Rev/Engr. Gil E. Valenzuela
In 1981, CLSU launched me into the penurious world equipped with a piece of paper testifying that I have some knowledge I could use to answer some of humanity’s predicament. The piece of paper affirms that I have completed all the academic requirements to be a bearer of a degree and practitioner in the discipline of “Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering.” Indeed, CLSU prepared and equipped me for a life of service to humanity in my own small and humble way.
The college diploma from CLSU proved to be an effective key in opening doors of opportunities. I used the knowledge I acquired in this discipline to convince the Manilabank Agribusiness Group, my very first employer- that I could be of help in the fulfillment of their vision of producing the best quality mangoes in great quantities for local and export markets. Hundreds of hectares of fertile lands on the hilly side of Silang Cavite were cleared and planted with grafted mangoes. And I was trusted enough to be a part of this great endeavor.
I was part of team of engineers and agriculturists, a number of us from CLSU and UP Los Banos. We made sure that the precious resources invested into the project are maximized and put to good use. Soil and water conservation principles were practiced as we had been taught. Water and nutrients were delivered efficiently to each mango tree using a system imported from Israel- micro sprinklers and drip irrigation technology.
The Israeli agricultural consultants introduced us to their irrigation technology. This method had been proven effective in making the arid deserts green and productive. And so it was believed that it will even be more effective in the favorable climatic condition of the Philippines. The Manilabank Agribusiness Group was one of the first companies in the Philippines to employ the technology of micro sprinkler and drip irrigation in a commercial scale.
All is well in the operations of the ambitious project until the political and economic atmosphere of the Philippines disturbed and imperiled it’s continuation. I and the other agriculturists were forced to go somewhere else to practice our crafts.
In 1985, I found myself joining the bandwagon of Filipinos flocking to the Middle East for survival. Oman Holdings International (OHI), in the Sultanate of Oman gave me and other CLSU graduates another opportunity to apply our professional trainings to productivity. I was part of a team that developed Omani farms, equipping them with the techniques and practices on how to use efficiently and manage the scarce resources of soil and water. State of the art water delivery system was introduced using micro sprinklers and drip irrigation. I was also involved in the landscaping projects of OHI where we installed irrigation system to large landscaping projects including some palaces of the Sultan and many other government infrastructures.
After my two-year stint with a private Omani company, I was hired by the Oman government to work as an agricultural technician at Sultan Qaboos University, College of Agriculture. I was involved in the training of Omani nationals wanting to become agriculturists through practical training in irrigation at the university farm project.
While making the Middle East as a temporary home for me and my family, It was inevitable to be involved in the lives of other people. I found myself involved in compassion work-a service more fulfilling than any other endeavor.
Filipinos and other expatriates away from home long for fellowship and friendship. This social need was alleviated through social and religious groups I actively organized, led and participated.
A Bible study group I helped organize, which later became a church called Oman Evangelical Christian Congregation* provided spiritual guidance to many Filipinos. In addition to it’s work of evangelization and discipleship, the church became a refuge to many emotionally-broken kababayans. And it was a great privilege to be able to impact the lives of other people through the sharing and teaching of biblical principles.
At one point the church partnered with the Philippine Consulate assisting in ministering to the needs of Filipina domestic helpers who had the unfortunate experience of being maltreated and abused by their employers. In some cases the church was involved in assisting the repatriation of OFWs. During the Gulf War in 1991, the church did not only intervene in prayers but was involved in hosting and encouraging young American troops laying over Muscat who were either on their way to Iraq to wage war against Saddam Hussein or on their way back home to the US after a perilous service. It was a great privilege to be able to pray personally with the members of American troops before they were deployed to their foxholes. The church also participated in providing relief to specific places in the Philippines affected by natural disasters. Relief goods and money were solicited and sent.
Because of the church’s involvement to people’s lives, I became known to the larger Filipino community in Oman as Pastor Gil, not knowing that I was actually an engineer and a fellow OFW. Oftentimes, I was sought for counseling and advise, arbitrate misunderstandings, pray for the sick in the hospitals and advocate for my fellow Filipinos in matters of their unfair employment experiences. Many found a friend and a pastor away from home. I was very glad for that privilege.
I found fulfillment in doing ministry work. I felt like I was partnering with God in the work of providing help and showing compassion to the broken and wounded. Like the Good Samaritan who did not just care enough to stop and help a wounded victim, but took the extra mile to provide protection and provisions that the unfortunate victim of injustice received help, healing and restoration. The ministry experience I had in Oman was just a foretaste of what I would have in the succeeding years.
The Lord allowed me to get a training necessary for ministerial work. I pursued Master of Divinity at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore Kentucky. I also had the opportunity to pursue PhD course work in the area of Inter-Cultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. However, during the dissertation stage, I was diagnosed with cancer. This event got in the way of completing the doctoral degree.
In 2001, The Wesleyan Church ordained me as a minister and assigned me to plant a church in Bolingbrook, Illinois, in the suburb of Chicago. I founded the Lord of the Nations Church.
Alongside the work of evangelization and discipleship comes the ministry of compassion expected of a church. Over the years, the church had been involved in various compassion work such as reaching out to the homeless. The church is also regularly contributing money and time to such organization as “Feed My Hungry Children” and “Kids Against Hunger”. Our youth group collected clothings and donated them to “Jeans for Teens.” The church also conducts yard sale and bake sale and the proceeds are allocated to our various compassion ministries.
Just recently, we launched as special ministry directed to specific group-the Caregivers. “Caring for the Caregivers” focuses on encouraging and praying for those who are involved in caring for the sick and people with special needs. The caregivers were either professionals or just family members caring for their loved ones. We recognize that caregivers need to care for themselves too, and so we support them by cheering them on and giving them recognition for what they do. We invited them to my Mabuhay Restaurant for free buffet and handed them simple gifts. It was a very enriching experience to be able to encourage and pray for this group of people who are unselfishly giving themselves to the service of others.
Being a servant is a title I wish to attach to my name. Actually, I would want this epitaph on my tombstone: “Gil Valenzuela, Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ and of Others” For in all those years after leaving the portals of my great Alma Mater, I was placed in various positions of service, first to God and then to others. Mahatma Gandhi was right when he asserted that The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Indeed, I am happiest, most fulfilled and experiencing a feeling of greatness when I have given myself in the service of God and my fellow human beings.
Greatness, after all is not only found in the lofty high places of service but in the lowly and humble servitude of every person. I very well agree with Martin Luther King Jr. who said that...Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
The Sultanate of Oman unlike other Arab countries is very open and friendly to Christians. The Sultan of Oman, Sulatan Qaboos bin Said donated pieces of land to both Protestant and Catholic groups where church buildings were constructed. Christians are allowed to worship in the Sultanate of Oman.
Gil Valenzuela’s educational attainment
Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering, CLSU 1981
Master of Divinity, Asbury Theological Seminary 1998, Kentucky, USA
Intercultural Studies, PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School 2003, Illinois, USA