Keeping the faith

No one knows when that day will come: the day that tests one’s faith. To some, like Joseph, that day can come “daily” in the form of a pursuing beauty. To others, like Daniel, it can come with the threat of a lions’ den. To still others, like Paul, it can come every day as part of his daily witness to the gospel. To me it came late in life. I did expect such a day would come many times earlier in life – in elementary school, in secondary school, in university. Each time I feared my early commitment to Sabbath would be put to test. But God’s grace was my sole enabling power – every time I faced a Sabbath examination, somehow the Lord opened a way, and my joy was full.

But then came the refiner’s fire. Or was it a crushing blow? After completing my university education, I joined the service of the Philippine government. My career blossomed. I climbed steadily up the ladder. After I completed the Certified Public Accountant examination, I was appointed as a financial analyst in a government project funded by the World Bank. Our thrust was poverty alleviation: construction of school buildings, clinics, roads, and livelihood projects in rural areas. Consultants from the World Bank would come from time to time to evaluate the project, and my task was to provide a financial analysis of each project and bring the visitors up to date on the financial status of our work. When these consultants arrived, we had a one-week tour to project sites and a wrap-up meeting to close the visit.

On one such visit, the project director threw that crushing blow. “Our meeting with the World Bank is scheduled for the coming Saturday. Please be ready for the presentation.”

I did not have to pause for my answer. My reply was as quick as it was certain. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, I cannot attend our meeting. It’s my Sabbath. It’s God’s holy day, and I’ll be as usual at the church.”

My director and my officemates did not expect such a forthright reply. I knew my job was at stake. In two more days, Saturday would come, and my job would be….What should I do? Just pray – and prayer had been my strength and joy ever since that day when I gave my heart to the Lord long ago.

My baptism

I was 12 years old then. I wanted to be baptized into the Adventist Church. But my father said I was too young to be baptized. His advice was rather calm and steady. “You should study some more. Understand the Bible better. Make sure of God’s teachings. Learn to follow the Lord with all your heart. Make Jesus your best friend.”

I followed my father’s advice. I joined the Voice of Prophecy school. I accompanied my father to the studies he gave to neighbors. Soon I felt I was ready to be baptized. With that came my firm commitment to keep the Sabbath at all costs.

AMICUS days

But soon tragedy struck. In my junior year in high school, my mother died. After my graduation, I found it hard to proceed to college because of financial problems. Regardless of the hardships, my family encouraged me to go to college. My friends who were members of AMICUS also gave moral support. Since the Adventist college was far from our place, I had no other choice but to enroll in a non-Adventist university in our city.

Joining AMICUS shortly after enrolment, I was glad the group helped me to become active in church, thus strengthening my faith in God. We conducted Voice of Youth evangelism, visited other churches on Sabbath, and engaged in tract distribution, Bible studies, and other activities.

As Adventist students, however, our greatest problem was classes or examinations that fell on Saturdays. In our university, most of the professors didn’t give exemptions to Adventist students, which caused some to compromise their faith. During my junior year, the vice president for academic affairs, who disliked Adventists, called three of us who were accounting students to her office. She told us that we were a nuisance to the school because we kept on skipping classes or examinations on Saturdays. She would no longer tolerate such behavior, and we were told to transfer to an Adventist school. But the Lord made a way for me and for my Adventist friends to continue our studies. Some of our teachers sympathized with us by giving special examinations on other days, while our classmates provided us notes of the lectures given on Sabbath. Their support continued until graduation day.

Working life

Thus, keeping the Sabbath holy became part of my life. Everything else – including this fiery test of reporting to the World Bank consultants – was secondary. That day would find me in church. My appointment with my God was more important than any before this world’s important leaders. I would rather be fired from my job than be unfaithful to God, even for a few hours.

That Saturday, our visitors from the World Bank arrived at the scheduled meeting place. I, of course, was in church. But the visitors found that I was not at the meeting, and I was the chief financial analyst. Even though my analysis and reports were bound, ready, and placed before the visitors, they decided that they could wait for me, and postponed the meeting for the next day. God answered my prayers by touching the hearts of our visitors. My colleagues were astonished. And what’s more, the visitors decided that from then on, no future wrap-up meeting or conference would be scheduled for Saturday.

A day that tested my faith turned into a day of celebration of faith!

Then came another test. After several months, when an important phase of the project was completed, the president of our country came to inaugurate our accomplishments. We were required to join the parade around the city and attend the program in which the president would deliver her speech. The event was scheduled for Saturday.

In our planning meeting my officemates clamored, “We’ll let Christy attend this time!” The director replied, “Don’t bother Christy. She will never attend any activity on Saturday.” Sitting in a corner, I smiled to hear her defend my Adventist faith.

The journey of faith may have many hurdles, but when that journey is pursued with prayerful faithfulness, God never fails to reward that faith. Even if such reward does not come instantly, it comes in the reckoning of eternity.

Christy Sanggalan-Doroy, (C.P.A., M.B.A., University of San Agustin) was a regional financial analyst of a poverty alleviation program funded by the World Bank at the time of writing. Currently, she teaches accounting at Central Philippine Adventist College, Bacolod, Philippines. E-mail: christy_sanggalan@yahoo.com.