The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 219)
I may not have an “unbelievable” experience of salvation to tell, but I know for sure that in my youth, I was confused and very pretentious. I was raised with a mindset of the need to live according to our traditions and culture. My desires and plans were to pursue the dream of being successful through education, wealth and status in society. On top of these, I was raised to be pious and to serve according to my religion. For six consecutive years, I was an altar boy in a prestigious church in my home town.
As a person who learned that success can be very elusive despite laborious studies and work, I sensed a deep emptiness in my life. I tried to make sense of this and looked for an alternative – gaining significance from religious status. I went along with the rites and traditions of people who worship every Sunday. For those years of dutiful sacraments, piety to God had never been real. What was left was a spiritual pretence that cannot grasp the reality of a great God who judges fairly sinful men who act according to their whims and want to feel good about themselves.
In such emptiness and confusion, I studied and pursued life on shaky grounds and without direction. Things then started to fall apart. Being away from my family most of the week, I lost interest in my studies and turned to vices which eventually led to failing my examinations. Things got worse when my family faced serious problems and that made me more vulnerable to vile influences. At this time, God started to shed the light of His ways on my vain ventures.
During the summer, there was a Vacation Bible School (VBS) conducted by the Mission Centre of The 'Fisherman of Christ' Fellowship (FCF) at Batangas and my sister was invited. On graduation day, my mother was invited to attend and got to know the church workers there. Although it took one more year and another VBS for my mother to regularly attend the church, she finally committed herself to the Lord. By 2002, through the ministry of FCF, Bible Studies were held in our home and this was the instrument that God used to reach out to my father and my siblings. Eventually, I surrendered myself to Christ as my Saviour and Lord. It might seem superficial at first because I was only fascinated about how the verses of the Bible can be explained systematically. I was truly interested in the way verses were knitted together to present specific doctrines and began to search the Scriptures more diligently. Little by little, the Lord convicted me of my need of a Saviour and of the gracious offer of salvation through the merit of Christ only if I would believe in Him and repent of my sins.
The most powerful impact the Gospel has on me is the way in which a relationship with Jesus Christ can be possible and I no longer need to live in endless emptiness and confusion. Sin was not the only thing dealt with at the cross, I can face uncertainties and seek His guidance as I take this meaningful journey with my Saviour. Things started to change since I committed myself to God. I was being moulded into a life of worship and became part of the body of Christ. Following that year, I obeyed the Lord in water baptism together with my family and other new brothers- and sisters-in-Christ. I then gradually involved myself in church ministries.
My Call to Ministry
During my first year in seminary, I depended on my parents for support but they could only do so just for half of the school year. I decided then to stop during the second semester but the school asked me to continue as the school fees were already paid for. As my second year of study was not firmed up (I did not even plan to continue in the first place), I was not too concerned about God’s call. Then, I was given the book Desiring God by John Piper. Reading it brought me several reflections and that was the first time I took my relationship with God more seriously and started to think about what to do with my life. However, I was still uncertain if I should continue with my studies.
The school made an arrangement for some of us to take an examination and be interviewed for sponsorship. Twelve of us took the examination, only three passed; I did not. Expecting to retake my examination, I was interviewed for the sponsorship and when the representative asked me about my calling, plans, and the reasons why they should support me, my honest answer was simply, “I do not know yet.” Considering the examination failure and a very doubtful recommendation from the interviewer, I decided not to retake the examination. But I was surprised that when the representative passed out the forms to those who were eligible for the scholarship, he gave out four sets of papers, three to my classmates who passed and one to me. When I tried to explain to him that it was probably a mistake, he said, “I do not understand either, it is probably a case-by-case basis”.
When I went home that day, in my astonishment, the only question that rang in my mind was, “What had just happened back there?” As I thought it through, the word “calling” along with “vocation,” “career,” “goal,” “leading” and “lifetime” swiftly pounded in my mind and heart. Everything around me seemed to stop and I was suddenly brought to my knees and with my head bowed down and hands weakly rested over my bed, I exclaimed, “O my God, are you really calling me? If so, it is up to you now, Lord. I will just follow your Word, and I would die to myself and live for you.” At that moment, I felt that everything was in the right place and I had a peace in my heart that I had never felt before.
I cannot help but marvel at the words of Paul in the letter to the Romans: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32). Up to now, God has been sustaining me all along in this endeavour to serve Him. With the support given to me, I was able to finish my studies. Through God’s counsel in many ways, I was guided through closed and opened doors of opportunities leading me to this path of service. I started praying and considering to work as a pastor, or a Bible teacher, or a missionary, or an evangelist. As I continued my training, I discovered my gifts which I know is important for the church ministry. I grew through training in my convictions and principles, for the way of ministry must be biblically carried out. The Lord, most importantly, impressed upon my heart a deep vision of His reign in people’s lives especially to the unreached peoples. Along with a love for His people it gives me joy and passion to continually preach and teach His Word.
I cannot say enough about the depth of my gratitude for the opportunity to work as full-time pastor at one of the Mission Centres of FCF in the Philippines. I may never be able to unravel on this side of eternity the full value of the service that I am about to partake. But I humbly pray that all the souls who will be affected in my service may render greater glory to our Saviour Jesus Christ. To God be the glory!