As a young medical student, I had dreams of sharing the gospel with my fellow students. I would introduce myself to my classmates, and then we’d share where we were from and where we had attended university. Somehow, I would always find a way to insert my religion into the conversation. They would look at me weirdly as if I were an alien. I didn’t even notice and just kept on sharing my beliefs and passages from the Bible to prove what I believed was right. I then invited them to attend church with me. I expected them to be interested, convinced, and converted. But instead, it was the opposite. They were repelled by my direct approach and quickly looked for someone else to talk to.
My boyfriend (now husband) was a pastor. I asked him, “How do I reach these wealthy, educated, busy young professionals, who have everything they need in life, and who don’t seem to see a need for God? Why are the usual ministry strategies not working on them?” My boyfriend didn’t know either, but we prayed together and asked God for answers.
Eventually, I did make friends in medical school, and we’d hang out together in cafes or restaurants. We just talked about life, and through the relationships we built, they opened up about their deepest burdens and even voluntarily asked for advice and prayers. This was God’s answer to our prayers. These people didn’t want to be pressured to believe the way I did. But instead, they longed for genuine relationships, to fill an emptiness that couldn’t be satisfied by anything except God.
The growing relationships with my classmates led to an idea. We invited young adults to hang out with us after work in a common place with a relaxed atmosphere. Then we talked about life and shared personal stories, thoughts, and ideas in a friendly and open manner. Through these nightly groups, we met many young adults with different life experiences and faith backgrounds who were searching for someone to talk to. The relationships grew. Eventually, we went from meeting just one night a week to eating meals together, playing sports, and being there for them through their personal trials. They observed our Christian lifestyle and asked what they could do to have joy and contentment like we had. We never forced our beliefs, but God was slowly paving the way for them to get to know Him. They began to ask about our faith, leading us to start small groups where we could deepen our relationships with God and build community. It was so encouraging to finally have a strategy that worked to reach out to the unreached.
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But God showed us that more could be done! We started Urban Centers of Influence to create more opportunities to interact with and reach different people groups. The first center was an office space that was used by many young adults to do their work as entrepreneurs and to run start-up businesses. Simply Foods was another center, where we provided healthy vegetarian food delivery options to busy young adults who didn’t have time to cook for themselves. We also had a program called 8 Weeks to Wellness. This step-by-step plan, offered to individuals or groups, teaches how to incorporate a healthy diet and lifestyle into their busy schedules.
Connecting with friends in medical school and opening Urban Centers of Influence grew into a huge network—a community. And by God’s grace and guidance, we launched our first church plant in July 2015, starting in a small hall with less than 20 people. We quickly outgrew this and moved into a bigger space with more than 50 regular attendees, more than half of whom were non-Adventists. Then in 2018, our group, Grow Community, was officially recognized as a church, the first worship community in the Philippines where the elders and leaders were all young adults! So many people wanted to be part of the community, making us realize that there are many more people groups that are unreached, especially in Manila. In one year, we multiplied into three church plants in different parts of Manila. Currently, there are seven church plants scattered in key locations in Metro Manila.
There are still so many unreached people groups around us that need to know Jesus. All God needs is our desire to make more disciples for Him. Yes, it might take years of experimenting and even mistakes. Still, with God on your side, there is always the assurance that community and fellowship will grow and that the gospel will reach the unreached.
Urban Centers of Influence
Adventist Mission supports wholistic mission to the cities. This includes a rapidly growing number of Urban Centers of Influence (UCIs), which serve as platforms for putting Christ’s method of ministry into practice. The centers provide an ideal opportunity for total member involvement in outreach that suits each person’s spiritual gifts and passions.
To learn more about UCIs, visit MissionToTheCities.org.