Figuratively speaking, the wide expanse of open field at Cebu’s South Road Properties (known locally as SRP) is caught between two very divergent worlds.
To one side sits a hulking construction zone, the concrete form of a state-of-the-art megamall taking shape and serving as a monument to the city’s wealth and consumerism.
To the other side sits acres of rusted, corrugated tin houses built one upon the other, an overpopulated squatter’s village, serving as a testament to the city’s poverty and brokenness.
Into this middle ground will come the Cebu Celebration of Life with Will Graham this weekend, March 27-29. The prayer is that the middle ground will become holy ground, where all segments of society will find hope and peace.
“The ground is even at the foot of the cross, and all are welcome, no matter their background or past” said Graham. “We’re so excited to see what God’s going to do in the coming days as we proclaim His Word.”
Tina Abong of Christ Commission Fellowship is guiding the Celebration’s children’s ministry efforts, particularly the Children’s Crusade taking place on Saturday morning.
“A lot of people will be hearing the message of the Lord,” she said the night before the Celebration. “I believe in my heart that God is going to move in the hearts of the people and they will be able to understand the Gospel.”
It’s clear to many that God is already at work in Cebu. In preparation for the Celebration, a series of classes were held to teach local Christians how to live their faith and share it with others. More than 4,700 took part, and 555 actually realized their need for a Savior and accepted Christ as they were attending the sessions.
“It’s hard not to be excited and have anticipation going into this event,” said Jeff Ferris, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s resident director, who moved to Cebu with his wife to guide the efforts leading up to the Cebu Celebration of Life.
“The Filipino people are an absolute joy to be around. I’ve told many that I’ve never lived farther away from home, and yet I’ve never felt more at home than I do here.”
Buddy Tendero has been working to mobilize the youth in the city in advance of the Celebration, and he also sees big things in store for the coming days even as he acknowledges the “religious” spirit of the city.
“I think it will make a tremendous impact, allowing people to really know who Jesus is. Although people in Cebu know about Jesus, they don’t know Him personally,” said Tendero. “I’m excited to see more people truly following Jesus and making an impact.
“I’m excited to see the body of Christ coming together and really working together in reaching out to others,” Tendaro continued. “I’m excited to see young people and even those who are already old in their faith being mobilized to pray and reach out to others, and eventually disciple them after the event.”
The Cebu Celebration of Life comes on the heels of a two-day event in nearby Tacloban, an area that was devastated by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. (Yolanda also impacted the northern part of Cebu as it continued its destructive path.)
More than 14,300 attended the Greater Tacloban Celebration of Life, by far the largest evangelistic event held in that area. Nearly 20 percent of attendees—one out of every five—came forward at the invitation to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“We saw amazing things in Tacloban, God moving in incredible ways,” said Graham. “Pray with us that He will continue that work in Cebu; not for our glory, but for His glory and for the eternities of those that are impacted this weekend.”