Typhoon Ruping had left the day hot, humid, and overcast Emotions were a mixture of anticipation, apprehension, and I excitement. Final plans for the opening of the Good News Total \Health Expo '82 in Manila's twelve-thousand-seat Rizal 'Memorial Arena were being tested, modified, and implemented. At 5:00 P.M., Friday, September 10, 1982, the Wilson Crusade, as local Seventh-day Adventists dubbed it, was to begin.
All was in readiness. Sixteen booths featuring attractively decorated health exhibitions and demonstrations encircled the main floor of the arena, for emphasis on better living. Large banners announced the series inside and outside of the echoing and bustling arena, still damp from Ruping. But what would be the city's response? After all, had not eighty-five-mile-per-hour winds recently ripped through Manila, driving heavy rain from a typhoon's southwesterly course? Had not a large birthday celebration for President Marcos, planned for the night before in this very arena, been canceled because of this great storm? What effect would the storm have on our opening? The answer came as six thou sand Filipinos streamed through the doors, examining the booths, listening to demonstrations and lectures, and taking seats for the program.
At 7:00 P.M., J. R. Spangler, platform manager, announced the closing of the fascinating health exhibits, and the people slowly began finding the best seats for both seeing and hearing. Alien Foster sat down at the keyboard of the electronic organ as C. L. Brooks, dynamic and charismatic song leader, began singing with his crusade quartet. The enthusiasm of the musicians filled the air with an electricity that made the audience respond in song. The Manila crusade was launched! It was to be a major link in the chain of the Far Eastern Division's Target 85 evangelism plan and symbolically represented the launching of the church's One Thousand Days of Reaping program, designed to give priority to evangelism in all forms and at all levels. How fitting, then, that the world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Neal C. Wilson, was to preach the evangelistic messages for sixteen nights in this Rizal Arena.
This evangelistic crusade was different in a number of ways from many such meetings. One significant difference was the way in which Manila Adventists prepared for this soul-reaping experience. The major departments of the North Philippine Union Mission and its mission conferences, the Philippine Publishing House, Philippine Union College, Mountain View College, the Manila Sanitarium and Hospital, 150 ministers, 150 literature evangelists, and thousands of church members blended their talents and energies to join hands in the crucial preparatory work. Scripture teaches us that we cannot reap unless seed is sown in good soil, cultivated and allowed to ripen. Then, at last, comes harvest. For Manila, the crop was at least eight months in growing! Nine months before the opening night, twenty-two thousand Bibles in Tagalog and English were ordered to use in group Bible studies. Projectors and film strips were procured from Japan and Hong Kong. Literature, a twenty-eightlesson Bible course, and other supplies were provided in the form of a soul-winning kit for group study.
On May 22, 1982, approximately four thousand church members began visitation from house to house. They enrolled friends and neighbors in a brief Bible course entitled Six Steps to Eternal Life. Week by week they returned to the homes for follow-up visits. The object of this phase of the work was to uplift Jesus Christ and to develop friendships with the people. Study by study, decisions were made that led to graduations that were held in various parts of the city.
On July 23, Bible seminars were begun by action teams of church members. These grew in number until 570 were in progress, with as many as six thousand persons in attendance! Several members found this work so enjoyable that they participated in more than one seminar. Between July 3 and September 10 these Bible seminars pursued the twenty-eight-lesson Bible course, and on the opening night of the crusade in the Rizal Arena, Pastor Wilson led out in a symbolic graduation ceremony. Additional graduations were held later in various churches. Manila had never experienced such comprehensive preparatory work for an evangelistic campaign.
The 150 literature evangelists who work in Metropolitan Manila played a key role in the groundwork. The publishing department has a number of chaplains whose main responsibility is to follow up interested individuals discovered by these literature evangelists. The 150 book salesmen in Manila are evangelists of the first order. During the crusade itself they gave eight hours of their time daily to assist with visiting and ushering. The Philippine Publishing House prepared a special invitation that literature evangelists distributed to their customers, inviting them to come to the crusade. These door-to-door workers were among the most faithful in the personal work of the crusade.
A few illustrations of the kinds of experiences encountered during the crusade and the preparatory groundwork will give you an idea of how God worked.
Cardiologist finds Christ
It began for this military cardiologist during a lonely fifteen-day tour of duty at an isolated coastal hospital. Dr. Efrain MacLang ordinarily practices in Manila, at the two thousand-bed military hospital there. His wife, he says, has had some contact with Seventh-day Adventists since childhood, but perhaps as a result of her husband's failure to be influenced by any religious organization, she has not been active in her church. On one particular night Dr. MacLang walked the rocky coastline. A typically moist Philippine breeze stroked the sand, the rocks, and the breakers. Perhaps nature and nature's God linked arms to say something special that night to this busy, involved, yet honest-hearted professional. As the breakers crushed over the rocks he stood and thought. A reality forced itself into his consciousness that too few members of the human race ever come to acknowledge. "If one of those waves carried me out to sea," he mused, "would I be ready to meet my God?" The Spirit of God was already helping Dr. MacLang find the answer.
As soon as he got back home he told his wife that he wanted to attend the Adventist church. On the very next Sabbath, in July, 1982, they attended the Pasay English Seventh-day Adventist church, and there they heard about the coming Good News Total Health Expo '82, an evangelistic series of meetings planned for Manila in September, with Neal C. Wilson, General Conference president, as speaker. The weeks went by rapidly, and when the meetings opened, Dr. MacLang attended and eagerly listened to the message from the Bible as it was presented by the speaker night after night. He not only listened, he contributed his talents to the health phase of the crusade. He confesses that as he attended, every doubt and question that had been in his mind regarding Christianity was erased. On October 9, Dr. MacLang was one of the 1,200 persons who were baptized in the Rizal olympicsize swimming pool. He and his wife plan to be strong members of the Pasay Seventh-day Adventist church.
Muntlnlupa maximum security prison
During the preparatory phase of the Manila crusade, one team was conducting three Bible seminars inside the walls of the Muntinlupa maximum security prison, near Manila. Work for these prisoners had been going on for several years, with six baptisms having been held before this time. The real missionaries have been prisoners who have accepted Christ. The power of God has been at work there, and fellow convicts have been convicted by the Spirit of God as they have studied the Bible. Large numbers of prisoners participated in these studies. Shortly before the crusade was to begin, a group of prisoners was about to be transferred to one of the prison farms where their families could join them. But these men wanted to be baptized first without waiting for the upcoming crusade. James Zachary, Ministerial secretary of the Far Eastern Division, complied with their request, and during July baptized ninety-two. Their baptistry was a large cement trough ordinarily used for washing dishes.
But the excitement did not end here. At the close of the crusade in the Rizal Arena, 24 satellite meetings began in various churches and meeting places around Manila. Inasmuch as there was a shortage of speakers, Mrs. Lillian Knowles was asked whether she would take charge of one of the satellite meetings. After much prayer and deliberation she accepted and was assigned to do evangelism inside this prison! The Lord helped her preach 7 nights to these prisoners. The small, partially finished house of worship could hold only 250 men. But on Sabbath, October 2, another baptism was held, again using the large cement trough. In the morning W. T. Clark, president of the Far Eastern Division, baptized 8 convicts from maxi mum security, and in the afternoon, Pastors Clark, Knowles, Nepomucino, and Arrogante baptized an additional 212, bringing the total to 312 converts baptized from this one prison during the crusade period.
More than seven hundred have been baptized since the beginning of the work in this prison. As these converted prisoners who have been baptized are paroled to once again take up a normal life, many become literature evangelists, and it is reported that they are among the most zealous of soul winners.
The Concepcion family
Another significant victory during the preparatory phase of the Manila crusade involved the Concepcion family. Things began to change imperceptibly in their home after their 8-year-old daughter began attending the Seventh-day Adventist school. First, she began to pray before going to bed at night. Then she gathered her older brothers together for prayer. Her sweet influence encouraged a new spirit of kindness and love in the home.
When one of the Adventist church members nearby suggested to the Concepcion family that a Bible seminar be held in their home—one of the 570 that were held in preparation for the crusade—they gladly accepted. Three times a week this family of seven sons, one daughter, and the parents, met in a little shelter beside the rice paddy. A neigh boring family also joined in. Things began to change more decidedly as they learned from the Bible how to live as Christians. All the members of the Concepcion family were joyfully baptized on October 9.
The Manila crusade was linked to a special emphasis on health. This Health Expo represented a Gargantuan effort by the administrator, Dr. David Domondon, and the staff of the Manila Sanitarium and Hospital. Dr. Wilbur Nelson, health educator, and his wife, Dorothy, gave unstintingly of their time and talents to put together the sixteen booths of the Health Expo. Each booth consisted of six large 4' x 8' display boards, fastened together, and painted, and lettered over many weeks by a staff of fifteen artists. The booths were dismantled each evening at seven as the song service began, to be followed by the spoken word. The booths featured such topics as "You and Your Heart," "You and Your Exercise," "You and Your Lungs," "You and Your Teeth," "You and Your Food," "You and Cancer," "You and Your Eyes," "You and Alcohol," "You and Your Brain," "Your Health and Home," plus a large booth picturing Christ as the answer for total health.
People browsed among these fascinating booths from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M. Instruction was available on various points, appointments were made for health screening, and motion pictures were shown. Each night Dr. Wilbur Nelson lectured on a different facet of healthful living preceding Pastor Wilson's evangelistic sermon.
It could well be that this demonstration in Manila of how the health emphasis can be linked with the preached word may form a pattern of evangelistic procedure that can be used throughout the world.
The One Thousand Days of Reaping have begun, and we are conscious of the fact that the day of evangelism is not over. It is fully here. We live in its flood tide. Never did the great evangelists of the past have one whit more opportunity than the generation to which you and I belong. God's blueprint for soul winning will always work in any country or climate or people when divine unction and transparent love unite in the presentation of this message.
This surely must be our mightiest hour. Let us go forward in much prayer and diligence to give this priority to evangelism and by God's grace fulfill His Great Commission!