By: Jireh Bautista
For someone who is yet to encounter the Prince of Peace, the idea of faith would sound like a baffling, ridicule-worthy perception. How could it compel you to believe that everything unfolds by Someone’s will and intention? When things seem to go haywire, how could it fuel you up and be assured of an ever-present Living Hope? For the 161 delegates, it is simply because God, whose heart beats for a reckless kind of love for mankind, is undeniably real.
On April 9-12, 2018 young hearts and souls from Evangel Family Churches of Central and Eastern Visayas took part of the most anticipated four-day gathering of summer 2018. Hopefuls for God’s touch were from Albuera, Leyte; Balamban, Cebu; Baybay, Leyte; Bogo, Cebu; Bohol, Calbayog, Samar; Cebu City, Ormoc, Leyte and Tacloban, Leyte.
Day 1: Road to Rekindling
All delegates were gathered in Hidden Valley Mountain Resort, Brgy. Pinamungahan, Cebu City. During the first session, Pastor Renante Subong of EFC Ormoc talked about settling the issues of the hearts first and foremost. He said that if one wants to be used by God, that person should not depend on his feelings for the hearts are deceitful. Rather, he placed emphasis on getting the hearts right before the Lord. He added that with a heart that’s right, one won’t easily commit mistakes and it would be easier to constantly do what pleases Him.
On the first night session, Pastor Jay Bautista of First Touch Ministry preached a sermon about living right for the Lord. He mentioned that to live right, the heart must be right. He stressed that the heart to live right makes one not to love the world. Instead, a heart to live right for God makes one to be willing and committed to honor the Lord at all times. Some of these things that a right heart does are not doing the things that displease Him, surrendering one’s wants and ways to Him, and sacrificing one’s own personal agenda for God’s greater agenda. This night session did not end without a dynamic praise and worship time. Most were on their feet jumping around with joyful hollering and admiration to Jesus. All delegates had a sweet time with the Holy Spirit as they sang and spoke in an unknown tongue. Indeed, God’s presence was already evident and overwhelming even on the first day.
Day 2: Passion Reignited
It was the 10th of April and the delegates were expectant of the awesome things that were still about to happen. After the morning prayer and devotion, and a heavy breakfast, the first session of the day kicked in. Pastor Gerry Fernandez of EFC Bogo encouraged the delegates to evaluate the condition of their hearts on how they truly love the Lord. He dealt on the verses from the Book of Revelation about the Christians who were once on fire for God but eventually lost the passion and lost the fire. He continued that there must be a reason behind it. It could be besetting sins that has not been brought to the light yet, for one doesn’t lose one’s spiritual appetite for no cause. He then backed it up with remedies and those are repentance, remembering past victories, keeping a strong desire for God, and staying closer and connected to Him.
The second session was spearheaded by Pastor Genevieve Rosal of First Touch Ministry whose main topic was “Recovering What Was Lost”. The previous sessions intersected at one clear message which was: a deteriorating passion is caused by heart issues. Pastor Gen discussed moreover that frustration, failure, fatigue, and fear may also affect one’s passion. She highlighted that in our faith, if vision sets the direction, passion fuels the rocket. To recover the passion that was lost, we need to remember, repent, and respond.
The next session was still in the evening so the campers had a lot of time to plunge into the pools, freshen up, or roam around and make friends with other delegates.
On the night session, Pastor Ammabelle Bautista of First Touch Ministry took over. She shared a message about Choosing to live a purposeful life. She said that people with no direction are easily dragged and manipulated by awful things in life such as greed, hatred, sin, pride, love for money, and laziness. Without God-given wisdom, careers, boy-girl relationships, friends, and family can be used by the enemy and could possibly derail one’s true course and calling. She shared that if one has been wanting to change but couldn’t, the answer is Jesus Christ for He came to set people free. She then ended with a series of points about the purpose God intended for the lives of the delegates. That each one was created for a far greater God-given purpose all for His glory!
When altar call came, the delegates reached out to God, with great hunger crying out to God to purify their hearts. Weeping, kneeling down, lifting their hands up towards the heavens, and speaking in tongues. All were desperate for the touch of God upon their lives.
Day 3: Sessions and a Showdown
The delegates were excited for more of God’s presence and revelation. Pastor Bene Cabase of EFC Tagbilaran preached on key points that can reignite one’s passion. He discussed about ways to be happy because apparently a sad person is not someone equipped with genuine passion. According to him, to serve the Lord with gladness, the heart and mind should be freed from hatred and worries, one must live simply, and most importantly, one must develop a deep relationship with God. A true believer with authentic passion knows the truth, has daily intake of the food for the soul which is the Word of God, prays without ceasing, is a minister of Christ, and puts his/her hope in God alone, he concluded.
Pastor Nelson Banol of EFC Tacloban handled the last session of the conference. He focused on Returning To Our First Love- reigniting the passion for Jesus. He talked about how great a fresh believer’s enthusiasm is for the things of God and what has possibly caused the drift of that believer’s passion from burning to losing. He answered that mystery with three pretty practical points yet felt like straight-to-the-core punches namely: unconfessed sins, unresolved conflicts, and unbalanced schedule. The session ended with moments of reaching out to God and one could not be wrong to say that this conference truly turned the hearts of the delegates into pursuing God more.
The last night of the event came and it was Dandramuzik night! Six incredible performances battled for a musical showdown of singing, dancing, and acting. However, the two teams that grabbed the judges thumbs up were the teams from FTM Cebu. Runner-up was JSquad++ with their interpretation of Zach Williams’ Old Church Choir through a UV light presentation. Team Catalyst, on the other hand, emerged Champion as they delivered a wacky, comedic yet meaty performance that left everybody giggling and the judges impressed. Praises to the ultimate source of giftedness! Wonderful testimonies from the campers covered the rest of the night and one by one, up until time allowed, they testified of how the presence of God moved them radically and of how His touch fell upon them especially during the second night’s altar call. Everyone left the place renewed, strengthened and refreshed.
Day 4: Steps of Faith and Fun
What greater way to show the fruit of faith than take it into action? 12 brave young souls from Cebu, Baybay, Ormoc, Calbayog and Tacloban publicly declared their love for the Lord as they took the step of water baptism. Before they got dipped into the water, they were asked to share their reasons why they wished to take this act of faith. Brother Ian, who was not able to hold his tears any longer, told the crowd that he’s not afraid of the persecutions to come. He said that since Jesus Christ died to save us all from our sins, he should also give his life in return. What a stirring moment it was to feel the sincerity of the drastic change Christ must have brought to each of their lives. After the ceremony, the campers then spent the rest of the day enjoying the pools and the beautiful sceneries of the resort.
As the delegates departed and traveled back to their individual homes. The mission from the start was for each one’s passion to be reignited. The answer to the question of whether or not every passion’s wick was indeed relit lies not on the duration of the conference but on the action-packed battles that are yet to take place.
When a remote town gets the taste of electricity for the first time, days become longer, and prosperity and industrial progress eventually takes over. That little town will never be the same again. Oldie or newbie in this faith, may every camper take on the challenge of not only tending to their own personal spiritual growths but also spreading their burning passions to others, like a wildfire. May each one who took hold of the fire that shines a light none can obscure, have his/her first-love kind of vigor and spark towards God and His Word.
Keep the flame burning!