Marks of the Seer

Preaching despite sufferings untold


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Bro. Eli not an INC? Someone had fooled me for a very long time!

I was disturbed of what I learned. Someone had fooled me for a very long time, or maybe my brother was just uninformed, and the questions lingered for as long as I remember.

By Mark Anthony Serrano

As I recollect the past, a longing feeling saddens my heart. I was young and naive when my mother left me. She left because she was in pain, and she never returned because God took her. When my mother was still alive, she was my teacher and taught me about God. Before she passed, she left me a bible. I read it every day and every night–looking for reasons, but the questions just lingered for as long as I remember.

My father was a drunkard. I remember one day he was beaten up in front of my own eyes because he disrespected someone. He received death threats, and it led him to move to the province. After three years he returned as a changed man. He was no longer a drunkard but a bible reader. He attributed his change to the INCM (Iglesia ni Cristo ni Manalo), but it was all a fleeting change. After a couple of months, he returned to his old ways. His transformation was all but an illusion, but regrettably I also became an INCM member.

When I was baptized in INCM, a female church worker advised our group to watch for a certain preacher. The name is Brother Eli Soriano. In her own words, she said “Manood kayo sa Channel 13, kay Eli Soriano. Sa atin iyon!” (Watch Channel 13, the program of Eli Soriano. That is ours!) From that moment on, it was stuck in my mind that Bro. Eli Soriano was an INCM. I wondered what was special about him, but the questions lingered for as long as I remember.

Years passed, and I had this dream. In my dream I saw a man sitting on a giant rock. His face was hidden from me. He spoke with authority and said, “All your questions are already answered in the Bible,” and a metaphor was given to me to be wary against people with evil intentions. I was puzzled and asked myself, “What does this dream mean? Who has all the answers? Is the Bible really that complete?” And the questions lingered for as long as I remember.

In 1996, I migrated to the United States and lived with my uncle, a Catholic devotee. He forced me to participate in the Catholic mass, although back then I still considered myself a member of the INCM. At the same time, I was also a fan of religious debates. Often I spent my time in chatrooms–debating and proving that Jesus Christ was just a man and nothing more. This was my belief then.

In 2000 I parted ways from my uncle and moved back to the Philippines. I have a younger brother who at that time had been watching the “Ang Dating Daan” program. By chance I saw Bro. Eli Soriano speaking on the television. I boldly told my brother “Hindi mo ba alam na Iglesia ni Cristo iyan,” (Didn’t you know that, that man is a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo?).  My brother vehemently corrected me stating that Bro. Eli Soriano was never an INCM. I was disturbed of what I learned. Someone had fooled me for a very long time, or maybe my brother was just uninformed, and the questions lingered for as long as I remember.

I have an uncle who was a former drug addict who had lived with vices all of his life, but he was an avid fan of the “Ang Dating Daan” radio program. He had some insecurity that prevented him from leaving his faith. But he wished to become a member of Bro. Eli’s group. I helped him overcome his insecurities by going with him to Apalit. However, it was the day I started disliking the Ang Dating Daan doctrines. It started when I heard the teaching that it’s better to remain unmarried. At that time I just had a break-up, so it was painful to hear such advice. I had decided not to listen to the Ang Dating Daan program anymore.

However, I still could not avoid listening to Bro. Eli because my uncle kept tuning in to the Ang Dating Daan program. This was the time when the discussion between Ang Dating Daan and INCM started to gain traction. In my heart I was still pro-INCM then, but I was also a man of logic. Whenever Bro. Eli would respond back against the accusations of the INCMs, my heart refuses to accept, but my mind kept telling me he was right, and there was an inner battle, and it all began from here.

One year had passed when I decided to return back to the US to continue my studies. At that time I was still not fully convinced of the Ang Dating Daan. One day I was participating in a religious debate against a Baptist regarding the true nature of Christ. As former INCM member, I firmly defended that Christ was just a man and nothing else, but I also believed that God cannot be tempted. The Baptist asked me, “Did Christ fall to temptation?” I replied, “No”. He followed through, “If God cannot be tempted and Christ cannot be tempted, then Christ is God?” For some reason this debate had led to a spark of thinking, and in my mind a seed of doubt had sprouted. I said to myself, “Christ cannot be tempted, and so is God. Therefore there are two Gods?” However, being a proud INCM, I did not accept defeat. I had to make excuses, but deep in my mind the questions lingered for as long as I remember.

The following day I’ve started reassessing myself and my belief. Maybe the doctrine of Trinity is true? But that couldn’t be. Maybe there is the doctrine of duality–there are two Gods? So I thought maybe the Ang Dating Daan was right after all. So I thought I would debate again and pretend I am a member of the Ang Dating Daan to see how their doctrines will fare against other teachings. To my surprise, from atheists to Baptists, no one was able to refute the teachings. But I wanted more like someone gravely thirsty for water, and this led me to seek for more. I want to be indoctrinated.

Back then we still had an IRC-based chatroom named #angdatingdaan. I visited our chatroom and told the Admins I was an INCM member and would like to participate in the indoctrination, but no one would entertain me seriously. Maybe it was because they are accustomed to chatting in Tagalog and here comes a stranger who keeps chatting in English. Or maybe because I was an INCM and they were afraid of me being an insider, but I did not cease asking. On the third day, I had managed to convince them, and finally we scheduled the indoctrination sessions. With God’s help I was baptized in the Church of God in Los Angeles in 2003.

As a member of the true church, my eyes were opened and I learned numerous things. My knowledge grew. I was no longer the man who believed that Christ is just a man. In the church all my questions were answered fully, and it dawned to me the meaning of my dream. The answers are already written, and I have kept them in my heart. Thanks be to God!

 


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Life was very difficult, but why did God keep saving me from dying?

 My mind was speaking to me. Life for me was very bitter, was very difficult, but why did God keep saving me from dying? It was more of a complain about life than a question.

By Jay Esconde

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This is the moment that I’ve waited for the longest in my life

I listened to Bro. Eli using my walkman, to his radio program at DZRH then at 1 o’clock am, to his program at RMN, so that no one would hear. I didn’t even let my dorm roommate know what I was listening to. He was very curios because at the middle of the night, I would just start laughing and giggling

by Roi Cruz

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What was this preacher doing to my husband?

I prevented him from watching the show and that was the one thing in common between me and his family. We did not want him to be attached to this Soriano thing in any way. But like a real rebel, he continued watching. He would only shift to another channel when he saw me coming.

By Alma R. Evardo

It was in 2003 when I and my husband decided to live together, but we were married in civil rites the year before. We were leaving with his parents that time as husband and wife. However, between the two of us, we have so many things uncommon. We often fought in so many ways and almost every night. It came to a point that his whole family became an enemy to me.

Because of that, I felt that my life was so much ruined. I found myself deciding that I was wrong in marrying him. And oh! He had promised me a grand wedding that would be remarkable among our families and friends! But where was it?

As days past, I noticed my husband watching over a television program titled Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path) and Itanong mo Kay Soriano, Biblia ang sasagot (Ask Soriano, the Bible will answer). I understood that these were about biblical matters but that they were so much foreign to my own. In the Roman Catholic Church, watching programs like these is not expected. You get your instruction about religion from the priest. And so I started persecuting him.

I threatened to leave him. I kept warning him that if he entertained joining that group, our relationship will not work out. Above everything else, I dreaded a husband with a different faith and belief as mine. But as days passed, his eyes were still glued to that Ang Dating Daan TV program. “Better tell your parents that there will be no Catholic Church wedding coming because you are joining another religion,” I nagged him.

My husband simply smiled and said nothing. Nevertheless, I prevented him from watching the show and that was the one thing I had in common with his family. We did not want him to be attached to this Soriano thing in any way. But like a real rebel, he continued watching. He would only shift to another channel when he saw me coming.

My husband eventually started getting cold to me. He would sleep with his back turned to my face. He refused to do the sign of the cross. He had also stopped bringing the rosary with him like he used to do before leaving home for work. And that made me think, what was happening to my husband? What did this man (Bro. Eli Soriano) do to him? To the extent that the picture of this preacher was now appearing as wallpaper in my husband’s cell phone! But presto I deleted it! I hated it!

Later, we decided to move in to another house owned by his parents and settled on our own, but it was just a wall away from them. Over here, it remained a pre-occupation yet for my husband to keep watching the Ang Dating Daan show. The difference was that I realized I did not prevent him anymore. Instead, I found myself also watching Bro. Eli Soriano.

Oh, my! This preacher is telling the truth! And he reads direct from the Bible to prove his point! There were many things he said that opened my eyes. From then on I started loving to watch the program. I saw myself believing in everything Bro. Eli was saying. Eventually, I told my husband that he could now join that church where Bro. Eli is, and forget about his promised grand wedding for me.

With the help of Bro. Romanito “Tom” Maunahan, who was my co-worker at California Pizza Kitchen ATC branch, we were able to access the address of a Church locale situated at Signal. Right then, I helped my husband find the locale because he was in a hurry. He only had a month left before he would move to Taiwan to work for Eva Airways.

And so, one afternoon we tried to find the nearest Ang Dating Daan Coordinating Center. I could still imagine the mocking of the tricycle drivers from whom we inquired about the exact location of the Center. No tricycle driver was willing to bring us there. Instead they laughed and mocked us. And so my husband told me to stop asking because he noticed that most of the tricycles had the three-colored sign of the Iglesia ni Cristo.

We decided then to just walk and find it on our own, but we had gone so far already and still didn’t know our way. I got irritated and told him to ask again for some help, but he refused. I shouted, “Look, I have work at 4pm and it is almost 3pm. If you really believe that what we are going to do is God’s will, can’t He touch someone’s heart among the people here to bring us to this Ang Dating Daan Coordinating Center?” In not less than three minutes after I had said that, there appeared our high school classmate with his motor cycle and helped us get there.

My husband started attending special indoctrination sessions, finished it in just a week, and left to Taiwan for work. He got baptized on April 22, 2005.

I could say I became a believer also, but at that time, I was not yet fully decided to join the group. It was because of so many things. For example, I didn’t like wearing skirts; I wanted to shape and shave my eye brows. In short, I was very much vain.

Alone at home, my life changed. I stopped watching the Ang Dating Daan show because it was suspended. I understood later that it had problems with the Movie Television and Radio Classification Board (MTRCB). The camp of the Iglesia ni Cristo had filed a case against it and the MTRCB gave them way. I started to smoke and spent money extravagantly. This lasted for some five months.

One day I realized that I was no longer happy with my life. But why? I had money that ordinary people cannot have. My husband was giving me monthly allowance, and I also had my salary. However, I was not happy. I felt like there was something missing.

I decided then to resign and look for God. I went to the Ang Dating Daan Coordinating Center of Bagumbayan, Taguig and inquired for indoctrination. Someone from there approached me and told me to come back on a Mass Indoctrination scheduled on a November 16 of that year. And so I did. On my first day of indoctrination, I started to recall the past days of my life. They played instrumental music. I can’t remember what song that was, but I started crying. I cried a lot and asked myself why just now these things came to me.

I could not explain my emotions at that time. It was just that I was contented sitting there and listening to the lectures on Church doctrines. The days went on and I kept attending the indoctrination sessions.

I enjoyed them immensely and I found out on my own what Bro. Eli Soriano did to my husband during his calling time. God had changed him! God had changed me too. Through Bro. Eli Soriano, we were able to hear God’s words.

Finally, I finished my indoctrination and got baptized on December 9, 2005. I thank God for giving us Bro. Eli Soriano and Kuya Daniel Razon. Later, my youngest brother and my parents had joined the church also.

Thanks be to God! To God be the Glory!


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These Peculiar People of God Challenged me to Search for Truth

We always closed the shop on Saturdays, which I thought was the only time not appropriate for the business to close. It is the only day the business is good. When I asked them why, they simply answered “We go to Church! Okay!??”

By Joseph Gil Custodio

When I was growing up I studied in a school run by “born-again Christians” from nursery to high school. We were taught by the same in other private schools, except that we were obliged to attend Sunday schools, Christian living classes, chapel days. We were taught to memorize verses, read the Bible, and other stuff. I found these things seemingly religious but very confusing.

I wasn’t new to the whole Bible-Christian-living thing, when I was growing up. My mom was too persuasive when it came to going to church on Sundays, but I wasn’t into it. I was lazy waking up on Sundays.

So back in college, I still attended a church of the born-again but not with the intention of really worshipping. The church had a service which catered to younger people like me, and in this case, some local celebs or kids of actors and actresses were attending the service. Their so-called “praise and worship” felt like a rock concert, I found myself amused with it and thought to myself it was cool attending. But still, the hunger for truth kept bugging me.

I was a very hard-headed person, a happy-go-lucky, careless individual who only thought of himself and did lots of stupidity back then. I did not concentrate on my studies as a fine arts student so I wasn’t able to finish. I was drunk almost every day and night, partying or just doing something to feed my hunger for some gimmick. I numbed myself of frustrations in life by smoking much marijuana.

I still remember an event one night, because there were not many programs to choose from on late night programming. While browsing the channels, I came across two guys. They seemed to be mocking at each other at first, but as I watched, I realized they were on a very intense debate. This guy, who seemed to be the fans’ favorite, smashed his opponent with verses after verses from the Bible of clear evidences of what he was trying to prove. At that point I realized this guy is the real deal! I recognized him to be Bro. Eliseo Soriano or Bro. Eli of Ang Dating Daan.

Well, at first I wasn’t a big fan of his, though I had this guilty pleasure of listening and watching him every once in awhile. I was very much entertained with how he knows the Scriptures from cover to cover. However, I was still a prisoner of my wicked deeds and didn’t take time examining the doctrines he was preaching.

At the age of 20, something big struck me in the head, bulls-eye. My girlfriend, also as young as I was, got pregnant and as a product of my stupidity, we tried doing some stuffs to abort the baby. Moreover, due to some unfortunate events, I wasn’t able to defend my thesis, which meant I could not finish my degree. I was a student then facing a problem of how to sustain my wife with my own money. We were so afraid to reveal things to our parents, so then, I felt like the whole world dropped on my back and I was very miserable.

After some 5 months I learned to accept that this was my fate, that the baby doesn’t have anything to do with my problems. I learned to be happy and be excited about her birth, but it wasn’t God’s will for me to be a father that time. My baby got miscarried! The feeling of emptiness came like a huge blanket covering me, suffocating me till I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore. I was so dumb.

When the doctor gave the baby to me, I was stupified to find that she was stuffed in a huge empty bottle of mayonnaise! Perhaps that was so because I told him I will bury the baby later. With the baby on my hands I felt like sinking; I felt like I was hanging atop a building with only my aching finger to keep me from falling. It was as though the rush of blood in my head wanted to burst out from my ears. I thought that dying was my only way of escape. I felt worthless, and all I did was cry.

My wife suffered stress due to my selfish actions. Her water bag broke, and she lost a lot of amniotic fluids. We were hiding her pregnancy so I wasn’t able to take her to the hospital on a weekend until we could see each other on a Monday. So basically she would have died with my baby if I were not able to rush her to the hospital. She was bleeding for almost a day, and the baby died inside her.

I said sorry to my wife while she was lying there staring blank at the hospital ceiling. I was a coward! I was afraid to recognize that there is God ready to answer my fears. I was afraid to lose the freedom I had: the never-ending nights of sex, drugs and rock-and -roll. But I really felt sorry, really felt guilty. While feeling so all alone, I forgot there is God – the God I needed to turn to – to change my miserable life.

After going through this ordeal, with the help and mercy of God, everything went back to normal again. I decided to take my life seriously to the point of seeking God.

I met 3 guys, one of whom was my sister’s high-school classmate. They were big like the guys you see as metal rockstars. Big muscled, poker-faced, long-bearded, and quite frankly, they seemed like some people you won’t want to mess with. The other guy was thin but was mischievous looking. So then, I had a deal with them to establish some sort of a business venture.

We had a small advertising shop, because they were into arts, and I was also into it. We hanged out together, did all our stuff together, made friends, and eventually we all got ourselves comfortably with each other.

But at some point I found them interestingly unusual. First, my family owned a small restaurant. I used to bring some food for us to eat so that we can save money while manning the shop. But then they would always ask every detail about the food’s history. Whatever it is, they needed to find out before munching the grub, as if they were monkeys trying to check the food first before eating, and that looked weird to me.

Second, we always closed the shop on Saturdays, which I thought was the only time not appropriate for the business to close. It is the only day the business is good. When I asked them why, they simply answered “We go to Church! Okay!??”

Third, one event happened, so I asked them that if they wanted to chill out, I will take charge and buy some booze and we’ll relax. Right, after saying that, I saw their faces as if I said something offending that they instantly wanted to rush outside to puke or whatever. I was really confused yet still interested, to hang out with them.

One time I was cleaning the shop, I saw a CD under the office table, saying DEBATE. Immediately I felt excited, because I had started getting fond of watching Bro. Eli debating with people. However, I wasn’t expecting to get that stuff from them. Actually they didn’t tell me about those kinds of stuffs until I and my wife got really interested with their faith and started asking some questions.

While all my questions were answered by them clearly, when they asked me questions, those questions really bothered me, not for days but months. It was because I couldn’t answer or even justify my answers to them. For them, I just stared in amazement that those questions would come from those guys who looked as if it would never cross their minds to read the bible or even be interested with religion.

I was looking at their outer being, not inside, so I wasn’t really expecting those things from them at all. As days passed, my venture with them got really deep and every time we got together we always talked about the Bible, and yeah, they kept on asking me questions. When I asked, all their answers were, “Ask your pastor,” so sometimes I would get pissed off. At the back of my mind the pastor I know would go nuts if he’ll try to answer just one question they gave like, “Where was God living when he didn’t yet create the Heavens and the Earth?”

I spent half of my life living in confusion, so there; at that point I decided to end it. I think I found the Truth a long time ago. I’ve been wanting to know, to answer all the questions about religion. At that point I only knew one person to turn to, to answer all those mysteries, all those unanswered discussions regarding faith and religion, and most of all, about God. That person is Bro Eli.

After being invited to a “Grand Pulong” at that time or “Bible expo,” I felt very welcome. Upon entering the venue, I felt people were expecting me to come as if they knew me. Every time I turned to those guys whose smiles were a way of communicating that they are happy to have me as their guest, I felt really at home. I felt refreshed; I felt this is it!

And then after that, our Business partners never saw us for a month or so. They thought we were not even interested or that we despised their faith. Little did they know we’ve been undergoing indoctrination sessions. And when we saw each other again, we were now equally all brethren in the Church! We all cried for joy, realizing this.

For those things that intrigued me, I was to find out that members of the Church of God International, where Bro. Eli preached, do not eat blood, the strangled, the double-dead, and food offered to idols. That is the reason they do not simply eat any food without knowing the source. As to Saturdays, this is the day they spend for weekly Thanksgiving and in the evening, the Worship Service. Profits on these days do not mean anything to them because God is their priority. They remain in Church. Finally, members of this Church do not drink liquor. Suggestions for drinking do not appeal to them.

Six years have passed but I still remember every detail of the events that led me from darkness to light- events that had changed me with God’s help. I don’t regret those things. They have somehow made me realize how lucky I am to have found the answers that for a long time I had been waiting for. I had wanted to live a life with reason, to have wonderful preachers like Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel. These are the preachers who give their lives selflessly for people like me to have another chance, to live according to the will of God and truth written in the Bible. Thanks be to God!

[Joseph Gil Custodio is a Church member from the Locale of Qatar.]


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My wife persecuted me for my faith but now we’re together in it

I prayed to the Almighty God hoping that someday, my wife would also be called to the Church of God. I stood my ground and followed the doctrines. One of that was being good to my wife, loving her, and cherishing her as my own self. I was no longer smoking and I was a changed man.

By Thommy Dagoc

We were just the opposite poles: me and my wife in terms of religion. If she was quite hot for it, to me it did not mean anything. This explained the war we had for each of our beliefs.

I was born a Roman Catholic and I don’t recall hearing explanations about the word of God such as what we are hearing now from Bro. Eliseo Soriano. I first came upon Bro. Eli in February 2002.

One time I was tuning on my television set. I saw a TV program of ANG DATING DAAN in SBN Cebu and that was the first time I watched Bro. Eli on TV preaching the Word of God.

There was nobody convincing me to view this program but I had had a feeling very different. I felt happy while watching Bro. Eli discussing the Word of God. I never felt bored nor felt sleepy with the whole program.

I was soooooo, soooooo interested watching even if the program lasted to almost 2 am. But while I was watching Bro. Eli, I was still hooked on to my habit of smoking cigarettes.

My wife started getting mad at me after a couple of weeks watching the program. My time at night was focused on Bro. Eli. As my wife’s world started crumbling down due to my shift of attention, tension came between us.

From my new interest, I decided to visit a Church locale after I saw an invitation flagged on TV. It was about indoctrination and I wanted to go just to observe what indoctrination was.

I got so enlightened with the teachings but there was a time I had to miss one session. My wife was trying to hold me back. She did not want me to get affiliated with the Members Church of God International (MCGI). This is the registered name of the Church that Bro. Eli is Presiding Minister to. I and my wife went to the extent of fighting each other.

I had to undergo a second round of indoctrinations just to finish. My wife threatened that she will leave me with our two kids if I continued joining the Church of God.

However, I was not daunted with all that threat. I was never scared of what people said. By God’s help I successfully joined the Church of God. On May 4, 2002, I got baptized.

After my baptism I saw my wife getting wild. She got drunk and while I was sleeping she poured on me a glass of beer. She condemned me for joining the Church of God. She spoke bad words just to embarrass me to my friends and to my family. Our quarrels went on: she, defending her Catholic faith while I gripped on to the one I newly found.

I prayed to the Almighty God hoping that someday, my wife would also be called to the Church of God. I stood my ground and followed the doctrines. One of that was being good to my wife, loving her, and cherishing her as my own self. I was no longer smoking and I was a changed man.

I took her with me to Church gatherings although I knew that she was against my new-found faith. From there, she could observe more than what she could see in me or what I could tell her. I only guided her where she needed help, taking care to internalize the teachings that I have received and exemplify them in all my actions.

The teachings took effect on her as she listened to God’s words. Bro. Eli’s way of preaching was and is different from the Roman Catholic’s where we came from. I tried my best to be the good husband to her as taught by Bro. Eli to couples. On August 23, 2002, my wife also got baptized.

Amazingly, God had answered my prayer! After months of contention and tension, my wife also became a member in this Church of God. She didn’t just become a member. She went active and by God’s help and mercy, Vicenta C. Dagoc is currently our deaconess in our locale. We belong to the Locale of Danao, Cebu District II, Central Visayas Division.

Thanks be to God for all His unspeakable gift to us! A sensible preacher was sent to open our mind into God’s way!

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