Pastor Carlos M. Castro and myself were among seven preachers from different denominations who were assigned to each speak about the “Seven Last Words” of Jesus in the afternoon of Good Friday, April 10. We were invited by Pastor Pio Umlas, our GCI Pampanga prison ministry leader at the Pampanga Provincial Jail.
Pastor Carlos M. Castro was assigned to speak on the fifth saying, “I thirst.” He told the 200 or so inmates that Jesus is the living water where everyone can drink of and never thirst again. He told them that God is freely offering them this living water, the Holy Spirit.
As for me, I was assigned to speak on the last saying. I spoke on what Jesus meant when he said, “It is finished.” I told the inmates that it was God’s plan all along to draw all men — not just a few — to himself when Jesus was lifted up (John 12:32).
In his great love, God had planned all along to reconcile everyone to himself (Col. 1:20). I explained that everyone has been predestined to be adopted as God’s children (Ephesians 1:5). I explained that Jesus was not “Plan B” which God quickly came up with as a solution when man messed things up because of sin. Jesus was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It was planned all along, before the beginning of time.
I told them that in so far as God was concerned, it is all been done—finished. Everything that’s needed to be done for us to be reconciled back to him has already been done by our Lord Jesus. I encouraged all the inmates to receive, accept, believe and experience God’s love and his free gift of reconciliation.
Good Friday Message of Hope
Despite the differences in beliefs and practices among the preachers, the messages that were given that day uplifted and encouraged the inmates who heard the gospel that day on a Good Friday. A few months back, we baptized 17 inmates (15 females, 2 males) in this provincial jail.
Never in my life did I plan something like this. It just sort of—happened. Who would have thought that a Russian consul would call me on the phone and meet with me personally! This was really amazing to me. So unexpected and a once in a lifetime experience—at least for me. He called me because I am the senior pastor of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) local congregation in Pampanga.
This morning, the Pampanga prison ministry team of WCG escorted the Russian Consul as he made a courtesy call to the city mayor of Angeles City. Days before, he invited us (insisted) that we go with him so that he can explain and express to the mayor his gratitude to us in the WCG Pampanga prison ministry team for helping his fellow Russian citizen who was wrongly imprisoned at the city’s district jail for about 5 months. It was actually WCG Pampanga’s prison ministry leader, Ed Estrella—whose passion is to reach out to prison inmates— that got into contact with this Russian citizen who was unjustly imprisoned.
Russian Consul Receives Symbolic Key from City Mayor
The visit was cordial and the two dignitaries exchanged pleasantries. The mayor gave the consul a symbolic key to the city. The Russian consul also thanked the chief immigration officer who also extended help to his fellow Russian citizen whose visa expired as a result of being unjustly imprisoned.
At the end of the meeting, I had the honor of leading in prayer for the city mayor as well as for the Russian consul. What a “once in a lifetime” experience that was! Surely, God was with us and was directing everything that happened. We just sort of—enjoyed the ride haha!
Several years ago, I attended a seminar in Tagaytay conducted by Dr. Shelly Trebesch of Fuller Theological Seminary. It was attended by many of our top denominational leaders in the Worldwide Church of God (now, Grace Communion International) from around the world along with many of us locally in the Philippines.
During that seminar, I learned that although one may already be retired or maybe in his twilight years like maybe 60 or 70 years old, he can still accomplish a lot of things and leave something worthwhile just before he finally leaves this earth. Dr. Trebesch called that stage in a man’s life as the “afterglow.”
Leaving a Legacy
If I recall rightly, she explained that during the last remaining years–twilight years–of a man’s life, he can still glow so brightly by leaving something worthwhile for humanity. A legacy. Instead of griping and complaining about opportunities he missed in life, he can still make an impact in society. I have never forgotten that seminar ever since. It’s a good lesson for me to remember as I grow older and after having been retired from full-time employment recently.
Moses Shone Brightly at Age 80
Instead of dwelling on self-pity because he was driven out of the Pharaoh’s palace and forced to live in the desert for about 40 years, Moses was one of those who shone brightly and was used by God to lead his people out of Egypt when he was already 80 years old.
Don’t End Up Miserable Till Dying Day
I’m sure that we all know of some senior citizens among us who ended up brightly and successfully in life. But on the other hand, we also know of some who ended up as failures, feeling miserable and sorry for themselves, feeling lonely and defeated up to their dying day.
We Can Still Glow Just Before We Go
I guess it’s not too late for me and for everyone. If it is the Lord’s will to give us a longer life, we can still glow so brightly when we’re old and gray. We can take the right direction and end up a happy and fulfilled person. I thank Dr. Trebesch for that wonderful lesson in life that she gave me. Lord, grant us good health and long life that we may experience an afterglow just before we go.