It is never easy to be a servant of God, least of all become a pastor. A calling that only a few heed when they are called.
Last June 2nd, 2019, Pastor Nelson Butron Villarin of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines was finally ordained a minister of his church.
The simple rites held at the UCCP Cagayan de Oro Church where he currently serves as chaplain for the Cagayan de Oro Christian School marked the end and beginning of a lifelong journey of faith which tested him to the limits.
Rev. Sonny, as he is better known to friends, was born and raised in Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City, the fifth child in a family of four boys and a girl of former Lapasan United Church Men (UCM) Chairman Gonzalo Tabaco Villarin and Remedios Butron Villarin.
His testimony of faith started during his Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF) tenure at UCCP- Lapasan when he was just 14. Like anyone else his age, he was happy-go-lucky and didn’t really give much to his future.
Indeed, serving God was not his first chosen calling, but rather architecture. He holds a diploma in BS Architecture from Cebu Institute of Technology.
Even when wasn’t hired to be a regular employee in all of his many jobs in Cebu, Makati and Cagayan de Oro from 1988 to 2002, he didn’t realize at the time he had another calling.
So he came home and tried again in his hometown in Cagayan de Oro. Meantime, he immersed himself in church related activities which gave him pause that perhaps he was meant for another profession.
“I failed to discern at the time that even in Cebu the Lord was calling me to serve as a shepherd to his flock,” he recalls. “However, my continued failure to land a regular job as an architect finally made me realize God was calling me.
Without a job, he took a great leap of faith and enrolled at the Silliman University Divinity School, graduating with a Masters of Divinity in 2006.
In was touch in go for a while but his God never deserted him. Already married to Nates Fausto Villarin in April 21, 1992 and with a growing family, somehow there was always a provision when there was a need.
“We accepted laundry from our colleagues and also did ironing. In addition, we prepared and sold the local sweet potato (Camote) delicacy called kamoyang to make ends meet,” he recalls.
The couple is blessed with 4 children, NN Gri, Vhien Klein, Gabriel David, Chessedh Chedech; and granddaughter Coleen Angela, his pride and joy.
But it seemed like Job in the Old Testament, the Lord wasn’t quite done testing him yet.
He considers his failure to hurdle two of the subjects in his ordination exam in 2017 as one of the most challenging tests yet that God sent his way.
“It was a one of the most challenging moments when I learned that I had to retake two subjects in my Ordination Exam when I was expecting that together with Pastor King (Rev. Beryl Sale) we would be both ordained together but it was not to be.”
However, during the interview with the Examination Committee he was given an opportunity to be ordained.
“A lot of things to do, a lot of patience to undertake, and lot of prayers to make, so that I would be able to win the race for my ordination,” he recalls. “After a year things went well and patience worked a lot.”
Thus, during the Conference Assembly last April 2018, the Examination Committee finally endorsed him for ordination as a full-fledged Minister of the UCCP.
Rev. Sonny’s day-to-day spiritual journey with God still has its ups and downs, but he knows that despite life's challenges and his faith shaken, he would not falter nor crumble.
To him, it is just a way of God's testing his faith. Taking every life's turns with positivity. He is a living testimony of how God works wonders in one's life.
He believes one should fear God, because to him the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom like what the psalmist said. (with Roan Gorres)