[Photo Courtesy of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division]
Philippines | Pastor Geronimo Viernes Jr., Central Luzon Conference Youth Director

The story of Voice of Youth Ignite, an effort of the Central Luzon Conference (CLC), started when a group of young people did the groundwork for evangelism in the villages of Kambubuyugan and Talamsi Uno, Bulacan, in December 2020. This story reveals the transforming power of God, not only in the young people who participated in the evangelistic program, but also in the people who accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. The program was initiated by the Youth Department of Southern Asia-Pacific Division, headed by Pastor Ron Genebago, and the North Pacific Union Conference Youth Department, led by Pastor David Morado, and integrated into the training program of the CLC Youth Department 

Had it not been for the bravery and passion of our dedicated and committed young people who took charge of the Voice of Youth Ignite team, we would certainly not have seen and heard testimonies of love and grace from individuals who have been freed from the grip of darkness through the transforming power of Jesus Christ. 

With the inspiration and support of the local church leaders in the North Bulacan 3 District, the VOY team was organized and commissioned. It followed what was started by the groundwork group and bravely shared God’s Word with the people of Talamsi Uno from March 28 to April 10, 2021. The young people braved some of the most stubborn challenges they could ever meet in life: there was no internet, no electricity, no water, and they must do their work under strict compliance to health protocols imposed by the government.

“I am so thankful that I became part of this VOY team, which allowed me to use my God-given talent to share God’s love to other people,” shared Mart Louie Martizano, of the Camp Tecson SDA Church.

“Seeing twenty-one precious souls being baptized at the end of the VOY Ignite evangelism is so exciting and fulfilling. It has never happened in my life before. It’s such a joy. I never regretted being a part of this very energetic VOY team,” said Orland Caliso, a church planter in the village of Kalawakan, Bulacan.

The story did not end there. Mauro “Mayor” Lopez, a chieftain of the Dumagat tribe in Kambubuyugan, together with his whole family, have accepted Jesus through baptism at the Talamsi Uno VOY campaign. After the baptism, Lopez could not contain himself. He wanted to share the new truths he found with the members of his tribe in Kambubuyugan. He pleaded with the VOY team to also do a campaign in his village.

“I [also] want to share whatever truths I have heard and accepted right now. I want to share with my relatives and with my tribe that God is love and He has no favoritism,” said Lopez. “Truly, there were many religious groups that tried to persuade us, but I didn’t see and hear from them the biblical truths with a deeper impact as I did from the VOY team. They have no qualms in dealing with us. They are so sincere,” he concluded.

The urgent call to launch another VOY Ignite evangelistic meeting was happily accepted by our young people, but this time, with a new member group: the Kambu boys of Kambubuyugan,. which, being translated, means “a place of many hornets.” The Kambu boys are known as the fiercest and most troublesome youth group in the area. They are known to disrespect anyone, especially when they are drunk. No other youth dared to stand in their way. However, their hearts softened, and they were baptized during the second VOY Ignite evangelistic meetings. When they learned that another VOY campaign was going to be held in their territory, they got excited and enthusiastically presented themselves to be a part of the group.

“I am excited to share my new-found faith with my family and with my friends,” said William Gonzales, member of the Kambu boys. 

“There’s a different feeling inside me when I surrendered my life to Jesus. Before, it was so natural to say bad words. I did not respect anyone, and I was hot-tempered. But thank God, I learned to become humble through the working of the Holy Spirit,” testified Eric Bunag, another member.

From May 8–29, 2021, another VOY Ignite evangelism campaign was held in Kambubuyugan. The team included members of the Kambu boys namely, Mardison Lopez, Joven Lopez, Eric Bunag, Alberto Manansala, and William Gonzales. Each member was given a specific task according to his/her talents during the duration of the evangelistic meeting. 

The passion and bravery of the newly baptized young people, especially the Kambu boys, were impressive. They were the ones who were busy most of the time, visiting and inviting children and adults to the nightly meetings. They were the ones who actively took part in praying, singing, and giving testimonies.

The VOY evangelistic campaign had its light moments, too. During the first night, while the CLC youth director was sharing God’s Word, a water buffalo came up out of nowhere. It created a slight confusion and fear among the crowd, but it turned out to be a blessing because the attendees were now amazed that even a water buffalo wanted to attend the meetings. 

However, a very tragic accident afflicted one of the members of the Kambu boys. On the last night of the evangelistic meetings, the family of Eric Bunag was in their vehicle, going home. While negotiating a climb, the vehicle lost its brakes. Two of Eric Bunag’s family members died. It was sad news, indeed, but God works in mysterious ways. The nightly vigil services were arranged by the VOY Ignite team. More people heard our message.

To God be the glory! Twenty-one precious souls were added to God’s kingdom during the baptism. Though the team experienced heavy rains, hot weather, and many inconvenient situations, God rewarded their dedication. “I am really happy because my elder brother and his whole family are now baptized,” William Gonzales said.

“We are blessed and privileged to be part of this VOY team since our parents, Pastor Geronimo and Hazel Viernes, are with us. It is great to see the fruits of our humble contributions. We want to join another VOY Ignite evangelism very soon,” the three Viernes siblings, Florence Esther, Geronimo III, and Precious Hazel, said in unison.

“We are so proud that our young people in our district are actively participating in this endeavor. It is our honor and privilege to continue supporting them in the Voice of Youth. We pray and hope that more young people will join the Voice of Youth,” said Brother Fernan Vicmudo, District Lay Association president.

As of reporting time, 42 precious souls had been led to the feet of Jesus by the Voice of Youth Ignite program. Soon, a decent church will be constructed on a piece of land donated by "Mayor" Lopez. The success and accomplishment of our young people did not happen without the concerted support of our church leaders and members who were convicted by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the great commission.

This article was originally published on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division’s news site