The call came one September evening: The Global Team was looking for volunteers for the Southern Luzon area. The mission field assignment was located about 500 miles southeast of Manila city.
For almost two years I have been studying at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in Silang, Cavite, Philippines. I am enrolled in the MA. in Religion. Since I had been a vo unteer missionary, a classmate volunteered my name as a speaker in one of the meetings in Luzon, Philippines, for the Global Evangelism Team. Now the call had come, and I was willing to go.
Bicol region, as it is known, is the general area to which I was going. This region is famous for the warmth and friendliness of the people. One of its main tourist attractions is the "perfect cone," Mt. Mayon, a volcano. I was assigned in Ligao City, Albay, about an hour away from the capital city of Legazpi.
Though I've been a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church since I was 12 years old, I have never had the opportunity to be a featured speaker. This was to be my very first solo campaign. Goose bumps rose on my neck as I boarded the plane. My partner was Pastor Caesar Wamalika from Kenya, who was assigned to preach in the cap ital city of Legazpi.
I preached nightly from September 6-20, 2003. From the onset it was obvious that I was an amateur preacher, inexperienced for a major evangelistic effort. Yet in my heart I was not embarrassed. It was never my intention to impress the local church with my knowledge and skill. I had come to tell of the glory of God's grace and His saving love. I was determined to preach the gospel of salvation.
During the second night of the series, I noticed that some people were restless. I tried to avoid focusing on them. This was a distraction I did not need! I directed my eyes elsewhere, and began relating God's providence in my life.
I told the people my life story, how my father rejected me because I did not follow his desires for me to become a sea captain. I described how I went to the Seminary instead. I testified about the night I chose to serve God.
I spoke of how both of my parents had died of cancer and how I had been left alone. I was not embarrassed to tell the congregation that God could use even me.
One particular woman
Among the people, there was a devout Roman Catholic woman in her 50s who had been invited to the meetings by an Adventist member. She was half-paralyzed and needed assistance when taking her seat. She was said to be ill-tempered and a deep devotee of the Virgin Mary. But because of her ailment and her desperation to find comfort, she came to the evangelistic meeting. I had been preaching for a few nights when I noticed that she had become very attentive.
One evening as I preached about baptism, I told the congregation that everyone could have a new beginning in life by accepting Jesus Christ as a personal Savior. This could be done in part by following the Lord in baptism by immersion. I told the people how Christ can heal us by faith. I talked of how Jesus is the need of the hour.
After proclaiming these things, I began making a call. At the same time, the choir began to sing. For a few min utes no one rose and my heart began to sink. Disappointed, I let the choir go on singing.
I was about to end my call when I saw this devout Catholic lady struggling her way out of her seat. I saw how she leaned on her cane just to stand. It was very slow and she was trembling. Tears were flowing from her wrinkled face. I could see them glistening on her cheeks. She slowly moved to the front.
As she took her place at the front, people began popping up from their seats. Many of them came forward, making a stand for Jesus.
The final day
During the last Sabbath, I made a final appeal. Forty-three men, women, and children stepped forward to embrace the Lord and request fellowship in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
I was standing to the side of the baptismal pool as the local pastor baptized for an hour and a half. The paralyzed lady was the last to enter.
Seeing these people baptized marked a turning point in my life. I made a promise to do this again. I felt that I, too, was being baptized...into the work of ministry.