A member of the INC told me that my refusal to join their church meant that I was of the devil.
By Danny Navales
True, certain on what he’s saying, brave in his speech… these were my first impressions of Bro. Eli when I listened to him the first time. Though I didn’t really know him, not even his name, since that was just the first time I listened to him, I could say it was a blessing in disguise, in its real meaning, for me to be hearing him. This was because listening or watching religious programs in those times was not my cup of tea. There was just something I had wanted to prove that I thought of listening to any religious programs in AM band that night.
A few months after my graduation from high school, driven by curiosity and my strong desire to experience a different way of life, I decided to go to Manila. Believe it or not, I left our province with only P25.00 in my pocket.
It was good that I could stay in Novaliches with my aunt for the meantime. As days passed, I found a new set of friends, and one them, who happened to be a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), became my sweetheart named Baby.
During that time, her family had been trying to convince me to join their church. That time, religion was still out of my mind; it was something that I was not interested in. But because I wanted to please them, I joined them whenever they were attending a worship service, to the point that I even submitted myself to an indoctrination session.
But never did I submit myself to baptism. One time, a friend of my girlfriend, who was also a member of the INC told me that my refusal to join their church meant that I was of the devil. I got offended. And because of that, I promised myself that I would study religion.
That very evening, I started working towards the fulfillment of my promise. For the first time, I turned on the radio, not for anything else but to listen to a religious program that would offer me understanding of the Bible. I don’t know if it was a mere coincidence, or a divine intervention, but when I did so, the voice of the very first preacher that I got the chance to listen to readily captured my attention.
Though he spoke with frankness, his voice sounded like music to me. Perhaps, it was because I found the topic that he was discussing then very interesting. He was talking about the real state of being of our Lord Jesus Christ. And because of what I heard and understood from this preacher, the more I became convinced not to join the INC.
Although it was just the first time that I got the chance to listen to him, I already had the feeling that I had long been listening to him. It was just like what others call as “love at first sight,” only that mine was “love at first hear,” (if there was such a thing.) But the saddest part of the story was that, his program ended without me knowing who that preacher was. I didn’t know also where to find him.
The following evening, which was a Sunday, I tried my luck. I was hoping that I could listen to him once again, and I was not disappointed. In that particular instance, I was luckier because I was able to know his name. It was in the program over DZBB titled “Dis is Manolo and his Genius Family” that I learned that he was Bro. Eli Soriano.
After a few months of listening to him, I learned a lot of things. And when the INC ministers learned that I was studying the Bible, they came to see me again.
We had a little exchange of reasoning. And you know what? The little admiration I had for them then vanished when I came to realize that all the things they were saying, including the manner by which they were delivering them, were scripted and rehearsed. And perhaps, they were embarrassed when they couldn’t give any answer to the issues which I had learned from Bro. Eli that they created trouble in our house.
They knocked down my table and threw down my Bible. One of them brought out a knife and thrust it against me. Good thing I was able to shield myself with our door. We had a double –walled door, but because of his force, his knife still managed to penetrate through the walls.
That night, I tried to analyze everything that happened. And I came to a conclusion that, indeed, the INC of Manalo is not of God.
I had witnessed their hypocrisy. They pretended to be as meek as sheep, but deep within, they are fierce wolves. And because of the things that happened, the more I realized that what Bro. Eli was saying are nothing but the truth.
That time, Sis. Baby and I were already husband and wife. When they did not succeed in converting me Sis. Baby left the INC and joined me in listening to Bro. Eli. After this incident, I decided to go back to our province. I told Bro. Eli of my predicament, and I sought out his help so that my family could go back to Bicol. Boarding one of the jeepneys owned by Bro. Eli, my family and I returned to Bicol.
Days and years passed. We remained loyal followers of Bro. Eli’s preaching. All the while, I was thinking that I was already a member of the Church of God led by Bro. Eli because never did I doubt any of his teachings – not even one. I was very sure that what he was saying was true. Aside from that, I always listened to his broadcasts, even though it did not reach our place very clearly.
I went back to our province. But after a week, there came the workers sent to us by Bro. Eli to give us indoctrination. They were Bro. Onnie and Bro. Mel Magdaraog. After undergoing indoctrination, my wife and I went to Pampanga for baptism. That time, Sis. Baby and I already had three kids. It was on March 30, 1988, at past two in the afternoon, that we were baptized in the river of Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga.
I was simply a member for one year. Later on, I was encouraged by the workers who were being assigned in our locale to attend ministerial classes. After attending for several months, I felt my whole body freezing when Bro. Eli told me that I would already be given a place assignment. I told him that I didn’t think that I could do it. Certainly you won’t be able to do it without God’s help! That was the strong reply of Bro. Eli.
I was frightened then, so I just entrusted everything to God. I went to my first assignment and I could remember very well that I was wearing a blue Hawaiian polo shirt. I borrowed my pair of pants and pair of shoes from somebody else. I was very nervous as I went to my assignment, which was at the locale of Paracale. I spoke for about twenty minutes, but that time, I felt that it was several hours long.
I sweated a lot when Bro. Eli assigned Officers-in-Charge to every division, specifically, when he named me as the OIC for Bicol. In 1996, I was transferred to the Division of Bulacan. In 2001, from being an OIC, I was made a Minister-in-Charge (MIC).
First and foremost, I thank God for entrusting me this responsibility, and next to God, I also thank Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel. At times, I am not able to fully respond to my duties and responsibilities, but I am truly trying to do my best, with God’s help. My duty, which allows me to contribute even a little in the Ministry, is, right now, the foremost source of my joy.
It’s been 28 years now since the first time I heard Bro. Eli, and given that span of time, I never had any doubt that he is, indeed, sent by God in our time to lead us to salvation. From that time, up to now, he has been a parent, an adviser, and a teacher to me. I have learned much, not only from the things that he says, but also from the examples that he sets to us. I strongly admire his strength, his endurance, and his courage in defending the truth.
I am also thankful for having Bro. Daniel who, like Bro. Eli, is also patiently looking after our welfare. He is also a loving and true friend. The two of them are my inspirations. I always pray to God that they be with us always. I also pray that I may be able to live up to the trust that they have given me, in my own humble way, through God’s help, of course.
First published in Believer News Magazine, Feb. 2005