Coming From Highways and Byways

By   •   April 18, 2011

Organizing any major evangelistic event is bound to have its obstacles.

But in the Bicol region of the Philippines, one of the poorest in the country, the challenge has kept the wheels turning for the Celebration event’s director for quite some time.

The people want to come and hear the message.

But just how do you get ‘em there?

“We’ve been trying to develop this transportation plan that’s been interesting,” said Derek Forbes, resident director of the Bicol Celebration of Hope. “The important part is that since it is an impoverished area, if you give them a ride, they will show up.”

And that’s exactly what happened at the Children’s Celebration on April 14.

“We had a specific plan to (transport) 6,000 kids and the venue was overflowing. It only holds 6,000 kids,” said Forbes of the event that saw over 1,000 decisions made for Christ. “Transportation in a poor region is instrumental.”

Because the Philippines are made up of different islands, the travel scenarios and flow charts are even more complicated. But the country’s Navy has offered boats to help transport people for free, supplementing the ferry service.

Once mainland, locals will then hop a bus designated specifically for those coming to one of four nightly Bicol Celebration of Hope events, where they will hear Will Graham proclaim the Gospel at Pili Freedom Stadium from April 28-May 1. Other branches of the military along with some of the cities have offered trucks and buses to transport people to the venue.

But with so many wanting to take part in the Celebration, and public service vehicles limited, there has been certain criteria on who can ride the buses.

“The biggest thing we’ve communicated,” Forbes said, “is if you’re not doing Operation Andrew, if you’re not bringing people who don’t know Christ, then don’t get on the bus. We’ve had to tell them, these buses are for evangelism.”

Not a New Concept

Spreading the Good News of the Gospel is not a new concept in the Philippines, most recently with the My Hope in 2007. The World Evangelism Through Television project was broadcast throughout the country, but because of the effects of Typhoon Durian in November 2006, generators and projectors were needed to service a powerless Bicol Region.

“Samaritan’s Purse came in and started to do immediate relief work,” Forbes said. “On top of that, they had an Operation Christmas Child in the Bicol Region.”

Rev. Billy Graham held a Crusade in 1977 and Franklin Graham returned for a Festival in Feb. 2006.

But those were both in Manila, a metropolitan area of over 20 million people. And plenty more resources than the Bicol Region, some 340 miles southeast of Manila.

“The Bicol Region is one of the poorest places in the Philippines, but the churches of Manila are actually going to underwrite it,” Will Graham said. “They have such a burden for their people that they are going to pay for this event in Bicol.

“It’s great to see the other churches in the Philippines trying to reach their fellow members.”

A Walk for Christ

One example of how the power of Christ has reached the Bicol region was the Walk for Christ event on March 26 that ended up at the Plaza Quezon in Naga City, where another 200 were waiting in yellow shirts.

Over 1,000 people participated in the event, which was significant not just because of the turnout, or the fact that it happened during a steady rain, but also because it was on the same road as the Catholic’s Peñafrancia Festival.

“The Walk for Christ was very exciting to see,” said Forbes. “The thing was it rained the entire time. And people were still out there, walking in the rain.

“(The Bicol Region) is probably the seat of Catholicism in the Philippines. Because of that you get a lot of Sunday Christians. This celebration is a challenge to be more than that. I’m excited to see what God is doing.”

And more than anything, Forbes is energized by how the Bicol people are working together to meet each other’s needs.

“What we’ve seen in this Celebration is they’re coming together for the first time to take care of the region. Maybe not the first time, but the first obvious time.”

Visit the official Bicol Celebration of Hope Web Site: www.bicolwillgraham.com

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