1978 - An American named Colin Christensen, from Milford, Ohio went to Mindanao as a missionary. He soon learned that there was no King James Bible equivalent in the Cebuano language. With the help of a few Filipino pastors he began a translation directly from the King James Bible. He completed the books of John and Romans but, during a furlough back to the States, met with some opposition over his decision to translate from the King James Bible rather than from the Greek and Hebrew texts. Brother Christensen never returned to the Philippines.
1990 – An Australian missionary named Alan Crampin, who had heard of the failed attempt at a Cebuano translation, encouraged some Filipino pastors to finish the work. A meeting was held and several pastors agreed to get together monthly and start working on the project. Ruben Sulapas, who at that time was a youth pastor on the staff at Metro Iligan Baptist Church, was asked to help the translators by typing up the translated portions of the New Testament.
1996 – Earlier, on a mission trip to Mindanao in 1995, we found out that the Cebuano Bible being used by the churches was very corrupt and when we enquired about efforts being made to do a new translation we were told of Brother Sulapas and his group. Then and there we made arrangements to meet them the following year. In 1996 we met with Ruben Sulapas and the other translators and editors. Later, during that same trip, we were joined by missionary Tom Gaudet, a brother with a background in printing and a burden for the power of the printed Word of God on the mission field. Ruben was encouraged by these meetings and the work of translation went on with greater urgency and with financial help from First Bible Church.
1997 – Brother Ruben, who began as a helper in the translation effort, became the leader of the group. That same year Tom Gaudet moved to the Philippines to spend a year teaching Bro. Ruben how to do offset printing. Ruben’s print shop was established with donated equipment and the first edition of the Cebuano New Testament was completed that year. 100 copies were printed in a parallel edition (the KJV and Cebuano side-by-side) and were distributed to pastors throughout Mindanao for their feedback.
1999 - The second edition of the New Testament was finished and 6,650 copies were printed and distributed. That same year, the translators and editors formed a non-profit organization called F.R.E.E. and chose Brother Ruben as the founding president. F.R.E.E. still holds the copyright on the Cebuano Bible and is devoted to the translation, printing and distribution of the King James Bible and other Christian books and materials into the languages of the Philippines.
2000 - Bro. Ruben acquired his first large printing press along with other printing equipment. Two pressmen, trained by Tom Gaudet, began printing tracts, discipleship lessons, Cebuano NTs and other material. This was also the year that two pastors, Bro. Rabaya and Bro. Morales, who had been challenged by Pastor Ruben to help him in the work, decided to resign their churches and move to Iligan to work full-time in translating the Bible. First Bible Church learned of their decision and began to support them each month. Bro. Rabaya passed away in 2008.
2004 - Bro. Ruben’s printing ministry and the offices of FREE moved into a house in Iligan City belonging to Nene Enerio, a deacon at First Bible Church in Staten Island. Later, a much bigger press and other equipment were added to the ministry and it began operating full time with two pressmen supported by the ministry and a faithful staff of volunteers from Riverspring Baptist Bible Church. The ministry is in desperate need of property and a larger building.
2005 - The fourth and final edition of the Cebuano New Testament was ready to print. Bearing Precious Seed in Milford, Ohio agreed to help. They printed 80,000 New Testaments and 300,000 John & Romans at no charge to us. First Bible Church paid to ship them to the Philippines. That same year, the purchase of a used van enabled Bro. Ruben to begin extensive travels throughout Mindanao distributing the Scriptures.
2007 - The parallel edition of the New Testament was printed in Iligan and distributed to the pastors, who were very excited to have the Cebuano side-by-side with the KJV.
2008 - The translation of the Old Testament was finished, and once the whole Bible was typeset in parallel form, side-by-side with the KJV, the completed Bible was ready for its public presentation and dedication.
2009 - May 31st was Bible Thanksgiving Sunday at Pastor Sulapas’ church Riverspring Baptist Church in Iligan City. I had the great honor to be there and preach the dedication message for the completed Cebuano Bible. There have been few other moments in my life that were as moving as when a line of Sunday School children came marching into the morning service lovingly carrying the first copies of the whole Cebuano Bible. Those ten copies were literally “hot off the press”, having been printed the previous week and glued together by hand just the night before! All the glory goes to God. Truly, “great things he hath done.”
In October, 2009 Brother Ruben came to the United States as our guest with copies of his translation to visit several printing ministries that we thought might help us. During his one-month stay we travelled by car 3,200 miles: from New York to Arkansas, to West Virginia and back again. We met with Dr. Rene Freret, the director of BEAMS, who agreed to print 10,000 hardback copies of the pure Cebuano Bible. We met with Brothers Al Braley and Sam Caudill of Bearing Precious Seed in Milford, Ohio. BPS agreed to print 2,000 Parallel Bibles and one container full of Cebuano John & Romans (approximately 350,000 copies). Then we met with Pastor John Davis, an old friend of ours, director of Gleanings for Christ, a printing ministry in West Virginia. Brother Davis agreed to print the signatures for 18,000 New Testaments while First Bible Church would print the full color covers.
2010 - All of these scriptures were shipped to First Bible Church in New York where they were packed into a 40’ container that we purchased. Finally, in December, they were shipped to Brother Ruben along with steel shelving and three skids of paper for his print shop.
2011 - In January, we traveled to Mindanao to meet the container of scriptures and be there for the first big distribution to the pastors. What a thrill and honor to be present and preach in meetings on three different islands as many hundreds of pastors came together glorifying God for His precious Word in their language!
2011 - At this time (August, 2011) the container is empty; all the scriptures have been sparingly distributed by Ruben, who travelled by car many hundreds of miles back and forth across Mindanao and several other islands. More than 1,000 churches have received these Bibles, with each pastor who attended the meetings receiving just one copy of the Parallel Bible, a few New Testaments and five Cebuano Bibles. They were hungry for more! The need for more Bibles RIGHT NOW is so great.
Bro. Ruben’s burden is to expand his printing ministry to be able to supply the churches in Mindanao and the southern Philippine islands with Bibles and good books for pastors and believers. In the meantime, he needs to have the help of printing ministries in the United States that would print the whole Cebuano Bible, the Parallel KJV/Cebuano Bibles (for pastors), New Testaments, and Johns and Romans in large quantities so that the Word of God could be quickly distributed in the Philippines.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Brother Ruben is our guest in the U.S. until October 10th. If you would like to have him come and present his ministry to your church or if you would like to send a contribution or get more information, please contact me.
Pastor Mike Veach
First Bible Church, 6200 Amboy Road, Staten Island, New York 10309
Office phone: 718-948-7202
Pastor’s cell: 718-614-1096