Forty Days and 138 Miles to Baptism

How digital evangelism in the Philippines led a woman in Belgium to find Jesus.

Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division
Forty Days and 138 Miles to Baptism
Virgie Vanhauwermeiren receives a heartfelt prayer just before her baptism in the Netherlands in March 2021. [Photo: courtesy of Virgie Vanhauwermeiren]

After losing her sister in a car accident in 2017, Virgie Vanhauwermeiren, a Filipina residing in Brussels, Belgium, was confronted with profound loneliness. Although she was married, her husband’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease had led him to reside in a nursing home. Faced with the daunting prospect of living alone, Virgie encountered numerous challenges as she navigated each day, striving to discover purpose and fulfillment in her life.

“It felt like the weight of the world was upon me. I never imagined that solitude could be this crushing,” Virgie shares. “I longed to find a path toward healing, but I felt lost, unsure of where or how to begin.”

Each day, Virgie made a conscious effort to infuse her life with meaning and purpose. Seeking solace, she turned to the Bible for guidance. Yet, lacking a structured approach, she found herself adrift, unsure of where to begin. Hoping for a transformative encounter, she randomly flipped through its pages, only to encounter disappointment. As the grip of loneliness tightened, the onset of lockdown in Belgium due to the COVID pandemic further isolated her, rendering her unable to visit her husband.

“I visited my husband in the nursing home, but they only would allow me to meet outside and see [him] through a window. It’s heartbreaking because those are the moments when my husband needed me the most, yet I couldn’t be there for him. I was searching for answers amid all that sadness, but I didn’t know where to find them,” she laments.

Day after day, the loneliness weighed heavily. The overwhelming silence prompted Virgie to seek comfort on her mobile phone, hoping to alleviate the monotony of her days. While scrolling through her social media feed, she stumbled upon an unfamiliar sight: a man in a video, addressing the camera, discussing COVID.

Intrigued, she paused to learn more about the pandemic and explore strategies for overcoming its global impact. With each passing minute, Virgie found herself increasingly captivated by the message. Its power resonated deeply within her. It transcended the mere discussion of the disease, instead offering insights about a divine source where all can discover a peace that surpasses understanding.

“I stumbled upon the livestream from Hope Channel, South Philippines. At first, I thought it was a discussion on COVID, so I found myself interested. As I continued watching, I realized that the program was centered on the living hope we can find in Jesus amid any circumstance,” Virgie explains.
During the height of the pandemic, she first casually watched this series, which Edwin Gulfan and Hope Channel South Philippines produced. However, it quickly evolved into a regular habit as Virgie became an avid viewer, seeking enlightenment and a deeper understanding of the Word of God.

Virgie followed the series “Christ Our Victory in Distress (COVID)” and “Heal Thy Lifestyle,” and eventually delved into the first season of “40 Days: My Journey with God.”

The 40 Days: My Journey with God series draws inspiration from various sources, including the significance of the number 40, which is often associated with spiritual growth and transformation. This number symbolizes a period of quarantine, such as the 40 days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving divine guidance, as well as the duration of Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness after His baptism. Through this program, viewers were able to embark on a transformative journey, reflecting on these profound spiritual connections and seeking personal growth and enlightenment.

Virgie dedicatedly followed the 40 Days: My Journey with God series from its inception. She immersed herself in the messages, diligently studied the Scriptures, and maintained a continuous dialogue through prayer, earnestly seeking wisdom and discernment to understand God’s plans for her in her current circumstances.

Digital missionaries warmly welcomed her when she reached out to the broadcast team. Their responsive and supportive interaction reassured Virgie, further motivating her to engage earnestly in studying the Bible.

For the first time, the Bible made sense. She heard God’s message through the scheduled speakers and never missed a day. Her short, unexpected encounter with God’s message on social media had led her to discover the hope and healing found in Jesus.

It did not take long before Virgie decided to get baptized. She made a firm decision to embrace Jesus as her Savior. Virgie had encountered the Seventh-day Adventist message but was unaware of any Adventist churches in Brussels at the time. After finishing the 40-day Bible series, she watched with admiration as people from across the Philippines lined up for baptism during the livestream. Their excitement moved her to seek out an Adventist church for her baptism.

Before long, Virgie discovered a church located 138 miles (221 km) away, in the Netherlands. The media team behind the 40 Days: My Journey with God campaign played a crucial role in connecting her with this church in the Netherlands. Despite the distance, Virgie was undeterred. She reached out to the church, shared her story, and expressed her desire to visit for the baptism.

In March 2021, Virgie was baptized at the church in the Netherlands.

“My days of loneliness are behind me,” she said. “God’s hand was in control of everything from the very beginning as it unfolded providentially. Each day held value, even in the depths of despair, as they served as instruments of God to lead me to a profound joy found only in Him. I have discovered my purpose, and now I am eager to participate in God’s mission of spreading the gospel through various means.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.

Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division