Natural Born Killer
by Grace Gaston-Dousel, with Jerry
Every time we have guests and short-term volunteers, we encourage them to ask people in our team to share their journeys with God – how he transformed them, brought them into his kingdom and enlisted them into his work. My personal favourite is Jerry’s. He usually narrates it in such a nonchalant manner that no one would guess it merits film rights.
I had a happy family until the world turned upside down.
We were seven siblings and I was the sixth. My father was a simple and friendly man, a hard worker and a good provider. He was also a man of principle. My mother was the epitome of a noble woman – caring for the family and sacrificing silently. All of us loved her deeply.
One day, someone was murdered near our farm. My father became the primary suspect and was abducted by a breakaway military command group. They beat him in an attempt to force a confession so that they could declare the crime solved and the case closed. But no beating could persuade my father. He stood firm for the truth, even if it meant losing his life.
While my father was detained in a “safe house,” one of my relatives asked the local government officials for help. Thankfully, they responded and rescued my father the day before his scheduled execution.
His captors were furious. Before releasing him, they threatened to kill him and his son. They were referring to me. I was only 17 then.
As I learned about what my father had endured, I resolved that one day I would avenge his unjust suffering. I knew exactly where to go: I sought out the Communist Party and joined their armed struggle.
Hatred ruled my young heart and mind. It pushed me to do things against my conscience. In my late teens, I became a sharpshooter and was soon killing people with no mercy.
My bravery in combat and active involvement in the movement led me to become the general secretary of our area in just nine months. My new position gave me the power to make decisions and plot our every move.
It was only a matter of time before the military corps put me on the wanted list with a price on my head. Despite this, the local villagers protected me. People respected me, not out of fear but because they saw in me someone who could defend them and seek justice for them. That made me feel good.
A couple of months later, my leaders took note of my loyalty and promoted me to the Sparrow Unit, an elite liquidation team. We were expert killers. We had three provinces under our jurisdiction. But before I could fully take part in the group’s activities, my life took an unexpected turn. God entered the picture.
Back home, mother became ill. Her anxiety over my well-being had put her in hospital many times. So I decided to go down from the mountains and visit her. When she saw me, she cried – out of joy and fear.
“My son, please stay here. Please surrender to the government,” she begged. But even her tears couldn’t dissuade me from pursuing what I thought was right.
Yet neither my mother nor God was about to give up. They say God listens to a mother’s pleas and takes time to dry a mother’s tears.
Soon after my visit to my family, a Deep Penetration Agent infiltrated our group. As a Communist Party commander my life was in danger, so I fled to my relatives in the central part of the country.
I continued in hiding until I grew tired of living as a fugitive. I wanted to live normally, to walk around freely, to be with my family and loved ones.
I decided to go back home and find a way to get in touch with my comrades. At that point, I still wanted to remain in the group but perhaps in a different capacity.
Unfortunately, as I was returning, our group attacked the town, disarmed the police and burned the municipal hall. Once again, our people were hotly pursued by the government. Everyone was on the run. They hid so well that even I couldn’t locate any of them.
Weary of running, I decided to surrender. After years of struggling for what I thought was a righteous cause, I saw its futility. I gave myself up and called it quits. I went to the local government agency that could facilitate my amnesty.
When I turned myself in, nobody as much as laid a finger on me. I was on the top wanted list and my name was very “hot” among the military. Yet, I was left unharmed. God spared my life for a reason.
The government even offered me a college scholarship, an opportunity I grabbed with both hands.
While studying for a degree in agriculture, I met the Lord in a personal way through Reach-Lakas Angkan campus ministry. Nine months of intensive one-on-one Bible studies followed, during which God gradually changed my worldview.
After graduation, I went home and spent two years in farming. But I felt I was missing out on something. I wanted to know what God’s purpose for my life was.
I turned to my Bible for answers. One night, my attention was drawn to Isaiah chapter six, verse eight: “Here am I. Send me.” And for the rest of the night I reflected on that passage, unable to sleep until that verse became my own prayer.
In time, God paved the way for me to enter seminary. During the following summer, the seminary offered a special module, ‘Understanding Islam’. Unable to enrol because of financial constraints, I bought a book to help me understand the Muslim faith and culture. After reading the book from cover to cover and talking to a friend who attended the class, my concern for the Muslims increased to a level that puzzled me.
And so I prayed. ‘Lord, if you want me to minister to these people, I am willing to go. I don’t have any reason to be scared because my life is now in your hands. In the past I offered my life to other causes. But now, I want to offer my life to you alone!’
Alongside my growing compassion for Muslims came the realisation that many Christians are fearful. It troubled me, for if we who have experienced God’s love won’t reach them, then how can they know the Lord?
Through four years of training and moulding, God prepared me to serve him among the Muslims. He also gave me a wife to be my partner in life and ministry.
In due time, the Lord led us to OMF and eventually to work with the Malikha Urban Poor Team, serving Muslim and inner-city poor communities. My wife serves as the nutrition co-ordinator for the pre-school, as well as Cebuano language co-ordinator for our workers.
Only God could soften a calloused heart and teach a hardened man to love again. Only God could transform my once proud soul to serve him in humility. Only he could take my futile life and turn it into something useful for his kingdom.
God walked with me while I lived as a rebel in the mountains. He preserved my life in the battlefield. He reached out to me, saved me and led me to serve a people whom I once hated and threatened, but whom I now long to see know the Lord.
Grace is the communications co-ordinator of OMF’s Malikha Urban Poor Team in Davao City, Southern Philippines. She is currently editing the team’s upcoming book A Pebble in the Water, A Hoe in the Soil, in which Jerry’s story is featured.