Yet despite all these, like a fearless warrior who is ready to face the worst enemy until death for the sake of truth, he never stopped performing his obligation: to undauntedly preach the word of God.
By Luzviminda Cruz
The propagation of the Gospel is a very important mission that Bro. Eliseo Soriano had undertaken for many years. And in the course of this endeavor, we were lucky that we had been with him in many unforgettable moments.
In the 1980s, coinciding with the start of his preaching over DWWA, he conducted the nightly Gospel preaching in Magalang, Pampanga. We were there every night with some of the brothers and sisters who could join us. Bro. Eli was preaching even in those places with no electricity. When available, he used car battery as a source of light; but if not, he used candles. That’s how determined Bro. Eli was to preach the real Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ even in those remote places. He was never tired of going to those areas every night, except during storms and heavy rains. It was in those days that we have frequently experienced the salvation of the Lord.
There was an instance when we were caught up in the middle of the crossfire while on our way to Magalang, Pampanga. While we were passing through San Fernando intersection, when we suddenly heard gunshots. Two groups were exchanging fires as we traversed the road. Bro. Eli told us to crouch down. Thank God, no one among us was hurt.
Death threats for Bro. Eli skyrocketed that time because of his exposition of false doctrines of other religions on radio. Yet despite all these, like a fearless warrior who is ready to face the worst enemy until death for the sake of truth, he never stopped performing his obligation: to undauntedly preach the word of God.
In those times, Bro. Eli’s service vehicle was just a short passenger jeepneys, which, in order to carry more people in going to the Bible study that we call “Pulong,” a trailer was attached to it. We also brought food for dinner and sometimes even stove and cooking utensils. We were trained to eat and drink in a moving vehicle. Oftentimes we dined in front of Magalang Rural Bank near the Municipal Building. On our way home, we usually asked Bro. Eli to ride on the trailer but we covered him foam so that he would be hidden from the enemies who were taking advantage of the checkpoints to catch him. Then again, thank God, nobody suspected that he was in the trailer.
It was in December 1980 that we had an unforgettable experience in Magalang. Bro. Eli conducted a bible study or “Pulong” in Balastisyo, one of the remote barrios in Magalang, Pampanga, located at the foot of Mount Arayat. The barrio had no electricity and the only way out was a narrow rough road. In that cold night, Bro. Eli was preaching fearlessly as he always did. He was discussing the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he was not a man like what the Iglesia ni Cristo of Mr. Manalo believes in. He was also disproving the claim of the INCM that Mr. Manalo was an angel of God based on the Bible.
The atmosphere of the place that night was so much different from the previous nights. Unlike before, there were many people listening nearby. Others were hiding in the dark, while some were in front of Bro. Eli. Before Bro. Eli would be through with his preaching, there was a man, identified as a minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo of Mr. Manalo, accompanied by his cohorts, who arrogantly approached Bro. Eli. He was raving mad at Bro. Eli. When we saw this, we anticipated that violence would soon follow if we allowed Bro. Eli to stay, even for a little while.
The Chief of Police of Magalang, our brother in Christ, was there that time. He immediately rushed to Bro. Eli for protection. One of the ministers of INC shouted that he’s going to cut Bro. Eli’s tongue. Others were shouting to fury. All our male companions escorted Bro. Eli to a vehicle and went away.
Only the female brethren and children were left behind. The only male left with us was our driver. We hurriedly boarded on the passenger jeepneys. Those men followed us. The person who shouted that he’s going to cut Bro. Eli’s tongue was rushing towards us. Some of them were carrying bolos and rakes.
Probably because of the fear and the coldness of the night, we were shivering violently. Our terror escalated as our driver could not start the vehicle. Since we were all female trembling in fear, we had a hard time pushing the vehicle to start. Because we were at the foot of Mount Arayat, our plight was further aggravated by the inclined plane of the area wherein our jeepney was situated. As we hardly pushed the vehicle up, we felt that the enemies were nearing us with their bolos and rakes. Imagine a movie scene wherein the crooks rush to capture the protagonist. That was the very scene that we were in that unforgettable December night.
With God’s help and maybe because of the increased adrenalin in our system, we succeeded in pushing the vehicle up and, at last, the engine started. We were able to drive away from them. When we reached the way to Pampanga Agricultural College (PAC) we saw the vehicle that carried Bro. Eli. It was hiding in the dark.
Some of us transferred to that vehicle and drove away without turning the vehicle’s headlight on so that we would not be noticed by our adversaries who could be lurking nearby. We were all silent in the vehicle until we reached the town proper. On our way home, we also noticed that a red car was following us. Our driver drove faster to a point that we lost them in San Fernando.
I still remember how fast our driver has driven the vehicle that night. Normally, it would take more than an hour to drive from that place to Apalit. But because of what happened it took us only less than thirty minutes to reach home. Thank God we were never in an accident.
First posted in Believer Magazine as “In Fear and in Fury,” February 2005