, news editor, Adventist Review, with reporting from SSD
Alberto C. Gulfan Jr., a passionate evangelist who conducted five to six evangelistic series a year even during his 12 years as president of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, died Sabbath, Sept. 26, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 64.
Gulfan, a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist, also had a quiet, humble leadership style and a love for tennis that endeared him to friends and colleagues.
“He was a wonderful champion of God’s truth and evangelistic proclamation,” Adventist world church president Ted N.C. Wilson said in a condolence letter to Gulfan’s wife, Helen Bocala-Gulfan, and three adult children. “Pastor Gulfan’s many years of service for the Lord are a testimony to God’s power in using an individual in powerful ways for His remnant church.”
Gulfan served the church in a 42-year career that culminated with his election in June 2003 as president of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, which covers the Philippines, Indonesia, and 12 other countries. He stepped aside because of his illness at the church’s General Conference session in July 2015.
Close friends said Gulfan would be best remembered for his passion for evangelism. Gulfan regularly led several evangelistic series per year, sometimes as many as five or six, while maintaining his busy schedule as division president.
“He was an evangelist at heart,” said G.T. Ng, executive secretary of the Adventist world church, who first began working with Gulfan as a professor at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, or AIIAS, in the 1990s. Gulfan worked as president of the church’s Central Philippine Union Conference, whose territory included the school. “Evangelism was in his blood and was his constant refrain.”
Myron Iseminger, undersecretary of the Adventist world church, said he would long remember participating in a large evangelistic campaign held in multiple locations on the Philippine island of Mindanao that concluded with a mass Sabbath baptism of more than 2,000 people led by Gulfan.
“I believe anyone you talk to would agree that Pastor Gulfan's legacy was his passion for evangelism,” said Iseminger, who worked directly with Gulfan as associate treasurer of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division for three years. “That's where his heart was. He loved holding evangelistic meetings.”
Gulfan worked in many other roles in his more than four decades of church service. He was a literature evangelist, church pastor, district pastor, hospital chaplain and health educator, union health and temperance director, mission president, union ministerial secretary, union executive secretary, and union president before being elected division president.
“I appreciated and liked his ‘quiet’ leadership,” said Gerald A. Klingbeil, an associate editor of the Adventist Review, who worked with Gulfan as dean of AIIAS’ Theological Seminary from 2006 to 2009. “He was not a noisy leader, very humble, and often searching for consensus, but knew where he wanted the church to be.”
Ng described Gulfan as “always unassumingly humble” and recalled how the two had enjoyed playing tennis together two decades earlier.
“When we played a game together, I never saw him upset after losing a game,” he said. “Indeed, the church has lost a dedicated man of God and a valiant soldier of Christ. Because of the grace of Christ, we have the assurance to see our esteemed leader again in the Earth made new. Even so, come Lord Jesus.”
In a sign of his humble nature, “he first and foremost considers himself a minister and thus prefers to be called ‘pastor,’” according to a short biography published on the division’s website.
Gulfan also had an excellent memory, said Linda Mei Lin Koh, who knew him for nine years while overseeing the children’s, family, and women’s ministries for the division.
“He knew I love to eat marang, a local fruit from the Philippines,” Koh said. “Whenever I went to the Central Philippines Union Conference to conduct training seminars, he would tell me when he met me that he had asked someone to buy marang for me to eat. He was a very gracious and hospitable host.”
Koh worked directly under Gulfan at the division office for six months before being called to the church’s world headquarters in Maryland to work as director of children’s ministries, the position she now holds.
“When he came to the division, he also encouraged all directors and everyone who works at the division to hold evangelistic meetings for children, women, and families,” she said. “But he especially reminded me to train the children and women to hold evangelistic meetings, too.”
Alberto Cuyos Gulfan Jr., born on Dec. 1, 1950, in Cataingan, Masbate, Philippines, is survived by his wife of 38 years, Helen Bocala-Gulfan, who has served as the division’s women’s ministries director and Shepherdess International coordinator. They have three children — Helen Zella, married to Erwin Tecson; Lloyd, married to Novelou Lagra-Gulfan, and Jarbien Pol — and two grandchildren, Sam and Hugh.
The family has expressed appreciation for the great outpouring of love and support from around the world.
A tribute page has been set up on the division’s website.
Funeral services will be held on Oct. 4 at the AIIAS campus church in Silang, Cavite, Philippines.