A prominent Manila businesswoman
could serve as the poster child for a two-week evangelistic series that
resulted in more than 3,000
baptisms in the Philippine capital.
The businesswoman, Lourdes
Barbero-Ramos, attended the May 4-17 meetings led by Seventh-day Adventist
world church President Ted N.C. Wilson in Manila.
But she didn’t go alone.
Barbero-Ramos, who was baptized
by Wilson at an evangelistic series in 2009, brought several affluent friends
including Minnie Aguilar, a nationally known television comedian.
“It wasn’t hard to bring her
because she watches 3ABN and knows our teachings,” Barbero-Ramos said Wednesday
by telephone. 3ABN is a privately owned satellite television channel run by
“But when Minnie heard Elder
Ted …” Barbero-Ramos said, her voice trailing off. “I’m not saying this because
he is our president. I am saying this because he explained the truth very, very
Wilson’s nightly “Revelation
of Hope” presentations on the end-time prophecies of the book of Revelation marked
the highlight of “Hope Manila 2014: iCare,” a yearlong, $1.2 million project to share
Jesus with the people of Manila and especially with the city’s leading
businesspeople and politicians.
Realizing the complexity of
reaching affluent people, organizers encouraged well-connected church members
like Barbero-Ramos to invite friends to the evangelistic series as well as to
attend wellness seminars, Bible studies and other events in the run-up to
Meanwhile, in the weeks and months before the meetings, a team of 100 volunteers aged 18-25 from the
Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and other countries fanned out across the City
of Makati, Manila’s bustling financial district, to befriend young
professionals and hold Bible studies with them in upscale cafes.
Those and other efforts
culminated in Wilson’s arrival for what he has identified as one of the church’s
main evangelistic endeavors of 2014: two weeks of meetings with an audience of
national lawmakers, business owners, actors and musicians.
As Wilson spoke to the rich
and powerful guests, other visiting Adventist officials, including North
American Division President Dan Jackson and Duane McKey, vice president of the
U.S.-based Southwestern Union Conference, simultaneously conducted evangelistic
meetings at 75 other sites in Manila, which has a population of 11.8 million.
A total of 3,152 people were
baptized at the meetings led by Wilson over the first three Sabbaths of May,
said E. Doug Venn, an organizer of Hope Manila.
Combined with another 7,000 baptisms
since the start of the year, more than 10,000 new members have joined the
church under the auspices of Hope Manila.
“Pastor Ted Wilson has
modeled a comprehensive, long-term urban mission challenge for us,” said Venn,
Adventist Mission director for the church’s Southern Asia-Pacific Division,
which encompasses the Philippines and 13 other Asian countries. “This is
something that we see in the life of Jesus Christ as well as in the Spirit of
Indeed, Jesus is recorded in
the Bible as reaching out to the impoverished and the affluent. He dined in the
homes of the wealthy, including Simon the Pharisee and Zacchaeus the tax
collector, and He named another well-off tax collector, Matthew, as one of His
12 disciples. Among the women who assisted Jesus during His travels was Joanna,
the wealthy wife of Chuza, the manager of King Herod’s household.
Adventist church co-founder
Ellen G. White repeatedly cautions in her writings against neglecting the salvation
of the wealthy — a call that Venn conceded has sometimes been forgotten.
was a special effort to reach a class of society that has been neglected in the
past,” Venn said in a Skype interview
this week from his office in Bangkok. Unfortunately, Venn said, sometimes “our reflex is
we don’t care about the individual; we have other motives.”
Wilson, speaking to Hope
Manila organizers as they firmed up plans in February 2013, stressed the need
to focus narrowly on the affluent of the City of Makati and to draw up a holistic and comprehensive three-five
year plan to support their heath and spiritual needs.
“I’m hoping that you’ll find
a location for the meetings that [seats] maybe 500-700 people, a place where we
can focus on the higher classes,” Wilson said in a videotaped
After the Manila meetings,
Wilson expressed gratitude to God in an
e-mailed letter sent this week to employees of the world church headquarters in
Silver Spring, Maryland.
"We praise God that many, many people were
baptized as part of a large integrated effort across metro Manila,” Wilson
said. “God is opening doors for the proclamation of His three angels’ messages
everywhere around the world. Jesus is coming soon!"
It remains unclear how many
affluent people were baptized at the Manila meetings. But of the 700 people who
filled the Philippine International Convention Center to hear Wilson speak on
weeknights, about 400 were the guests of Adventists, Venn said. Among the
guests was a
daughter of the Philippines vice president, the owner of five local radio
stations, and the winner of a Miss Earth
beauty pageant, he said.
Senators Nancy Binay and
Cynthia Villar, who are not Adventists, spoke glowingly at the meetings about
the church’s health initiatives.
Wilson ended the
evangelistic series at the Cuneta Astrodome, where an estimated 13,000 people
packed the indoor sporting arena on Sabbath, May 17, said Joe Orbe Jr., communication
director for North Philippine Union Conference, which includes Manila.
Manlapas, 45, a personal health coach to Makati businesspeople, attended
the weeknight meetings conducted by Wilson. Manlapas, who was invited by an
Adventist doctor, first stumbled across Adventism and its emphasis on a
plant-based diet while seeking a healthier way of living.
like the lifestyle. I had been exploring Adventists for a couple years,” she
said in a Skype interview from Manila.
a registered nurse, decided to be baptized at Wilson’s meetings, which were coupled with a daily wellness program by Dr. Peter
Landless, Health Ministries director of the Adventist church.
was on the last day of Hope Manila when Elder Wilson said, ‘If you are a truth
seeker and have been going around and around looking for the truth, then God is
calling you,’” Manlapas said.
was baptized by Wilson on May 17.
Manlapas said she has begun
to share information on both healthy living and Jesus with her wealthy clients.
prominent businesspeople attended the meetings because of the efforts of
Majintha Gunatilake, a Sri Lankan national and one of 100 volunteers who received Hope Manila training from the church’s International Field School
of Urban Evangelism.
initially worked closely with seven business leaders — four of whom he met
through their Adventist friends and three of whom he met through a local
Adventist pastor. Asked by e-mail how he had managed to convince the
businessmen to study the Bible with him, he replied, “Earnest prayers really work!”
He also aroused the
curiosity of three businessmen by sending them a Bible-based PowerPoint presentation
through a mutual Adventist friend. Seeing the interest, the friend arranged a
meeting at a cafe with food, and a Bible study group was born.
Gunatilake has high hopes that all seven of his new friends will
accept Jesus before he leaves Manila.
“We need more time with
them,” he said. “But the work is in progress. Soon I believe we shall be able
to reap all of them, including their families.”
The work of the volunteers, especially
their Bible studies with up-and-coming young professionals in the cafes of
Manila’s financial district, impressed Rex and Sheri Abbott, a married couple
from Birmingham, Alabama, who helped lead an evangelistic series that resulted
in 50 baptisms at one of the 75 satellite sites.
“I asked on the first day,
‘How do you reach out to young professionals?’” said Sheri Abbott, her eyes sparkling during a Skype video
interview as she related her first encounter with a volunteer. “He said, “Basically I sit
at [a cafe] for two hours every day.’ And I thought, ‘Well!”
Abbott, who spent the first
two decades of her life in the 1960s and ’70s in Japan as the daughter of
Adventist missionaries, said that the young professionals
whom she has met are seeking meaning in life. “They are deeply spiritual and lonely, their
families live out in the provinces,” she said. “There is a great need.”
She added that the urban
evangelism methods, with their emphasis on wellness and dedicated follow-through
with new believers in the months and years after baptism, should be applied
more vigorously in other countries.
“I think this is a great
need in the United States,” she said. “We tend to throw salt at the community
and say, ‘This is what you need.’ But the community says, ‘No, mix something
with the salt.’”
Rex Abbott, owner of a roof-contracting
business for 30 years, agreed. “We need to mix with them just as Christ mixed
with people to meet their needs,” he said.
Adventist leaders intend to
take the lessons learned from Manila and use them elsewhere. Hope Manila is
part of the Adventist church’s “Mission to the Cities” initiative to share
Jesus in the world’s biggest urban areas. It follows a pilot program in New
York called NY13 last year that
resulted in annual baptisms growing by 50 percent to more than 4,000. As
part of that yearlong program, Wilson delivered a three-week “Revelation of
Hope” series in New York in June 2013.
In Manila, a series of other
events have taken place as part of its one-year program. A month-long community
service project called Love-in-Action saw church volunteers touch the lives of
about 100,000 people through a cleanup drive, child guidance and soup kitchen
programs, and free medical and dental checkups. That event was capped by a Feb.
22 outdoor rally of 20,000 Adventists attended by Manila Mayor and former
Philippine President Joseph Ejército Estrada. On March 15, about 1,000
Adventist young people drew public attention to the notion that compassion is
best communicated in practical ways by organizing a three-kilometer walk
through Manila on Global Youth Day.
“Manila, for us, was a
teaching model,” said Venn, the Hope Manila organizer. “We now need to reach
the nearly 1 billion people in the 14 countries of the Southern Asia-Pacific