Here you can stay connected and read about new testimonies from CLI students from all over the world!
My name is Abner Chavez. I am grateful for the free Bible college education I receive at Christian Leaders Institute. I currently live in the state of Texas in the USA, in a border town to be exact. Ministry here is pretty special. Most of the residents of our town, like most border towns, are mixed in their culture since the highest percentage of them are Hispanic. This allows us to minister bilingual, in English or in Spanish. However, many speak a mixture of both languages. We call that Spanglish.
I grew up in a Christian home but did not accept Jesus in my heart until I was 16 years old. My decision to follow the Lord came with a little deal I proposed to Him. I remember saying, “If I follow you, please give me a way to at least play the guitar, and I promise to serve you with that all my life.” And it happened! I first served Him as a musician for many years.
Thirty years have passed since then and I have been serving the Lord in only a handful of churches. I have served as a musician, as a youth pastor, as an elder, as a board member, and now, as a pastor. My dream is to reach out to those that don’t know Jesus, especially in my area, and to also reach those that are hurt and disillusioned by Christianity. This class at Christian Leaders Institute has woken up my interest in being more devoted to serving my community better. It has also reminded me to be more disciplined with prayer and study of the Bible in my personal walk.
I identify myself more with a bi-vocational pastor. I have just planted my first church in January of 2019 and so far we have been growing on a weekly basis. This is a calling that I have had since I was young. In fact, the way my father brought me up did not help in pursuing that route. Instead, he convinced me that going to college to study something other than anything that had to do with the Bible or Theology was far better for me. He went on to say one day, “If you are still thinking of pursuing a Bible College, don’t do it. I have seen many preachers with hunger and struggling. That’s not what I want for you.” At that point, I had never told anyone that this calling was in me. I guess he figured it out when he saw me serving as a kid. As the years went by, the calling never left and the desire to pursue ministry got stronger and stronger.
One of the most challenging things for me and my ministry team here is the high percentage of the Catholic in our community. Therefore, we find ourselves going against the “common belief” or against the flow. My church has been super supportive. I have no complaints. We are believers in pursuing higher studies and getting educated. My wife and family have also been very supportive. I represent the first generation in my family to pursue Biblical studies and a ministry. That is why this free Bible College education at Christian Leaders Institute is a dream fulfilled of a calling that was suppressed for over 30 years ago. Thank you, CLI!
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My name is Lilian Abesamis and I am excited about the Christian leadership training at CLI. I am originally from Manila in the Philippines. I finished my college degree in 1977 and earned a Bachelors Degree in Nursing. There’s not a lot of opportunities to get a nursing job in the Philippines. Therefore, with the encouragement of my mother and sister who worked in a hospital in New Jersey as a nurse, I immigrated to the United States one year after my graduation. I stayed with a Filipino family who became my source of guidance in Michigan. It was my first time to live far from my family of 11 children: nine girls, and two boys.
It was difficult leaving my friends and leaving the security and love of my family to set out to the unknown. However, I see the hand of God even back then in my life. I see His faithfulness and His love guiding me, leading me, and sustaining me. I married in 1980, and we moved to California and have three wonderful children. Today, I am happily retired and want to pursue ministry studies. My dream to be a teacher, pastor, or leader in a Filipino church will one day come to pass before God calls me to be with Him.
I grew up in a Catholic family. My father was a strict adherent to the Catholic faith. My father made sure that we joined the catechisms classes. I praise the Lord for He opened my eyes to the truth of the Gospel. During my high school years, my desire to know God became stronger. Before going to school, I usually passed by our church to pray even if it was out of my way. The church became a place of quietness and peace for me.
In our school, there were young men and women who came from a church and told us about the Bible. They invited us to go to their youth gatherings in the church. I went to one of these events and won a trivia contest where the prize was a BIBLE. My first Bible of my own. I remember feeling so happy and excited. From then on, I remember telling myself that one of these days I would also tell people about God’s goodness. Many years would pass before I started the Christian leadership training I needed.
I started asking questions of the priest during confessional. A lot of “WHY’s?” Why do we pray to a statue? Why do we need to do confessions? I had a lot of questions about the traditions that I had growing up. The priest just told me to leave them alone. If I don’t want to do it, then don’t do it. What a big let down for me. I didn’t get the answers that answered the questions in my heart. I became more prayerful and went to church more hoping that maybe God will answer me.
People who knew me thought I was “religious”. But, they didn’t know that I was still seeking for something I didn’t even know and couldn’t explain. I was not sure if I was going to heaven, and I definitely didn’t want to go to hell. I was scared just thinking of hell, so I did all I could to follow what they told me to do, UNTIL …..
My sisters immigrated from the Philippines and lived with us. It was eight years that we hadn’t seen each other. In that time, they became born again Christians on fire for the Lord. They looked for a Christian church close to our place, and, when they found one, we all went there. The singing was exciting, I understood what they were singing. They were swaying and some of them danced to the music. They raised their hands and clapped with the music. The preaching was different, too. It was understandable and quite clear. The pastor talked about Jesus and how he loves us so much and gave His life for us.
I didn’t give my life to Jesus and accept Him that first time, but I started asking the questions that bothered me for the longest time. Can you believe it? They had answers for me, and they were in the Bible all along. They directed me to Isaiah 44, for idolatry, and to Exodus 20 for the ten commandments where God is a jealous God. He is jealous that we love the statues and bow down to them more than we bow our lives to Him who gave His life for us on the cross.
This is how I see it. I will be forever grateful to God for loving me and my family because He sent “angels” (my sisters) to live with us and showed us the Way, the Truth and the Life – Jesus Christ.
In 1986, my husband and I accepted the Lord Jesus in our hearts to be our Savior and Lord of our life. We have been serving as music ministers in our small way. We don’t have any formal music training but we have the capacity to carry a tune and play the guitar. God used us to assist beginning Filipino churches to develop their music ministries.
With my children growing up in the church, they also started to love music and learned to play instruments. For many years, m family and I have been tagged as the “worship family”. The Lord has been good to us. More than I can think or imagine. Now that my children are grown up, I pray that they will never forget to love the Lord and serve in His vineyard. I hope they pass on to their children the things that will bring them salvation, joy, and peace.
God has been good to us. We are still helping out at church in the music ministry. I still want to make my dream come true that one of these days I will preach and teach. This Christian leadership training class at Christian Leaders Institute has given me the strength and the confidence that God brings it to pass. At my age, I’m still optimistic that God can use me. Perhaps I will not preach in a pulpit but preach to them by my life and my experiences of how to love, trust and serve the Lord. God is Faithful and He is true to His promises and has provided the Christian leadership training at CLI.. Especially the one in Matthew 6:33: “ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
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My name is LaDe Labya. Here is the story of my gospel tennis life calling. Currently, I am the tennis coach at Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Mae Rim (Chiang Mai), Thailand. I have been the tennis coach at Prem Tennis Centre since August 7, 2013. I am married to Yumie Labya since 2003, and we have no children.
I am the fifth born of six children. I was born in Shan State (Myanmar) in 1977. Both of my parents are from the Kachin tribe and living as Christians. I loved to play tennis since I was small. I went to the tennis court almost every day and spent lots of time practicing and playing matches in my childhood.
In my teenage life, God worked in my tennis player life. My Christian parents told me to pray to God before playing tennis matches. So, I did and often had good results in my matches when I prayed for it. Through many experiences, I became more interested in God, whom I didn’t know at all. God listened to my prayers, even though my faith in God was not yet from all of my heart.
In 1994, I won first place in the Myanmar national junior tennis tournament. Therefore, from that time, my tennis life was fully supported by the government. From 1995-1997, I gained international experience participating in the youth international tennis matches (ITF), representing Myanmar as a youth tennis player.
Unfortunately, due to the instability of the political scene in Myanmar, I could not continue tennis in Myanmar. Therefore, in 1998, I moved to Japan because of my tennis career, but this happening was unexpected in my life. I couldn’t speak Japanese at all and didn’t have enough money to live there. The bitterness of my new life in Japan was far beyond my expectation. It was so severe that I often felt I was going to die.
However, at that time, I found the Tokyo Peace Church in which people from my Kachin tribe gathered and had worship services. I started to attend Sunday services at this church. From the darkness of the hard life and bitter experiences, I was led to the world of true faith in trusting the love of Christ by the grace of God. I was baptized at the Tokyo Peace Church two years after moving to Japan.
Between 1998 and 2008, I belonged to the Tokyo Peace Church. Filled with the love of Christ, I volunteered to bring people of faith to the Oyama Peace Church in Oyama Province. I was responsible for transportation of around 80 people on these trips, including the pastor, Makoto Tanno.
In 2010, I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand and joined the Tale Thiri Buga Church in nearby Myanmar. My wife and I continuously support a project there for giving education to children from low-income families run by the church. The plan covers children from years three to fourteen.
In 2011, my wife and I donated money for buying land to build a multi-purpose building used for education, community services, church services, and other events. From 2012 onward, Reverend Hkangda Tu Lum (from Yangon) and Reverend Makoto Tanno (from Japan) came to celebrate for the opening ceremony of this building. The money that I donated for these purposes was from my work as a tennis coach at Prem Tennis Academy.
Since 2014, I am also supporting a Christian Community of Samong province in Northern Thailand. I built a new chapel which opened in November of 2017. The reason why I did this is for people from all walks of life to come together and get to know the love of Jesus Christ and to become united in faith.
Now I feel led to get a ministry education, and God led me to Christian Leaders Institute. This opportunity for free tuition at CLI is a blessing. As I serve God in my Gospel tennis life call, this free training gives me more excellent knowledge and understanding. Thank you, CLI, for this opportunity.
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