An eternally burning flame: JIL’s testimony of a lifetime
MORE than four decades ago, the distinct voice of Eddie Villanueva echoed in unison with those of countless Filipino activists screaming for their rights, taking to the streets of Metro Manila. Just like any other countryman at the time, all he had in his heart and mind was his staunch dedication for the country and its people, which turned him into an activist and an atheist.
Looking back, who would have thought that a radical activist and atheist would establish a church without a roof and change millions of lives?
BEFORE BECOMING THE ‘KUYA’ OF THE CHURCH
As a young pupil, Eddie was called the “rich man’s son.” While his classmates knew that his father was an Olympian and that he rode a big, black car to school, Eddie lived just like most
Bulakeño kids; he always wore shorts, t-shirts, and wooden clogs to school, would climb trees in the backyard, and made the entire neighborhood his playground.
When he was in high school, a massive wave of problems tested his family’s resolve. His parents’ fishpond and garment business were toppled down by the huge interest of the loans they secured to finance their businesses. This forced his family to work together, and work harder, to make ends meet.
Due to the family’s financial woes, Eddie transferred from a prominent private school to a less expensive one. He turned to basketball and became an athlete as he tried to distract himself from the towering problems hammering his family.
Long before they defeated the loan sharks, land-grabbing syndicates came into the story as another adversary. While he was in college money became harder to come by. His parents could no longer support the education of all nine children, prompting Eddie to work while he studied.
In 1967, Bro. Eddie was exposed to Marxism and Maoist teachings at the Philippine College of Commerce (PCC), now called Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). During those years, he witnessed social injustices and thought, “If God is alive and sitting up in the heavens, why do people suffer oppression, homelessness and devastation?”
While still taking up Economics at PUP, Eddie was allowed by then PUP president Dr. Nemesio Prudente to teach at the school. He also recognized Eddie’s brilliance. After graduating, he had several full-time jobs but remained the “champion of the poor and oppressed.” He vowed to bring justice to people who deserve a peaceful life — away from the burden brought by abusive syndicates. However, the plagued system made him tired and frustrated.
THEN HE WAS ‘BORN AGAIN’
One night, a letter sitting on a table caught Eddie’s attention. Without him knowing, it was something that would transform his whole life.
The letter of his sister Leni read, “I know how you are touched by the plight of the suffering masses. I know you are also fighting such a difficult battle against injustices of the judge determining the landgrabbing case. But remember, you are fighting such a mighty, giant system. There is no one in the Philippines who can help you in this fight. You have tried everything else.”
“Now, try accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior and He will help you. If you want your life to change, Eddie, then accept Jesus as your savior. He is the only one who can deliver the miracle we desire for our land against these syndicates,” she advised.
Despite the wobbling skepticism in his mind, he humbled himself, bowed down and surrendered to the Lord. Even just for a moment, he tried to pray from his heart.
Then and there, Eddie had an unexplainable feeling. It seemed as if he was walking in the sky and a space was filled in his heart. Little did he know that that peaceful moment was a life-changing encounter with the Lord.
Less than a week after the said experience, he found out that members of the land-grabbing syndicates were miraculously arrested and put behind bars. The positivity opened up his heart and removed the cloud that had been keeping him in the dark.
But just when he thought it’s over, he once again had a deep conversation with the Lord. This time, he prayed for the health of his father who had not yet seen the “changed” Eddie. After his prayerful confession, the Lord answered his prayers and allowed his father to recover from stroke.
He kept his promise to become a changed man — a Christian businessman.
But he still did not find the peace he was looking for. Once more, Leni wrote him a letter and said, “Believe me. You will never find real success, victory and peace in any endeavor if you continue to run away from the calling of the Lord.”
The message confirmed what was in his heart and what he was called to do — to go out and spread His word.
“Okay, Lord. I will abandon my personal desire to be a lawyer and businessman. I will follow You and go back to the university to teach again. But this time, I will not teach Maoist ideas. I will do my best to share the Gospel of love and the salvation of Jesus Christ,” he told the Lord.
True to his word, while teaching Economics, Finance, Political Science and Management Cooperative subjects at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), he started helping students develop strong moral character and a love for the country and God.
In 1978, the Jesus is Lord Fellowship (now Jesus is Lord Church Worldwide or JIL) was born. That year marked the beginning of Eddie’s mission to build the Kingdom of God in the hearts of the people. It humbly started with 15 students, who doubted their relationship with the Lord, one thing he was familiar with.
As Bible studies became a special time of peace and joy, his students told Eddie how their lives were converted after accepting the Lord with all their heart. As living proofs of the exciting new journey with God, they inspired their families and friends to attend Bible studies and listen to Eddie’s preaching.
From a group of 15 “on-fire” students, the word spread like a wildfire until they started holding formal worship services at the Calvary Four Square Christian Day School and in an old funeral home in Bulacan.
That same year, with burning faith and passion, Eddie finally dedicated all his time to God. He quit his job at PUP to intensify the sharing of the word with students from other colleges and universities-themselves. JIL was able to welcome more than a thousand people in V. Mapa High School’s amphitheater, which can only accommodate 600 people.
Although they were faced with numerous hindrances as they carried out their mission, they chose the way of the world and lifted everything up to the Lord. With forces trying to pull them down, their faith became stronger for they knew that God was with them.
FULFILLING THE DIVINE PLAN
From community outreaches, classroom Bible studies, and peaceful moments with loved ones, the sharing, faith and vision kept growing and expanding beautifully.
Today, Bro. Eddie’s passion to evangelize and transform the Philippines and other countries to become the blessed nations of God fervently burns. Although he leads one of the largest Christian churches in the world, he continuously works to inspire more people from all walks of life.
Even if he was not able to attend formal Bible schooling, he diligently embraced the Bible and interestingly digested books and preachings of local pastors and evangelists, including Morris Cerullo, T. L. Osborn, Oral Roberts, Ralph Mahoney and Kenneth Hagin, which guided him in shaping JIL’s mission “to bring all peoples to the kingdom of the living God regardless of race, status, belief and religious affiliations through the saving, healing, delivering, and transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
To more effectively proclaim God’s Good News of Salvation to bigger segments of society, Bro. Eddie and his wife, Sis. Dory started JIL’s multimedia ministry and Jesus the Healer, a weekly TV program. With its success, they decided to acquire the rights to Channel 11 and launched the Zoe TV, now called LIGHT TV, God’s Channel of Blessings.
In 1983, the powerful couple, Bro. Eddie and Sis. Dory, founded The Jesus is Lord Colleges Foundation, Inc. with its main branch in Bocaue, Bulacan. Today, it provides quality education in several parts of the country.
As the number of workers increased over the years, JIL also established the Bro. Eddie School of Ministries International (BESMI) to develop leaders who prioritize evangelism and transformation, aim to fulfill God’s mandates, and spread the Good News of the Lord.
Currently, there are JIL churches in 60 countries, praying to fulfill JIL’s vision to be “a glorious church evangelizing and discipling Filipinos and all the peoples of the world through teaching, preaching and livingout the full Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As his heart continuously beats for the entire world and as he continues to journey with the Lord, Bro. Eddie fervently shares, “The quality of our life in eternity depends on the quality of our obedience and faithfulness in serving God here on earth.”
“The greatest achievement of a man and woman here on earth is for him to be able to know his Creator truthfully and personally, to love Him passionately and wholeheartedly, and to serve Him faithfully with integrity until he stands before Him on Judgment Day,” he caps.
“IF THERE WAS A GOD, HE IS DEAD NOW… WHAT WE NEED NOW IS TO UNITE THE SUFFERING MASSES IN A NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION,” EDUARDO “BRO. EDDIE” VILLANUEVA WAS QUOTED IN THE BOOK, J. I. L. LOVE STORY.
THEREFORE, IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATION. THE OLD HAS PASSED AWAY; BEHOLD, THE NEW HAS COME. 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17 ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION (ESV)
The Villanueva family, servants of God and men. (From left) former Bocaue Mayor Eduardo Villanueva, Jr., Sen. Joel Villanueva, Sis. Dory Villanueva, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, incumbent Bocaue Mayor Joni VillanuevaTugna and Rev. Jovi Villanueva-Binalla.
Bro. Eddie Villanueva leads the celebration of JIL’s 37th anniversary.