to lead, guide and direct us in the same way. This school was set up to run as a team, led by the Holy Spirit.
Revs. John and Betty left the Philippines in 1996, returning once again to Minnesota. In 1994, the Lord led Rev. Karen to Switzerland where she pioneered and continues to pastor a church there, AGAPE Christian Centre. AGAPE has been a great support blessing to Rhema for many years and has almost single-handedly paid for the new John A. Cedergren Administration Building.
Now God has brought a new team together to lead the "new Rhema" forward for the Glory of God. With a new Board of Directors and a new team leading the school, a new and better school will emerge. The new Rhema which is coming forth will be marked with signs and wonders following. Jesus was baptized when He was 30 years old. It was at that time in His life that He began to minister with signs, wonders and miracles. Jesus had a team of disciples. Rhema also now has a reliable team working together for the good of the ministry. By God's grace and for His glory, Rhema will do great exploits in days and years to come. The training of men and women, teaching them to know who they are in Christ, along with practical experience will bring forth ministers of the Gospel and fruit for the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Despite the many challenges that Rhema faces, it is evident that God is in control and that He will do all that needs to be done to maintain His ministry. We put our faith and trust in Him.
"We trust in You, Lord. We lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways we acknowledge You and You will direct our path." Proverbs 3:5-6
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
Having confidence in His word and His promises, we can pray them back to Him and expect them to be answered. This statement is based on the following verses: 2 Corinthians 1:20, 1 John 5:14-15 and Isaiah 55:10-11
Make it your goal to be obedient to God's Word as it is written in 1 Peter 2:1-3.
This is a short, condensed history of Rhema Christian Training Center, Philippines. Stand strong in faith as you study here. As you live and move and have your being in Him you will grow in grace and in the knowledge of who you are and what you have in the Lord Jesus Christ. You will learn to walk by faith and not by sight giving glory to God.