Word of Life Philippines has a rich testimony of God’s faithfulness! From the very beginning the team’s purpose has been evangelism and discipleship of Filipino youth and that focus continues to drive them on today as they strive to meet the changing needs of young people with the truths from God’s Word that never change.
1973 marked the beginning of Word of Life in the Philippines as evangelist, Rev. Ernie Hautala, arrived from the United States with his family. The first few years were spent developing Bible Clubs on a small scale and an evangelistic Bible Basketball program. Their motto became: “No Bible, No Basketball”. God was at work, and in 1975 the first Filipino staff joined the team.
As the team looked to expand their camping ministry, God provided a beautiful piece of jungle property in September of 1977. It was a miracle; the team had no money to buy a piece of land, but no money was needed! The property was entrusted to Word of Life Philippines for free with a 25-year lease. Construction on the camp began immediately and on April 22, 1978 the new camp was dedicated to the Lord.
Young people started attending camps at Word of Life and many came to know the Lord as their personal Savior. This resulted in the start of many office Bible studies around Manila as young professionals desired to grow in their new relationship with Jesus Christ. For a time, there were more than 25 evangelistic office Bible studies around Manila, including some on college campuses.
1981 saw the start of the Word of Life Bible Institute program. Nine students attended the school that first year under the leadership of Rev. Joe Mauk. This 1-year Bible training and discipleship program continued to grow under the leadership of Dr. Gerry Tolentino and Rev. John Fogle. Today, the Word of Life Bible Institute trains an average of 40 students each year. The program has also expanded into an optional second, third or fourth year extension for those desiring to go into full time ministry.
Rev. Mike Foster arrived with his family in 1983 and under his leadership the Word of Life Philippines Bible Club ministry officially began. This ministry continued to grow under the leadership of Rev. Tom Dennison and is blossoming today with the name of Local Church Ministries under the leadership of Rev. Jonel Arcedera. Today, the Local Church Ministries team is partnering with over 50 local churches and schools around the country providing discipleship, curriculum and leadership training.
In 1991, Word of Life’s camping ministry began to expand as they were given a beautiful seaside property just outside Cagayan De Oro City, Mindanao under the leadership of Rev. Keith Ebrahim. Again, God provided in miraculous ways and Seaside Bible Camp began to expand and blossom. Today, this southern camp holds an average of 14,000 campers each year!
As the camping program continued to grow it came time for the 25-year property lease to expire. Again, the team looked to the Lord, asking Him what He would have them to do. The decision was made to purchase a new piece of property and in August of 2000 God provided, not only the place, but the finances to purchase the property as well! On March 3, 2001 an official property dedication was held, and construction on “Project New Beginning” was begun. More than 40 work teams from the US and other countries, in addition to the staff and local laborers, made it possible to transfer the entire Camp/BI ministry (plus the now 22 staff families) from the old camp to the new Calauan site by deadline.
Under the leadership of Rev. Mike Foster beginning in 1997, Word of Life Philippines expanded to over 75 staff located in all three geographical regions of the Philippines (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao). This past year the Word of Life team worked with over 50 Bible Clubs scattered around the Philippines and saw over 1,000 teens being discipled weekly. Between the two Word of Life Camps in Laguna and Mindanao over 26,000 campers heard the good news about Jesus Christ and more than 2,500 claimed to trust Him as their personal Savior. Our ministry is currently made up of a Camping ministry in 2 locations, Bible Institute led by Dr. Gerry Tolentino, Local Church ministries division led by Rev. Jonel Arcedera and an ongoing Campus Ministry at University of the Philippines in Los Banos under the leadership of Rev. Bing Echem; Life Step young adult ministries led by Rev. Jonathan Abraham; Open Air Evangelism led by Michael Buco.
In May of 2015, the directorship of the ministry was passed on to Rev. Mike VanProoyen. The future of Word of Life is exciting as we seek to expand our ministry into more areas of the Philippines while also catching the vision to expand into South East Asian Countries.
The glory goes to God alone! By His grace, the Word of Life Philippines team is looking forward to continuing to reach young people around the Philippines and Asia with God’s message of hope and Salvation.