Spreading a Message of Hope

By Reporting by Chris Capozzeillo, Dennis Diamante and Mayette Manzano   •   January 29, 2007   •   Topics: ,

In December, the Philippines became the 20th country to participate in BGEA’s World Television Project. As this magazine went to press, with 24 percent of churches reporting, organizers had recorded more than 204,000 commitments to Christ.

Dogs and roosters roam the narrow alleyways in San Joaquin, Pasig City, deftly avoiding the rambunctious feet of children playing tag. Houses built with scraps of sheet metal and plywood press against each other in this depressed area of Metro Manila. Some have simple storefronts where family members sell Filipino candy, chips and crackers.

A pile of sandals at one house marks the spot where Rose Alumbro and two of her friends are welcoming guests to a gathering they have prayed about for weeks.

Alumbro, Teresita Austria and Mercy de Asis all committed their lives to Jesus Christ during the Metro Manila Franklin Graham Festival last February. Now they want their families, friends and neighbors to know the same hope that Jesus has put in their hearts. As part of BGEA’s My Hope Project, they will present an evangelistic television program, tell their friends what Jesus means to them and invite their guests to put their faith in Christ.

As 30 people squeeze into Alumbro’s small house, Austria reaches into a plastic bag and hands out chips and crackers. The guests watch a 13-inch TV, which sits next to a fan that does nothing to alleviate the tropical heat. More people gather outside, watching through an opening in the wall. The women set up a speaker so those outside can hear.

Children run between the houses, stopping to look through the bamboo fence. A woman taps the fence to shoo them away. Another woman fans herself with folded papers and wipes sweat from her brow.

On the television, Franklin Graham is explaining that although all have sinned, God loves everyone. “He doesn’t want you separated from Him,” Franklin says. “That’s why He sent His Son to this earth. He’ll take your guilt and shame.”

After the program, Mercy de Asis stands and tells her own testimony. Then another friend, Danny Adapon Jr., explains how to have a relationship with Christ and leads the group in a prayer of repentance and commitment. Every one of the 30 guests in the house prays that prayer.

Afterward, the hosts serve tasty bread with peanut butter, mango juice and candy. Finally, the guests leave, many thanking their hosts for the invitation. One woman says something unexplainable happened in her spirit as she watched the program. She knew she needed to commit her life to Christ. Now she says she will share this message with her family and neighbors, as her three friends have just done with her.

Throughout the Philippines in December, thousands of Christians held similar gatherings in hopes that those they had invited would put their trust in Jesus Christ.

Just two miles from the poor area of San Joaquin is Makati City–one of the wealthiest cities in the Philippines. Here Mary Ann Serrano, a professor of chemistry in the nursing department at the University of Makati, hosts another My Hope gathering.

Serrano’s husband, Nestor, pastors Global City Baptist Church, which opened three years ago and now meets in three different homes. Mary Ann, who served as a counselor during the Metro Manila Festival, is especially excited about My Hope.

“We are meeting with our friends, so it is easier to follow up with them,” she says. “There is a bonding. And I will be preparing delicious food–Filipinos love that.

“This is a time to mobilize every family in our church. This is God’s will in our lives. We must work to win the lost at all costs. Sometimes we are limited, but this is nationwide. You can text-message all your friends, saying, ‘Please watch channel 11.’ It’s exciting.”

Over the course of three evenings, the Serranos and members of their church invited 79 people to watch the programs, and 66 prayed to receive Christ.

God in Control

Some 300 miles south of Manila, on the Island of Panay, Christians in the city of Iloilo (pronounced Eelo-Eelo) also participate in My Hope. Television reception in Iloilo is poor, and few homes have cable TV, so many Christians use VCDs (similar to DVDs) to show the My Hope broadcasts.

Wilson Wong Gonzales, pastor of Iloilo Trinity Church, notes that My Hope is “an evangelistic strategy that is not pastor-centered but one that mobilizes families in the church to be God’s channel for evangelism.”

Sarah and Tony Avena, who attend Gonzales’ church, are among the families mobilized in Iloilo. When their eight guests arrive on the evening of Dec. 8, dinner is served. Along one wall, a table is filled, buffet style, with chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, fried dumplings, mixed vegetables, beef curry, salad, fruit and glasses of cola. Sons Raphael and Gabriel bring more glasses of soda as needed.

After dinner, Sarah closes the kitchen doors to block out light and noise, and the group begins to watch The Answer on VCD. Less than a minute into the program, the sound stops working. Pastor Gonzales tries to eject the VCD, but it jams. He jiggles the machine to try to retrieve the disc. Sarah moves quickly to get another VCD player. Someone whispers, “We can all see that the devil is at work. But God is in control.”

After a few minutes, Gonzales manages to wrest the disc from the malfunctioning player and start it playing in the other one. The guests watch in the darkened dining room. Two people receive Christ, and one makes a recommitment to the Lord.

At another Iloilo home, 12 people cram into a small room on this muggy December evening. One of the guests is Geneve, a 29-year-old housewife experiencing difficulties in her marriage. The previous week, she had such a serious fight with her husband that she considered packing her belongings and leaving with their two children. But her best friend, Gemma, convinced her to stay, and then a neighbor invited her to watch the My Hope program on TV. Knowing that the neighbor was a Christian, Geneve agreed to watch the program with her husband and Gemma.

The Answer is a story about a wife who is devastated when she finds that her husband is seeing another woman. The wife receives Christ and finds the strength to forgive her husband.

As Geneve and her husband watch the program and hear the Gospel, the Holy Spirit draws them and eight others to receive Christ. Several days later, Geneve reports that she and her husband have reconciled, and Gemma has also committed her life to Christ.

‘I Will Never Lose Hope’

Churches have been strengthened. One church in Cebu City reports that its members have seen more than 600 commitments to Christ at My Hope house parties. A leader in Manila said that at his church, members whose previous involvement had only been to listen to the Sunday sermon have now become active in ministry and want to do their part in winning people to Christ.

And stories abound of God’s saving grace. In Metro Manila, Fred and Aida Galicia invited 16 people, but 21 came–some whom the Galicias didn’t even know. At the end of the program, 15 people indicated decisions for Christ. A gathering at the home of Adela Pecaoco, director of the Iloilo Bethel Temple Christian Academy, drew 21 guests, and all 21 became believers. At another home in Iloilo, a widow and mother of four committed her life to Christ.

Later the widow said: “Now that I have faith in God, I will never lose hope, though life is difficult. I know He is close to the widow; I know where to run. I will give my every burden to God.”

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