Brokenness at a Young Age
A very young Rodrigo
I was an illegitimate son. We were my father’s second family. He was a good provider, but he died when I was 5 years old.
I grew up with a very loving mother and siblings, but the environment around us was very abusive and cruel. There were times when we were subject to harsh words, curses, and physical disturbances because of our illegitimate status. I carried most of these burdens with me as I grew up. Growing up without a father figure and male influence caused me to have a lot of insecurities and low self-esteem.
Saved and Rescued
My eldest sister, a professional singer, was the first to know Christ through friends. She started going to a church and eventually led worship services there. She subsequently invited us to go to that church with her.
Six months upon my attending that church, I listened intently as some missionaries from Australia ministered to the congregation. I will never forget that day. I was 14 years old then. I responded to the altar call and for the first time, was “slain” in the Spirit (as the Pentecostals would term it). I saw a bright light, and I felt as if I had been hit; as if I smacked into a concrete wall. The next thing I know, I was lying on the floor, crying. One of the missionaries helped me up and prophesied to me. He told me that one day, I would lead people in worship. The first thing that came to my mind was that I would be a worship leader and a musician. True enough, I eventually became the leader of our music team. I was really happy, since I felt like I was doing what God had called me to do. This was in 1997, when I gave my life to Him.
However, even with this initial commitment to Christ, I was still longing to find my value as a person. I wanted to receive validation from those around me. With my friends outside of church, I learned to drink. I also learned to smoke both cigarettes and marijuana since my friends were doing these.
Rod as a teenager
Due to my vices, I stopped studying at 16 years old. At my sister’s persistent urging, though, I enrolled after two years to finish 4th year high school. Unfortunately, I did not finish it. My sister then encouraged me to take the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the Department of Education, a flagship program offering non-formal education to out-of- school Filipino youth and adults who fail to complete basic education. I managed to receive a diploma from there, then I enrolled in a vocational course in Computer Technology. Predictably, I didn’t finish the course.
The Call to Be a Pastor
One day, our church held an Encounter God Retreat (EGR), a 3-day retreat with the aim of reviving a person’s soul and leading him or her to find freedom in the Lord. On the last day of the retreat, we were supposed to “receive from God.” I found myself so hungry for God. I wanted more of Him, and I kept praying for more. I remember smelling a very sweet scent (which I later found out was the scent of lavenders) in the hot, stuffy room. Then, I received a vision from God.
I saw in my vision that I was standing in front of many people with my hands raised. I was in awe. I realized that God was calling me to be a pastor! However, when I came back home after the retreat, I found myself in denial. I doubted what I saw– just like Gideon (Judges 6:33-40). I asked God for a sign or proof that it was really Him speaking to me. I asked Him to “prove” it by having 30 people confirm the vision I saw.
Soon, I received my confirmation—from more than 30 people! A kind pastor even offered to put me through Bible School with him paying my tuition! It was then that I felt scared. I told God that I didn’t want to be a pastor. I felt I wasn’t qualified because of all my insecurities, my vices (admittedly, I hadn’t completely kicked them out yet), and my inability to finish school.
I was a nobody.
I felt that I had no direction in life. I did not know what to do! I was lost.
Working in Taiwan
Running Away from My Calling
Instead of going to Bible School, I went abroad.
My sister told me that she already knew that I had a calling to be a pastor. When I told her that I wanted to work abroad, she told me to pray about it because she felt that leaving the Philippines wasn’t what God wanted me to do. But before I went abroad, she told me that she dreamt about me; that I was above the waves, like I was surfing. She said that she knew I was going to be a “Fisher of men.”
Just the same, I left. I worked as a Machine Operator in Taiwan for 2½ years. My living conditions in the factory were miserable. I was living in an underground basement. All I had was a very small and dark room. It took weeks before I saw the sun. I wasn’t thinking about being a pastor anymore. I spent my days off with my friends in disco houses and (alcohol) drinking sprees, but even then, I felt a huge void in my heart.
END OF PART 1
What happens next to Rodrigo? Does he continue running away like Jonah? How does God catch His attention? Does he lose the calling or assignment that God wanted to give him? Find out about it in Part 2 of “The Runaway Pastor” in One Voice Magazine.