A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart

We do not have to earn God’s love because He has already chosen to love us first. Here is a story of a man who became part of a church to pursue love, only to realize that Love Himself had been pursuing him. 

 

I grew up thinking that I had to earn the love of God. Being the eldest of seven children, I grew up with the pressure that I had to always do the right things and be responsible. Somehow, there’s a fear in my heart that if I fail to do what’s right, God will get angry and reject me. Knowing that I do not always do the right thing and that I’m not as patient and forgiving as I need to be only made me feel frustrated and alienated from God.

In 2007, I met a woman who attended Victory. Having the mindset that love is something I had to earn, I did things that I knew she would appreciate, considering that I had a different religion. I joined the same church and became part of a Victory group even though my heart was not really in it. I went to church only because my mind was set on pursuing someone, not knowing that I was there because God was set on pursuing me.

I started noticing something different from the people I met in church. I saw real joy and peace in their lives. I saw a group of people who were committed to obey God, and it did not seem like a heavy chore for them. They were obeying God not out of obligation or fear of being rejected and punished, but out of love. The testimonies I was hearing and everything I was learning in the Victory group made me curious to know the God they were talking about. When I heard the teaching about loving your enemies, praying for them, and blessing them, I was shocked. It was not only a new concept; it seemed unfair, unacceptable, and even unwise. It was then that I started seeing God’s heart.

I realized that God had already chosen to love me even if I had not done anything to deserve it. He loved me first, and He loves me unconditionally. I can stop trying to earn God’s love because He has freely given it to me. Knowing this truth released me from a very heavy burden. I wanted to know this loving God and experience Him in my life. In spite of the knowledge that my decision would not be taken lightly by my family, I turned away from the religion I had grown up in and surrendered my life to Jesus. I completely trusted Him for the strength to face everything that I knew I would go through.

As expected, it was very difficult, but I saw God’s hand move in my situation. I experienced the joy and peace that do not depend on circumstances but on a relationship with God. I enjoyed the blessings that come from belonging to a church community. The challenges I faced brought me and Luzebel, the woman I had initially pursued in church, closer. We got married six years after I became a Christian. Although I did not see my parents for some time because of my decision to follow Christ, they had a last-minute change of heart and attended our Christian wedding. Now, they welcome my weekly visits, and I am praying that they would also experience God’s great love.

My wife and I have now been serving God together for seven years. In all the challenges we have faced, we carry with us the assurance that the love that drew us near to God will also cause us to triumph. His love will never fail.

. . . and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts . . .

Romans 5:5

Mazhar is a high school teacher and serves as a volunteer in Victory Zamboanga. 

Fulfilling God’s Purpose

Fulfilling God’s Purpose

God is reaching out to people with His love, and nothing, not even a pandemic, can stop Him from using anyone to accomplish His will. Here is a story of a man whom God used to share the hope found in His word while he himself was battling with COVID-19. 

 

I was 42 when I retired from government service. Shortly after my retirement, I encountered God’s love. When you come face to face with the magnitude of God’s love for you and the richness of His grace and forgiveness, you know that the only proper response is to surrender and serve Him. Since then, I have been serving God in whatever way He calls me to serve. 

Last year, one of the pastors in our church challenged me to lead my own Victory group. I prayed about it and asked God to open doors for me. God answered my prayer in the most unexpected way. Sometime in October, I attended a high school reunion in one of the bars in Makati. That night, in front of the doors of the bar, I and four other men prayed for each other. One of the men suggested that we call our group MFJ (Men for Jesus) and that name has stuck with us to this day. For four months we met once a week to study God’s word and pray for one another. Then we started meeting more often. 

Sometime in March, I tested positive for COVID-19. I was one of the early cases in the country. Out of my six-week battle with the virus, the most difficult was the first ten days. While I was in isolation, struggling for every breath, I kept praying. It was a very painful and difficult time, but I had peace knowing that God was with me. He kept reminding me of how much He loves me and the truth that no hardship nor pain will ever separate me from His love. Seeing who I am in God’s eyes gave me the strength to endure. That season of pain brought me closer to God and made me experience His reality in a new way.  

By God’s sovereign will, this experience also opened doors for me to share His love to people. It was during this time when our MFJ group started growing. Ever since the lockdown, we started meeting online three times a week. Since I was in quarantine, I had time to prepare and share the word of God. Friends from all over the world started joining our group. We grew from five to more than 50. When the lockdown eased a little, I was expecting that we would meet less often. But the group wanted to keep meeting three times a week. They said that God’s word sustained them during the lockdown. It brought them peace and hope. It gave them the faith to believe for better days ahead.

I realized that in this time of pandemic, we really need to see what God is personally showing each one of us. He is reaching out to us individually and we need to listen to Him. He wants us to know Him and find joy and peace in Him in the midst of the uncertainties that are happening. Yes, we see the agony, the horror that this pandemic has brought to people’s lives. We see businesses closing and people losing their jobs and their loved ones. I personally have experienced the pain that this disease brings and the fear that comes from knowing that the breath you just took might be your last. If we are not careful, we will get persuaded by all the negativity we see and experience around us and be disheartened.

As Christians, we need to see what God is doing. We should look at everything that’s happening with eyes of faith. God has a purpose for allowing this pandemic. He is recalibrating everyone’s lives. People are looking for answers and we have to be willing and ready to share the hope we have in Him. If we allow God, nothing, not even a pandemic, can stop Him from using us to accomplish His will.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you 

that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide . . .”

John 15:16

Tony served in government for fourteen years before he retired. He and his wife are Victory group leaders in Victory Fort.

Thriving in Lockdown

Thriving in Lockdown

In God, what may appear as a setback is actually a setup. He will always guide us to the right path. Here is the story of a man who realized that when God told him to give up his only means of income, He was in fact preparing him for the lockdown. 

 

Two years ago, one of my closest friends invited me to attend a Victory group meeting. Though I didn’t want to have anything to do with it, I attended eventually because he was very persistent and gave me the assurance that it’s okay to walk out at any point during the meeting. To my surprise, I enjoyed it. I did not only stay; I kept coming back. Even if my life was very different from those who were there, I felt at home with them. Through the group, I started to get to know God and His purpose for my life. The desire to live for Him started to grow in my heart. 

But I soon realized that my newfound faith was not that strong. I found it hard to give up the things I knew I had to give up to follow God. I left my job and started to work as a tattoo artist. For more than a year, I travelled to different places. It was financially rewarding, but there was no sense of fulfillment. I felt empty. I kept thinking about the time I was involved in church and how I was much happier and at peace then. After more than a year, I decided to go back to church last December. 

In February of this year, I had to face some issues regarding my job. I sought counsel from the leaders in church and prayed about it. I asked God to give me wisdom on how to respond to the situation. Somehow, I knew that the right thing to do would be to quit. If I started travelling again to go to different events and beaches all over the country, I believed I would be taking steps that would bring me far away from God. I knew that God was challenging me to trust Him and believe that He has something better for me. By God’s grace I made the difficult decision to let go of my job and trust that He will provide. A couple of weeks later, the lockdown was announced. If I had left, I would have been stranded somewhere in the country without any source of income. I was not only relieved to find out that I made the right choice; I felt secure knowing that God was guiding me and making sure that I would stay on the right path. 

I held on to God’s word that He has something better for me. Although it seemed impossible to get a job during the lockdown, I kept praying and trusting that He will lead me to it. Then one day, I just suddenly thought of tie dyeing. Although I hadn’t done this before, I thought that since God had given me a measure of creativity, I may be able to use it in this craft. I spent several weeks studying tie dyeing, and now, I can say that I have a thriving business. The orders have just kept coming in.

God did not only secure a source of income for me during this lockdown, He also made sure that I would grow in my faith. Since day one of the lockdown, my Victory group has been meeting online every morning for our group devotions. It’s helping all of us go through the challenges brought about by this pandemic. It enables us to keep our focus and hope in God. 

When God calls us to obey and trust Him, He will surely reward our obedience in ways we cannot expect. This pandemic may appear like a major setback for all of us. But just as I have experienced, I believe that if we trust and obey God, we will see that this is actually a setup. He is putting all of us in situations where we can see and experience His goodness. 

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

Criss is part of a Victory group in Victory Bulacan. He is currently being equipped as an intern and is helping in the church’s pastoral ministry. He hopes to lead a Victory group soon.

Making Disciples Together

Making Disciples Together

Angelica, Genbert, and Milbert are siblings who lead their respective Victory groups in Naga. They, along with their groups, believe that now, more than ever, we should boldly make disciples and help each other grow in our relationship with God.

 

Angelica Dacudao, 17
Angelica is an incoming Grade 12 student. When the enhanced community quarantine was implemented in their city, she didn’t expect that it would last for a while. But when it did, she knew that it would be a challenge to meet her Victory group since it’s hard to get a stable internet connection in their area.

To continue meeting with her group and her classmates who were going through ONE 2 ONE, she started chatting with them through a messaging app. They couldn’t do a video call due to network problems, so she took photos of the ONE 2 ONE booklet and did the discussion via chat instead.

According to her, a lot of students, especially now, are longing for a relationship with God. Many are anxious and in need of compassion, understanding, and love. In this time where a lot of things are uncertain, there is a greater need for us to do our part so more people can come to know Christ.

She believes that with or without the quarantine, our call remains the same: to honor God and make disciples. We have to continually point people to God, encourage each other, and pray for one another.

Genbert Dacudao, 20
Genbert is a second-year BS Information Technology student. He considers it a blessing when his uncle invited him to church again and connected him to a Victory group in 2017.

In 2018, Genbert started leading his own Victory group. Since then, he has been passionate about helping young men like him grow in their faith and walk with God.

In order to continue connecting with his group during the enhanced community quarantine, he met with them weekly every Monday night. They would usually wait for the internet connection to be stable at night so they could chat without interruption and sometimes do a video chat.

For Genbert, in spite of the quarantine, there is no excuse for reaching out to others. God has given us ways to connect through technology; we should maximize these and press on as we make disciples even in this challenging season.

Genbert also shares that it is important for us to hear God’s word, especially now that a lot of people are losing hope. He believes that by reading His word, we find new hope and strength in God’s promises.

Milbert Dacudao, 21
Milbert is a web developer. It was his prayer before to see his siblings in church. When it finally happened, he felt so blessed that God gave all of them a chance to know Him and serve Him through music.

Like Genbert, it was their uncle, a pastor in Victory Naga, who invited Milbert to church. After graduating from college, he was supposed to work in Manila, but a job opportunity opened up for him in their city. He was so thankful that God made a way for him to stay in Naga so he can still serve in their church and lead people to Him in their area.

Though his current job demands a lot of time in the office, Milbert makes it a point to still meet his Victory group weekly. They usually meet online every Wednesday morning and help each other grow in faith.

According to him, knowing that someone prayed for him and led him to God is a big thing. And that has always inspired him to do the same. If someone was patient enough to walk with him, he should also do the same with the men he’s leading. To be God’s instrument in sharing His word is a blessing in itself.

Now that a lot of people are confused with everything that’s happening, he believes that we could all the more be a voice that will encourage and point others to God. What people need now is someone who will lead them to Him—His comfort, peace, and love.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14,15

 

Aside from leading their own Victory groups, Angelica, Genbert, and Milbert are also serving in Victory Naga’s music ministry.

Finding God in the Midst of Crisis

Finding God in the Midst of Crisis

Our current situation may have brought a lot of uncertainties and changes in our lives, but it has also helped most of us see hope in the face of loss, sickness, and hardship. Here is a story of a mother who found God in the midst of the COVID–19 outbreak.

 

In January of this year, my husband passed away. It was a very difficult time for me. It was not easy to start again and raise our children on my own at the age of 50.

To comfort me, my eldest son who attends our church in General Mariano Alvarez invited me to one of our services. There, I got connected with a Victory group that didn’t stop reaching out to me even after the lockdown.

I thank God that when the outbreak started, my relationship with Him was also gradually built. In spite of the new battles that came our way after my husband’s death—like my eldest son’s emergency appendectomy in February and his almost bout with COVID after being tagged as a person under investigation (PUI)—our whole family remained strong because of God. The harder the trials we faced, the deeper my relationship with Christ became.

During the enhanced community quarantine, I continued going through ONE 2 ONE with my Victory group leader via video call. I also continued to attend our Victory group meetings, which watered and tended the seeds planted in my heart. Now, I look forward to reading and hearing God’s word every day.

I am grateful to God that in the midst of the pandemic and even at this age, He pursued me and led me to Him. He used my son and our church community to help me know Him more and have a deeper relationship with Him. Now, I also get to share His goodness to my 75-year-old mother who gets daily encouragement and inspiration from God’s promises.

It’s amazing how God healed my heart from all the things that had happened to our family early this year. He taught me to let go of the things that I could not surrender to Him before and made me realize that I should not be afraid of anything that might come our way. I know that no matter what happens, I can always depend on Him.

Finding God in this time of crisis gave me the strength to face each day with faith that comes from Him. It is my prayer that more people will reach out to their family members and friends in this trying time, so more people can know God and see His goodness amid loss, sickness, and hardship.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

 

Janette Coronel is an account supervisor with four children. She is growing in her faith as part of a Victory group in our church in General Mariano Alvarez.

Discipleship Never Stops

Discipleship Never Stops

Our current situation should not stop us from encouraging one another and growing in our walk with God. Here’s how a student from Olongapo continues to meet with her Victory group through calls and different digital platforms.

 

How did you feel when you learned that the enhanced community quarantine would make it challenging to meet with people personally and engage them with the gospel?
During the summer break, I was really planning to spend more time with God through devotions and discipleship. I was looking forward to meeting my Victory group so I could finish going through ONE 2 ONE with them. When the enhanced community quarantine was implemented, I knew we could no longer interact with each other physically. That made me sad, but I also knew how important it was for us to stay home and be with our families.

 

What inspired you to continue making disciples even in this challenging season?
Because of social media, we were still able to chat and encourage one another. We would usually share lessons and insights from our devotions, and that had always inspired me to continue what I was doing prior to the lockdown. Our online youth services also made me realize that even in this challenging time, we could still do our part in reaching out to other students.

 

How did you reach out to your Victory group? 
Just when I thought I could start doing discipleship again through social media, our town’s internet service provider encountered a problem. But instead of losing hope, God gave me the grace to still reach out to my group by doing phone calls with them. It’s a good thing that most of us are subscribed to the same mobile network; it allows us to do unlimited calls with each other.

 

Why is it important to continue making disciples in spite of the challenges we’re facing today?
I’m thankful to God that even though we did most of our Victory group meetings over the phone, we continued to stay connected. Instead of losing interest, they all continued to attend our meetings and appreciated that we didn’t let our situation stop us from growing in our walk with God. In times when we had spare internet data to use, we would also chat and send Bible verses to each other.

In spite of what we’re facing, I believe that it’s important to continue reaching the next generation. One thing I learned is that, if we do our part, it can make a great impact on the lives of the people around us. We have to continue pointing them to God so they can be reminded of His love in this season. And once they experience that love from God, they will also develop a desire to share that love with others.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another . . . Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

 

Rania Viduya is an incoming Grade 10 student. She is one of our Victory group leaders in Olongapo.
The above photo was taken in June 2019 inside their campus.

Channels of God’s Generosity

Channels of God’s Generosity

Do you know that God can use us to bless others no matter where we are or what situation we are in? In this article, Victory group members who work in the same office share how God’s generosity allowed them to give food, encouragement, and gifts to a foundation in the metro.

 

It all started with a group of three officemates in a local company in Parañaque having the desire to know God more. Though attending different Victory locations, they decided to meet every Thursday in their office to study God’s Word and deepen their faith. Slowly, their group grew, not just in faith, but even in number. In just a few weeks, even their colleagues from other departments started joining their discipleship group meetings. They are beyond amazed at how God has been moving in and through their group.

A few months ago, one of the members who had recently accepted Christ in his life challenged everyone to put God’s love into action by expressing it to those who needed it most. Though clueless on how to raise enough funds to cover the amount needed for an outreach program, they—in faith—believed that God would let His generosity flow through them. Brimming with hope, they started to seek help from colleagues, friends, and family members who were willing to partner with them. They knew in their hearts that God would take care of the rest.

True to His Word, God soon provided more than what they needed. Before the event, they were still 80% short of their goal, but on the day of the outreach, God poured out His blessings beyond their belief. They were able to raise not just 100% of the budget, but 130%!

So on November 17, Saturday, their group—composed of 20 people, eight of whom are part of Victory Fort, Parañaque, Alabang, and Santa Rosa—visited a charitable foundation in Manila. Before the outreach, they held a feeding program near the foundation and blessed the people in the area. Afterward, they worshipped God together, shared His Word, and gave food and gifts. God generously provided everything they needed, and they felt honored and blessed to see the kids touched by what God was doing through them. Truly, it is a privilege to be used as an instrument to express His love and generous heart.

Currently, they are growing together in faith and serving God in their respective locations. They are also continually sharing the gospel with their colleagues who have yet to accept Christ in their lives. They know that it is God alone who enables them to generously share His Word and His overflowing love.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11

We can grow in faith and generosity knowing that we have a faithful God who provides for us. It is only through His grace and generosity that we are also able to bless others and give beyond our capacity. No matter where we are, He can use us to be a channel of blessing and love to others.

The Man Who Lost Everything

The Man Who Lost Everything

Vincent Garcia had everything he wanted. At 20 years old, he had more money than a young man should have. He could eat anything, go anywhere, and do whatever his heart desired. He was a self-described spoiled brat, and he loved it. He was enrolled in various schools in San Juan, Manila, but never paid attention to his education.

“I would go to school for my allowance,” he confesses, “And to meet girls.” He took BS Business Management at the Central Colleges of the Philippines, but never completed his course.

Vincent GarciaInitially indulging merely in designer clothes and expensive perfume, Vincent’s penchant for a hedonistic lifestyle soon found him experimenting with drugs and joining dangerous motorcycle drag races. One night, after winning a race with his friends, they decided to celebrate. Vincent got on his motorcycle, without a helmet on, and cruised along a highway in Morong, Rizal to meet his friends who were also on their way to their party venue. Before he could reach his destination, Vincent figured in a head-on collision with a pick-up truck.

“I didn’t exactly know what happened but I woke up with a fractured left leg,” he shares, “I also dislocated my right knee.” The doctors had to put metal plates in his legs to secure the fractions and dislocations. The accident wasn’t enough to keep Vincent away from his indulgent and illegal lifestyle. After he had healed enough to be able to walk with crutches, he returned to his wayward life, with little concern for his future.

Because he couldn’t ride motorcycles anymore, Vincent soon found another hobby. He brought his mobile phone to a friend to have it repaired. There, he found out that repairing mobile phones actually interested him. He asked his friend to take him in as a shop assistant. While working at the shop, he developed his skills and studied more about cellphone repair. Some time later, Vincent was able to put up his own cellphone repair shop. He had additional income again, but despite the second chance he was given, he still chose to spend his money on his dangerous lifestyle.

In 2009, Vincent met Grace, and they started living together. After a year, Grace gave birth to their son Kurt. With this big change in his life, Vincent attempted to live a healthier lifestyle, unable to reconcile being a father with his life as a drug user. Eventually, he realized that his current lifestyle was not the solution, and for the first time in his self-indulgent life, Vincent wanted to find peace. He wanted to change.

It was then, however, that his business took a downturn: he started losing clients. To make matters worse, Vincent’s father was soon diagnosed with lung cancer, and cursed his son for his bad luck.  Vincent tried to meet the needs of his growing family by starting a business, but even that failed. Left with nothing, he never felt more alone in his life. Without a way out, Vincent contemplated the only thing he could do: suicide. “I was ready; I had no other options,” he confesses, “I had no value or purpose left.”

At his lowest moment, devoid of any hope, everything blurred for Vincent. He was in his room, with muddled thoughts of ending his life, when he spotted the only lucid thing he could see: a book. Though covered with a thick layer of dust accumulated through years of storage, Vincent pulled out The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and suddenly started reading.  Filled by a deep, unfathomable need to do what was written in the book, Vincent decided then and there to stop doing drugs. “I told myself, drugs are history,” he says, “A bad page in my story.”

Vincent - VGThe Purpose-driven Life recommended Vincent find a small group. He went to a nearby church, inquired, but was rejected. However, the rejection couldn’t douse the fire in his heart. For the first time, Vincent prayed. It was a short four-word prayer, “What shall I do?” And for the first time, Vincent heard a voice so comforting and clear, a voice he absolutely knew he could trust.

“I knew it was Jesus,” he shares, “My heart was pounding but I felt peace for the first time. It was beyond explanation.” He knew Jesus was telling him to read the book again, from the beginning. When Vincent opened the book, he saw a handwritten note behind the cover. It was from his cousin, whom he had been avoiding for the longest time. Vincent didn’t waste any time. He called his cousin, and soon, the two of them were on their way to Victory Fort.

Seeds of God’s Word were sown in Vincent’s fertile and thirsty soul. He was prayed upon, and in no time, he underwent One 2 One. Without struggle nor doubt, he surrendered his life to Christ, the only one who has given him peace that transcends understanding.

Vincent Victory WeekendWhile doing One to One, Vincent was given the opportunity to clean landline phones in an insurance company, on a weekly basis. His wages were meager compared to what he used to receive, but there was contentment and gratitude in his heart. “I knew God is my provider, it was indescribable joy,” he declares, “I knew that God was moving in my life.”

After his Victory Weekend, Vincent made up his mind to return to his cellphone repair business, acknowledging that his skill to repair cellphones was given to him by God. Without any capital, he prayed to God and asked Him for his go signal to start his business again. God answered his prayer by sending people who would help raise the business capital he needed. Before long, Vincent was able to set-up his stall again. With the help of his spiritual family, he got back in business and decided to save up for his surgical bone operation. 

Grace and Vincent“The metal plates the doctors used when I got in an accident were actually the wrong plates,” he reveals, “My legs got infected.” Vincent was ready for his operation. He was just waiting for the surgeon’s schedule to be finalized.

While waiting for his operation date, something started nudging the peace he had. Vincent realized, he had been living with his longtime partner, Grace, since 2009. Wanting to set everything in his life right before God, Vincent decided to forego the much-needed operation for his legs, and decided to marry Grace. In a simple ceremony prepared by his Victory group, on the 18th of July 2015, Vincent and Grace tied the knot before God.

Seeing Vincent’s desire to please Him, God gave him a surprise. A client who brought her iPad to be repaired found out about Vincent’s need for a surgery. As he was doing the repairs, Vincent talked about Jesus. When the repair was completed, he mentioned that he was going away for a while because of his operation. His client then suggested that Vincent take a second opinion at their hospital, the Philippine Air Force Hospital. He was also offered to have his operation in the said hospital, with a better solution, at the same expense and a faster recovery period. He was endorsed by his client’s husband, a senior officer in the Philippine Air Force.

Phil Air Force hospital personnelWhen Vincent chose to honor God by marrying Grace, Vincent’s operation became God’s concern. Truly, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. As Vincent chooses to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first, everything is added unto him.

Today, he shares God’s love to every customer he encounters in his stall at the Greenhills Shopping Center. He serves clients from all over the country and has continuously received excellent feedback. “For every repair or inquiry brought before me, I work at it with all my heart because I  know that it is the Lord whom I’m serving.”

Today, Vincent is part of a coaching group and also leads his own Victory group.  He has preached the gospel and the goodness of God to his sister, Mercy, and to his sister-in-law, Michelle. Both Mercy and Michelle attended Victory Weekend together and belong to the same Victory group.

God has truly begun a good work in Vincent. From the man who has lost everything, he is now the man who has gained everything in Christ. That, for Vincent, is more than enough.

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Leading By Example

Leading By Example

Oliver Odono“When I was younger,” says Oliver Odono, “I told myself, ‘whatever happens, I will never change my religion.'”

Because their parents both had to work to make ends meet, Oliver and his sister were raised by their grandmother, a devout woman who introduced them to religious traditions that they practiced but never fully understood.

“I memorized prayers,” Oliver recalls, “and grew up making regular trips to the church every Sunday.” This was their arrangement until he finished high school. Just before college, he decided to leave his hometown to study in Lucban, Quezon.

“Being independent, I experienced a lot,” Oliver shares. His world expanded, and he met new people. As a sophomore at Southern Luzon State University, he started looking for organizations in school, and was eventually introduced to Youth on Fire (known today as Every Nation Campus Philippines).

“I joined Youth On Fire activities with my friends, despite knowing that it’s different from my beliefs growing up,” Oliver shares. As he grew closer to his Youth on Fire friends, observing them friends time to time during prayer meetings, he sensed something had changed within him; something was not the same. One day in September 2003, Oliver went to church and listened to the preaching. The message affected him significantly, and he found himself responding to the altar call.

Oliver realized he was relying on his own good deeds and religious sacrifices to give him peace of mind. Because he was a good student and was generally obedient to his parents, he didn’t really believe that he needed anything more. However, he envied the joy that seemed to emanate from his new Christian friends at SLSU–it wasn’t a work-for-it kind of joy, but a kind of joy that can only be seen from lives that has found their purpose–and wanted what they had. He realized that it wasn’t about religion; it was about relationship with a God who loved him unconditionally, and Oliver sought to build relationships with others who could help him grow deeper in his relationship with God. Before long, Oliver met Victory group leader Paolo Grande, and was connected to his Victory group.

“Paolo didn’t waste time,” Oliver says, “He did One 2 One with me and was patient in answering my questions.” Oliver also started volunteering in Victory Lucban, and served in the music ministry. After graduating, he went to Manila to take the board exam.

Fast forward to 2010, Oliver returned to the Philippines after working in Macau, China for two years. “God blessed me with a Christian church I can be part of while I was there,” Oliver shares. When the financial crisis hit, he was forced to go back to the Philippines. After several months, God gave him a job at a hotel in Makati.

“Victory Makati didn’t exist then, so I started a new journey at Victory Pioneer,” he says, “I was introduced to Jim, who became my Victory group leader.” Jim empowered Oliver, and encouraged him to lead his own Victory group, too. Before the year ended, Oliver started leading making disciples and his first Victory Oliver 7group was formed.

“We grew in number because of God’s goodness and faithfulness,” he shares, “I went through One 2 One with them just like how my leader patiently went through One 2 One with me.”

Asked how he raises leaders, Oliver says he encourages them to lead their own group lead other people through One 2 One. He then identifies those who are capable and willing to lead. Last year, two of his Victory group members informed him that they wanted to lead their own Victory groups. Because of this, Oliver divided his Victory group into four smaller Victory groups, and assigned leaders to each one. “Every week, I attend to a specific group, so I can assist the leaders, and mentor them on areas they can improve,” he shares. Once he sees that the leaders can already lead on their own, he stops attending the group, and starts building a new one. “Today, I have six new members in my Victory group,” he says, “I’m also thankful to God because I became a discipleship coach last year.”

Oliver Odono 3For Oliver, raising leaders is not an easy task, but it is very rewarding. When he sees his Victory group members raising other leaders, he can’t help but be overwhelmed by God’s grace and goodness. For him, it’s just a matter of paying it forward and honoring God by leading people to Him, because a long time ago, someone also took the time to tell him about God at a time he needed Him most.

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The Value of Shared Life

The Value of Shared Life

How did being part of a Victory group help fifteen-year-old Dorothy Seldura grow in her relationship with God? Read her testimony here!

When I was younger, I chose to block everyone out of my life. You could say I was the typical shy loner that no one could reach. I grew up in a Christian home, but I didn’t think the Christian life was meant to be lived with others.

Later, someone invited me to join a Victory group. I was shocked when I first attended. “How could these people be so open to sharing their weaknesses openly?” I thought.

You see, I grew up trying to put up a strong front. Little did I know that it would lead to my downfall. I began experiencing depression and I started to doubt if really God loved me. I felt lonely, and I couldn’t talk to anyone because I didn’t feel like they would accept me.

All that changed when I became part of a Victory group. The change was gradual, but I learned so many things. I can now say that I have experienced, encountered, and continually testify to the love of God like never before.

I learned that living a victorious life includes being part of a spiritual family that lifts its members up in faith; they strengthen each other even when their weaknesses are in plain sight. Living a Christian life doesn’t have to be like walking a lonely path, and it was never meant to be that way!

It’s amazing how God loves us so much! He has taught us to love one another and encourage one another in His Word. I would not be here, growing in my relationship with Jesus, if not for the people around me. Through their godly example, I learned to give, and not just receive God’s love.

By God’s grace, I can say that I have overcome my extreme shyness. God has ignited in me a passion to share His word with other people. I now want to help more young women who are going through the same things I did before. They need to know that Someone cares and loves them like no other!

 

Dorothy is a high school student from Living Heritage Academy, and is an active Victory group leader in Victory Dipolog.

“I’m a Product of Discipleship!”

“I’m a Product of Discipleship!”

Discipleship is more than just a process—it’s a relationship. Singer-songwriter Yeng Constantino recounts her discipleship experience with her mentor and Victory group leader, Acel van Ommen. Check out her testimony here!

Yep, that’s right. I grew as a Christian through discipleship. And I’m still growing!

When did my discipleship story begin? One Sunday evening in 2009, I was attending a small group and Acel van Ommen just so happened to drop by. Since she was a musician like me, I assumed that she would understand me. I decided to ask her to be my “mentor.”

Yeng (left) and Acel

You may be wondering what I’m talking about right now. Let me explain what discipleship is, based on my experience.

Discipleship is helping someone in their walk with the Lord. It’s being there for the person in times of happiness and sadness, speaking the truth, and rebuking in love. It’s pointing them to the cross for repentance and forgiveness. It’s helping them to know Christ more, not just with words, but through your life. A mentor is the one who does that. It’s like having a teacher or a leader.

Acel did all that I said about discipleship. She was there in my lowest moments and my victories. She spoke the truth to me and rebuked me in love. She always pointed me to Jesus in times of grief and triumph. She helped me know Christ more not just with words, but with her life.

Maybe you’re thinking that Acel is a superhuman. Sometimes I see her cry, too. One time she went to my house crying because she had a fight with her husband. Seeing her that time didn’t made me think that she is a weak leader, because she’s not. She acknowledges that just like me—just like all of us—she also needs a Savior and God.

I am extremely inspired by Acel. I want to be like her—a mentor who will open up her heart and allow others to see how God works in her life.

Now, I’m ready to lead women to Jesus!

 

Yeng Constantino is a singer-songwriter whose heart is for the next generation. You may read more of her blog posts at http://yengonthemission.tumblr.com.