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Tanto Handoko and Adi Walujo from Indonesia join Keila Flores from Honduras and Samuel Lopez, a Mexican American, in the parade that opened the Holy Spirit in Mission Conference in Lumban, the Philippines.
Philippine Mennonite churches host Holy Spirit in Mission Conference & International Missions Association

LUMBAN, the Philippines – Wending two miles along the narrow stone streets of Lumban, 45 international guests from Mennonite churches in 16 countries waved country flags and colored balloons as they trekked from the mayor’s office to the Lumban Mennonite Bible Church.

At the fourth annual Holy Spirit in Mission Conference, September 7-12, Philippine friends welcomed the group with orchid garlands and children’s songs and dances as they entered the newly-completed four-story church building, which serves as a church conference center.

The Integrated Mennonite Churches of the Philippines (IMC) and the International Missions Association (IMA) served as hosts. The International Missions Association (IMA) is an association of Anabaptist mission bodies established for prayer, mutual support, and partnering in carrying out the Great Commission. Held in conjunction with the annual IMA business meeting, the Holy Spirit in Mission Conference equips the international church with a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit, to bring new vision and release gifts of ministry to build up the mission of the church.

Richard Showalter, president of the IMA and Eastern Mennonite Missions, introduced the conference theme: “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” He noted that the Greek word “testimony” is the same word from which English “martyr” comes – and is one of the most frequently used words of the New Testament. “It speaks of a powerful, external truth – and not just our own best ideas,” he said.

During the three day missions conference, more than 40 Filipino leaders joined the internationals for times of prayer and fasting, testimonies, reports, teachings, workshops, and unstructured “Holy Spirit time” at the Pagsanjan Rapids Hotel.

On the first day, Erlinda Veluz, a Filipino woman, delivered an impassioned challenge to the group: “There are no restrictions. God is not calling only the educated. Enroll in the ‘University of the Holy Spirit’ for his teaching and empowerment!”

Testimonies from participants emphasized the importance of walking in the Spirit. Mulugeta Zewdie, general secretary of Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia, had experienced revival as a high school youth. He noted, “Sometimes the Holy Spirit and our knowledge clash. Prayer brings the power of God to the nations.”

“Dr. Tan Kok Beng, a leader of the Asia Pacific Mission, reported on the Mennonite church he has helped to plant in Singapore. Eighty-five percent of the 120 members are new believers, mostly from Buddhist-Taoist backgrounds. The church started three years ago with only six people. Last summer they also started another congregation which already has about 50 attending. The churches are growing as members pray and obey - even doing things that seem unreasonable.

On two consecutive evenings, the conference group swelled to several hundred as they met downtown in a public stadium for open air meetings. Henry Mulandi, director of African Christian Mission International in Kenya, spoke the first evening. He issued a powerful call for salvation, outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and missions.

At an evening evangelistic rally in the stadium, Richard Showalter and Ambrosio Porcincula pray for the young people who responded to the call to serve in missions.

The second evening, Melvin Fernandez from the Honduran Mennonite Church and Ryan Showalter, director of Discipleship Ministries for EMM, led a special rally for children and youth. Again people flocked to the front, seeking a life-changing touch from God.

The conference concluded Sunday morning with a challenge from Lawrence Chiles, bishop of an Anabaptist circle of churches in eastern U.S., “As we empty ourselves, as Jesus did, God will ‘enlarge our tents, lengthen our cords,’” Chiles said. “It’s amazing to hear how the Ethiopians are reaching the Somalis, the Kenyans the Sudanese. No one country is the whole cord, but the IMA links cords together to take the gospel around the world.”

-Jewel Showalter