The Tagaytay Central Seventh-day Adventist Church is unlike any other Adventist church I’ve known. It’s surrounded by the lush tropical vegetation of Luzon island in the Philippines, and is located inside the Taal Volcano, overlooking the large lake encircling the volcano’s cone. The Tagaytay Central church is therefore hot. And not only physically; it’s also spiritually hot. Besides vigorous Sabbath School discussions and wide-ranging activities for children and youth, the church is actively involved in mission to the city.
SMALL IN SIZE—BUT NOT IN ACTION
The Tagaytay Central church has fewer than 100 members and some time ago celebrated its seventh anniversary. But in spite of being small in number, the members recently baptized more than 120 people following an evangelistic program in San Jose Barangay. Church members have routinely responded to numerous invitations to support mission projects in churches that are part of the same district, and as far away as the capital, Manila (about 65 kilometers [40 miles]). The Tagaytay Central church has a high membership turnover, as it’s a short-term home for many people coming to the city for temporary work. It’s not difficult to baptize people in the Philippines; the challenge is to disciple them and to help them grow in Christian maturity.
The church envisions becoming a center of hope in its community. Members discussed and prayed about opening a vegetarian restaurant; instead, they opened a part-time bakery and pastry shop that currently produces on demand. Their goal is to equip a vegetarian mobile canteen in the bustling and fast-expanding tourist city of Tagaytay, where wholesome food would be accompanied by spiritual literature.
A CHALLENGE BECOMES A BLESSING
About five years ago Tagaytay Central church leaders were startled to discover that they didn’t have the appropriate ownership documents for the church property. In essence, it didn’t belong to them. Sadly, the property was transferred to new owners, who asked the church members to vacate. The members prayed to God for a solution. Land in Tagaytay is extremely expensive, and the church members couldn’t afford to purchase another property.
The church building is surrounded by exclusive gated residential communities, golf courses, hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks— all competing for a piece of the vista of the lake and volcano. In spite of this situation, however, the new owners agreed to allow the Adventists to continue to operate at their current location, and the church is still there today.* They know, though, that they can be asked to leave at any time. That challenge, however, has proved to be a blessing.
The members determined to use whatever time they had left at this location to maximize their missionary effectiveness. They worked as if they would remain there long-term, but at the same time they were prepared to leave any day.
The members discovered a displaced community located in a steep ravine in San Jose barangay, and they began to visit with the people and provide for their practical needs. Visiting families in the ravine provides a great deal of exercise just from walking down the ravine and then back up to the main road. A number of the people—because of arthritis and other mobility issues—are condemned to live in the ravine permanently, especially those in wheelchairs. There’s no sewage system, and landslides occur when it rains heavily or during tropical storms or typhoons. Ambulances cannot access the community; patients have to be lifted and carried to the main road by friends or family.
One man who is confined to a wheelchair accepted Jesus and was baptized. He had no source of income, and was dependent on others to survive. Church members taught him how to weave doormats from cloth rags, and a businessman offered to purchase his mats. Neighboring schools also regularly buy doormats from him, especially during the rainy season. Meanwhile, small stores began to sprout up in the ravine, offering food and other needed items.
MEETING COMMUNITY NEEDS
Most of the population in Tagaytay is young , so Adventist church members decided to organize Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) for children. They started with holding one VBS every year in a different location; but in 2019, the entire church was involved in offering VBS experiences in five barangays concurrently. Not only adults but also young people and even children helped their guests discover God and His call to be missionaries for Him. Everyone was exhausted by the time the VBS event was over, but they felt very happy with and rewarded by the results. By God’s grace, total member involvement was a reality.
Determined to serve the needs of the community around them, church members discovered a large number of single mothers who had no income or support for their families. A new idea was born—to teach the single mothers to sew and sell clothing to provide an income for their families. A rundown shelter near the church was completely refurbished and made ready to host the Livelihood Project. Church deaconess Hilkie Dogwe offered her time and skills to teach the women to sew. With help from an Adventist lay group called Working in God’s Service (WINGS) in Manila, as well as from benefactors from as far away as Australia and the United States, sewing machines were purchased and the project started. Every morning begins with a Bible devotional reading. After the sewing lesson, church members demonstrate how to cook healthful food, then everyone eats lunch together. The Livelihood Project has resulted not only in training people to generate income for themselves and their families, but also in having several of the young mothers and others come to know Jesus and be baptized.
The enthusiasm of Tagaytay Central church members is contagious. They may not be a large church with ample resources, but with God’s blessings and assistance from others, the members are making a difference in their local community by using their God-given talents to serve others. They pray that the Lord will continue to use them as influencers for the glory of God.
*Note: After the Taal Volcano erupted on January 12, 2020, followed by the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March, the Tagaytay Central church members have been unable to visit the people they were helping and to maintain their outreach activities. They continue to do what they can, such as recruiting police officers to deliver bags of rice to those living in the ravine, as well as diapers and baby formula to some of the women who were part of the sewing classes. Please pray that the Lord will provide ways for the church members to reach out to those in need and share with them the message of Jesus’ love.—Editors.