More Than 10,000 Baptized in the Philippines

A multi-faceted evangelistic effort throughout the Philippine Islands netted glorious results, with 10,774 individuals baptized in just two months. The first phase of the program began with thousands of Filipino Christians studying Amazing Facts Bible lessons with their friends and neighbors.

The reaping phase began on Sabbath, April 21, in a maximum-security prison in Muntinlupa City, which is about an hour from Manila. Several thousand inmates and their families were allowed to attend a Sabbathkeeping church located on the prison property in order to hear Pastor Doug Batchelor tell his life story.

The inmates were shocked to hear this man of God confess that he had once been a drug user, a thief, and a prisoner like themselves. A total of 238 death-row prisoners who had been studying Amazing Facts materials were given permission to be baptized that Sabbath. As a special token of their gratitude, the prisoners-who for security reasons were not allowed to have any knives-used stones to carve an elaborate wooden ship for Pastor Batchelor. Later that day the Amazing Facts team also baptized 60 people in a nearby minimum-security prison.

A major reaping series in Metro-Manila, a city of 20 million people on the island of Luzon, began the next day. This 14-night evangelistic marathon was based on the popular Millennium of Prophecy series that has aired around the world by television and satellite.

More than 6,000 people, not including children, attended the first meeting in the Cuneta Astrodome, and the crowd grew to about 7,000 the next evening. The Filipino people formed a special bond with Pastor Batchelor. They appreciated his effort to speak clearly and slowly so that those who spoke primarily the native Tagalog could understand his English. The children took every available opportunity to talk and take pictures with him, ask him questions, and have him pray with them. Attendance swelled to more than 10,000 on the first weekend.

Hundreds of volunteers pooled their talents in order to make the series successful. Most of the help came from the Philippines, including dozens of workers from the nearby mission office. A few volunteers came from the United States, including Joe Ingarra, who had lived in the Philippines before returning several years ago to his home in California. Last November Joe was baptized when Pastor Batchelor held a prophecy seminar in Sacramento. When Joe heard that a reaping series would be held in the Philippines this spring, he determined to go back and study with his friends. "Since I've learned all this and I know the truth, I'm going to go back and get my friends to teach them," he said. During the Metro-Manila meetings Joe worked tirelessly every day in a variety of capacities. In addition to serving as a production assistant, he also played his saxophone and the piano for special music. Another volunteer, Trevor Thompson, is a professional cameraman from New York City who works with the ABC television network. A master cameraman with more than 20 years in the industry, Trevor had also helped film the NET New York '99 series for Amazing Facts.

Satan furiously fought the meetings during the second week. First the Batchelors received word that their oldest son, Micah, had died in a heavy- equipment accident. Their grief was compounded by fear that the meetings in Manila would suffer after they returned to California for the funeral. However, God had a contingency plan for sustaining the series. Veteran evangelist Gary Gibbs, who is senior vice president and evangelism coordinator for Amazing Facts, immediately stepped in to complete the meetings. The change in speakers created several production challenges, but Pastor Gibbs said the team "felt the Lord's presence, and everybody pulled together and it worked out."

Satan had another weapon at his command. The very night that Doug and Karen Batchelor had to return to the United States, political turmoil threatened to stop the Metro-Manila series. Tens of thousands of Filipinos had flown into the city from all over the islands to create a human shield in an attempt to protect former president Joseph Estrada from arrest on corruption charges. When Estrada was finally arrested, the mob stormed current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's house, which is just miles from the Astrodome, with the intention of assassinating her. When President Arroyo instituted marshal law and a midnight curfew, our team feared that the resulting turmoil might put an end to the meetings. Yet despite roadblocks and several acts of terrorism in the area, people continued to attend the meetings. Often they were late because of detours they had been forced to take.

More than 13,000 crammed into the 10,000-capacity Astrodome the final Sabbath of the series. "There was nowhere to sit, stand, or walk," says Cheridah Walters, media director for Amazing Facts. Walters, who organized a 20-member TV production crew for the series, met person after person who commented on the impact of the multimedia presentations. Even politicians and ambassadors who attended the meetings exclaimed: "This is awesome! We've never seen anything like this before-hearing the Word of God aloud, seeing the slides and video clips on the screen, plus having a written lesson in our hands while the Word is being preached. We can never forget this-it's embedded in our minds."

Most of the people traveled very long distances to attend the meetings, especially the Sabbath program. Many arrived at 5 a.m. for the 8 a.m. program. They brought their lawn chairs and stayed all day.

Even more heartwarming is the fact that some people traveled all the way from America in order to bring their local family members to the meetings. One woman from California attended every night and brought her family members. She started with three guests but soon had 10 coming every night to listen to Pastor Doug.

Bien Venido Tejano, the Philippine ambassador to Papau, New Guinea, also came every night. He brought with him many of his government friends, including the head of the Council for Foreign Relations and other key governmental leaders. His group grew until he had to reserve 120 seats for his friends on the last Sabbath of the series. Since he is an ordained pastor, he also helped to baptize several converts on the final Sabbath.

Hundreds of people were baptized in the Philippines every day of the series. Because of great travel distances involved, many were not able to attend the meetings in Manila, but went instead to local sites to participate in home-based meetings. Baptisms took place daily at various sites throughout the islands, and large baptismal services were held on both Sabbaths of the series in two large pools near the Astrodome. One hundred pastors baptized 455 people on the first Sabbath and 588 on the second Sabbath.

Although the reaping series in Metro-Manila ended in May, the overall project is still under way in various stages. Thousands have continued their quest for Bible truth while studying the 10 remaining Storacles of Prophecy lessons that were not covered during the two-week reaping series. Bible studies in Naga City, about 450 kilometers south of Metro-Manila, resulted in 290 baptisms in an area where few Sabbathkeeping people had lived.

"I don't believe we've begun to see the harvest that will come from this meeting," said Pastor Gibbs. "Soon the sermons will be broadcast over 3ABN's new TV station in Manila. Then many more thousands will hear the truth and come to Christ."

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