A Trip Down Memory Lane
It only seemed like yesterday when Victory was born in the Philippines, beginning with its very first congregation at the University-Belt.
I have so many fond memories during my early years of my Christian faith at Victory U-Belt.
While time travel is not possible in any way, allow me to take you through a trip down the memory lane in celebration of Victory’s 30th anniversary this 2014.
The very first Victory was located at the basement of the old Tandem Cinema along Claro M. Recto Avenue, Manila.
Unlike today’s modern Victory centers, the very first Victory had no air conditioning unit. Only noisy industrial fans, dirty ceiling, leaking pipes and no restroom.
But the passion for the Lord and the warm fellowship among the students was what caught my attention during my first visit at Victory U-Belt.
The Tandem basement was Victory’s first-ever place of worship.
And that’s the place where I encountered the Lord, gave my life completely to Him (on August 3, 1986), eventually got baptized, and was added to the church.
I was baptized in a baptismal pool measured one meter high, two meters wide, and three meters long at the Tandem basement.
Passionate worship marked the services, with students full of joy and love for God.
They were also bold in sharing their respective personal testimonies and in preaching the Gospel.
Every new invite were warmly welcomed at the venue, treating them like “VIPs”.
Personally, I was treated like a “VIP”, too when I attended Victory for the very first time. My classmate, who invited me, introduced me to students from other schools, then to his circle of friends in church, as well as to first wave of ministry volunteers.
Later on, I became part of the same ministry. We experienced genuine friendships, treating each other as brothers and sisters. We enjoyed sharing our faith and lives together.
The culture of discipleship and leadership was also very strong.
As young believers, we were immediately included in small groups and were given opportunities to lead in our campuses.
Being “too young” was not an issue for us as we were encouraged to be radically involved in starting our campus ministry at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in 1986, under the leadership of Ramil Abanilla (an engineering student) and the guidance of Ptr. Jun Escosar.
Other students who led their respective campuses during those times were Winston Reyes (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila), Ferdie Cabiling (Adamson), Jonathan Bocobo (Mapua), Manny Muleta(Technological Instritute of the Philippines).
Today, they serve as our pastors and leaders in the movement.
If radicalism and cry for change (in our government at that time) was the norm in the streets of Metro Manila and inside the campuses in the ’80’s, students, whose lives were transformed by the gospel, also radically shared the message in the street of Recto as well as inside the campuses.
I vividly remembered inviting students to attend the “Hells Bells Rock and Roll seminar, an expose on the evil influences of selected rock and roll music.
Towards the end of the seminar, a clear, systematic and bold Gospel presentation was used to challenge students to surrender their lives to God and turn from their old ways.
This is where I first heard a clear explanation of the gospel.
We also had room-to-room evangelism (in the campuses), did open-air preaching, and the 1980s version of the 1-2-1 booklet, the “Are you going to heaven?” booklet, in sharing the gospel. These were done not just by Pastors and full time staff, but by students as well.
Students who radically surrendered their lives to Christ brought the gospel to their respective families.
I remember one particular student preached the gospel to his Buddhist parent. But his mother, in utter disgust after learning that her son is now a Christian, burned his Bible and threw him out of their house.
But this student remained steadfast in his faith, praying for his mother to come to know Christ and reaching out to her in love. As a result, his mother radically surrendered her life to Christ and started going to church with him.
But after all is said and done, everything we did back then, and everything we will continue to do centers around “honoring God and advancing His kingdom”.
Everything is done for God and in obedience to His command.
We were fully convinced that God called us for His purpose to disciple people and nations, to be the “salt and light” of the world; to advance His Kingdom in every sphere of the society.
And only by His grace can we achieve all these.
But after giving our lives to Christ, we were also not remiss of our responsibilities in honoring God through our academics.
For while we serve God through ushering ministry, we also took our studies seriously, even as we took opportunities to join the local outreach and church planting efforts.
As students, we would raise our own support and would join a one-week outreach/vacation in Pangasinan, which paved the way for the first church plant in Dagupan City. Eventually, the very first church planting work in Dagupan became like a lid that just popped, creating a powerful move that saw more young people go to various cities, campuses and nations to preach the gospel.
Today, most of the students of Victory during the ’80’s are now serving as leaders in our society.
Some became business leaders, others serve as government leaders, church leaders, missionaries, responsible family men, among others.
As Victory celebrates its first 30 years in the Philippines, I hope and pray that today’s generation of believers will continue to walk by faith, continue to serve as a light and salt in their own campuses and continue to make disciples.
To 30 years and beyond, for Victory!