Northwest Teams Target Philippines for Christ
Northwest teams joined others from around the world in the Philippines for Christ evangelistic series during the last two weeks of March. Through the efforts of the Global Evangelism organization directed by Robert Folkenberg, teams from as far away as the Czech Republic targeted 47 different meeting sites throughout metro Manila, reaching a total of 7,000 people each night.
Jere Patzer, North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) president, spoke at the largest site, the Cuneta Astrodome, a professional basketball arena near Manila’s harbor, where attendance averaged between two and three thousand each night.
Three other NPUC staff members, Alphonso McCarthy, Kara McGhee and Sue Patzer, each gave nightly meetings at one of the 46 outlying sites.
Lowell Blankenship, an Edmonds (Wash.) Church member, coordinated a SAGE (Seniors in Action for God with Excellence) team, which presented meetings at seven different sites.
John Loor Jr., Montana Conference president, and his conference team of Myron and Candace Iseminger, David Prest and Ledado Ang, covered four different meeting sites. Youth director Larry Unterseher coordinated another site where Mt. Ellis Academy students Anna Berg, Kyra and Laif Eddy, Crystal Leanza, John Loor III, Elizabeth Neuharth, Shar-A-Lee Smith and Hannah Wiegand shared speaking and support duties.
Walla Walla College's vice president, Victor Brown, led a group of nine students, Jaci Cress, Erin Griffin, Danielle Henry, Amy Mutherspaugh, Risha Opp, Brandon Richards, Matthew Swena, John Wachenich and Ryan Waring, who helped provide music and ministry for various sites.
Meeting topics were presented in English, with Filipino pastors and members serving as Tagalog translators. Northwest team members enjoyed getting to know the unique characteristics of the multisyllabic Tagalog language.
On the final Sabbath, March 27, more than 10,000 members and baptismal candidates from nearly all 47 sites crowded into the Astrodome for Sabbath School and church services featuring musical groups from the Adventist University of the Philippines (formerly Philippine Union College) and other area churches.
The highlight of this experience, however, followed the morning services, when more than 1,700 new believers were baptized into Adventist church membership in the pool adjacent to the Astrodome. Including the final baptism, more than 2,100 new members are the results of the Holy Spirit working not only through this Philippines for Christ series but through hundreds of personal contacts and local meetings by Filipino pastors and lay members.
The daily schedule for Northwest team members was often challenging. After morning group meetings, speakers and their support teams worked to prepare the night’s topic. After lunch at the nearby Manila Sanitarium and Hospital cafeteria, afternoons were filled with preparation for the daily trip to the meeting site. With the nightmarish Manila traffic, many speakers and teams had to leave by 2 or 3 p.m. in order to get to their meeting sites in time to set up for the 7 o’clock start. Meetings ended by 9 p.m., and the long, hot journey back to the hotel would commence.
Despite the grueling schedule, Northwest teams were excited to be part of this special event. Little by little over the two-week series, they learned stories that made this trip unforgettable. There was the translator for one of the SAGE group meetings who had been a member of the Philippine equivalent of the Secret Service until baptized just a year ago; the wife who had prayed for her ex-military husband for more than 20 years and was able to see him baptized on the final Sabbath; the former Catholic priest who made his commitment; and the list continued to grow. The changed lives, the growing friendships, made the long roundtrips each night not so grievous.
“This has been a wonderful experience,” said Lowell. “Our SAGE group has often done church building projects, but this focus on evangelism has made a lasting impression on us and hopefully on our Filipino brothers and sisters.”
While the final Sabbath of celebration and baptism was indeed a high point, Patzer remembers as well a less public meeting earlier in the final week when he and several others baptized more than 60 inmates at a Manila area prison. “One fellow,” he recalls, “wanted to go under several times, as if to be sure that all those sins were really washed away! It will be wonderful when we can all meet together on the Sea of Glass, regardless of our backgrounds, and sing praises in unison to the One who has made eternity possible.”