Last Monday (September 6), I was leading a Bible study for the employees of The Generics Pharmacy. At the start of the study, I got text messages from two of our deacons, forwarding an urgent prayer request about Dr. Luis Pantoja, senior pastor of Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF). He fell unconscious in a pastoral conference abroad and efforts were being made to revive him. I led our Bible study group to pray for him. I was about to finish my talk when my mobile vibrated. I don’t usually answer it whenever I was teaching. But I just felt I had to take the call. It was my wife tearfully telling me the sad news that Pastor Luis went home to be with the Lord already. A hush fell upon the group.
The call came at a time when I was emphasizing to them about the importance of finishing well. It was not a coincidence. It was a “God-incidence.” After praying for the Pantoja family, I read to the group 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (ESV) What a fitting description of a godly servant of the Lord who labored much in proclaiming the Word in all its simplicity, practicality and authority.
My encounters with Pastor Luis were few but they were all God-moments. Though I am not part of GCF (surely he knew thousands of people from his church alone), whenever we would meet he would call me by my first name. I even remember emailing him but not really expecting a reply from him. To my surprise, he responded to it. We even chatted one time on Facebook. I told him that, since he was about to retire at that time, his shoes will be a big pair to fill in. He typed back in the typical Pantoja wit, “I don’t believe in filling someone else’s shoes, especially my shoes. The person might not be able to stand the smell of the fungus.” He even posted that statement on his Facebook status update. He really believed in fulfilling one’s personal calling, not in living in another’s shadows. Short talks they were but every time I would approach him with a question in a conference, he would readily answer them. And every time I talked to him, I would feel my heart burning once again with the passion to “preach the word; [to] be ready in season and out of season; [to] reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
Pastor Luis, I thank the Lord for you.