Over the last few years, the Gospel has spread throughout the island of Mindoro, Philippines, at a pace never thought possible. As New People’s Army (NPA) communist rebel soldiers and assassins laid down their guns in exchange for Bibles, AWR continued to praise God as His Spirit used radio broadcasts to transform hearts.
But the incredible story continues! Here are just a few updates:
A Meeting With the President
In November 2021, the AWR team and General Conference President Ted Wilson traveled to the Philippines for evangelistic meetings and a historic baptism of former rebel assassins and several high-ranking government military officials.
But their first stop during this visit was to meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his wife at the presidential palace. When the team arrived, they were ushered inside without the usual security protocols, as the president said, “We don’t need to worry about them—they’re Seventh-day Adventists!”
President Duterte expressed his gratitude to Adventist World Radio and the Adventist Church for helping to end the communist rebel resistance on the island of Mindoro, which has brought about reconciliation.
Then Elder Wilson shared a spiritual message with the president and thanked him for the amnesty given to the assassins as they laid down their arms to follow Jesus. And to think this was all accomplished by the power of God’s Word through radio!
Evangelism Center Dedication, Medical Clinic and Evangelistic Series
The team also attended the inauguration of the brand-new building for the AWR360° Center for Digital Evangelism, which is reaching people worldwide through social media and other online technology.
Then they headed to Mindoro, where the group visited the medical clinic staffed by volunteer doctors and other medical professionals. By the time the four-day clinic was over, more than 10,000 people had received medical care.
Next, many of the team members held several short evangelistic series throughout the island, including a series called Earth’s Final Countdown preached by Elder Wilson and AWR President Duane McKey and watched by people who attended in person, on television and via Zoom.
On the final Sabbath, Elder Wilson preached to an audience of 2,500 people scattered across an outdoor venue. Addressing the former rebels, he encouraged them saying, “All of us were rebels at one time, but now our old life is put away. Today, by God’s grace, you are no longer former rebels, but new creatures in Christ! You are a part of God’s great family that is looking forward to the Second Coming of Jesus!”
Elder McKey welcomed these precious men and women into the Seventh-day Adventist Church on the day of their baptism, saying, “Your blue shirts say ‘I Will Go,’ and that is your new calling—to ‘Go, preach and baptize,’ to help others find salvation, just as you once did.”
The 700 former rebels and their families then replied in unison, “Today, leaving the past behind, we accept that commission of Jesus! We will go!” They then promised that “each one would reach one.”
This memorable day marked the end of a half-century of armed conflict that claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people.
The chief of police in Mindoro said, “For years we tried everything to end the conflict. We offered to bribe the rebels with food and a stipend, but nothing we did ever worked. In the end, it was through the work of Adventist World Radio that this was accomplished.”
“The truth is that it was through the power of God,” said Elder McKey. “The passion these rebel soldiers once felt for their misguided cause is now being redirected by God’s Spirit to a passion for Jesus and His coming kingdom.”
The Sabbath celebration was the culmination of more than four years of airing God’s Word throughout the island of Mindoro—reaching deep into the mountains to these hidden rebel groups—and God’s Spirit did the rest.
An Unexpected Surprise
As the last meeting closed on the final Sabbath, the team was in for a huge surprise! Without anybody knowing, the former rebels had spent hours preparing a program to show their gratitude.
Each of the former rebel family groups prepared a portion of the program. It was well organized and consisted of the following: One person would present a personal testimony and share how their life had changed. Another expressed gratitude, and another made an appeal. Each group had also composed a special song.
At the close, the former rebels called all the church leaders to the front and every single former rebel presented a flower to each person and thanked them, shaking their hands and hugging them.
One of the former rebels came forward and gave his testimony. He said, “Today I made the decision to give my heart to Jesus because of what I have witnessed here. I came doubting, just to check things out and see if it was really real, and now I’m convinced and want to be baptized soon.”
By the end of the meeting, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as these “former rebels” were now known as “fully restored.”
By the time all the evangelistic series had concluded in the Philippines, more than 124,000 people had been baptized! In Mindoro alone, 2,000 were baptized on that last Sabbath, including the 700 former rebels.
An Unusual Couple and a New Life
One testimony really stood out: that of Rose, a four-star general in the NPA. She’s the wife of Kal Martin, once an NPA five-star general. They were both highly ranked assassins—and both were baptized that Sabbath.
They had been apart for three years and met again just days before their baptism. Due to the stress of jungle mountain life, Rose had taken the kids and made her way undercover to Manila, where she hid for three years. She was on the “Most Wanted” list in the Philippines, but now she and her husband have received amnesties from the government.
Rose’s life has turned around, and she is working with the Philippine government. She has the gift of a photographic memory—never forgetting a face or a name—and is proving invaluable throughout the Philippines in helping to bring in pockets of rebel forces in different parts of the country. She knows almost all the rebels in the country by name, and is helping to end the assassinations still taking place on many of the islands.
But there’s more! The government has partnered with Farm Stew, an ASI ministry. Farm Stew and Rose will work together to teach the former rebels to be self-supporting by farming and running small businesses. The former rebels survived for years through killing, extortion and as hired guns. Now, as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, they will learn new skills to support themselves.
A Promise Kept
As was mentioned earlier, after the baptism of the former rebels, they promised to “each one reach one,” and they even asked AWR to return once there was a new group ready for baptism.
The ministry team figured it would be another year before they reached their goal, but one month later, in December, the former rebels called AWR and said, “We’ve reached our goal! We have another 700 ready for baptism!”
In April 2022, AWR returned to the Philippines, where indeed each one had reached one—and then some! A total of 1,219 more people were ready for baptism, all as a result of the work of these former rebel assassins now fully restored and witnessing in their villages.
The AWR team was blown away. How was that possible? How had they done it?
What Made the Difference
The thing is, when you’re on fire for God and filled with awe at being forgiven a debt you knew you could never repay, your joy and gratitude know no bounds.
Not only did these restored men and women give Bible studies and gather their friends and villagers to share the Revelation of Hope Bible series material AWR gave them, but they began building churches in their villages. The funds AWR supporters so generously provided for this project are making a huge difference, and churches are now cropping up all over Mindoro!
Every church built has become an entire village event. Whenever a church is planned for a village, the former rebels invite the whole village to participate, letting them know everyone will be welcome in the church when it’s finished, because it will be their village church. The enthusiasm is contagious, and as they work side by side with their neighbors, the former rebels also share their faith.
The results have been stunning. Everyone exceeded their goal of “each one reach one.”
One couple, Dona and Dodo, had prayed, “God, give us more than just one each. We can do better than that!” So they prayed for a miracle and in the end brought 57 candidates for baptism!
Ernesto, another former assassin, had the astounding total of 210 people whom he proudly presented, all brought to the feet of Jesus by his testimony. It was an amazing celebration.
The AWR team had never seen anything like it before: Thirty couples from the jungles of Mindoro, Philippines, who until recently had been living in primitive conditions, now dressed for their wedding—the women in white bridal gowns and the men in tuxedo-like black suits.
There they were in front of the AWR team, never before married but living together for years, having children, hiding from military forces, participating in assassination attacks—and now getting married!
These couples couldn’t get married before because they all had warrants out for their arrest. Now they were fully pardoned by the government, getting married, being baptized, building churches, giving Bible studies to other rebels, and preaching evangelistic sermons for AWR! Their lives were changed forever.
“Please,” they asked after the wedding, “can we keep the shoes?”
Everything they were wearing had been rented for the occasion—including their shoes. They had never owned real shoes before and were now wearing them for the first time. How could the ministry refuse their request? AWR made sure they all got to keep them!
Military Baptism at GC Session
There was a time when the former rebels and Philippine military were bitter enemies, pouring all their resources into killing each other. But as the military watched the changing hearts of the NPA members, God began working on their hearts as well.
And at the St. Louis General Conference Session in June, a number of top military personnel were baptized as a symbol of how God can change a hopeless situation and transform lives.
Here are some of their stories:
Officer Willie works in military intelligence. He was assigned to monitor the activity of AWR when the government noticed that AWR began working with the NPA rebels in the mountains of Mindoro. Unbeknownst to AWR, the Philippine military wasn’t sure what the ministry was up to, so in 2018, they began their surveillance. Early on, he reported that the AWR visitors were “genuine people whose love for God and for the Philippine people was true and sincere.”
His exposure to Adventists slowly led him to know the truth, and he often accompanied the AWR team on expeditions. Before his baptism, he even agreed to perform as an actor in one of the miracle videos when the ministry team needed someone in the role of assassin. He and his family found their community in the Adventist Church.
Officer Jimmy also works in intelligence. His job was to neutralize the work of the NPA on the island of Mindoro, and his role was to plan military operations against them—pursuing known key people among the rebels. His brother had been killed by the NPA, and his anger toward the rebels fueled his need for revenge. He was targeting the rebels AWR was working with, and in doing so, he witnessed AWR’s efforts to bring peace, unity and reconciliation.
Because his desire for revenge was so great, he observed everything AWR did, listened to every broadcast, attended every evangelistic meeting, and you guessed it—while he was planning revenge, God was changing his heart, because Jesus draws all sincere souls—even those burdened with hatred and revenge—to the foot of the cross.
Colonel Eric is a high-ranking military official. Despite his elevated position, he was the first to accept the Sabbath truth. As part of his job, he attended all of AWR’s evangelistic meetings with the former rebels, and in doing so was convicted of the truth in the Adventist message.
He said, “During the course of our interaction with the now-former rebels, we saw how God moved and worked to transform their lives to become fully restored individuals in Christ until one day, the Holy Spirit reached us through the teachings of Pastor Robert Dulay [assistant director for the AWR Asia-Pacific Region] and Adventist World Radio, and opened our hearts to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.”
The Momentum Continues
The ripple effects continue in the Philippines as these fully restored men, women and children share the Good News with their neighbors and help AWR reach places like Mindanao, where current rebels and assassins will soon get to know the love of Jesus.
How Can You Help?
There is an urgent need to build churches in the 70 respective villages of all those baptized. Now that these new believers have laid down their guns and picked up Bibles, we want to continue to encourage and nurture them as they get even closer to Jesus and begin to share their faith with others. You can donate here: https://awr.org/product/churches-for-the-former-rebels-of-mindoro/
Please continue to pray for this amazing outreach, and thank you for your support of Adventist World Radio, which is daily living out its mission of leading people From Broadcast to Baptism!