I heard Bro. Eli attack those who engaged themselves in worldliness, specifically drinking intoxicating wine. His words seemed to pierce my heart, but I accepted what he was saying because it was the truth.
By Ric “Candong” Erese
It was in 1974 that I met Sis. Levi, my wife, and we were blessed with one child. My wife and I were both active members of the Catholic Church. But despite this, I continued on with my vices. In fact, I spearheaded drinking sprees, together with my friends.
Later on, my wife and I developed fondness in listening to the doctrines of the Born Again movement, though we never really understood them; it’s just that we enjoyed their gatherings. Don’t ask us about the doctrines because we remembered nothing. Eventually, we just found ourselves moving from one religious organization to another.
In 1970, my biological sister, Lucia, became a member of the Church of God. One year after, another sibling, Edong, likewise joined this organization. They were the ones who persuaded us to listen to the preaching of Bro. Eliseo Soriano.
The first time that I got the chance to see and listen to Bro. Eli was in Sto. Cristo, Guagua, Pampanga. We were able to listen to him again in Dolores, San Fernando when Bro. Edong invited us to attend a Worship Service there. Together with my wife, in that particular gathering, I heard Bro. Eli attack those who engaged themselves in worldliness, specifically drinking intoxicating wine. My attention was readily called because I was drunk in the two occasions that I got the opportunity to listen to him. His words seemed to pierce my heart, but I accepted what he was saying because it was the truth.
After listening to him for several instances, I eventually realized how God was using Bro. Eli to let me believe. All of a sudden, I became interested in examining the doctrines, the beliefs, the practices of the different religions. Perhaps God permitted it to happen that I shift from one religion to another for me to see the truth that Bro. Eli was preaching. Through him, I was able to see the wrong doctrines of the different religions.
If there was one thing that I truly admired in him, it was his courage in making known the teachings of God.
To this day, I have a full accounting of the time I spent in listening to Bro. Eli before I fully decided to join the Church of God. I attended the Worship Service twice, the Thanksgiving gathering once, 3 months of listening in public meetings, and 10 days of indoctrination in 1980.
If there is one unforgettable day in my life, it is none other than the day I was baptized in the Church of God. This was on June 2, 1980 at the river of Bliss 1, Magalang, Pampanga, officiated by Bro. Antonino de Castro. The joy that I felt in my heart when I was immersed in the water of baptism was indescribable. I was then totally transformed. I found that all my vices were gone. I no longer drink wine and I no longer went with “barkada.” It was when I became a member of this group that I learned to value life more.
Aside from using Bro. Eli, God also called me to His fold through the dream that Bro. Edong once had. In 1979, Bro. Edong dreamt of fully grown pechays (Chinese cabbage) growing right on the rooftops of the house in Magalang, Pampanga. He recounted this dream to Bro. Eli. (That time, I was not a member yet of the group that Bro. Eli led.) Although, I did not understand the meaning of that dream, I knew very well that God was conveying to us a message.
Through Bro. Eli, I had understood God’s righteousness which I did not learn from my former religions. That’s why I feel happy every time I commemorate my day of baptism. It was only when I became a member of this group that I understood Bro. Edong’s dream when Bro. Eli explained to us what it meant. He said that many people from our place would rekindle their faith in God. And this indeed came to pass. My fellow listeners to Bro. Eli’s meetings likewise became members of the Church of God.
It was Bro. Eli who personally encouraged me to join the Workers’ Ministry. That was in 1980. In those days, ministerial classes were being held in Pasay City. To my great surprise, although it was my first attendance, I was already given a place of assignment. It so happened that there was a pressing need for additional workers that time. I was nervous, of course, but I just entrusted everything to God, as I proceeded to my assignment, which was the locale of Tenejeros, Bacolor, Pampanga.
Workers experience travails in the performance of their duties, and I am no exception. There was actually a point when I became more pre-occupied with my duties as a police officer than with my duties as a worker. As a result, I developed a feeling that I was not worthy anymore to be a worker because I have been negligent lately. I consulted Bro. Eli about my dilemma but he told me, “Magpatuloy ka sa pagmamanggagawa at sa pagpupulis. Kailangan natin yan. (Pursue with your duty as a worker and as a policeman. We need those.)” And through his encouraging words, I was able to regain courage and confidence to go on.
From being a worker, I was elected as the Division Superintendent in Tarlac and Pampanga. In 1993, I became an Officer-in-Charge in North 1, North 2 and BATZAM Division. When I became an OIC, I felt the greater responsibilities were vested on my shoulders. But in 2001, a heavier and a more delicate responsibility was handed to me when I was made a Minister-in-Charge. I was not expecting that I would be entrusted with such important positions. However, I believe that this assignment came from God. That is why even if I am experiencing problems and difficulties, even if I am not able to perform my duties well, I am still happy because I believe that it is because of God’s work that I am also able to work.
I am greatly thankful to God for sending us selfless leaders – Bro. Eli Soriano and Bro. Daniel Razon – who are both working very hard to lead us to eternal life.
First published in Believer Newsmagazine, Feb. 2005