During a recent visit to Negros, I had the privilege of meeting Brother Michael Paute. Here is his testimony:
I am Michael Paute, 27 years old, born in a Muslim family with ten siblings—five brothers and five sisters. I was the youngest of them all. Even though we had a large family, my father had an affair with another woman and left us when I was still one year old. My mother was forced to raise us, taking any possible job in order to buy food for us. But her limited education did not get her a good-paying and stable job. So we grew up with a lack of food and education.
As I attended primary school, I already felt our poverty. I did not have any good school supplies or uniforms like my classmates had. Although my situation seemed discouraging, I continued my studies, applying my mind in order to be able to help my family.
As time went on, at school I came in contact with Muslim schoolmates who were doing illegal things, although I did not know it at first. In the beginning, I felt somewhat repulsed by the things they did, but as time went on, the influence gradually affected my habits and character. As early as fourth grade, I sold illegal drugs secretly and stole cell phones, bags and wallets. From these evil associates, I acquired habits of vice and dissipation.
As I became older, the evil only increased. I sent text messages to unknown cell numbers saying that I was from the lottery department and that their number had won a brand new cell phone and 500,000 pesos. Innocent people replied; then I asked from them 20,000 to 80,000 pesos, depending on their income. I fooled a number of people. One lady, whom I will never forget, died of a heart attack after I revealed to her that it was only a scam.
There is pleasure in sin, but only for a season. My deeds sent me to jail, where I stayed for a number of months. The worst consequence of all was that, while I was still in jail, someone kidnapped my sister and killed her as revenge for my swindling.
I did not understand my own feelings when I discovered what happened to my sister. I became like someone experiencing war shock; I punched and kicked people in the jail. This continued for a month and a half.
One day, a group of people came to our jail and shared the Word of God. It was the first time I had heard about the Bible since I was raised a Muslim. The Word penetrated my heart in a way that I could not understand. I did not know why tears started falling from my eyes. I was a hard-hearted man. I never pitied any person when I committed crimes, but now I could not stop my tears. The greatest blessing about the Word of God is that it leads one to the Savior. I sincerely prayed and promised that I would live a new life. I also prayed every day that God would help me to get out of jail.
We were poor, and my mother had no money for the bail bond. But I knew that my father could help me, but there was not any person that I knew in the jail who could help me to find my dad.
“Never is one repulsed who comes to Him with a contrite heart. Not one sincere prayer is lost. Amid the anthems of the celestial choir, God hears the cries of the weakest human being. We pour out our heart’s desire in our closets, we breathe a prayer as we walk by the way, and our words reach the throne of the Monarch of the universe. They may be inaudible to any human ear, but they cannot die away into silence.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 175.
In just a few days, I met a lady in the jail who was going to be released soon. I asked if she could help me find my father. I gave the address to her. In a couple of days, she returned, bringing my father, and he paid the bail bond.
The lady (Myra) who helped me became my live-in partner. I got out and lived a new life with her. People who we knew thought that our family would be a curse. Our own families rejected us.
We promised that we would live a new life. But our promises and resolutions were like ropes of sand. At first, we found legal ways to earn a living, but as time went on and finances were low, I started selling drugs again. I joined my primary school friends again and went back to pick-pocketing. But even in that situation, I remembered my experience and how God brought me out from the den of darkness. Before I stole some wallets, I would pray that the person who owned the wallet would be wealthy so he could recover. It sounds weird, but I did it.
In Davao City, there is a group of people who chase those who are selling drugs. These people have no compassion, but kill those who are on their list. My friends and I were on their list. “I am not afraid of those people,” I told on myself.
One day, my sister called on my phone and said, “Your best friend was shot.” I began to tremble, because my friend and I did the same thing. After my sister’s call, my dad phoned me and said, “Prepare, because you will be the next target.”
I immediately left Davao City and flew to Manila to be safe. I traveled by myself and told my wife that I would send money for her fare.
As I was on board to Manila, I promised again to live a new life. I prayed, “Lord, I want to live a new life, and I do not want to steal laptops, bags or cell phones anymore. Please help me, God.” God really does help us. It is only as we ask in earnest prayer, that God will grant us our heart’s desire.
God is so good; He took away my desire to steal. In Manila, I lived a new life. I started selling umbrellas and cigarettes on the road. Nine days later, I phoned my wife to follow me.
As I chose to live a new life, a trial came to me. My father opposed our marriage and my living with my wife. He said he did not want me to have a Christian wife. I had experienced living without a father, and it was so hard. My wife was pregnant, and I did not want her to live miserably. Instead of choosing my father’s position, I chose my wife, and we were abandoned by him. But a promise is given, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” Psalms 27:10.
When we were in Manila, I would have dreams about being transferred to Basak, Negros. The dream did not come once, but almost every night. My mother has land in Basak, Negros, but I had not been there for almost 20 years. I believed that this was what God wanted me to do. I told my wife that we would go to Negros. My wife answered that we did not have any money for fare. But I was determined to travel. We had some things in our room: a 21-inch television, a foam bed, a cabinet. These things were worth about 15,000 pesos, but because it was a rushed sale, they sold for only 3,000 pesos.
After we sold our things, we went directly to the port. We had only 2,600 pesos left in our pocket because we had paid 400 pesos to the taxi.
I asked the ticketing agent how much it would cost for a one-way fare from Manila to Negros. The ticketing agent said that it would cost 1,700 pesos each. Our money was short. My tears fell as I asked the ticketing agent if we could get a discount since our money was not enough. The ticketing agent answered that they did not have any special discounts and that I should pay 3,400 pesos if I want to board the ship. I slowly turned around and was frustrated because of the situation.
As I was heading to my wife, I silently prayed, “Lord, it is your plan for me to go to Negros. I don’t have any money to buy the ticket, but I trust You, and You will work it out.”
As I lifted my head, I saw the other ticketing agent at the opposite side. Somebody whispered to me to go to that agent and ask. I did not hesitate to go there. I told our situation and asked if we could get a discount.
The agent told me, “Sir, I will give you a half fare, and one free ticket.” After I heard that, I almost jumped for joy.
“Worry is blind, and cannot discern the future; but Jesus sees the end from the beginning. In every difficulty He has His way prepared to bring relief. Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing.” Desire of Ages, 331.
I arrived in Basak, Negros, safely; and unexpectedly, Jun Caburog became my neighbor. He offered a Bible study, and I asked him many questions which he answered with the Bible. I loved the Bible study so much that we studied the whole day. I also accompanied Brother Jun as he visited different jails. There I felt that the greatest joy is found in helping and saving those who are lost.
“The greatest happiness experienced, will be in doing others good, in making others happy. Such happiness will be lasting.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, 261.
Epilogue: Brother Michael gladly was baptized on June 11, 2011, during my visit to Negros. Brother Jun is a self-supporting worker and active in ministering to both those who are in jail and not in jail. He has about 20 jails that he ministers to every month. He is also doing a public crusade every quarter. As I helped him in public evangelism last quarter, I saw his needs for the ministry: a sound system, a laptop and a projector. Thank you for your unending support.
By Bruce Palange. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Support for the work in the Philippines can be sent to Mission Projects International, PO Box 59656, Renton, WA 98058.