City Harvest Church pastor Kenneth Sim—together with Principal of the School of Theology Bobby Chaw and a group of alumni—conducted the fourth Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion in Manila. Our guest writer, who was also the emcee and liaison for the event, shares the experience.
From 20 to 22 October, 87 SOT alumni from the Philippines gathered in Manila for the fourth Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion, organised by a mission team from Singapore that included the school’s principal Pastor Bobby Chaw and Pastor Kenneth Sim, along with Singapore alumni who have a passion for the Philippines. The alumni came from the different batches of SOT graduates: Pastor Andress Docena from General Santos City graduated in 1997 (the same year as Pastor Bobby!), while there were alumni present from the latest batch in SOT 2020.
The three-day event saw Filipino alumni travelling in from different cities and provinces across the Philippines, as well as those residing in countries as far-flung as Abu Dhabi and the US. The Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion originated in Manila in 2018. After the 2019 meeting, also in Manila, Covid happened, and the 2020-2021 meeting took place online. This post-pandemic gathering was a welcome return to meeting each other face to face.
The vision of a gathering of the alumni for a reunion came from Pastor Kenneth who believes that while SOT equips them to be effective in ministry, continued guidance is necessary. The Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion shows Filipino alumni that CHC will always be there for them and they will always be family to us.
Pastor Kenneth also knew that there was a group of SOT alumni who had been individually doing missions in the Philippines over the years, and he gathered us together: Stanley Yew, Keith Lim, Catherine Tey and myself. In 2017, Pastor Kenneth proposed a reunion in the Philippines in 2018, and it was approved by Pastor Bobby and scheduled for August 2018.
Expenses such as accommodation and meals for the participants of the Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion each year, and even items like T-shirts, souvenirs and prizes are covered by the mission team.
To date, SOT has graduated more than 160 Filipinos from different regions, cities, provinces across the Philippines, and from more than 50 different churches. The objective of the annual Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion is to build a strong connection among them so that they can work together to strengthen and help each other. They may come from different SOT batches but through the reunion, we hope to inspire them to have greater visions for their respective churches.
A TIME OF WORSHIP AND WORD
The three days were filled with fun activities as well as powerful meetings. After checking in to the Savoy Hotel on the first day, the attendees were introduced to the missions team before embarking on a warm-up session of ice breakers, in true CHC style. Testimonies from various Filipino alumni brought the focus to the goodness of God.
The highlight on the first day was an interview with the missionaries who had organised this event. The alumni were so encouraged by how the different individuals expressed their heart for the Filipinos. Some even took leave just to go on missions to the Philippines, while others who are retires shared the joy and strength they found in the mission field.
No SOT gathering is complete without a Worship Night. Keith Lim delivered a message on the “Unforced Rhythms of Grace” in a session that saw a mighty move of the Holy Spirit. This was followed by a powerful time of worship led by Pastor Kenneth. The presence of God was so strong that many wept, touched by the Holy Spirit. He held an altar call to pray for all the Filipino pastors and all of them were powerfully ministered to.
Day Two, the alumni got to meet with their mentors—the senior pastors met with Pastor Kenneth, the church workers met with me and my fellow missionaries Keith and Stanley Yew, and those in the marketplace met with the missionaries who excel in business.
On that day, Pastor Bobby delivered two impactful messages on “Mustard Seed Faith” and “The Spirit of Life”, followed by a powerful time of ministry.
The final day was a short one, but nevertheless a power-packed one. Pastor Kenneth preached a message on “How should I Live My Life in the Last Days?”, reminding the alumni to pray diligently, love deeply and serve wisely. The Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion closed with the performance of “In Christ Alone”—an SOT tradition.
There were powerful testimonies from the Filipino alumni, and heartwarming performances from some of the most memorable songleaders from many years of SOT. It was a short three days, but a fulfilling gathering for the alumni and the mission team as they gathered to relive the best of SOT life and recharge to continue in their ministry.
THE IMPACT OF PHILIPPINES SOT REUNION 2022
This reunion was a necessity, explained Pastor Kenneth.
“These alumni are workers who have been trained and equipped in SOT. Like many of us, during the pandemic they struggled in their harsh and arduous environment to get their lives and ministries back to normalcy. Many were discouraged and lost. A few contemplated leaving full-time ministry. That’s where God, in all His wisdom and grace, has allowed us to gather together to encourage, inspire and fan the flame of revival in their lives once again!”
He continued, “This reunion was very much needed and timely for us to challenge the Filipino alumni to refocus their attention to winning the lost this coming Christmas season. Mt 9:37-38 reads, ‘Then he said to the disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ We want these alumni to be up and running to reap a great harvest for Jesus!”
Yvanee Daguman from Davao City (SOT 2019) said, “I am so blessed to have attended the Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion 2022. During worship time, it felt nostalgic, remembering our SOT days and the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit. After all the sessions, I am more empowered to do the ministry that God has entrusted to me. I was also encouraged by the testimonies shared by the ministers of God in different places in the Philippines. Indeed, God is bringing a great revival to this nation!”
“The Philippines SOT Reunion 2022 was a great refreshment to my soul!” said Irene Villavecencion (SOT 2020). “It was a very special appointment with our Lord—God showed His power over us and joining this event brought renewal to me: a deeper intimacy and knowledge that God wants us to love His word, be in Spirit and pray diligently for His people. It was an unforgettable experience!”
The three days fulfilled the team’s purpose of bringing refreshing to the tired pastors. Pastor Meliza Benedicto from Bulacan (SOT 2016) said, “As a pastor, I was looking for somewhere where I could be ministered to and recharged. I thank God for the Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion—it was my safe place where I can be who I am in the eyes of God, that is, His child. I was renewed and received His heartbeat again to obey the Great Commission. Indeed, there’s no place like home, back in the presence of God!”
“I really miss this kind of community, and that special touch from God,” said Keren Siason from Bacolod (SOT 2018). “Refreshed. Renewed. Restored. I’m grateful beyond words for how I have been ministered to once again with this distinctive anointing. All those sermons and testimonies really had a great impact on my heart. Thank you so much for stirring up the fire inside me once again, CHC. I really praise God for you.”
Pastor Julius Paler from General Santos City (SOT 2015) echoed this. “I am more than blessed with our reunion. I am have no words for how generous the mission team is from CHC, sharing their time and resources with us. The depth of our worship in all sessions, the sharing and the fellowship refreshed and encouraged me deeply. Praise God for you, CHC.”
The Philippines SOT Reunion is an event that will continue to be anticipated annually. “Every year, I eagerly anticipate attending the Philippines SOT Alumni Reunion because I know I will make new friends. Every time we have this gathering, it is extremely nourishing to our souls. Every time I interact with members of SOT, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have had the chance to study there. In fact, I had to wait 16 years before I could study SOT, and I’m delighted I did it in my lifetime,” said Pastor Hannah Nissi Docena from General Santos City (SOT 2014).