Testimony of Esther Fe B. Gusto
How We Met
It was the year 1954. I was a 4th year student at the Far Eastern Bible Institute and Seminary (FEBIAS) College of Bible.
Back then, a few third-year students who had their own girlfriends wanted their close friend and classmate, Hilarion (“Larry” as he was fondly called), to have his own girlfriend too. This 21-year-old Ilocano farmer was so shy that he could not approach his secret crush. His classmates knew it, so they constantly prodded him to act ASAP.
“How can I?” he replied. “She’s a senior student, the life-of-any-party. Besides, she’s a Visayan from Ormoc, Leyte, and an honor student!”
One evening, while leisurely sitting around a table in the dorm, someone handed him a sheet of bond paper and a ball pen.
“Come on,” his classmate said. “Write her a letter. Tell her how you feel.” Larry reluctantly did so. When it was done, his friend placed it in the school mailbox.
The following day, our office student worker handed me the letter!
It said, “Dear sister, Miss Bacayo…” He talked about why he was in Bible school, even though his parents wanted him to study in an agricultural school. He said the Lord called him to ministry and placed a burden in him to become a pastor. He enumerated the names of his parents and seven siblings. It ended with, “It would be a great honor for me if you would agree to become my girlfriend. God bless you. Sincerely, your brother in Christ, Hilarion Gusto.”
Who wouldn’t be elated to receive such a respectful, friendly letter? Well, I was!
I replied to that letter and since then, we wrote to each other. Writing was our only means of communication since students were not allowed to intermingle. However, every Friday, from suppertime to 9:00 p.m., FEBIAS students had the happy time of socializing—in front of the two deans’ homes!
On my graduation day in 1954, Rev. Amado Chanco, Director of Edenton Mission School (EMS), attended. He was invited by a group of students, including Hilarion, all of them alumni of EMS. After the ceremonies, he approached me and invited me to teach in EMS. He said the school was in great need of a Bible teacher. I thanked him and told him that I would first get the approval of my parents who lived in Basey, Samar.
A few months later, with my father and mother’s blessings, I left for far-off Mindanao and followed God’s leading. There I found myself teaching Bible subjects to Grade 3 pupils up to second-year high school students. I also taught Christian education subjects to Bible school students.
After Hilarion graduated from FEBIAS, EMS also commissioned him as chaplain. He also taught the Bible to the third and fourth year students, and he handled theology subjects for the seminarians. He became the pastor of the community church located in the school campus. Because he was busy in school, his relatives relieved him of all the preparations for the wedding.
One day, Rev. Chanco called me to his office. “Miss Bacayo, what wedding gift would you like the administration to give you?” he asked. Without hesitation I replied, “Please bring my parents and siblings (ages 12, 10, 7, and 4 at that time) here, and let them live somewhere.” He willingly agreed. Within the following week, my family arrived and were given a house of their own!
I was informed that the wedding would be done in the Gusto home church and residence, per request of Hilarion’s parents who were already quite elderly. Our big day arrived on September 24, 1955! The day fell on the citywide election season, and candidates were busy campaigning. Uninvited guests to our wedding were the two mayoral candidates with their minions. They brought gifts like cakes, drinking glasses, and T-shirts! EMS faculty and students, members of our churches, the whole barrio, and Gusto clan members, were primarily our guests. Our celebration was fondly called the “The Barrio Wedding of the Decade.”
Ministry and Parenthood
After two years of serving at EMS, we were invited to work with SALELU UCCP church. “SALELU” stands for three barrios: SAlakit, LEbe, and LUma. Since we were very new in taking charge of a well-organized church, God graciously provided us with mentors: Rev. Nabor, Rev. Ducusin, and Mrs. Gauna—retired workers whose home church was SALELU. They also encouraged us to attend every minister’s training conference, allowing us to bring our children with us. All our expenses were paid for!
When God nudges us to move with His calling, He surely provides!
We were happily aware that our little ones, Stephen (6), David (5), and Sharon (3), were able to interact with church leaders wherever we went. They were learning to respect God’s leaders and to love the Lord’s work.
Eight years after our stay at SALELU Church, the FEBIAS administration invited us to work with them. It was a great experience, serving the Lord first in the barrios and then in the city! We realized that we were being groomed to train young people who would be serving where we could not go. Fruits were being multiplied!
By this time, two more children were added to our family, Larry Paul and Ser Joseph (Sergei for short). Our children, by God’s grace, had followed our footsteps.
How encouraging to know that wherever we went, whether here or abroad, we’d always meet FEBIAS graduates faithfully serving the Lord. I’d like to mention some who are national and international leaders by God’s grace: Nene and Lolita Ramientos, Ef and Sierry Tendero, Pio and Yolly Tica, Clem and Merlyn Guillermo, Tony and Rex Reyes, Nannie and Awit Castillo, Luis and Li Pantoja, Tim and Carol Gener, James and Helen Aberin, Jojo and Vivian Lacanilao, Bert and Dolly Vitaliz, Paul and Jo Mortiz, Timothy and Rex Jeng, Abe and Bel Luis, Bill and Eden Layda, Gane and Zeny Deslate, Jun and Sally Sardido, Jerry and Gloria Callado, Junn and Bev Lagud, and oh, so many more!
What else can I say, but “Thank you, LORD, for giving us the privilege of serving YOU as husband and wife! We give YOU all the glory, honor, and praise!”
Truly, God has been faithful in our 52 years of ministry together.