We had to make a quick trip to Manila for a couple of important meetings, so we came a day early so we could attend our church, CCF (Christ’s Commission Fellowship). This week was CCF’s 25th Anniversary service and we know it would be a special event.
We attended CCF regularly from 1991-1996, the years we lived in Manila. During that time, we attended a Home Fellowship (then later hosted one in our home), attended some of their Bible studies and training seminars, Bill was in the rotation to play keyboard in the worship band, etc. We loved the church and made some very special friends (both Filipino and expat) that we try to connect with every chance we get.
GOD HAS BEEN WORKING IN MANILA…
But our relationship with CCF goes back to the first time we attended, which was in early 1987, when the church was just getting going.
Today… CCF has multiple services are several venues throughout Manila and in other cities in the Philippines and Asia. Their growth has been amazing to watch, almost all of it coming from evangelism and discipling of new believers.
So what was it like for us today? Amazing… mind-blowing, heart-stopping, and such a blessing. In order to gather most of their local congregations together, they rented out the Araneta Coliseum for not just one, but two services. Philippine pro basketball plays there. (Sport fans: The Araneta Coliseum was the venue of the famous 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.) It’s a large and busy venue. Eric Clapton played there in 1979. Santana played there in 1995. The band Chicago is coming there in a couple of weeks.
On the way to the Coliseum we took the MRT (an elevated mass transit train). It was jam packed at 8:45 am on a Sunday morning when the malls aren’t even open yet. We guessed (correctly) that many passengers were on their way to the service. At that station, about 2/3 of the passengers disembarked and swarmed toward the Coliseum. So we filed in with nearly 17,000 other attendees. Yes, 17,000! That’s more than the entire Palawano people group for whom we are translating! And believe me, when the 45 minutes of worship began it was enough to make you think you were already in the Kingdom of God’s opening service.
There was a 200-member choir. The first few times we attended CCF there were not many more members than that in the whole church(!), maybe 300. That really put the wonderful growth in perspective. Instead of the normal ~6-member band, my friend Mel Villena (a music producer by profession) put together a band of over 16 musicians, including a full horn section. The music and the transitions between the songs were produced so well… yet it wasn’t a show, just a fully-enhanced worship experience where the Spirit of God was so evident.
A SPECIAL TREAT…
There was one special number done during the service and the soloist was Kuh Ledsma who sang Michael W. Smith’s “Above All.” It was enough to give you goose bumps. Most of you probably haven’t heard of Kuh, but her vocal talent is unmatched and in the Philippines her star status would be comparable to Celine Dion. So imagine Celine singing a special number in your church. Turns out Kuh became a believer a few years back and is using her voice for the Lord now sometimes. We’ve enjoyed her music since our arrival here in 1981, but never thought the first time we saw her live would be at CCF!
It was fun to hook up with old friends, missionaries Vince and Lori (Vince was my classmate in Bible School in 1975 when we were both 19!) They took us to a modest but authentic little Italian restaurant. It is owned by an Italian man with a Filipina wife, and is very much off-the-beaten-path. Imagine how cool we felt to walk in and see that this was where Kuh was having lunch!
GOD CHANGES LIVES…
Pastor Peter Tan-Chi started off my reminding everyone that “It’s not about us. It’s not about how big we are. It’s about God and how he has used us in spite of ourselves.” He pointed out some dangers in “Anniversary” services, including pride or even a sense of complacency coming from looking at what God has done and forgetting that there’s so much more he wants to do! Then his messages focused on one of his favorite statements: God is in the business of changing lives.
THE SAME GOES FOR PALAWANOS…
The context is anything but Manila, the culture is different and the numbers are smaller, but God is in the business of changing lives on Palawan, too. We hear good reports of spiritual growth, increased service to God, new outreaches and many other encouraging examples of what God is doing there. Nearly every Sunday, Abil teaches from the newly-published book of Acts. Soon they will have Ephesians and 1 Peter in their hands.
We are working to translate the book of Luke, the longest book in the New Testament. We’re encouraged with progress and looking forward to another round of work with some of our translation helpers next week. Please pray with us for health, energy and wisdom as we continue this work.
Someday, the worship will not be just 17,000 believers from one ethnic group. It will be millions of us, including Palawanos and so many others, no longer limited by language barriers, no longer worshipping from afar… all of us joining a mighty chorus to sing the praises of the Lord Jesus Christ as we look into the eyes of our savior.
Wow. I won’t even bother wearing socks to that one!
CHECK OUT OUR OTHER BLOGS
Read ministry updates, personal perspectives, prayer requests and links to photos