An eter­nally burn­ing flame: JIL’s tes­ti­mony of a life­time

The Philippine Star - - FEATURES - By MICHA TANGAN For more de­tails, visit www. jil­world­wide.org.

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)

Bro. Ed­die Vil­lanueva

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.

Je­sus is Lord (JIL) leader Bro. Ed­die and JIL mem­bers at the Quirino Grand­stand, Manila.

Bro. Ed­die Vil­lanueva leads the cel­e­bra­tion of JIL’s 37th an­niver­sary.

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