There is more to April 25 than what the senses tell you.
Any visitor to ACQ-International Children’s Day would see the precision and professional performance of everyone in the event. He would see the remarkable creativity of all of its many productions, guess at the manpower involved and be impressed. He would marvel at this magnum opus of organization, at the visual feast and aural feat that is ACQ-International Children’s Day.
But April 25 is more than what he sees. It is more than just the flash and the make-believe.
Yes, there is all that. But there is something more, an extra chemical in the pot that makes this day explode into one great big kaboom! A special ingredient that makes it different from all shows in this day and age of spectacle and YouTube fame.
The moment he steps inside, a guest will see thousands of children moving like a scurry of excited squirrels or a jumping troop of kangaroos towards the glowing entrance of the place called Sonshine Land. A place of discovery and magic for all of them. Like Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. Or Oz. But more.
And the noise inside is stupendous. Children are laughing everywhere. Kids are squealing and even more are screaming in joyful terror. And around the fairgrounds, the hulking rides whirr and click nonstop as they toss people high up in the air and down again.
Sound seems especially loud in Sonshine Land. Even the noise has that extra special umpf because most of the kids who come to Sonshine Land have never seen anything like it before. All are wide-eyed for their first theme-park experience.
And everything is free – rides, toys, juice, meal packs, milk, bread – parents and guardians are astounded. They too have never heard of such a thing. No one has ever done something this magnanimous and of this magnitude for them before. Not the government. Not the politicians who come to their barangays during elections. Only one man has opened his arms and his pocket to forgotten people like them. They know his name now. It is Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
In fact, it is Pastor Apollo who holds that secret ingredient that makes this big birthday celebration sizzle and spark. It is an ingredient called love.
Pastor Apollo pours love liberally down the big cauldron of magic that forms ACQ-ICD. He mixes it, stirs it with a passion and gives every Kingdom citizen a generous cup to drink.
“Love makes all things possible!” he teaches.
And the world sees genuine love in action over live television as the event is broadcast to a global audience.
Pastor Apollo’s love has infected more than three thousand volunteers of ACQ-International Children’s Day. All have that burning fervency in their heart to make this the extra-special celebration so that thousands of poor children may feel the limitless love of the unlimited God. To make this day the birthday party that every poor child has missed in his life.
When Pastor Apollo’s ACQ-ICD volunteers cook, pack and then ferry over 80,000 party packs to feed an equal number of hungry children, it is love that drives them to work without sleep for two days.
Love buoys up the craftsmen who labored day and night, rain or shine to create the floats and costumes that lend Sonshine Land that fantastical quality that makes the dreams in little kids heads a very real experience.
There is a light of love in the eyes of the Indian brave as he twirls and moves with boundless energy to the dance music in the ACQ-ICD grand parade.
More than a thousand performers leap and whirl under the blistering sun.
Mascots happily don cumbersome outfits for two hours in the sweltering heat for the grand parade, just to give children joy. Some of these children have never seen a mascot before. And the kids are so glad to see them they can’t stop themselves from running across the street to hug them around a chubby leg or a pillow-soft tummy.
From atop whimsical floats, princesses and brave superheroes wave and call out greetings even when they don’t speak a word of our dialect. Love is all the language that they need.
And this happens simultaneously across more than 60 cities around the world – all extensions of Pastor Apollo great love for the downtrodden and those who have less in life.
This year, in Davao City, Sonshine Land even extended three more days for all the rest of the city to enjoy.
Pastor Apollo also brought Sonshine Land to his birthplace in Brgy. Tamayong, where thousands of children from the poorest of the poor across the mountains came to join in the generous celebration.
In Mt. Kitbog, in Malungon, South Cotabato, a place of spiritual significance and history for the Kingdom, Pastor Apollo brought ACQ-ICD to the B’laan people and their children for the most unforgettable day of their lives.
And Pastor Apollo wants this love to fly beyond the walls of ACQ-ICD, to be passed on to others. “To those of you who have tasted the love, goodness, joy and compassion here for free, spread it across the world!” he commends.
Now April 25 is a marker in their lives, indelible now in the minds of these children and their families. They come away from Sonshine Land with more than just jubilance and free bundles of food.
Every year, as this day comes around, they will remember that a command was sent out to them, to transmit the love that they received to those who need it too.
They will remember Pastor Apollo’s words. So simple and sensible. That to do good to others, he said, “All we need is love.”