A Day on the Road with Ted Wilson

Five sermons and a road scare do not tire Adventist Church leader.

Andrew McChesney

Kyle Allen, a vice president with Adventist World Radio (AWR), chuckles when asked to describe a day on the road with Seventh-day Adventist Church leader Ted N. C. Wilson. 

“Power-packed, nonstop, and, I would say, one picture after another,” he said.

Michael Dant, senior engineer with AWR, is even more concise. 

“It’s a whirlwind of encouragement,” he said.

He and Allen, who have traveled the globe in their work with AWR, were speaking after accompanying Wilson and his wife, Nancy, for the first time on a three-week tour of the Philippines in November. 

Kevin Costello, associate executive secretary of the Adventist Church’s Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD), which includes the Philippines, has traveled multiple times with Wilson, and he said the visits are always “packed full of adventure, with so many activities.”

Such was the case on a recent day in which Wilson gave five sermons: at a college, a mass baptism site, a hospital, a construction site, and a television studio on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. That same day, he spent five hours traveling on winding mountain roads by van, narrowly escaping a serious accident, and posing for scores of official photos and selfies with eager church members. 

All the while, Wilson assumed a pastoral role of encouraging people to be faithful to Jesus, to share their faith with others, and to remember that they are members of the Seventh-day Adventist family of God.

A Road Accident

November 18 started shortly before 6:00 a.m. for Wilson and a delegation of General Conference colleagues and local church leaders as they piled into two white vans and a car at a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City. Their destination: Mountain View College, located in a rubber-tree plantation outside Valencia City, a two-and-a half-hour drive away. 

Their convoy was escorted by two police officers riding motorcycles with flashing blue lights, part of a security detail provided by Philippine authorities. Mindanao Island has grappled with terrorist attacks and kidnappings, though not in the areas that Wilson planned to visit.

A half hour before reaching Mountain View College, the convoy nearly collided with a small vehicle stalled on the road. To avoid hitting the small vehicle, the car traveling ahead of the van carrying the Wilsons braked sharply. The Wilsons’ van also braked sharply, but it struck the car, crumpling its rear bumper. The van also sustained light damage, but no one was injured. Everyone was wearing seatbelts.

“We praise God for saving our lives,” Wilson told a workers conference at the Garden Seventh-day Adventist Church on the campus of the South Philippine Union Conference in Cagayan de Oro City the next day. “We especially thank Him for guiding the skillful professionals on our security team, whose quick thinking almost certainly saved the life of the person in the small vehicle.”

Ambassadors at Mountain View College

Arriving at Mountain View College, Wilson and his delegation were welcomed by college president Gladden Flores and ushered into the cafeteria for a breakfast that included steamed rice, stir-fried vegetables, mangoes, and hot soy milk. Wilson said he especially enjoyed the durian, eating several pieces of the pungent, creamy yellow fruit that people seem to either love or despise.

After the meal, Wilson toured the sprawling campus, where 1,400 college students study alongside 300 high school students and 200 elementary school students. The college has a reputation for its mission focus, and a relatively large number of its graduates have become international missionaries. 

Stopping at the college’s prayer garden, Wilson prayed in thanksgiving to God for establishing and sustaining the college. Then he headed for the college auditorium, where dozens of Pathfinders lined up to welcome him and his delegation.

Wilson urged hundreds of people packed into the auditorium to be ambassadors for Christ.

“Mountain View College is known for producing ambassadors for Christ,” he said. “A large number of your graduates go on to become international missionaries. Yet all of us are called to be ambassadors for Christ. Will you accept the call to be an ambassador for Christ?”

Members of Wilson’s delegation also addressed the crowd. Bienvenido Tejano, Philippine ambassador to Papua New Guinea and key organizer of Wilson’s trip, described how Wilson gave Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte an informal Bible study on servant leadership on November 10. Costello told how hundreds of former rebels had been baptized the previous Saturday (Sabbath) on Mindoro Island after listening to AWR. The baptisms followed evangelistic meetings led by Wilson.

“I wish that you had been with us last weekend,” Costello said. “This is a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit working through Adventist World Radio!”

Baptisms and a Hospital

After the auditorium visit, Wilson went to an outdoor college pool, where people were being baptized under a college outreach initiative. A total of 645 people had been baptized by the time he arrived at 10:50 a.m., and 1,027 people were baptized by evening.

“Praise God for the decisions of many precious people to give their hearts to Jesus in baptism today,” Wilson told hundreds of people gathered at the mass baptism site. “Welcome to the family of God!”

Diverting from the planned schedule, Wilson and his wife stopped for 15 minutes at the college airstrip to greet Wendy Guptill Harris, a family friend who, with her husband Dwayne Harris, work as medical missionaries through an Adventist aviation supporting ministry.

A short time later, Wilson was thanking dozens of health professionals at the Adventist Medical Center – Valencia City for “following in the steps of Jesus to provide physical, emotional, social, and spiritual assistance to those in need.”

“We are told that the very last work that will be done in the end-times is medical missionary work,” Wilson said. “Why do you think that is? It’s because medical work is the last thing that people want to stop. So you, my friends, are involved in a very important work that will continue when pastors like me can no longer spread the gospel.”

Pulling a small black King James Bible from his pocket, he read 3 John 2, which says, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” 

“This is my wish for you,” he said. “May God bless you as you serve as Jesus’ hands and feet. Let us all serve as Jesus’ hands and feet, helping those in need.”

Construction Site and Hope Channel

From there, Wilson was whisked off to the groundbreaking ceremony of the future Central Mindanao Mission headquarters and evangelism center, also in Valencia City. The Central Mindanao Mission chose the theme of “One Member, One Sack” to build a road to the construction site through marshland. Each church member brought one sack of dirt or sand to dump on the proposed road.

Wilson, praising the Central Mindanao Mission’s request as innovative, practical, and involving member participation, read Psalm 119:105 in his remarks: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

“This new building will play its part in leading people to the pathway to heaven,” he said to several hundred listeners seated on plastic chairs in large tents, safely out of the glare of the hot sun. 

He closed his remarks with an appeal. “Do you want to be part of God’s strategic plan to make this evangelistic center an important step on the pathway to heaven?” he said. “Will you say, ‘I will go’?”

Wilson joined other church leaders in breaking ground at the construction site with 24 newly purchase
d shovels. The group then released celebratory white balloons into the air and sat down for an outdoor lunch that included, to Wilson’s delight, more durian.

Returning to the campus of the South Philippine Union Conference, Wilson ate a light supper in the union’s dining hall — durian was on the menu again — and ended the work day by preaching about the prophecy of Daniel 2 in the studio of Hope Channel South Philippines. The sermon was the second of four that Wilson preached in the studio as he helped the union with an evangelistic initiative that has resulted in 28,784 baptisms.

While the travel schedule might seem demanding, Wilson showed no visible signs of weariness at the end of every day. One evening, Roger Caderma, president of the South Philippine Union Conference, asked Wilson whether he was tired. Wilson shook his head and said with a twinkle in his eye, “God always gives us the strength that we need.”

Some members of Wilson’s delegation, however, felt drained by evening.

“It was constant,” Allen, the AWR vice president, said, after assisting Wilson with preaching at various events. “He was constantly going from one place to another. I’m exhausted but very fulfilled. It is such an amazing privilege to meet so many people and to see what God is doing in all these different places. I will never forget it.”

Andrew McChesney