From visas to the rain and a helicopter, God’s timing is called perfect.
We have received the following view from the Adventist Mission Office. – Editors
Tthe ravel visas arrived just in time. The heavy rains stopped just in time. A helicopter incident was averted just in time.
If a theme were to be chosen for General Conference President Ted NC Wilson’s recent trip to the Philippines, a likely candidate would be “just in time”. Every challenge, from travel documents to weather and transportation, seemed to be resolved just in time.
The trip from Nov. 2 to 21, which culminated in the baptism of about 40,000 people, is a reminder that God’s timing is always perfect, Wilson said.
“You just need to follow the direction of the Lord, and He is providing everything we need right on time,” he said.
Uncertainty persisted until the last minute as to whether Wilson’s first international trip in the COVID era would even take off.
Months earlier, the South Asia-Pacific division of the Adventist Church, whose territory includes the Philippines, invited Wilson to make the 14,000-kilometer trip to world church headquarters in the US state of Maryland. in the Phillippines. Division leaders sought to renew the evangelical vigor of church members.
“Some might ask, ‘Why take this distant trip during COVID? “Said Kevin Costello, deputy executive secretary of the South Asia-Pacific division, who helped prepare for the trip. “But the point is, his coming to the Philippines started galvanizing people six months ago.”
In anticipation of a visit from the General Conference president, church members organized small care groups from the northern tip of the Philippines to the southernmost tip, Costello said. Small Care Groups aim to build relationships with community members and help them physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually.
The small care groups were to pave the way for nationwide evangelistic meetings. The division asked Wilson to speak at evangelistic meetings near the Philippine capital, Manila, and on Mindoro Island, central Cebu Island, and southern Mindanao Island.
Excitement grew in the weeks leading up to Wilson’s arrival, but a major roadblock threatened the trip. The Philippines had not reopened its borders to foreigners. A senior Filipino diplomat, Bienvenido Tejano, who is an Adventist pastor, has asked the Philippine foreign ministry to grant special visas to Wilson and 42 others who were planning to attend evangelistic meetings. Wilson’s visa arrived the same day he left the United States.
“After planning for months and months, not knowing if something was going to come to fruition, and thinking, ‘Sure, COVID will be over by then,’ the visa arrived at the last minute,” Wilson said.
He arrived just in time.
Upon arrival at Manila airport, Wilson and his wife, Nancy, found themselves trapped in the bureaucracy linked to COVID. They had the necessary visas. They had the required vaccination records. They had special COVID registration forms. But they lacked documents confirming their hotel reservation in Manila. All new arrivals are required to self-quarantine at hotels.
“We arrived at the airport, were greeted by protocol staff and walked through all the obstacles until we finally got to the point where they needed one simple thing – confirmation from our hotel”, Wilson said. “But we didn’t have that.”
After a long wait, the Wilson’s were suddenly allowed to enter the country.
“It was just a miracle,” Wilson said. “Everything at the last minute. A miracle.”
Just in time.
The first baptisms
For 10 days in quarantine, Wilson worked through Zoom, attending the division’s year-end meetings and speaking at the close of evangelistic meetings at the Adventist University of the Philippines, located 50 kilometers south of Manila. As Wilson watched via Zoom, 147 people were baptized in the college pool. In total, about 6,000 more have been baptized at 110 sites through the Union Conference of the Northern Philippines.
After being released from quarantine, Wilson and the other 42 visitors traveled to Mindoro Island, where hundreds of former rebels had laid down their arms after listening to Adventist World Radio (AWR). On the first night of evangelistic meetings in Roxas, Wilson preached in an empty field in the pouring rain. The audience of 1,000, including 500 former rebels, listened out of sight in makeshift shelters beside the field. Heavy rains returned two days later on Saturday (Sabbath) November 13, threatening to disrupt a planned mass baptism. The people prayed and the rain stopped.
“In about 20 minutes the Lord parted the clouds, pushed them back and the sun came out,” Wilson said. “It was fantastic for church service, preaching on the Second Coming of Christ, then baptism.”
Around 700 former rebels and their families were baptized, ending a painful chapter in a 52-year civil war that left 40,000 dead.
“We had a wonderful day,” Wilson said. “Everything happened at the right time. I mean it was just a series of miracles all along.
Just in time.
After the baptisms, Wilson was to fly by helicopter to two other outreach sites with his wife, Nancy, and three others: AWR President Duane McKey; his wife, Kathy; and Tejano, the Philippine diplomat. As the helicopter pilot was about to take off, he suddenly realized that something was wrong. Upon inspecting the aircraft, he found that a critical bolt was missing from the tail rotor and canceled the flight.
“The Lord knew we shouldn’t be using this helicopter,” Wilson said. “But he had another helicopter in store for us, and we were able to use it to get around.”
The replacement helicopter transported Wilson to the towns of San Jose and Sablayan on the other side of the island. About 500 people were baptized there that day.
“So it all fell into place like it always seems to,” Wilson said.
Just in time.
The next challenge came when Wilson and a small delegation sailed to Batangas Province, where they planned to catch a small plane for evangelistic meetings on Cebu Island on November 15. The governor of Batangas had learned of Wilson’s plan to transit through the province and invited him to a meeting. But when Wilson and his group arrived in Batangas harbor, no place could be found for their water taxi to dock. The docks accommodated large freighters and the water taxi was too small.
“Our little boat wandered around the harbor and, meanwhile, the governor of the province was waiting,” Wilson said. “But what can we do? “
After some time, the Coast Guard invited the water taxi to dock alongside one of its small vessels. Wilson and his group carefully passed two Coast Guard ships and climbed a large metal ladder to reach the dock. Twenty minutes later, they were seated in vans, driving to the governor’s seat. After dining and praying with the governor, Wilson encouraged a hall of provincial officials and regional church employees to remain faithful to Jesus. His group flew to Cebu on time.
“The Lord had everything scheduled just in time,” Wilson said. “It all happened just in time. “
Thousands of baptized
After preaching on Cebu Island at the Central Union Conference of the Philippines, Wilson concluded the three-week trip with a series of sermons on Mindanao at the Union Conference of the Southern Philippines. In addition to preaching, Wilson also stopped by schools, hospitals, and other church facilities to speak, pray, and encourage church members.
Once again, everything seemed to come right on time, and thousands of people gave their hearts to Jesus at the baptism. At the Conference of the Union of the Southern Philippines alone, 28,784 people were baptized in October and November, bringing the membership of the Union beyond the 700,000 mark to 707,465. The President Union, Roger Caderma, noted that Mindanao has a population of 26 million, which means there is now one Adventist for every 37 people in the region.
The many baptisms are a testament to the grace of God and the galvanizing power of a visit from a General Conference president, said Costello.
“More than 20,000 people have been baptized in the past two weeks alone from this trip alone,” he said on November 19. “So it’s really wonderful to see how the Lord has worked through this to bring everyone together.”
Division President Saw Samuel thanked Wilson for supporting evangelism by traveling to the Philippines at an unusual time.
“Thank you for the vision you have,” he told Wilson at a gathering of church leaders on Nov. 14.
He said the acronym TMI – Total Member Involvement, a world church initiative that encourages every church member to bring someone to Jesus – has taken on new meaning in the Philippines this year.
“Now we also have the full involvement of Mindoro, the full involvement of Manila and the full involvement of Mindanao,” Samuel said.
Towards the end of the trip, Wilson said in an interview that he was greatly encouraged to see God at work in the Philippines.
“The journey continues to unfold in a wonderful way: wonderful people, delicious food, a wonderful focus on the mission and a real desire to see Jesus coming,” he said on November 19. “Everyone seems to be working together according to the will of the Lord. just in time plan. “