Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Taming a Super-Typhoon

Super-Typhoon Yolanda really made the headline news last year as the Category 5 storm that came barreling into the Philippines with wind speeds of up to 195 mph on November 10, 2013. Very few structures were able to stand up to such severe wind and many people lost their lives, making it one of the most deadly typhoons ever to hit the Philippines. In Tacloban City (a city in Eastern Philippines) alone, more than 90% of the city was destroyed. More than one year later, the areas that were hardest hit by the typhoon are still trying to recover.

Typhoon Yolanda made its landfall on the morning of the day that all our student’s evangelistic meetings were scheduled to start. Many of the sites were affected and a number of them were not able to start their seminar that night. Some had serious challenges to face in finding ways to get electricity and other items needed to start. And yet, through it all, God’s amazing grace was seen! None of our students lost their lives and all were able to start their seminars within a few days of the typhoon’s landfall! Though some of them had a rough start, God still blessed and gave them amazing stories and experiences of His love and power! When those students returned from their seminars for graduation, what stories they had to tell of what God had done in their areas!

June through November is the season of typhoons here in the Philippines, so as the fall session of PAFCOE 2014 approached, we wondered whether again another super-typhoon would try to interrupt the work of God as our PAFCOE students would go out for their On the Job Training – one month evangelistic seminars. But all went well as the starting date arrived and no storm was on the horizon. Praise God! No typhoons!

Week after week went by until the fourth and final week of the seminar arrived. The target date of the baptism and final meeting was December 6. On December 2, news began to circulate that another large typhoon was headed towards the Philippines with possibilities of reaching a super-typhoon size.  Sure enough, within two days (by December 4), Typhoon Hagupit (locally known as Ruby) had developed into a super-typhoon status with winds up to 180 mph. Major evacuations that involved thousands of people were done in low-lying areas to avoid the high death rate of the previous year.

During this session of PAFCOE, most of our student’s sites were located in the central Philippines – the very regions hard-hit by Typhoon Yolanda last year. Super typhoon Hagupit was scheduled to hit the very same areas as the previous year – places still trying to recover and rebuild from the vast devastation.

Typhoon Hagupit was on target to hit the Philippines on Friday, December 5, the beginning of the final weekend of our student’s seminars. So all of us (students, staff and others who were involved) began to earnestly pray that God would do something to send away the typhoon or at least, divert it. What followed that day and the next was astonishing!

Mysteriously, Super-Typhoon Hagupit suddenly started greatly losing its speed and wind power. All day Friday passed and still it had not arrived. The students were able to still have their meeting Friday night. By early morning of Sabbath, it was no longer the super typhoon category 5 storm, but just category 3. Still prayers ascended to heaven that it would be delayed long enough for the baptisms and final meetings to take place that Sabbath. God heard those prayers and Typhoon Hagupit advanced even more slowly!

One of the site with their newly baptized
Sabbath night after the baptisms and final meetings were finished, it made landfall. But by now it was not so strong or fierce as expected. All the seminars were able to complete their topics before the storm hit and when it did, it wasn’t as bad as anticipated. Typhoon Hagupit advanced through the Philippines more and more slowly, until when it passed south of Manila, it was just a tropical storm – not the category 5 storm it was supposed to be.

It was as if God placed His hand upon that enormous storm and “tamed” it! He took the speed and fury right out of it and said, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further…” Job 38:11. The storm was not allowed to interfere with His work of spreading the gospel to the people who needed to hear it!

Truly God hears the prayers of those who cry to Him! “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” Psalms 34:17.

Seeker for truth becomes a soul winner!

What an amazing God we serve! He can take a seeker for truth and change him/her into a soul winner for Him! This is one of those stories!

Ruby seldom went to church because she considered herself too busy with her office job to find time for that. Besides, she described the mass as “boring,” so why should she go there anyways? Along with moderately smoking and occasionally drinking alcohol, she loved to follow the latest fashion trends in dress. Most of her busy life was spent in the office and with her family.

But though Ruby would read the Bible once in awhile, she didn’t understand most of it. Something seemed to be missing from her life. So she began praying that God would send someone to explain the Bible to her. Though she had visited different religions, none of them seemed quite right.

Usually after work, Ruby stayed in her house, but one afternoon as she went out of the house, she found her younger sister talking with two young men dressed in Amazing Facts uniforms named James and Fermin. As she approached them, she was impressed that they were dressed so professionally and spoke so politely to her when she asked what they wanted. Fermin and James asked her if she had heard about Amazing Facts before. She had not, so they invited her to do their simple survey, to which she agreed.

At the end of the survey, when they asked her if she would like to study the Bible, Ruby readily agreed. This was the answer to her prayers! So week by week, Fermin and James returned to share with her God’s truth. As they studied together with Ruby, her son and her younger sister, she told them, “I feel such peace in my heart with all these things I am learning!” Fermin said, “I was so inspired that God used providential circumstances to guide us to Ma’am Ruby!”

As they studied the Bible with Ruby, they invited her to the upcoming Prophecies of Hope seminar. Describing their conversation, she said, “I was very interested in that program and determined to attend.” Of course, the devil did not want Ruby to learn about God’s truth from the Bible and she met with challenges right from the beginning. The venue for the Prophecy seminar was not in a very easily accessible place and Ruby and her companions got lost on her way there since she was not familiar with the place. So they stopped and asked the University of the Philippines students where the venue was since it was on their campus. But no one seemed to know where that was. Finally one student opened his phone and through Google maps was able to show them how to get there. Ruby and her companions were so happy to finally reach the venue and find Fermin and James waiting for them there! Ruby enjoyed the meeting and determined to come again to learn more from God’s Word.
(From left: James, Ruby, her sister, her husband, Michael and Fermin)

After Pastor Lowell and Michael (they were team preaching) shared the topic of salvation, James said, “I could tell that our interest, Ma’am Ruby was convicted about the topic and that the Holy Spirit is working on her heart. After that meeting, she told us that all her confusion was gone and such amazing peace filled her heart! Also she understood the Bible very clearly now. Before we went home, we prayed together and tears filled her eyes. I was so inspired by what God is doing!”

Speaking of the prophecy seminar, Ruby said, “Each night I attended, I learned new and amazing facts about the Bible and things I had never known before. My interest grew and grew each day and I couldn’t wait to see what would be in the next topic! I had been very afraid of the book of Revelation before, but not now!”

Fermin and James were so happy to know that when Pastor Lowell and Michael preached on the topic of baptism, Ruby decided to be baptized for they knew the Holy Spirit was working in her heart! James said, “We were so happy when Ma’am Ruby chose to keep the Sabbath and change her day off from Tuesday to Sabbath so she could follow all God’s commandments! We also noticed that she is so eager to share with she has learned with her family and office workers.”

Day by day continued to pass and Ruby faithfully attended each meeting and she said, “Little by little my life began to change as I learned more and more truth from the Bible. I changed my lifestyle, my dress and how I used to eat. Now I spend more time reading and meditating on God’s Word and praying rather than on the computer or watching TV. Knowing God’s Word gives you peace and hope in life!”

Ruby giving her life to Christ.
The last Sabbath, Ruby together with many others sealed her commitment to Christ in baptism! James said, “It is in ministry and service that I have experienced true happiness and genuine peace! When I went through the welcoming line to greet all the newly baptized people, I felt that was one of the most precious moments in my ministry to see someone that I had worked for there! I feel that God is so great to use my partner and me to reach some of these precious souls! All heaven must be rejoicing with us, too!”

Fermin, his partner said, “Though there were many obstacles in her path, Ma’am Ruby was committed to following Jesus all the way! I was so inspired to watch her being baptized! God is so amazing!”

Fermin and Ruby after her baptism
Soon after her baptism, Ruby said, “As a Christian and mother, I am responsible to help save the souls of those around me. I will start by teaching my children and my husband and then seek to share what I learned with others. I believe God will use me too!”

And that’s not the end of the story! When two of the PAFCOE iShare students were looking for a site to hold their small group Bible study OJT (On the Job Training), Ruby offered the use of her home to which they gladly accepted. For the next month, Ruby and her family and those who came to attend, listened to another prophecy series presented through a small group Bible study. She was so happy to do something to help others learn more about the Jesus she loved so much!

Speaking about her experience at the seminar, Ruby said, “If you are looking for the truth, this is an excellent place to find it! Knowing the prophecies of the Bible will open your mind to what is really happening in the world today and give you hope for the future! Each topic was presented in a confident, dynamic way that drew you into the picture.”

Then she added, “The students of Amazing Facts (PAFCOE) are very persistent in their work. Also they are modest and presentable and speak correctly and politely. I am really amazed with their knowledge of the Bible though they are young! My questions were answered satisfactorily from the Bible!

Praise God for turning Ruby from a truth-seeker to a soul winner for Him! God has amazing ways of bringing souls to Him!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Joys of Canvassing!

During the last month of the PAFCOE student’s training, they head out onto the streets to do canvassing – selling books house to house. Selling anything door to door isn’t easy, let alone spiritual books, but our students persevered and God gave them marvelous experiences! They are selling two books – The Great Controversy and Health and Peace (The Ministry of Healing). Let me share some of them with you!

One student said, “We prayed together with my partner before we went out for canvassing. Since we didn’t have much time to work, we hurried to our area and soon saw two people talking. We smiled at them and canvassed them with our books. One of them was already practicing healthy lifestyle and bough the Health and Peace book right away and encouraged his friends to also buy it. Praise God!”

Another said, “I was inspired this week because we sold our first book! God led us to a woman who was the secretary of a small business. It was raining very hard and we ran into her store to take shelter from the rain. As we waited, we were impressed to canvass the lady, but both of us felt shy and hesitant. Then we saw that she was looking at a book and when we moved closer, it was The Great Controversy! When we asked her about it, she told us that she had just bought it from some other girls dressed like us. We offered her the Health and Peace book and she bought it too!”

One of our foreign students said, “This week, we canvassed a government official and he bought a book from us! And he gave a very generous donation too! Later on, we passed a lady selling health products and taking blood pressures. So I started talking to her and thought she would like the Health and Peace book, but no! She was interested in The Great Controversy! I realized that many of God’s people are in search of truth and waiting for us to approach them. I thank God for this inspiring week!”

Another foreign student added, “This week, I went to MAMC (Manila Adventist Medical Center) to get a prescription for my thyroid. As I chatted with the doctor, he found out more about me and then wrote the prescription I needed as well as how much I needed to pay him. Then a thought popped into my head that I could try to sell him one of my books! He proudly informed me that he had all those books on his phone and reads them every day and didn’t need my books! So I proceeded to ask for a donation instead to help cover our expenses. He responded with, 'Okay, I will make your medical fee for free! That is my donation to you.' I discovered later on that it was a good amount that I had saved! I was so happy and inspired!”

And one more, “This week we walked very far in our outreach and finally we came to a very important government building. We decided to canvass the people there. Most of them were so busy and we spent a lot of time, but no one bought a book. Then we came to a door and inside was a man writing on a paper. So we approached him and he really listened to our canvass and then decided to buy the book! Then later on, 3 more people bought books too! Another day, we went to a place that is hard to enter. When the guard asked us who we were, we showed him our student ID and he said, ‘You are a student who studies in a Bible school? So you are missionary? Okay! Just come in!’ We were so happy!”

She also said, “When we were canvassing a man in a different place, I told him all about The Great Controversy. After I finished, I asked him what he thought of the book and he replied, ‘It’s all about history.’ Then I asked him if he was interested in the book and he said, ‘Yes. So I will know what will happen in the future, because I see this is a prophecy book.’ And he bought the book!”

Another said, “When we went to do outreach this week, we were planning to give the Health and Peace to one of our Bible students because she had done so well. When we arrived at her house, I pulled out the book to show her when she excitedly told me that she had already bought a book like that from other Amazing Facts people (probably our classmates). But she had given it as a gift to someone else and she was so happy to receive the book from us!”

And one more said, “Canvassing was a completely new experience for me this week. I went out with an idea of what it would be like, but as I came back, I recognized something even if we sold no books. I felt so blessed anyways! It was my first experience and through it, I got increased confidence and that was worth all the rejections! God may not always give you success but He does know how to shape our characters!”

If you haven’t experienced the joy of canvassing, then we invite you to do so! You will not regret it!

Monday, December 29, 2014

God changes lives at PAFCOE!

PAFCOE (Philippine Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism) is an evangelism training center where students of all nationalities can be trained in the techniques of soul-winning.  PAFCOE offers a four-month training course for full time students. During this course students learn personal, public, literature, health, and child evangelism. In addition, subjects on Daniel and Revelation and Bible doctrines are taught. For local professionals who are working, PAFCOE also offers a 12 Sunday training in personal evangelism known as “iShare.”  In addition, PAFCOE offers a Bible worker intern program where selected PAFCOE graduates are offered the opportunity to practice Bible work for a six-month period usually in preparation for an evangelistic effort. Through the diligent efforts of the PAFCOE students aided by the power of the Holy Spirit, PAFCOE has been able to give thousands of an opportunity to hear the good news of salvation. The full course program consists of three months of training and one month of OJT (On the Job Training) in which all students conduct an adult or child evangelistic seminar. Each session, more than 500 souls are added to the kingdom of God. But PAFCOE training is not only about winning souls. In the process of working for God, the lives of the students themselves are often transformed. They not only learn the principles of soul winning but they also learn the principles of a close relationship with God. 

PAFCOE session 6 was conducted from August 8 - December 10, 2014. A total of 42 full-course students and 20 iShare students were trained during PAFCOE batch 6. More than 550 souls were baptized or rebaptized during the course of the training with hundreds more to follow in the future. More than 2,000 people were directly approached by our students, and more than 2,500 people attended the nightly meetings of our students during OJT. Thousands of souls were given a chance to hear the message of salvation. Thousands of doors were knocked on and more than 100 books were sold.  Hundreds of Bible studies were also given. This session was joined by nine foreigners from countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, England, Cambodia, USA, and New Zealand.

Here are the testimonies of selected students:

One student from Japan said, "I was raised in a SDA family and got baptized when I was 12 years old. But I wandered away from God. I always wanted to overcome sin, but I could not. I tried many worldly things. But God did not give up on me. He is leading me step by step. He brought me here to PAFCOE, and through this training, I have learned so many things. In fact, what I learned was not really what I wanted to learn, but it was what I needed to learn. The first day I arrived here in the Philippines, I got cold; then the next week my money was stolen. Then I had an extremely difficult time extending my Visa, and many others. [He was given difficulty at the office of immigration because another person with his same name was on the country’s blacklist as a criminal.]  But I can see that all things indeed work together for good to those who love God. I praise God for his special plan for my life.

Through the PAFCOE training, I started to understand the present truth — the truth I must share with the world. I learned that these truths are made effective by the power of living and experiencing them. My daily life is made up of small choices such as what I say, what I watch, what I read, or what I listen to. Before I came to PAFCOE, I would go to the movies, waste hours of time playing sports, and spend God’s money for foolish and worthless things. I was a slave of sin and I was one of Satan’s most powerful agencies. I went to church, but I did not have any peace. There was no big difference between me and nonbelievers. I was a fake Christian and I was an expert at making excuses for doing the wrong. I always felt guilty and empty.

But by the grace of Jesus, I repented of all my sins.  I no longer want to hurt Jesus. Jesus once told a woman who had committed adultery, “Go and sin no more.” I want to overcome sin by the power of God. I now understand and feel God’s amazing love for me. What a blessing it is to be involved in the work of spreading the gospel! What a thought that God could have commanded angels to do the gospel work, but instead he chose us. 

During PAFCOE, my experience with the Lord changed so much that I decided to get rebaptized. I know I am not worthy to work for God. I am the chief of sinners, but my hope is in Christ. Jesus showed me how wonderful it is to obey God and he showed me how to obey his commandments. 

Because of what Jesus did for me, now it is my turn to show my love for him by working for God with all my heart. I want to share the gospel with everyone who will listen to me, especially in my home country of Japan where the work of sharing the gospel is indeed challenging. I want to be a self-supporting missionary.

One of our students from Cambodia said this: "When I was a new Adventist, I was afraid to read Revelation because many church members told me that the book of Revelation is the scariest book in the Bible. I was seeking to know what the message in the book of Revelation is, but I just could not understand it. I always thought, “Why is the book of Daniel and Revelation too deep for me to understand?” I read the book over and over and I felt upset with myself because I couldn’t understand it. I wondered what the problem with me was or what I needed to change so I could understand Daniel and Revelation. I asked myself, “Who can help me understand Daniel and Revelation?” I kept on praying to God for understanding. I prayed, “Lord, please help me! If it is your will please send an angel to explain to me these books! Because I read and read and read but I just can’t understand.” I waited for an angel to appear, but nothing happened. Then I thought, “Maybe my heart is so sinful that God will not hear my prayer. Or maybe I am not really surrendered to God.”

Here at PAFCOE, God really used my teacher to explain Daniel and Revelation to me. Every time we had a Daniel and Revelation class, I felt that God was speaking directly to me and that he really wanted me to change. As I studied Revelation, my eyes were opened to see the message Jesus wanted to communicate in the book of Revelation.

I really praise God because Jesus has overcome death and he has the key to open the grave. Before I was a Christian, I was constantly struggling with the fear of death.  I wanted the religion of Buddha to help me, but it gave me no hope.  I asked myself, “Who can help me find freedom from death? Who can give me hope for the future?” I knew that of myself alone I could not live forever. I knew that at some point I must die. “Oh who can help me?” I asked myself.  Many times I cried because I didn’t know who could help me. I didn’t have any hope for the future. But when I came to know Jesus personally and started to read the book of Revelation, especially the first chapter, my heart and my eyes were opened. [Hope sprang up in my heart.] Now I know and I see that there is a living God. Jesus overcame death!  He lives!  He has the keys of death. When Jesus returns, our bodies will be changed to new bodies because we have received Christ’s righteousness. There is hope in Christ for me at his second coming!  I pray always, “Lord, help me to be faithful to you and to walk with you more closely moment by moment. I pray that Jesus can work in my life. I want to fulfill your will. I want your will to be done in my life, in Jesus' name, Amen."

Another student said, "I have made many changes in my lifestyle habits during the PAFCOE training. Before joining PAFCOE, I just spent my whole day, aside from household duties, watching movies, eating, and sleeping. That was my everyday routine after finishing my college and taking my board exam. I even watched movies in the cinemas. But I praise God because he brought me to PAFCOE. I’ve changed a lot because God led me to the truth and he wants me to obey him. I do not regret anything. I learned that being active inside the church does not guarantee that we have a relationship with Jesus. I must spend quality time in earnest, constant prayer, and study of the word of God, meditating on it day and night and sharing it with others. Like the Laodicean Church, I need to make an effort on my part to come to Jesus in order to receive the gift – salvation. Although salvation is free, I need to put forth effort to obtain it, just like Revelation 3:18 says. I also experienced some great disappointments in my life. Some of my plans failed. For example, I failed my board examination. Supposedly after taking the board exam and passing it, I will work in a hospital and pursue my profession [as a pharmacist].

But God’s plan is far better than my plans because He has brought me here to be trained in PAFCOE. I realized that maybe if I had passed the board exam, I would not have had the opportunity to be trained here at PAFCOE. Praise God because even though in my own perspective it was a great failure, in God’s perspective it was a great victory. I know that my God is in control of my life.  I know that he is still with me, working out his eternal purpose in my life. Through all the events of the earth, both good and bad, God will reveal His wisdom to the universe. He will work out his own will.

And those were just a few! We hope to post more soon!

6th Graduating class!