The Philippines

A key country for the World

May 2018, by Olivier Fleury*

Philippines, the name of this country of innumerable islands has been named in memory of the Apostle Philip, by Magellan, the Spanish explorer, almost 500 years ago.

The Philippines, bought in 1898 by the United States is a unique blend of East and West! I visited them in April 2018 to share the vision of "Jesus Celebration 2033" (JC2033).

How was this trip prepared? At the World Congress of the "Lausanne Movement" in Cape Town in 2010, I met with Rheo Loseo, the Filipino director of Youth With A Mission: "It is imperative that you come to the Philippines with this project," he told me. with enthusiasm. From that moment on, I carry this country in my heart.

 

Olivier Fleury avec Rheo Loseo, le directeur philippin de Jeunesse en Mission
With Rheo Loseo, director of YWAM Philippines

 

After 20 hours of travel, I land on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 in Manila. It was Rheo, with Benjamin Cruz (Leader of the “Living Waters ministry”) and Pauline Montero (who documented this trip with photos and videos) who accompanied me on my visits during this short stay.

 

A decade ahead of the "Jubilee of the Resurrection"?

The next day, Wednesday, April 18, is very intense: five meetings between 8:30 and 22:30... with six hours of jet lag in the bones! We travel to Quezon City, one of the sixteen cities that Manila has engulfed (the greater Manila has 11 million inhabitants), and we are greeted by Bishop Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance. He is the highest official of the world evangelicals, in short, the pope of the evangelicals.

His first reaction was so positive that I was stunned: “I have been convinced for a long time of this project I had heard about: it is the resurrection of Jesus that is the center of the Gospel”. He proposed calling it the “Jubilee of the Resurrection” inviting all churches to a “resurrection decade” that could begin in 2023!

“I sincerely hope that the various denominations will engage as well as the National and Regional Evangelical Alliances. It is through them that the evangelicals will be influenced”, he added.

He invites us to a typical restaurant where he vividly tells us about his last visit to Pope Francis: “I gave him a “stress ball” representing the planet to remind him that he has a role of transformation of the world”.

Finally, E. Tendero formally invited me to present JC2033 at the Global Assembly of the World Evangelical Alliance in Bali in November 2019 and sealed his engagement with a warm smile and a firm handshake, confirming: “Done deal!”

 

Efrai Tendero
Efraim Tendero

 

Then we visited Bishop Chito Ramos, head of a large church federation, “Alliance of Bible Christian Communities of the Philippines” (ABCCOP).

Visit their website: Alliance of Bible Christian Communities of the Philippines

He understood immediately the stakes in Asia of such a project. He was returning from a trip to China where he visited the largest Bibles printer in Nanjing / Nanjing (90 million Bibles between 1988 and 2011).

Visit their website: Nankin/Nanjing's Bibles printing house

“To realize such a project, it is necessary to proclaim the Gospel and to establish churches”, he affirmed with conviction.

 

 

I then met the leaders of the Ecumenism of the Focolare, a great movement rooted in the Catholic Church that works for the unity of the Church. It is precisely the commitment to JC2033's unity that touches Edith de Jesus Scandia and William Pilarta: “Everyone is a candidate for unity”, they told me. This summer, they are expecting more than ten thousand young people from different backgrounds for the “Genfest”. They also believe that the celebration of 500 years of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines (in 2021) will be a preparation for 2033.

 

 

Put more emphasis on the resurrection than on the cross of Jesus

“Jesus loves you, Church” is the name of a network of evangelical churches, of which Rey Benito is “the bishop”. Indeed, in the Philippines, evangelicals do not hesitate to call their president “bishop”!

I met a passionate missionary man who works with Filipinos from the diaspora, all over the world, especially in the Gulf countries. He shared with us several shocking statements: “We must speak more about the resurrection than about the cross in the Church”.

“Do not be pressed for time but be strategic not to waste time and energy”. He spontaneously invited us to speak to 80 church leaders that night who enthusiastically welcomed the project as if it were theirs. He left us saying, “Either you are a missionary, or you are a field of mission”!

 

Avec Rey Benito
With Rey Benito

 

The next day I attended a roundtable at the Legend Villas Hotel, hosted by Bishop Noël Pantoja, head of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), which represents 78 denominations and more than 40’000 evangelical churches.

Visit their website: Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches

 

Avec Noel Pantoja
With Noel Pantoja

 

He assembled the leaders of “Jesus Reigns”, “Youth with a Mission”, and the “Bible Society of the Philippines” an opportunity for us to speak to them about JC2033. I was surprised how everyone said how much this project makes sense in the context of their own mission. I encouraged them to seek excellence in the mandate God has given them. Together we will open the way for 2033 both locally and internationally.

I was also touched that Michael Nasarala, of Palestinian origin and present at this meeting, encouraged me to trust that this project comes from God. "In my travels”, he says, “I see the immense potential that such an initiative can have."

 

Table ronde

 

A vision that challenges us

Friday, April 20 started with a deep conversation with Efi Fermine, National Director of Campus for Christ. He listened to me very intently and concluded, “This vision is quite possible even if it seems impossible! By definition, resurrection unites Christians. This vision challenges us to live a life like Jesus lived it”. He grasped the importance of the prayer for JC2033 and immediately proposed to the Campus Prayer Leader to make it a subject in their National Day of Prayer.

 

Crusade de Campus pour Christ
Campus for Christ's crusade

 

At noon, I met Randy Borromeo, of “Light of Jesus”, a very dynamic charismatic Catholic movement in a Spanish restaurant. Delegated by his director, Bo Sanchez, he arrived late and seemed unmotivated. However, the more we talked about JC2033, the more he realized the similarities with his own department.

 

Avec Randy Borromeo
With Randy Borromeo

 

He promised to think seriously about attending the JC2033 conference in November 2018 in the Geneva region (Nyon) and to invite us in December on Cebu Island (Philippines) to present the vision. We had trouble leaving so well we connected!

 

 

Focus on the testimony

After a rest on Saturday when I visited two museums which showed the history of this beautiful country, I was invited, to preach in a small church in a popular district of Manila. The average age of the 70 people present was between 20 and 25 years old. Pastor Marc Antony Yson then proposed that I pray for those who wish it. To my surprise, the whole church went in line to receive prayer!

 

Avec le pasteur Marc Antony Yson
With pastor Marc Antony Yson

 

In the afternoon, we had an appointment with the president of the Free Evangelical Churches of the Philippines, Bishop Ariel Jornales. Doctor in theology and easy going, he asked many questions to understand the project. With each answer, his smile and his interest grew! “I want to read your book and give you my opinion, but I am already convinced that it must be discussed with the world leaders of my federation. If we can work with all the churches I can see a great celebration”, he said with a smile.

 

 

The next day, we had a breakfast with Bishop Daniel Balais, the “Prophetic Evangelical Churches” and his Executive Director. Touched by the missiological dimension of the project, the bishop punctuated my explanations with “Wow!” A great traveler and a great man of prayer, this 70-year-old "young man" has clearly seen the relevance of such a project at the global level.

 

 

Our last appointment before jumping on the plane back home, we met Dan Andrew Cura. He is the president of a “Far East Broadcasting Company”, and he is committed to unity in evangelism. Brilliant and enthusiastic, he invites us to always remember that “the best advocate of the Gospel is a Christian transformed by the resurrection of Jesus”. According to him, the focus must be on the testimony. 2033 will be a unique opportunity to announce that Jesus is changing our lives, because He is risen. He concludes with this question: “If there is a resurrection in my life, do I speak about it”?

 

 

Summary of this trip

Following these very positive meetings, I believe that the Philippines are a key for Asia and even for the world. No doubt we will have to go back… maybe even soon. I also saw great spiritual fervor and a love for the gospel to be announced to all. Christians have a broad vision, an amazing sense of universal mission. "Either you are a missionary, or you are a field of mission," Bishop Rey Benito told me! It makes me think.

* Olivier Fleury isthe founder of « Jesus Celebration 2033 » :

Who is Olivier Fleury? Click here!