By Jane Abao
They said that I had met my waterloo finally. And my enemies rejoiced. They said a doctorate degree is nothing else outside of the University but just a piece of paper and they jeered.
I had left the University middle of the semester to answer to a call of duty. Bro. Eli was summoning me to report and I liked it. Back in my mind the University would not allow me. The timing was difficult, and so I prayed hard to be able to leave.
I did not care, however, what they had in mind. The very one, my boss whom I wanted in so many ways to escape from, was smiling end-to-end. Finally, he could give away my table to others. I was not much useful to him anyway as he and I had different interests.
Now he couldn’t send me to meetings where mollusks and crustaceans were the topic of meetings. That they were all very busy was the explanation, and he had his field day having me meet those gurus of the ocean world to face a tourist like me. I was more interested in journalism, philosophy, communication, education. What if I knew about what shrimps love to eat and the difference between this seahorse and that? I had wanted something else that bordered on meaning. For this, I can spend all of my life time.
I had a worldly sense of success before, that I approached my climb to achievement in terms of degrees, positions, and a comfortable university life. But all the same, at the end of the day, I was not happy, and leaving the University to work for Bro. Eli was something I looked forward to.
I remember the old vacuum that stayed within me. University life did not appeal anymore. The emptiness I felt at age 10 when I began asking for meaning of life persisted. I would stop at play and wonder: What are we? Where are we bound for? What is the difference between us and ghosts? For all we know, we are also but ghosts. At age 16, I hopped from church to church, church to church, but I hadn’t found the thing I was looking for. And then I found it finally. Or so I thought.
I stayed with the Worldwide Church of God for quite a long time like it was to be my lifetime religion. I followed all their practices like tithing, observing Sabbath and celebrating Old Testament feast days. There was a first tithe, a second tithe, a third tithe, and then a building fund to answer for. First tithe, of course, was one-tenth of your salary going to the church. Second tithe was of the same amount that you save to be able to attend the feast days, seven to eight in a year; third tithe is one you give to the poor; and building fund, you send to the office in Makati.
I didn’t question the tithes. After a time though, it dawned on me that this church couldn’t place Jesus Christ in the whole scheme of things. What was He in relation to God the Father? Why is the church mum on this? Why was the focus only on God the Father? What about His begotten son? I didn’t have any consciousness at all about this Jesus Christ who was supposed to star in my quest for salvation. My need for explanations were, however, drowned in the cacophony of my worldly cares.
Came 1993. I was in UP Los Baños when things got wild and spoke of a freedom that I didn’t like. The so-called intellectuals in the church including the local pastor talked of the Worldwide Church of God under Joseph W. Tkach as making an apology to the world for claiming they were the only true Christians. They were wrong, they said, and made the apology years after Herbert Armstrong died. Eventually, from the sober Western mode of worshiping where clapping was not even allowed, we became a shouting, jumping church just like those of the Baptists’.
Then I saw my supposed brothers begin to smoke. I saw them eat as freely as they wanted. Some went silently to join fiestas and hushed me not to judge. After drinking liquor which they were not supposed to do, they slept in the moonlight and spoke of “changes in the church” like they were free birds once more. The Worldwide Church of God had finally joined mainstream Christianity that it formerly shunned like a leprose community.
I began to doubt. It was not easy giving up the 10 commandments of the Mosaic Law that the WCG previously held on to. I reviwed my Bible again and again as at that point I was suffering from cognitive dissonance. And then finally I left that church by 1999. From that time on, I drifted, and drifted, and drifted. I busied myself while church hopping from time to time, looking for something I could not find.
One day in 2001, I said to myself, I must find the House of God. I must worship Him that day, but I had nowhere to go. I dressed up and walked, with no particular place in mind. I saw a bus and rode on it and made for the next city. It reached its destination and yet I didn’t know where to go.
“Lady, we’re up to here only,” the conductor said. I went down and walked to the first place of worship I saw. It did not appeal to me as I saw those usual postings on the board about church outings and nonsensical socials. As I left, a woman ran after me inviting me in. “Sorry,” I mumbled and walked away.
I didn’t know what entered my mind, but I began asking people where Ang Dating Daan was. I have checked on almost all religions to even include Buddism and the other isms. I only knew of ADD where the pastor easily wins in a debate and there was always a crowd cheering for him. He was the victor ever, so it seemed. Not only once did my friend who became an avid watcher of the Ang Dating Daan program say, “If ever I leave the church, I will follow this man.” At that time, I was so busy catching up with life that I did not bother to ask her why. I was to learn later on that he has yet to lose in a debate and nobody is taking up the challenge anymore.
In my wallet was a piece of paper where I had jotted down the phone number I saw on TV. I called up that one to ask where I could find an ADD church locale. There was no answer, so I walked on. I saw some people on the street and asked where I could find Ang Dating Daan. They said they saw one nearby and so I walked on.
I was able to locate a locale on a Sunday. I entered and walked right in. At that time, they were singing songs and I joined them. The tunes were so familiar but I didn’t know the words that applied. Someone shared me her hymn book and we sang together. My! What an intriguing world! It was as though I was long a chip off the old block. I fitted perfectly with them!
I scanned the room to see if anyone was looking at me. A little farther from our seat, I saw an officer with a record book and he was letting somebody sign. It was a newcomer he approached, but me, he didn’t mind. Then I guessed why: I was wearing a long dress just like the ladies inside; my hair was long just like those of the ladies inside.
Many months before this, I took to wearing long dresses and skirts for fashion. I also grew my hair long as lately I would take fancy on these lady-like things. When I came then into their world, it was of no consequence. I was already dressing up the way the preacher, Bro. Eli, was teaching his people. The only difference was that I wore red lipstick, thanks to the “new freedom” that the Worldwide Church of God allowed where formerly it did not. Consider that this church also called itself “Church of God” and then it splintered into many, many groups, each one sporting different beliefs, once Armstrong died.
My story continues with my quest for another Church of God. This time, it is called Members, Church of God International with Bro. Eliseo Soriano as Presiding Minister. It is more popularly known as Ang Dating Daan for the highly successful program that the preacher initiated in 1980 over the radio, and then on TV and the Internet.
I underwent indoctrination to find out more about the church although just the church seal was already foreboding to me. Since I was doing some research in that city, I rented a place to be able to stay late in the night and finish the sessions. It was Bro. Eli himself giving the indoctrination through tape. I understood that we were using a new set-up then and since he was very busy with even more greater concerns like bible expositions, the sessions were staggered until they were finished after one month and a half. Later on, I got baptized on November 30, 2001.
It wasn’t easy coming to Ang Dating Daan then, but I could sense that I have come to the House of God. There were laws to obey – the laws of God. When you have long been deciding for yourself to do whatever you want, it is hard to be subject to laws. I used to have my hair done in beauty parlors, for example, and sported Cleopatra and all those hair styles in vogue. This is not done in the House of God. The proper “dress” required of a Christian woman extends to doing good works from dressing modestly.
The preacher was radical in the sense that he was a fighter through and through. “Makimamatay” (standing fiercely for truth) was how my brother described him. I didn’t take it easy as for days I could not rest easily yet.
I saw this Bro. Eli in his fiercest moods in debates. Like the others, I was also regaled with his moves as he demolishes his opponent with his arguments. The best is that he takes everything he says from the Bible.
For non-converts, you would look at things differently. If an opponent loses, you tend to pity him – the underdog that he is. But no, this Bro. Eli continues on – to expose him for his deceptions. I was new in the church and I had pity for the losing guy, but this Bro. Eli had a different tack: “If I can prove that you are wrong, will you accept that you are lying?” It was difficult to leave his trap. Back then, I was used to hearing the “love” exhortations of the usual preachers. I thought loving applied to everyone and to everything.
The next thing that made my mind churning and churning with shock was the kind Bro. Eli is. I have observed him as a fighter – particularly on how he exposes false teachings of false preachers. Nothing in the Bible comes to me as close as this one to describe this man. In the King James Bible, it is written –
“See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”(Jeremiah 1:10).
I discussed this with Bro. Rodel Mangiliman, the Minister-In-Charge (MIC) assigned to southern Philippines that time, to hear what he had to say. I said, “This is how I see this man – rooting out, pulling down, destroying, throwing down, then building, and planting.”
As in agriculture, yes; as in planting, yes; how can you plant something good when you don’t do the cleaning first? The answer placated me and I believed him. It was my fist time to meet a different kind of pastor – not the usual story-telling, entertaining kind that talked of love undefined.
I therefore look at Bro. Eli as making jeremiad whenever he does this thing and I fully respect the man as someone with a special task. Imagine being appointed to uproot, to pull down and decimate, in order to plant a new one – and over kingdoms yet. My eyes, however, were not focused on the breadth of kingdoms as we understand crowns and gold and glory today.
My understanding of Bro. Eli’s commission was hitched on the deep and well-entrenched wickedness of this world that the planter has to clean up first before any planting is done. From this perspective, I was to see this Apollo Quiboloy claiming himself as the appointed son of God. Later on, I was to see this Jose Luis Miranda claiming he was Jesus Christ himself and that he has come, and that there is no such thing as sin and that prayer is useless. No wonder there is gargantuan task ahead to address deceivers of this kind. The irony of it all is that many people prefer to be deceived.
I see now Eliseo Soriano as the kind of preacher most in demand nowadays as he is consistent and fearless as a fighter. There is a need for one to tell people straight in the eye that they are praying to wood, to cement, and to stones and calling them their God. There is a need to awaken people that Jesus Christ is not man but God.
And what about tithing? I was to learn from Pastor Soriano that tithing is part of the Mosaic Law that applied only to Israelites – not now. Not in our times. Hehe! But this is clearly the one that made him reap many enemies. The so-called preachers want to keep their tithes. As Soriano had clarified, what the bible preaches is giving according to what the heart dictates.
But the next shocker is this: Whenever Bro. Eli prays, he cries! So after seeing him as a dauntless bull fighter, I would see him like a child crying shamelessly before God. For me, this was an emotional roller-coaster. Later, I was to find this spirit consistent with the soft heart he has for the poor, the downtrodden, the disabled of society. More like a minister of social welfare, he has adopted many widows and orphans unwanted by their families, housed them and gave them regular allowances. There’s a special section in the church called VIDP (Very Important Disabled Persons) where many are in wheel chairs, some in dark shades (blind), and several with no families to call on. “Ew,” my niece said, but to Bro. Eli, these people are very special to God.
I was to learn many things yet about Bro. Eli. Later on, I was to find out that one cannot pray crying like he does if you are not a child of God but of the devil. You cannot do this with wickedness in your heart. I was also to learn that Bro. Eli is well-calibrated, and that is why he can be very angry (as to the work of deceiving pastors) and at the same time has a very soft heart (as to the deceived that have to be saved).
It was from him I learned many things – mostly about being faithful to God. You can love but you must love what God loves. You can hate but which to hate is the enemy of God, not your own enemy.
There is a lot to say about Eliseo Soriano, the fearless preacher of truth. I consider myself blessed to have discovered him and have come into the fold of the Church through his preaching. I am appalled at the breadth of his understanding as he unfolds mystery after mystery in the Bible. These things are not taught in universities, are they?
When I left the University, I forgot I was to work in an organization that was not salary-based. Nevertheless, when I did come into headquarters for work, miracles came along the way. And when they did, I found myself many times richer materially than when I was a professor. Government systems involved much interests and placed taxes on most things, so much so that the childless are punished with higher taxes than those with children. At the end of the day, you end up with a pay envelope with so many deductions.
In my case now, no matter how I try to figure out things, God’s mathematics is truly not just addition when he blesses. Shouldn’t I have left very much earlier then to work for Bro. Eli? If only I had discovered him earlier. The wealth though that I am interested in is the wealth of knowledge that Bro. Eli brings. He is like a well that springs up fresh water all the time.
Who is Jesus Christ in the whole scheme of things? Bro. Eli is the only preacher who had answered this question fully. “Nagkatawang tao” (made manifest in man) is something he said that gave me a double-take. Over and over we come upon this expression but never fully understood it until he explained it in plain terms. This was one question that the Worldwide Church of God where I stayed long was not able to answer.
With this one fact established, the following false beliefs crumble: the notion of “Trinity” as there is a proper (vertical) hierarchy of Godhood; the persistent false idea of “oneness” because Jesus Christ is son of God Almighty; the traditional pagan “Christmas” as Christ’s supposed birthday because he is spirit actually but only momentarily manifested as a human being to serve a purpose; the ever-popular idea of a return of Christ as “second coming” because Christ was already here before the world was created, and the inappropriate term, “church of Christ” to properly mean Church of God as mentioned in the bible. There are many more inferences yet that may come as an effect of Jesus Christ as God manifesting only as human being for only about 33 years.
In the end, I can say I am very proud of Bro. Eli Soriano as my Presiding Minister, the most intelligent preacher hereabouts. When it comes to the matter of salvation, shouldn’t one choose the most intelligent for a guide? And the open secret is this: He is being guided by no other than the Owner of those words he is preaching. This may explain his unequaled understanding and his unequaled faithfulness.
Finally, I feel very much blessed being counted as a member of the Church of God, International. I know I am not wasting my time here as I am using whatever talents God has given me. I am confident that Pastor Soriano will guide me as well as those in the congregation to be good Christians. Most of all, working with him gives me the feeling that I am leading a meaningful life – not a wasted one.
Have I met my waterloo? Not so! I have found a wellspring of life; I have re-surfaced to a more meaningful existence. I am learning from someone even better than a university. I feel accomplished for being given the opportunity to follow the man who truly preaches Jesus Christ and God the Father without leaving anything behind. And I am not alone.
Week after week, there are thousands of baptisms carried out in the Church all over the world like it is siphoning people from all walks of life and from all ages – the result of the preacher’s sleepless nights and daring dos in broadcasts and Global Bible Expositions. Before, the battle cry was, “Wherever Filipinos are.” Now, it is not. Soul-saving is not confined to just the countrymen.
Once, I walked the roofs of the Ang Dating Daan Convention Center to assess the number of people attending an International Thanksgiving in 2005. The coliseum itself already housed 15,000 and that is one-fourth the size of the Convention Center. I looked at the grounds beginning with Tent City and they were competitive. A round figure of 70,000 people is a pale figure if attendees in the park at the front equally filled up and those on the roofs are to be counted. You cannot walk up the stairs anywhere without finding someone at the side sleeping on a mat. My! This is biblical times all over again! Everywhere is the thirst for truth.
And this is just Pampanga, north of Manila. What about the rest of the country and of the world? Throngs are also monitoring the preacher’s preaching through satellite! It is 2009 now, four years after I did the counting and the numbers have increased – tremendously!
Me, having met my waterloo? Nah, I’m here to stay for good – and to listen to the most queried man on earth today explain the laws of God from end to end – nothing omitted.
Preacher Soriano at this time may be in the West, having stayed long in the East. I am amused at the fact that Papuans are singing Tagalog praise songs as taught by the Preacher. I am happy about Africans having come to know the truth through him. I am amazed about Canadians, Americans, Spaniards, English, and other nationalities taught the truth about God by him. It is the first time they are hearing new truths, they said. The fighter fights on.
Being himself is not easy though. Bro. Eli has many enemies ready to trap him dead and I am privy to that. I think that for exposing false preachers and false teachings, suffering is part of the package. The churchgroup that is most sensitive to his criticisms is the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) that would move heaven and earth to have him humiliated. But Pastor Soriano does not budge.
I believe though that as long as God allows, he shall go on preaching as he is. The phenomenal preacher. The most sensible preacher in our time.
As for me, I know that I have finally come home – to the House of God that I was looking for – to the one and only true Church of God in our dispensation and before all time.
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