I want you to know that he is a humble man. Humble, mild-mannered and soft-spoken. You wouldn't necessarily view him as a world changer. I doubt he ever woke up one day thinking that he'd take bold, irrevocable steps for the Kingdom, but he did and still does. I am going to skip over all of the social enterprises, the generosity and the deep love he has for his people, the Filipinos. I'm not even going to mention the hundreds (maybe even thousands) of lives he has supported, impacted and changed.
I want to tell you of his relentless pursuits.
I met Manny in the Philippines. He is probably, roughly 65 years old now. He didn't believe in Jesus because he was doing alright without Him, even though his wife didn't share in his unbelief.
At the age of five, their daughter developed a brain tumor. Her symptoms were severe, including loss of speech and inability to walk. Manny was devastated - as everything he knew and loved about life was suddenly far and wide outside of his control. There were numerous doctor visits, bad-news meetings, hopeless dead-ends and raging fear. Ultimately there was a plan to operate but they had been warned the operation was probably going to kill their little girl. Meanwhile, the tumor was growing larger and the symptoms more devastating.
Some people regularly gathered nearby to pray and Manny always passed them by, but on this day, Manny was drawn in. He was desperately searching and begging his own heart to help believe in the power of prayer .... to help him believe that there is a God who hears them. Manny joined in the prayers and felt a presence he hadn't ever known. Somehow he just knew that God was with him. He took his belief into the bedroom of his little girl and laid his hands on her, knelt over her, held her and prayed for healing. He prayed over her constantly for several days and then returned her to the hospital for testing.
Scans revealed that the tumor was gone.
(And yes, of course, this rocked the medical community. Doesn't it always?)
Manny had relentlessly pursued healing for his daughter, going so far as to believe. Not that "belief" is far away - its just one step. His pursuit touched the heart of God and in one fell swoop - both of them were healed. His daughter is a healthy, successful adult now.
Manny has two sons. Soon after his daughter was healed, the two sons began pushing the boundaries, walking fine lines and dancing with devils. They both became addicted to drugs and one even began to sell them - engaging himself in the underbellies, navigating in the pits.
These two brothers shared a bedroom. Horrified that he was losing his sons, Manny began to go into their bedrooms when they were sleeping and sit on the floor between them to pray. Sometimes his boys would wake up and try to get away from him, so his method changed. Instead of keeping his prayers secret, Manny began crouching between the boys and he would grab a wrist of one boy in his left hand and the other boy's wrist by his right. He would squeeze them tight and hold them fiercely as he prayed aloud for God to heal their addictions and to open their hearts to Him. They couldn't escape.
I can't exactly recall how long Manny said this went on - but today both boys are grown men. Both are Pastors. Manny is now a pastor too - and He mentors other pastors and takes the Gospel to the Indigenous Peoples (tribes) of his area in the Philippines. Truthfully - if that were all he does it would be more than enough - but his efforts are so much more.
Manny didn't just volunteer these stories. We weren't at a conference. Our time with Manny was a meeting at his house (after touring one of his social enterprises). We had been invited to dinner in his home - and we asked him a series of questions. Thank God for MY big mouth - "soooooo, Manny, how did you become a pastor?"
As he very (oh so very) humbly shared these stories, often with his eyes not really focused on any one of us, tears poured out from my eyes and pooled up in the 45-year-old creases in my neck. All I could think of is how scripture teaches that we can reflect Christ in our lives, that we can live in Him and walk in Him - and that "they will know we are disciples if we show love one for another".
I don't have a good relationship (or relationship at all) with my earthly father - so sometimes I'm just super sensitive to these things.... but in Manny I saw my Heavenly Father. Not metaphorically, but actually.
In the story of Manny's daughter - I see him as Jesus, the one relentlessly pursuing our healing. God wants nothing more than for us to be whole. In Him, we are never less than.
In the story of Manny's sons, and his firm grip on their wrists while he spoke powerful prayers over them, I see him as Jesus...the one relentlessly pursuing our salvation. Even when you can't feel Him, you are clutched in His hands and He is praying -(the Holy Spirit prays for us) - for you to be released from yourself.
I had never visualized Jesus loving me quite this way - that He relentlessly pursues us for His glory - to dance in the light of His Holiness and to display His loving-kindness as He relentlessly pursues others.
Jesus is so real.