I was so entertained by how Bro. Eli re-enacted the foolishness of some catholic members who, for not having any idols to worship in their houses, ended up drawing a big black cross on their house doors and then crying out so loud, begging for mercy to their newly self-created god!
By Mervin Semilla Vargas
In 1993, I was only twenty years old and on my third year in college when I first heard of Ang Dating Daan. My two classmates and best friends, Joseph and Orly, challenged me to debate with Bro. Eli Soriano, a man they called The Walking Bible. The moniker they used after that man captured my interest to meet Bro. Eli in person.
I was the mentor of my classmates then in most of our academic subjects particularly in higher mathematics for three years. Maybe that was how they got the idea of challenging me to meet Bro. Eli. They wanted me to prove to this preacher that there was really no God and that the Bible was only made by man.
I had been living with this kind of belief since my first step in college. The reason was that I had never experienced my only wish granted from all the prayers I made before as many images I could kneel to inside every Catholic Church I visited. I found out these images of cement are powerless and cannot grant any wish. Moreover, they cannot even talk!
Eventually, the three of us yanked out to see The Walking Bible at the Church of God locale of Frisco. Unaware of what to see, I was so entertained by how Bro. Eli re-enacted the foolishness of some catholic members who, for not having any idols to worship in their houses, ended up drawing a big black cross on their house doors and then crying out so loud, begging for mercy to their newly self-created god!
Bro. Eli’s preaching is very much different compared to those of all other pastors I met. He is brave in exposing false teachings and practices of so-called churches nowadays. After a few hours of listening to his sensible preaching, one could easily tell what the three of us ended up with: Three young men eating free sopas (macaroni soup) and pandesal (bread) that was served to all guests, not minding the real intention of our visit. Bro. Eli, was after all, very much knowledgeable about the Bible that I did not think anyone can challenge him. Instead of my atheistic leanings, I began to believe that there really is a God and that the Bible is God-inspired.
Despite all the criticisms that I had heard from Bro. Eli and considering all adventures that are awaiting me after I graduate (gimmicks with friends, beerhouses, merrymaking with girls, what-to-do’s-about-my-salary from work, etcetera), I weighed the latter more. The next step should be getting indoctrinated to know how a Christian should carry himself, but I thought God may understand if I continued with my worldly pleasures at my early age. So the three of us went home and got back to our happy-go-lucky lifestyles.
After I graduated at the age of 22, I took my first job as a computer technician and just like what was planned, I and my officemates went to beerhouses oftentimes. There were times we rented women for sex pleasures. At the age of 27, I learned how to use shabu and there were even times I took my officemates in our home to do the pot session when no one was around.
It was only at the age of thirty, in the month of October, that I recalled the Ang Dating Daan. I was about to get married with the woman I had been living with for about five years then. I was not as excited as my family who were so much talking about the preparation of my wedding on December. My concern was more of whether my fiancée was really the woman God had prepared for me. Needless to say, I tuned-in to Bro. Eli’s TV program again, and listening lasted for about three weeks in a row. I was totally convinced that I had found the true church in the Bible and decided to get indoctrinated without letting anybody know about my decision. Not even my fiancée.
I remember one time in the middle of the night while everybody in the house was sound asleep, I turned on the TV to watch the Ang Dating Daan program. Bro. Eli was quoting God: “Sapagkat Ako’y tumawag walang nakinig, inyong iniuwi sa wala ang buo Kong payo, Ako naman ang tatawa…., Kung magkagayo’y tatawag sila sa Akin hindi na Ako sasagot.” (Because I called and nobody listened, you simply laid to waste my advice. In turn, I will laugh when that happens; they will call on me but I will not answer.) In hearing those verses I felt like God was making me choose between Him and the world. I took a pen to jot down the contact numbers reflected on screen. My fingers were shaky while copying them, I could feel that.
Just from the moment the phone rang and someone replied to my call, I already felt the spirit of comfort and an unexplainable feeling of rest within me. The man on the other line happened to be Bro. Cris Gojar who was at that time staying-in at the locale of Shaw. He said they have this individual indoctrination for those who have conflict in work schedules. It seemed that they always found ways to accommodate those who are looking for God notwithstanding their work schedule. So, a Bro. Jeff Catapat, my destined worker, painstakingly assisted me all throughout the sessions.
While the topic about the four kinds of hearts was being discussed, I suddenly felt some kind of fear inside of me and I couldn’t explain where it came from. My feeling was that I was being asked to serve God. Yet, back in my mind, I knew I could not leave behind the worldly pleasures I was used to. I asked Bro. Jeff if it was okay to postpone the indoctrination to give myself enough time to test what kind of heart mine was. He simply said I must finish the remaining sessions and decide afterwards.
Well, that was only an alibi from my end, of course. The truth was that there’s this young woman I had been longing to meet in person. She was a graduating student from a college university and my fiancée didn’t know I was flirting with her in the internet. My real plan was to meet with her and have sex before submitting to baptism for good. I neglected my church worker’s advice and went on as I had planned.
I was just a few steps to having touched her who was really drunk when a sudden voice from nowhere told me, “Hindi tama ‘yan. Alam mo ‘yan!” (That’s not good and you know that!) It was from that moment on that I realized how I was just going to ruin the girl’s life, as I was already about to get married after all. So I sent her home and went through the indoctrination sessions. I got baptized in the Church on November 14, 2003.
My fiancée’s family decided to cancel our marriage that was supposed to be on December of that year. They could not allow their daughter to be wed outside the Catholic Church. However, our relationship still lasted for another two years. My focus was divided between her and my obligations in the Church, until she finally decided to quit living with me.
One time I called her that I will be fetching her in the evening for a dinner. But there she was, starting with her usual nagging about why I always forsake her and why we seldom go out for dates and so many other whys. She finally said I could not fetch her anymore because she found the right guy to do the task.
My words at that time were so limited, knowing full well that I was just about an inch from loosing her. I asked her if she loved the guy and she simply said “Yes.” I again asked her if she still loves me and she said “No.” She was actually asking my permission to set her free, and because I was guided by the Holy Scriptures I told her I was not bound to disallow her from doing all her wishes, so I set her free.
I didn’t notice I was already crying at work, realizing I already lost my supposed wife. My manager was at my back staring at me from afar. The very thing that came into my mind was to lock myself inside the comfort room to pray.
My mouth was still choosy of words saying, “Ama ko, Ikaw ang may sabi, hindi Mo ako pababayaan. Bahala Ka na po.” (Father, you were the one who said, you won’t leave me alone. It is up to you now.) It took me another few minutes inside to regain my composure before I stepped out to finish my job and go home.
Sure enough, it had been just a few weeks since we broke up and I was able to forget her. I realized now how God was able to save me from a nagging wife. My trust in the Lord did not fail me at all.
The words of God are now guiding me on how to treat women properly. Thanks be to God for all his goodness and all his love! I thank God that I did not continue believing in those images of the Catholics that taught me nothing but encouraged my worldly pleasures. It made me think I was spiritual when I was not. Thanks be to God for the unspeakable gift!