PROFILE OF THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH IN THE PHILIPPINES
Origin of Hope
We Seventh-day Adventists have a fascinating history. We trace our lineage back to the Pentecost. In our missionary endeavors and lowly spirit, teachings, objectives and purpose, we, as a people, feel a strong kinship with the early Christian church.
Our Sabbath is the New Testament Sabbath. Our Advent hope is the same as that which glowed in the hearts of the first Christians in the historical annals of the Bible. Our teachings and doctrines in regard to baptism by immersion are identical with the belief and practices of the first disciples and followers of Jesus. So is our solemn but simple celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
The origin of hope for us lies in Him who established the very first church upon the Rock—Jesus. Then came the Dark Ages, when right seemed forever on the scaffold and wrong forever on the throne. Dark and evil were those days, yet the light of truth was never completely extinguished. History records that all through those terrible centuries there were some who loved the Bible, kept the seventh-day Sabbath, and treasured the advent hope in their hearts. They did not call themselves Seventh-day Adventists, of course, but they were the true successors of the early Christians, “keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
With the dawn of the nineteenth century came a great revival of Bible study, in both the Old and New World. The Dark Ages were over, the days of persecution past. The great reformation had brought freedom and a new day dawned for mankind. Spontaneously, as if rekindled by heaven itself, the advent hope flared up anew in all parts of the world.
The zealous nineteenth-century Adventists sought to interpret the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel 8:13, 14. They became convinced that the Second Advent would occur in 1844. But the year passed and Christ did not come, engendering a very great disappointment among Christ’s followers. Many people gave up all interest in religion. Others, however, refused to surrender their faith. They still believed in the Bible and nothing could shake their confidence in its prophecies and promises. They sought the true explanation for the seeming delay in Christ’s coming and studied the Bible deeper; and they found the answers. With the discovery came a great new hope and purpose.
Having determined to be loyal to God and His Word at all cost, they decided that they keep the seventh day Sabbath and belief in the Second Advent of Christ. Thus, the Seventh-day Adventist movement grew strong, flourished, and like a river flowed freely everywhere destined ultimately to reach every nation, kindred, tongue, and people on the face of the globe.
As the gospel spread to far away lands it found its way into the hearts of the Filipino people. More than all the other countries of the Far East, the Philippines portrays perhaps the greatest magnitude of God’s providence through the literature ministry. After centuries of spiritual darkness, the Filipinos reached forth with eager hands to receive the advent message through the printed page.
Soon after his arrival in Hong Kong, Abram La Rue sent packages of literature to the Philippines through friendly ship captains. However, the first direct hard work and dedicated ministry was considered worthwhile when on March 11, 1911, the first Adventist Church in the Philippines was established at Sta Ana, Manila. It started with a membership consisting of 12 baptized converts, including six other Filipinos who were accepted by profession of faith and four missionaries—the Finsters and Caldwells.
Then LV Finster trained the first three Filipino pastors namely, Bibiano Panis, Leon Roda and Emilio Manalaysay, who played significant roles in the history of the growth of Adventism in the islands. They were ordained to the gospel ministry of the Adventist church in 1919.
Panis shared the leadership of the work and even became the associate editor of Ang Tanglaw, (The Lamp) one of the first evangelistic magazine subscriptions published in the dialect circulated throughout the country.
The church expanded with Finster as administrator of the work in Manila; Hay in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Fattebert and Stewart opened the work in Cebu City; and Adams with Jornada followed up the interests created by the young literature evangelist, Ashbaugh, in Jaro, Iloilo, thus encircling the whole of Panay Island.
Organized in 1917 as Philippine Union Mission to oversee the Lord’s work in the whole archipelago, the Adventist Church in the Philippines was bifurcated in 1951 into North and South Philippine Unions. Because of further expansion, the South was later divided into two, the South and Central Philippine Union Missions. Thus from the original single parent body, three unions now administer the work in the entire country. Serving the three unions in various ministries and capabilities are 512 ordained pastors, 167 regular ministerial workers, 2,014 teachers and a host of office staff members.
The growth of the Adventist Church in the Philippines was always found progressing fast. From just 12 Seventh-day Adventist converts in 1911, the Church now has 537,329 members congregating in 4, 203 established local churches.
Programs and Ministries
Adventists have embraced the philosophy that education should be redemptive in nature, for the purpose of restoring human beings to the image of God, our Creator. Mental, physical, social, and spiritual health, intellectual growth, and service to humanity form a core of values that are essential aspects of the Adventist education. In the Philippines, there are 5 colleges, 1 university, and host of academies and elementary schools that ensure that the Adventist philosophy of education and the principles of faith-and-learning are integrated into the life of its students so as to produce responsible citizens of the country and able leaders of the church and the community.
Medical & Health Ministry
Another ministry of the Church is its medical program. It includes a healthcare delivery system with the goal to make man whole. It also promotes a healthy lifestyle as a preventive approach to better living.
There are ten Adventist sanitariums and medical centers and several other mini clinics in the Philippines promoting this health objective. These establishments carry out programs like medical outreach, drug rallies and seminars all year round to give free services to the Filipino people.
The publishing work in the church forms a very significant part of the denominational program. The Philippine Publishing House publishes books, magazines, and other reading and teaching resources circulated through 38 branches nationwide. With close to five thousand literature evangelists all over the Philippines, our church aims to enlist at least one for every church to be a part of the bookman army.
Our literature evangelists receive standardized and formal educational training in the Literature Ministry Seminary at Bugtong, Lipa City.
Whenever disaster strikes, ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (Philippines) join hands with other organization to provide clean water, food, clothing, housing and care. As an internationally recognized NGO, ADRA fulfils specific purposes of community development and disaster relief without regard to ethnic, political, or religious association. ADRA's development and relief work covers five core activities: Food Security, Economic Development, Primary Health, Disaster Preparedness and Response, and Basic Education. They work at bringing solutions and training rather than just handouts. Helping people in need is the primary goal, especially those most vulnerable such as women, children, and senior citizens.
With the fast changing trend in technology, the church has used the television to reach out to the people to minister to their spiritual needs. We now have in full operation Channel 45, featuring the 24-hour 3ABN program. We also used the radio as a medium to bring to a greater number of listeners the Voice of Prophecy program via DZRH 666 (Sundays, 9 pm), Morning Watch on DWBL 1242 (Monday-Friday, 5:00-530 am), AWR (shortwave, Sunday- Tuesday, 8 pm).
Moreover, local Adventist churches serve their communities by providing recreational and social activities for children and teenagers, vocational programs for adults, and spiritual programming and health clinics for all.
The Blessed Hope
Yet the Church yearns to accomplish more and be kept occupied till the coming of Him who gave its commission. It hopes to complete the vision by renovating its houses of worship. It aims to build edifices reflecting the unique identity and character of the Adventist faith and practice.
It aims to increase its finances through benevolent and systematic ways of giving.
The church seeks to maintain or even transcend its accomplishments and excellent services in the field of education. It aims to upgrade all its ministers to a minimum of masteral level in religion and ministry.
Our church seeks to develop and discover more local writers for our very own devotional books, both for adult and youth, and more so for the younger children in the future.
The Church pursues the reality of the dream to produce a local television program to meet the needs of the masses as well as the elite.
Our church desires to intensify its community outreach program and be more involved in a national level.
Foremost, our church upholds evangelism as the topmost priority until the Lord returns. This means involving all church members to become soul winners for Christ.
God leads onto the final victory. The future is in God’s hands. And our part is to stand true and be counted in the work that had a small beginning but will have a great and surely glorious ending.