Has the news reached you yet? It’s the 20th year of Living Waters in the Philippines! From the hard work of laying the foundation of a pioneering sexual redemption outreach in the country, to becoming the center of Living Waters work in Asia — one thing remains: the healing mercy of Jesus to the hurting and broken!
Living Waters started with one man named Andrew Comiskey. As the Lord’s healing mercy touched the core of his homosexual struggle, Comiskey responded to God’s call to start this ministry in 1980 in West Hollywood, California.
Twenty years later in 2000, the seeds for the birth of LW in the Philippines were planted!
Benji Cruz, now the LWP’s national director, came to Living Waters not to join a ministry but desperately searching healing for his homosexual compulsions. A friend told him about a healing conference in Bangkok, Thailand led by Comiskey. He came to that conference in November 2000 with his best friend the late Atty. Orly Medrano and Ptr. Leo Armas. They met Virmi Nery, leader of Wholeness Ministries, in the same conference.
It was not just a conference for Cruz — it was a gamechanger! For the first time, he heard a message of the Lord perfecting His grace in his weaknesses. That Jesus would love his unlovable parts — the shame of his homosexual struggle — was radical for him!
It was nothing less than radical for Armas: “Hearing Andy share his brokenness is something unheard of for me. That shows how Christ-centered the ministry is (of LW).”
Cruz and Armas had a meal with Comiskey and invited him to come to the Philippines. After years of saying ‘No’ to similar invitations, Comiskey finally said Yes! And the rest is a twenty-year history!
The following year in November 2001, Comiskey led the first-ever sexual healing conference in the Philippines with his team of healing ministers from the US Living Waters. It was held in Makati Cinema Square entitled, ‘Totoo Ka Ba?’ hosted by Day by Day Church pastored by Rev. Ed Lapiz. The team of coordinators consisted of Cruz, Nery, the late Rene Gomez, and Ptr. Leo Armas, who was the overall in-charge.
The conference was attended by less than 300 people but its impact was unprecedented. “I was listening to a talk on the healing of the division between men and women and it touched something very painful. I cried deeply. I felt His mercy!,” said Hazel Bauza-Cruz, one of the conference attendees.
Since then, the waters has never stopped flowing. There’s at least one LW program being done every year without fail from 2001 to this day… offering hope and freedom to men and women struggling with emotional hurts!
The First Streams
Virmi Nery, whose heart has always been for healing, attended a 10-week School of Healing in Canada in 1996 together with Vicky Villafuerte (now Vicky Dychioco) in which Living Waters was one of the healing models. With a desire to jumpstart LW in the Philippines, Virmi informally ran The Call (leaders’ training) and Cross Current (eight-week healing program) at the Vineyard church in Manila in 1999.
Hermie Bauza, whose family attended both programs, recalls, “I had to confess my long struggle of sexual fantasy (in those programs). I attended a conference in Sydney, Australia (where I got assigned in 2000) led by Andy Comiskey and that’s when I learned my struggle was called sexual addiction.”
That same year in 2001 that Hermie was becoming the first Filipino to finish a full cycle of 30-week LW program in Australia, the ‘Totoo Ka Ba?’ conference was being held in the Philippines. It was followed by another healing conference in 2002, ‘Revealing His Glory’, held at Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF) and Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF), hosted by Wholeness Ministries.
The First Asian Intern in Desert Stream Ministries
Benji Cruz was accepted as an intern at Desert Stream Ministries in 2003, making him the first Asian intern of the ministry. He ran two Cross Current programs in 2002 before flying to Anaheim, California as requirement for an incoming intern.
The First Pilot Program
After much prayer and after having run three Cross Current programs simultaneously, the Bauza family finally ran the Pilot Living Waters program in the Philippines in May 2003 at the Church of God, Makati.
Hermie recalled, “I was released to be a coordinator after our LW Leadership Training in Canada. After my assignment in Australia, I chose to have an early retirement and go into this ministry.” In doing the pilot, the Bauzas had to multi-task. Would you believe that the pilot’s team was just the Bauza family and two others? “I was the coordinator at the same time teacher and small group leader,” Hermie noted.
His daughter Janel added, “The pilot program was exciting because we were eager to share what we received but at the same time very challenging physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I had to be a worship leader, teacher and small group leader all at the same time. There was no assistant leader yet by that time. We had to because no one else would do it. But whenever we see its fruits, it blesses us.” The team might have been too stretched but Hazel shared, “I was fueled by the excitement that they will hear about this.”
Thirty-six participants from different churches attended the pilot program and three of them were coming from Baguio City, traveling eight hours one-way in those days when there was no skyway yet. The hunger was stronger than the convenience. Ted Navarro, one of the pilot participants, recounted, “Our hearts were already seeking for healing and then we found Living Waters. … We were hungry for healing, going at the altar call each and every time.”
That same year in November 2003, Hermie coordinated the first LW Leadership Training in Caliraya, Quezon. Cruz joined the leadership team fresh from his internship in Anaheim. The following year in 2004, a full LW team was formed and Cruz coordinated the first full 25-Week Program held at Word Community Church in Pasig.
From that program, many became leaders of the ministry and brought LW to their churches. Ptr. Jayvee Dychioco graduated from that program and is now the LWP’s Deputy Director and Metro Manila coordinator.
From that first full LW program, a LW program attended by men and women from various churches, has been running every year (except in 2020 pandemic year). Healing conferences were held in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The LW healing teams were formed in provinces and cities nationwide; to both Evangelicals and Catholics; to ministries, schools & universities; and outreaches to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in different countries. Thousands have attended in those twenty years, many of them pastors & missionaries and other church leaders who found a safe place where they were not expected to give but to receive ministry.
But beyond the numbers, the real stories are troubled marriages restored; abusive relationships healed; broken families reconciled; addictive patterns severed; and gender confusion cleared. The Lord setting the captives free! That is The Story!
The Challenges of Pioneering a Healing Ministry
Aside from hunting halls to rent and a limited number of team members, what had been the hurdles of pioneering LW Philippines?
When Cruz was about to start the ministry in Manila after his internship, one skeptic asked him, “Given the shame-based culture of the Filipinos, will they really share deep stuff? Will they open up their struggles?” With no precedent, Cruz hang on to what the Lord could and would do and not on the brokenness of his people. Twenty years and counting, Filipinos came out of hiding in churches and shared their bondages — many of them for the first time!
“I’ve found out that if given a safe place, i.e., no condemnation and judgment, where each one is given the chance to share his/her struggles, Filipinos could be honest and vulnerable,” Cruz said.
Benji and Hazel were married in 2005 and continued to do the ministry together. Hazel shared, “In the early days, the churches were still in denial that sexual brokenness exists in their congregation. Years later, churches started telephoning our ministry, asking for help for members who fell. That made them embrace LW. The main challenge that Benji and I faced was the refusal to see the existence of broken people in their midst. But we persevered. We were only encouraged by the vision that God’s heart is for the whole body of Christ.”
Today, the LWP has become the center of LW work in Asia. She has become part of fulfilling the prophecy to make the Philippines a missionary-sending nation. In those twenty years, church leaders from China, India, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Qatar had attended the LW leadership training in Manila. They didn’t only receive healing but were equipped to be inner-healing ministers. In 2019 before the pandemic, the LWP conducted its first-ever Mandarin-translated training where church leaders from the mainland, including underground churches, flew to Manila to receive healing and training. Who would have thought that’s the last international training we could do before the pandemic?
Twenty Years of Healing
In those twenty years, we saw how the nation has joined the rest of the world in becoming highly sexualized. More young people have looked at homosexuality, promiscuity, premarital sex as acceptable, if not desirable, way to live. Relational and sexual sins are being “normalized.”
But the Lord is also raising a band of young men and women who are wholehearted in following Jesus. In 2018, the LWP birthed a renewed ministry for the youth. Today, the LWP has ten full & part-time missionaries; third of whom are in their twenties and about half are below the age of 40.
“We were refined through the years. Now we have more authority to stand and speak to the Body of Christ,” Hazel said.
To speak with a prophetic voice in the Body of Christ – cleansing, purifying and building her to be the Lord’s vessel for the healing of our nation.
Come, celebrate and join us become clear and powerful in speaking that voice in these dark times!
– written by Benji & Hazel Cruz; Pauline Generao & Jayvee Dychioco