Walking on Deeper Waters

Walking on Deeper Waters

Philippines

All I knew when I took the job was that knowing Jesus is the greatest thing on earth, that He wants to be known, and that Alpha is effective in making it happen.

Like the other 12 million viewers on YouTube, I love this song. It speaks of the emotions that swirl in your mind at the beginning of a great journey — when the body quivers with fear and excitement, and doubt bids the feet to stay while curiosity propels the soul forward.

For a Christian nerd like me, the song transports me to the moment between God’s call and my first step in response.

You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail.
— Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United

I grew up with a certainty of God’s love for the Philippines. I’m not unique in this. But a deeper compulsion lay inside to show it. And after lingering in limbo between the call and the response, I finally took the first step by deciding to work for Alpha Philippines.

After a year of helping a handful of churches discover Alpha, we were able to prove those theories right. Groups of young people were coming to know Jesus — not just as an abstract concept, but as a reality, as evidenced by their transformed lives: restored relationships, improved grades, healing, forgiveness, promotions, and prophecies.

As these stories were collected, we felt they begged to be broadcasted, that others would know that Jesus is alive, and He was doing something with Alpha in the Philippines.

So on May 17, we gathered — like the Israelites, in a tent (albeit an air-conditioned one) — with 300 Alpha graduates, all there to celebrate what Jesus had done and is doing. It was a rich experience. The Gospel Collective of Building Bridges, a band composed of young leading Filipino musicians personally mentored by Ivor Novello winning artist Ashley Ingram, rocked out a soulful time of worship. Bishop Ef Tendero, head of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, figurehead to some 2 million Christians, gave a hearty exhortation of Jesus’ mandate to tell everyone that He is alive.

And the highlight: the testimonies.

A former bully who joined Alpha only to gain access to the church’s basketball court is now an Alpha leader and subsequently invited his mother to join — and she was also there at the celebration. A girl who was born without arms, who had to grow up tough, had her walls broken down as she found acceptance and real friendship in her small group. Two young college professors: one in nursing, the other in dentistry, ran Alpha for their students. Initially afraid that no one would show up, each Alpha eventually ended up with 30 Alpha graduates who are now being trained as hosts and helpers to run another cycle in their respective campuses.

We sang, danced and sweated in the Manila May heat, and enjoyed celebrating a God who is real and alive. At one point I looked at the crowd and felt the surface of the water on the soles of my feet.

The call had brought us out into the deep — and we weren't sinking.

Bishop Cesar Punsalan, board member of Alpha Philippines, summarized the experience, and set the next course for us: God has ignited a fire today in the youth. This is very exciting.

Indeed.

Two months after the event, we have Alphas running in five new churches, three high schools, a handful of universities and even a hydro power plant. This is testament to the love of God being shown to the Philippines by its youth.

May 17 felt like deep waters for me. But the call echoes on: “Come out further,” to which our soul responds: “Take us deeper than our feet could ever wander.”

Hanniel Fernandez
National Director, Alpha Philippines
 

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