In June 2007, I traveled to Manila, Philippines to spend the summer teaching in Baptist Bible College Asia. It was an impactful experience that God used to touch my heart and has led to Nikki and I currently preparing to Manila as missionaries. The memories I am fondest of from that time are of the friendships I made. One such example was Edilberto. When I first met him at Community Baptist Church, I could not help but be impressed by his meekness, his servant heart, and his sincere friendliness to everyone around him. He was helping with the children’s Sunday School ministry at the church and with the neighborhood children’s outreach ministry Kids Jam on Saturdays, often volunteering to wear a hot, sweaty animal costume to entertain the kids as they gathered for the songs and Bible stories. He was enrolled in BBCA and in several of the freshman level classes I was teaching. Although he struggled with his English more than many of the other students, his passion and hunger to learn about God’s Word were blatantly evident.
I paint this picture of such a spiritually motivated young man because I was immediately impressed by his Christlikeness and drawn to him. He quickly became one of my favorite students and a good friend, always watching out for me (which was definitely appreciated in this foreign and hectic environment), quick to laugh at a joke, even when it was playfully directed at him, and working hard to be involved in the ministry of the church. Imagine my shock, amazement, and awe of God’s incredible grace as I learned more about Edilberto. He had not always been this way, as is to be expected, considering the original fallen state of every person prior to a relationship with Jesus. But Edilberto had come a long ways. A high school drop-out, he had been a violent member of a street gang and a drug addict. If asked about his life goal, he would respond that it was his desire to be an assassin; to get paid to kill people! The harsh reality of his life was challenged when he found himself at the Evangelistic Outreach Camps that Greg Lyons and the Megacity Ministries have been conducting. He had little interest for the message of the speakers and slept through the first two services. But something caused him to perk up on the last night. The Holy Spirit was at work as he listened to the powerful testimony of Christ’s love for man and the ultimate sacrifice he paid to bring meaning and hope to the lives of all. Edilberto went forward during the invitation. He desired the gift of grace that Jesus was offering to him. And the results were tremendous and immediately evident. A mere two months later I met him and I would never have imagined that this meek young man could ever have been capable of harming a fly, let alone perpetuating any form of violence. How amazing is the power of the Gospel!
I’m sharing all of this because I was reminded of Edilberto’s powerful testimony through an email this week. He has completed his Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies through BBCA and is well on his way of reaching his goal to be a pastor. How exciting to see God at work, and this is but one of thousands of stories that are coming out of the Lord’s outpouring of grace in Manila. Far too often I look at those around me that I feel burdened for and feel like a change could never take place in their lives. God’s power is powerful to transform the heart of even the most unlikely people. I pray that I will remember that, and I look forward to being reunited with Edilberto and serving alongside him in Manila.