Friday, August 30, 2013

Changed plans and changed lives!

Sometimes we find that our plans change.

Anything strange? Not really. We all have times and experiences when our nicely laid plans come grumbling down, leaving us wondering what God’s plan for us is.

This week at PAFCOE, we definitely experienced changed plans!

Every batch, we have a one-week health expo before our evangelistic meetings to bring in interested people and this time, it is scheduled to start this Sunday – September 1.  We had made arrangements to use the Philippine Heart Center as the venue, but just a little more than one week before the health expo is to start, they cancelled their agreement to let us use their place.

So now what? The flyers were already on the press just ready to start printing.

We had only a week to find another place to hold the health expo.

Changed plans…

But we remembered one of the Lord’s promises which is, “…. in every difficulty [we should see] a call to prayer.” Desire of Ages, page 667.

So we began to pray earnestly for God’s leading and God directed us to have the health expo right here at the Manila Center Church. Thankfully we were able to call to tell the printer to stop the flyer printing until we had made a decision for what to do and just in time, the flyers were ready for distributing to the surrounding communities.

Changed plans, but it meant changing to God’s plans.

And God doesn’t just change plans, He changes lives, too!

Here is the testimony of one of our students:

“My life before I met Christ was full of anxieties, fears and uncertainties. I was a kind of person who had a lot of worries. Yes, I believed in God and His existence, but I didn’t know much about Him, especially His character and as a result, I had a lot of doubts about things around me and the future. Because of those uncertainties, I always found time to murmur and complain. I always focused the time to look upon the negative side of things, instead of focusing on the good side. I might look okay outside, but truthfully, I was gloomy, sad and fearful inside.

Then I met someone who introduced me to Jesus, not by words, but through his life. This person seemed to be very happy in his life despite all the difficulties he is facing and always found good in everything. That fixed my thoughts on the God that he knew. Then, little by little, I started knowing who God really is. I found out that He is a living God who looks ever all His creation with love and that not a single one is neglected. I started to how Him as a being that is not distant and different but loving, compassionate, and understanding.

Since then, I am trying to live my life in complete trust to Him. Yes, I still have trials and difficulties in life – most are even bigger than before. But I have learned to fully put my trust in my God. He is bigger than all my problems put together! I have learned trust and faith and now, He is still teaching me lessons about them. Now, I can live today and do not fear in the future because I know there is a God who holds it.”

Yes, God changes plans and changes lives too! And sometimes he uses people like you and me to help someone see what God is really like.

How true it is that:

“Often our plans fail, that God’s plans for us may succeed.”

In jail…

Last Sabbath, I found myself in jail. 

Yes, in jail! What was I doing in jail? Keep reading…

Imagine living day after day of your life behind closely guarded gates and high walls.

Imagine having no electronic gadgets to communicate with the outside world.

Imagine not having the freedom to go anywhere you wish at anytime.

Imagine what it would be like to be an inmate in a jail.

How did I get to be in a jail? No, it wasn’t because I had committed some crime that landed me there. It was my desire to be a blessing and minister to the inmates inside the jail. Here’s the story:

In April of this year, I had the privilege of meeting a lady Doctor who goes once a month to the ladies’ jail here in the area. During our conversation, she mentioned to me about her mission project there at the jail and invited me to come and speak to the ladies for a Sabbath worship service. I was unable to go at that time because of my schedule, but always kept it in mind and determined that as soon as I could, I would try to visit the jail she had spoken to me about.

And last Sabbath was the day! I was really excited, since I had never before visited a jail anywhere, let alone in a foreign country! The Adventists have been working in this jail for more than 20 years and have raised up a church inside with around 50-70 members (if I remember correctly). Each Sabbath, one of the churches in the area goes to the women’s jail and does the service for the ladies living there.

To get inside, we had to leave all our personal belongings in a locker, bringing only our Bibles with us. After making sure who we were, why we were coming in and getting a stamp on our hands, we passed through a huge iron gate and entered the women’s jail.

Inside was a community, complete with small shops for buying beads, food, cloth, etc. After passing several large buildings, we came to the small chapel that the Adventists use each Sabbath. Already the service had started and the little church was full to overflowing.

Many of the ladies came to greet us and welcome us to their church. As I listened to the inmates singing the same hymns we sing in our churches outside, it brought tears to my eyes. They really sing with all their heart and soul and really mean what they are singing about. So often when we are in church, it’s easy to just sing because that’s the thing to do without really thinking about what the song is really saying and whether we mean it or not.

But not in the jail. Those ladies sang with such meaning and sincerity and it really touched my heart! I had the privilege of speaking to them about God’s forgiveness and how He will forgive us no matter what we’ve done or how evil we’ve been if we just ask. As I looked out over the congregation, I noticed several ladies crying and wondered to myself what their story was.

As I spoke, hearty “amens” came from all parts of the congregation and I would see they were really listening and understanding the message from God’s Word.  The message ended with a solemn reminder that when we receive forgiveness from God unconditionally, we must also forgive others for what they’ve done to us. I was so blessed to share that simple message with them and to see the joy and happiness they had found in Jesus!

After the program, all the ladies were given laundry soap, bar soap and some food for their meal, for which they were very grateful. Many thanked us for coming as they went back to their respective places.

As we slowly made our way back to the gate (and freedom), talking with different inmates along the way, I mentioned to my friends, “We came here to encourage them and bless them, but we end up being the ones who are encouraged ourselves!” Everyone agreed this was the reason they kept coming back Sabbath after Sabbath to the women’s jail.

Soon, we stepped through the big gate, past the guards, collected our bags and realized how easy it was for us to come and go with such freedom. But those inside are not so fortunate. Some of them have stayed there for months and even years. Some will spend the rest of the lives inside.

As we traveled back to our respective homes, all I could say was, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And yet, though we had gone to give, we had received a richer blessing in return.

My friends, if you’ve never visited a jail or done jail ministry before, I invite you to enter an often-neglected mission field and you will be richly blessed for doing so!

Remember what Christ says to us: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Wherever it might be, God wants you to work for Him! :)

I would love to share with you some pictures of the time we spent there, but no cameras or cell phones were allowed inside.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Outreach in the rain!

“It’s raining again!”

This was a common phrase that we were using here at PAFCOE this week. Why?

Because this is the rainy season in the Philippines and during this time, typhoons are very frequent “visitors” to the islands, drenching everything in their pathways with plenty of rain and wind. Low areas almost always get flooded when a typhoon comes through and sometimes the water gets very deep.

During this week, schools cancelled their classes, banks and some other businesses closed and it seemed that for some people, life came to a stand-still. But life at PAFCOE did not stop!
Some of the heavy rain reaches this level.

And neither did outreach!

Outreach in rainy, windy weather?


Some students were not thrilled in the least bit to be going out under such conditions, but they did anyways and we praise God for the many stories and testimonies of what He is doing through them – despite the bad weather conditions.

This testimony comes from a lady who hasn’t been an Adventist for that many years:

“It was so amazing to meet all sorts of people. We are all so different in so many ways, and yet God continually show His love for all of us, including those who don’t know Him yet. I saw myself in these people over and over. I was one of them not that long ago. I saw in their responses of how they reacted to our invitations to do studies, how funny it is to be on the other side now and how God has a sense of humor! I am so blessed and privileged to be learning how to be a better soul-winner!”

God’s protecting hand was seen in this student’s experience:

“We’ve experienced that a big angry dog is about to bite us. We immediately prayed silently that God will help us and not let us get hurt. Suddenly, the dog started running away, while we were thinking he was about to bite us. God really protected us and we are so thankful to Him!”

Some students have no money in their pockets since they came here by faith. This is how God provided for one of them:

“I was so amazed that God is so good to me and my partner even though I don’t have even one peso in my pocket and yet He provided just enough for us to get out to our territory for outreach. For 2 days, every time we had to do outreach, God used someone to give a little here and there in ways that I had never expected. God really supplies all our needs when we are going out to work for souls for Him!”

And always when they are out on outreach, they are being witnesses for Christ and it’s not just in what they say. This is from another student:

“I was so inspired during our outreach this week, especially when we were going door to door, doing surveys. I saw that people were watching us and noticed what we were wearing and immediately knew that we were children of the King. I was so inspired to be a good witness in wearing good Christian clothes!”

People do watch what we wear, what we say and how we act!

And the students themselves are inspired in sharing their faith. Here’s another testimony:

“I encountered so many inspiring experiences this week! But what inspired me the most is when people we are talking to get interested and immediately accept our invitation to do Bible studies. We met some that were so interested and so hungry to learn from the Bible and they want to keep studying with us and for me, that was the most rewarding experience!”

Though the weather this week was not ideal, outreach continued on and stories of how God is changing people’s lives through the students keep coming in. No matter what the conditions are, God has promised to be with us and bless our work as we seek to win souls for Him!

Thankfully, at least for now, the rains have stopped and outreach will be much easier next week (hopefully!). Yet, in any case, here at PAFCOE, we are so excited to be working for the Lord, rain or shine!

Stay tuned for more stories!

Our class (front view)
Our class (back view)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Another session of PAFCOE has begun!

And so, it has begun!

Another session of PAFCOE has begun!

And our hearts are full of gratitude and praise to God for bringing us another great group of students to work with!

The days and weeks that preceded PAFCOE’s starting date of August 8, 2013 were filled with preparing many things. The jobs the staff were involved with ranged from cleaning the kitchen, to making bunk beds for the men’s dormitory, to fixing up a room for a new classroom, to printing textbooks and syllabi, to taking care of the student’s applications and so much more; each of them had their assigned tasks to ensure everything would be in readiness for the coming of the future students. Everyone pitched in and worked hard and praise God, it was mostly done when the students started coming!

As the students began arriving, our staff were busy picking them up from the airport, boat dock and bus station at all hours of the day and night, finding places for them to stay and getting them settled. Most of our 36 students came from different places around the Philippines, but one student came from Botswana (Africa) and one came from the US. We are so thankful for each one God has sent us!

As we interacted with them, learned their names and found out more about them, we began to realize that most of them shared a common problem.

Most of them came by faith.

This means they have little to no money and are simply trusting God to provide their tuition and other expenses here at PAFCOE. All of them have a desire to work for God and are praying that He will provide all their needs. And He will! Let me share with you a story of one of graduates from the very first session of PAFCOE. This is his story in his own words:

“I’m Jeremiah, an ordinary boy, a sinner saved by God’s grace.

I was raised in the Philippines by parents with very different religious views and grew up in a very different way from what God intended. But when I reached my 15th birthday, I was baptized and committed myself to the Lord. As I was growing in Christ and learning new things from His Word, God touched my heart to follow His footsteps and reach out to others. I saw how His love for me and everyone else is so great!

As I studied the Bible and the book The Desire of Ages, God showed me what He wanted me to be – a worker for Him. I really struggled with this, because I feared being rejected and despised by others it I shared Jesus with them. I became even more troubled when I started to see that I didn’t know even how to start in reaching my neighbors for the Lord. Many times in my prayers, I cried, pleading with the Lord to teach me and use me.

Then one day, an answer came!

A friend told me about PAFCOE. I immediately thought this would be a great opportunity for me to be trained, but I hesitated due to the $600 (25,000 pesos) tuition fee.  So I started asking God, ‘If this be Your will for me to go, I know you will provide.’

My friend urged me to send in an application, which I did and was soon accepted. But day after day went by and I still had no money for the training. I began to think that maybe God had a better plan for me and just kept praying.

A month before PAFCOE started, I still had no money.  PAFCOE’s program coordinator called me and said this, ‘Remember, if it’s God’s will, He will provide – so just take the step and believe by faith!’

His words touched me so much that I was encouraged to take the step and go to PAFCOE and trust God for where the money would come from. Then I began praying that God would provide the money I needed to get from my home to the training (about an hour’s plane ride away). I told Him, ‘If it’s Your will, then please provide me the money to travel there.’ In just a few days, some friends helped me with that very need and I knew God wanted me at PAFCOE!

But money wasn’t my only problem… I needed the Lord to work in my parents’ hearts to allow me to be gone from home for 4 months. As I shared with my Mom about my future plans, amazingly, she gave me permission to go! A few days later, I talked with my father and he also gave his permission and this encouraged me even more to go forward, knowing this was God’s will for me.

So I prepared to go to PAFCOE. One week before classes were to start, I still didn’t have the money for the tuition. I continued praying for God to provide for me. However, classes started and for the whole 3 months of the training, there seemed to be no answer to my prayer. I had no close friends to ask for help, nor a rich relative to provide my needs, but I kept believing God would do something for me!

When the time came for us to go out and do our own seminars, I wondered what God had in store for me. I kept praying and claimed the promises that He is able to provide and do miracles – even today. I felt peace in my heart.

Just before we left the class for our own seminars, Mrs. Hargreaves told me one night that someone from the US had stepped in to sponsor all my expenses. I was so overjoyed! God really does do miracles today! I was so thankful to Him!

Today, after graduating from PAFCOE, God has placed me in a position of great trust. I am currently the president of a campus ministry, where I am seeking to reach students and young people like me with the skills I have learned during my training. PAFCOE has helped me to reach more souls, but it has also transformed my perspective for my whole life.

Even though I was the youngest of our class (only 17), in God’s eyes, I was never the least. He always cared for me as if was the most important!”

My friends, most of our graduates have had stories like this of coming by faith and God providing their needs. Now we have another group of dedicated students who want to be trained to be effective soul-winners for Him. If you would like to help out in sponsoring a student or helping to be part of someone’s miracle, just let us know by emailing my Dad’s email:

Next week, I will be updating you on what else is happening here!

God bless! :)