"I wanted to feel loved"
I accepted Jesus at Woodbridge Community Church in June of 2016. Executive Pastor Vince Arnaldo always treats my husband Elijah and I like we are his own family. Pastor Vince uses his leadership position to model love and kindness. But he wasn’t always that way. Here is his testimony.
as told to Carly Wilson
I grew up in the Philippines in the 1960s. I was the youngest of six children, and my older siblings didn’t pay much attention to me. I spent my childhood feeling alone and unloved.
I looked up to my elder brother, who was successful and got all the attention from my family. I figured that they admired him because he was successful, so I vowed that one day, I would be successful too. I thought that if I could be important and rich, I would earn the attention of my family and feel loved.
I earned my engineering degree from the prestigious University of the Philippines when I was 20 years old. Within three years of graduating, I was already in charge of a factory and managing over 500 employees. I finally felt important. Though my family recognized my success, I was still missing a key ingredient. I still did not feel loved. So I thrived on feeling important, and demanded that others paid their dues to me. I would be harsh and demeaning to my employees whenever they made a mistake, only because I could, and because it made me feel important. But this behavior only further alienated me from people, making me feel more unloved.
The factory I managed was in an area infiltrated by communist rebels and terrorists called the New People’s Army (NPA). Because they were anti-capitalist, they issued death threats to all those who were associated with management, including me. I feared for my life knowing that they could ambush and murder me at any time. I would drive to work at odd hours so the terrorists would not be able to predict my schedule. I remember living in constant fear for my life. What terrified me the most is that if I were to die, I did not know where I would go. With the kind of life I was living, I was sure that God would not accept me into heaven, and the alternative, which is hell, was unacceptable. My fear of death eventually led to feelings of depression, which I tried to self-medicate through alcohol abuse. The only time I was not afraid of death was when I was drunk.
“I will follow you”
In 1982, when I was 23 years old, I was driving home drunk around 1am. Absorbed in my feelings of depression, I almost got into a car accident that could have killed me when my car narrowly missed hitting another car. After that brush with death, I parked at the side of the road and sat in my car in silence, my heart pounding. I realized I had become so self-destructive that I knew I needed to do something, or else I was going to kill myself. In the pit of my despair, I desperately cried out to God, “If you show me the right way, I will follow you the rest of my life.”
Then an old friend from college invited me to church. Little did he know that his invitation would save my life and my soul. During the sermon, the pastor asked a question that stilled me. “Do you know where you’re going when you die?” he asked. I knew my answer was no. “Do you want to be sure where you’re going?” the pastor continued. Deep inside of me, the answer came out. “Yes!” When the pastor gave an altar call, I sprang to the front of the church, knelt down, and dedicated my life to Jesus.
Since that decision, my life has never been the same. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I finally felt loved and accepted by the only one in the universe whose opinion counts, God! So I wanted to know more about God and what He wanted me to do. True to my promise to follow Him, I resigned from my job the following month. I enrolled in Asian Theological Seminary, earning my Master's of Divinity Degree in Biblical and Theological Studies.
I knew that Jesus loved me unconditionally despite my failures and forgave me of all my sins. I realized it was God’s love that I was looking for all those years. I was overjoyed that God had mercy on me. I couldn’t help but share the good news of God’s love with all my friends. Eventually, about half of them avoided me, and half of them joined me in church.
While I was in seminary, I started a Bible study in a friend’s home with about eight people. Then the group continued to grow, and at one point, had around 60 participants! Because of that, we started more groups in other homes. As I ministered and guided fellow Christians, God told me, “You need to do this full time.”
I moved to the US in 1992 to pursue further theological education in Portland, Oregon. In 1993, my family and I moved to California and I began pastoring in the daughter church of Woodbridge Community Church. I currently serve as the Executive Pastor of Woodbridge Community Church, where I am able to fulfill my passion of ministering to God’s people, a passion that I share with my wife Maribeth. What is most outstanding about my wife is her deep love for the Lord, and her ability to make others feel special, whether it’s through a phone call, a shared prayer, or just making the effort to throw a surprise birthday party, even when we tell her not to!
Maribeth and I have always tried to model the love of Christ to our family. We’re proud that all our three children, our eldest son Josh and two daughters, Jessica and Stephanie, are serving the Lord, along with our daughter-in-law, Christine! They love to sing in the worship team and serve in the youth, college, and young adult ministries. Our two grandsons, Luke and Asher, cheer them on, too! This church has been a very special home for us.
The love I had been longing for my whole life could only come from Jesus. He loves me truly and unconditionally. I now feel loved because He has liberated me from all guilt and fear. I used to think that success meant having money and power, but when I had all that, I was still empty. Now I define success as following Jesus as closely as I can.