Updated: Jul 18, 2022
“HE LOVED ME FOR WHO I AM.”
ITP missionaries always carry in their hearts ITP’s vision and mission, which is to make Jesus Christ known to all nations and see lives and communities transformed by the power of God. The majority will agree that once you know Jesus your life will never be the same. Only God can transform us inside and out, from ashes to beauty, and from broken to a whole new being. The story I’m about to tell you will surely remind you how grand God’s love is which made way for a total transformation. You might end up in tears just like I did as you read this touching story. Prepare to be inspired and be reminded of God’s amazing love. Pastor Manny Magabulo is an IT missionary and a family man with a 6-year-old son. But before he met Jesus, he had a dark past. He admitted that he was led astray because he got exposed to things he wasn’t supposed to in the first place. He became a homosexual, and he would dress up as a woman. Putting on makeup and joining in beauty pageants was his way of expressing himself to other people. He thought that being beautiful would give him approval and love from other people. When people applauded him during pageants, he felt good, but it was a fleeting moment. He also had relations with some guys, giving them everything he had so they would love him back. His longing for acceptance and affection started when he was just a little boy. He was very young and innocent, and he looked up to his brother whom he thought would protect him. Sadly though, his older brother who should have protected him took full advantage of him. His world was shattered and at a very young age because of the abuse he suffered, the spirit of homosexuality came upon him. As he continued to search for love and peace in the wrong places and wrong people, he got so disillusioned. So, he started to seek something else. He felt something was missing. He thought of changing himself, starting with his appearance. He cut his hair short, wore men’s clothes, stopped using makeup, and went to the gym. But his effort was in vain, he still felt the same. “We really can’t change ourselves by our might but by His Spirit” commented Pastor Manny. Like the story in the ‘Prodigal Son’ God has been waiting for Pastor Manny’s return to His family. God used Pastor Manny’s friend to invite him to a prayer meeting. He met some Christians, and they were very welcoming which became a great encouragement for him. He felt a sense of belonging and acceptance. God used someone to demonstrate His great love to Pastor Manny through a good friend. “He loved me for who I am,” said Pastor Manny. “He never reprimanded me for my old ways, but he just showed his love and extended God’s grace to me” Pastor Manny added. With so much love and acceptance he felt in his heart, he decided to follow God and walk in His statutes. He realized how much God loves him regardless of his past. He became very dedicated to serving the Lord by doing church ministries and going on local missions.
With the new path he took, he never thought that he would be in a situation that would be so terrifying. As he went to the southern part of the Philippines which is in Mindanao to do missions he was caught by the rebels and held hostage. There were ten other hostages, and they were all held captive in a remote hideout. And on that day, the rebels dragged Pastor Manny and the other hostages outside. The rebels ordered Pastor Manny and the other hostages to dig their graves. It was pouring rain and guns were pointing at them. Fearing for their lives, they had to dig the ground where they will be buried after the rebels kill all of them. As they dug their graves, one of the female hostages was dragged and was violated by thirty men. The most unimaginable thing was done to her. The rebels were not satisfied with what they had done to her and with no mercy, she was killed in front of Pastor Manny and the other hostages. Words can’t describe how the remaining hostages must have felt at that time. Pastor Manny cried to God, “Lord, I don’t want to die”, while digging his own grave, his tears were running down his cheeks as he desperately asked God to save them at that time. They all knew they would be next after the female hostage was shot dead in front of them. It became harder to dig because of the rain, then one of the hostages started singing “Jesus, we proclaim you are King…” and the rest of the hostages sang along and gave praises to God. When Pastor Manny opened his eyes and looked in front of him because the rebels got quiet, he saw that there were only three rebels left. Pastor Manny was certain that the three rebels stayed behind to kill all of them.
The hostages thought it was already the end of their lives when unexpectedly the rebels said something that was out of character “Your God is amazing”. They were set free by the rebels! The three rebels helped Pastor Manny and the other hostages escape before the other rebels returned to where they were. Nobody expected that their lives would be spared on that day. Then Pastor Manny got a revelation “If God can save me from this horrifying situation, then He would surely protect me wherever I go” he became braver as he got this new profound truth which later on helped him when he went on international missions. After that incident, Pastor Manny continued serving the Lord by ministering to other people and doing missions. He eventually joined International Teams Phils., a global mission organization that embraced him for who he is and encouraged him to pursue God’s wonderful plans for his future. When he became a part of the IT family, he became bolder and more eager to go to other countries no matter what the situation was. His past experiences enabled him to view things in the light of God’s ever-present protection and care. He knows without any doubt in his heart that whatever challenges he faces in the future; God will always be with him to rescue and protect him. The story doesn’t end here, it has just begun! More exciting incidents are about to unfold as you continue reading about Pastor Manny’s journey of faith. God is using him mightily in his global travels and is willing to take the risks in missions for he believes that the Lord who saved him back then will surely save him again. Furthermore, Pastor Manny’s life transformation, from being a homosexual to becoming the man that God had created him to be, just showed that God indeed can turn ashes into beauty. Everyone could see the marvelous love of God for His children. We are so blessed to be called into God’s family! Great is our God! The God whose love is beyond measure! God’s love covers us and cleanses us. Then, in His compassion, He transforms us. He’s big enough and gracious enough to tackle our mess until the day He decides that construction is complete, and He takes us home. So often, where God is taking us is less about our destination and more about our journey of becoming like Jesus.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Written by: Venus Jablo)