For the first time, I encountered somebody who teaches much, much better than all my teachers and professors combined. I realized that there indeed is knowledge and wisdom greater than what universities and schools in this world can offer.
By Benedict L. Abulencia
Since my elementary years up to my first two years in college, I knew only two places to stay in: home and school. Well, there were times that I would go with my family to our relatives’ houses. Sometimes, I would go to video game shops and play my time away. Basically, I was the studious type. Going to church was not even a regular part of my weekly schedule, although my parents were strongly Catholic, at least in mouth.
I also had some religious zeal in me, so to speak. My paternal grandmother herself attests that I was the best out of her more than 80 grandchildren when it comes to praying the angelus and the rosary. She would always ask me if I wanted to become a priest. Every year since I was in Grade 3, I would lead the youths in our subdivision to sing the passion of Christ during the Catholic holy week. That went on for the next 10 years.
Maybe one of the things that disillusioned me to be spiritually complacent was my obsession towards academic supremacy. Records and witnesses will show how I have become a “living legend” in one private school in San Mateo, Rizal. My plan to pursue life as an engineer working in an esteemed company went on until I stepped into our country’s premier state university. I was contented in being a Catholic. Admittedly though, when I was studying at the University of the Philippines at Diliman, I started doubting the existence of God.
It was not Bro. Eliseo Soriano that I first heard to lead me to “Ang Dating Daan”. It was Isko Salvador, during his stint as “Brod Pete” in the “Ang Dating Doon” segment of a local television gag show. I already had the inkling that Isko was spoofing a real-life personality. I wondered who it was. Definitely, that guy knew how to take everything from the book, which I guessed to be the Bible. The interest to search for the original guy was not really that much during the start, but it was there.
One night in November 1999, as I was checking channels on our television set, I saw an episode of “Ang Dating Daan.” “So this is the guy that Isko is mimicking!” I exclaimed. For the first time, I saw and heard Bro. Eli Soriano. My interest grew and grew as I watched and listened nightly. I fell in love with the word of God, the Bible and Bro. Eli. For the first time, I encountered somebody who teaches much, much better than all my teachers and professors combined. I realized that there indeed is knowledge and wisdom greater than what universities and schools in this world can offer.
My parents started noticing my newfound interest. It came to a point that they showed opposition to any move on my part to leave Catholicism. However, my determination to jump ship was becoming stronger each day. It was not about knowledge and wisdom only anymore. My soul is already at stake! I already understood from Bro. Eli that I had wasted almost 19 years of my life as a Catholic. I needed to find a way out. Since my childhood, I always wanted to get what I want. For the last time around, I did exactly that to later surrender my own will to the Lord’s.
During my fourth month of listening, I met a schoolmate who had already been converted into the Church of God. He was Bro. Archie. He acted quickly by encouraging me almost every day to attend the indoctrination. I prayed to the Almighty to aid me in my every move and to make me strong in turning back from my old life. After sitting down as a visitor at the Locale of San Mateo, Rizal only once, I underwent indoctrination.
Finally, I accomplished my great escape from the world with God’s help. I was baptized May 26, 2000, one week after my 19th birthday in the flesh. I have been greatly thankful to God for an accomplishment that drowned all my scholastic achievements. If not for God’s mercy, I know that my life would be spiritually doomed even if it would have become materially prosperous.
During my next few years in UP Diliman, I showed everybody how proud I am to be a member of the Church of God International. In my heart, I know that Brother Eli taught me many things not known to even all the summa cum laudes in the university. I also did not doubt anymore that there is a living God who created all things.
Before, I felt very proud to talk about my school performance. Now, if not for a testimony to show the power and glory of the Almighty, I see no point at all in talking about it. God will not delight in me even if I can bring home all the medals that our school can give me. I am not saying that my academic efforts were completely useless, but such efforts would have been much more useful if I had heard Bro. Eli long ago.
For the next few years after my baptism, God also helped me endure the persecution that came from my family, my relatives and my old friends. Although many of them have not joined the Church until now, their attitude towards Bro. Eli, Kuya Daniel and the Church have changed greatly later on. They realized that, even if I was not able to pursue my plan to be an engineer, God fulfilled in me a plan that He knows best. Although I am unworthy, I have been given the opportunity to help our Preachers as a Church worker. If my grandmother were still alive, I would tell her, “Inana, di hamak na mas mabuti pa kaysa sa paring Katoliko ang kalagayan ko ngayon. (Grandma, I am now in a condition that is very much better than being a Catholic priest.)”
Of course, I owe the Almighty and our Preachers what I am now – among God’s peculiar people in the Members Church of God International (MCGI).