Despite the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the first Seventh-day Adventist church in the Philippines recently remembered God’s guidance as it marked its 110th anniversary on March 13, 2021. Under the theme “Celebrating God’s Providence,” church members and leaders of the Santa Ana Seventh-day Adventist Church commemorated the humble beginnings of the church and where the Lord has led them in this generation.
Adventism in the Philippines started in 1905 when Robert Caldwell, a literature evangelist, accepted the call to go to the Philippines. Shortly after his call, he arrived on Manila’s shores and saw a vast opportunity to minister and share the good news of salvation.
In 1906, J. L. McElhany and L. V. Finster continued the groundwork in the Philippines. Their prayers and dedication resulted in the establishing of the first Adventist church in the country, in Santa Ana, Manila.
The church recorded its first membership with 12 individuals who initially accepted Christ in baptism. Among the first Filipinos were Bibiano Panis, Leon Roda, and Emilio Manalaysay. These three men played significant roles in the growth of the Adventist Church in the Philippines.
110 Years and Until Jesus Comes
This foundation has been the church’s inspiration until today, leaders said. They also emphasized that the urgency and need to evangelize have always been the church’s top priority since its foundation 110 years ago.
In previous years, the Santa Ana church has been active in creating opportunities to improve relationships with the community. Through its members, the church has been involved in evangelism, health missions, clean-up drives, and family seminars.
When the COVID-19-related health crisis broke in 2020, the situation prompted the congregation to step up and shift to digital worship services, enabling them to expand their reach and connectivity to the online community. In that year, the church organized two online evangelism series and is planning more online programs while the pandemic is still active.
Celebrating God’s Providence
As the local government allowed for limited gatherings during the ongoing pandemic restrictions, Santa Ana church leaders decided to organize an in-person celebration while following all social distancing and government-mandated protocols, to be held simultaneously with the online celebration.
The online anniversary celebration lasted for a week and included church members and previous pastors of the congregation. Speakers included Palawan Mission president Daniel Malabad, U.S.-based AdventHealth chaplain Ely Magtanong, and North Philippine Union Conference president Romeo Mangiliman. They and others joined the celebration during the church’s midweek, Friday evening, and Saturday (Sabbath) programs.
In a special recorded greeting, General Conference president Ted Wilson said he was thankful and thrilled to know that the church is growing continuously by God’s grace.
“It is my joy and privilege to greet you and as you celebrate God’s faithful leading of the Santa Ana Seventh-day Adventist Church and His goodness throughout these past 110 years,” Wilson said. “What a milestone to reach, and how inspiring to know that your church is still reflecting the love of God to the community!”