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ASI Project Reports

Gift Of Life

Heidi Reinecke


Gina Mendoza1 hasn’t always been an Adventist. “I knew about the church because of my father,” Gina says with a smile. “You see, he was raised an Adventist, but as a young man he abandoned his beliefs. My aunts and uncles remained faithful—but not Papa. He married a pretty Catholic girl and settled down to live his life apart from God.”

As time went on, Paulo and Nita Mendoza first welcomed Gina, and then May into their family. The girls grew up on a large island in the Philippines, enjoying a happy home life and everything life had to offer. And none of them troubled themselves about religion.

Then, when Gina was a senior in high school, a package arrived at the Mendoza home. It was postmarked Australia and contained a large stack of Young Disciple magazines, sent by Gina’s Aunt Melissa and Uncle Greg. “We had never seen anything like it before. May and I loved those magazines,” Gina remembers. “The stories drew us in and the Bible lessons made Jesus seem so real to both of us. We read them whenever we had a free moment, at home or at school.”

As the months passed, the silent witness in the Mendoza home preached a message of hope and life to the girls. Both Gina and May grew to love the Bible and its Author, Jesus Christ. The religion they found in the Young Disciple lessons was straight from the Bible—and it was so different from any other faith they could see practiced in their community.

Just before Gina’s high school graduation, her father pulled her aside. “I can see, Gina, the direction your life is taking,” he said tenderly, “and it puts me in mind of my own childhood and my godly parents. You are so much happier, now that you have found Christ. I do not want you to go to the public university. There you will find nothing to help you in this new faith.” Then Paulo told Gina about the Central Philippine Adventist College in Negros.

Doors opened and in the fall, Gina enrolled at the Adventist college. She remembers her first Sabbath in the Adventist church very clearly. “It was the most memorable moment in my life. Everyone was singing hymns together, and their faces were shining. I had never been so moved in all my life. It could only have been the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

While at college, Gina made the decision for Christ and was baptized. Some time later, a Bible worker visited the Mendoza home and began studying with May. She, too, accepted Jesus as her Savior.

Gina will smile through a few happy tears as she remembers what came next. “May and I were so happy in Jesus—and it got Mama and Papa’s attention. Papa began to remember everything he had forgotten. Mama was also convicted that what we shared with her was the truth. Both of them began to ask questions and to search their Bibles.

“Then some missionaries came to our town and held an evangelistic series. Mama and Papa were ready then—and to our joy, they both accepted Jesus and were baptized.”
Such rejoicing filled the Mendoza home! But a shadow was to fall.

“A few months later, Papa was rushed to the hospital after he had a fainting spell. They examined him and returned shaking their heads—diabetes had put his kidneys into failure. They explained they could do nothing, that it was too late. And so we took Papa home to die.”

Those moments were some of the darkest of Gina’s young life. She loved her father, and watching him suffer and slowly slip away brought with it a great temptation: to throw out her faith, to give up on God, and sink into despair.

Three months after the diagnosis, Paulo Mendoza quietly fell asleep in his home, surrounded by his tearful family. But the abyss of despair was not to claim his loved ones. “We needed to keep going,” Gina says. “We saw that only in Christ would we have strength. We had nothing to fear—Papa had died in the Lord. One day we would see him again. So we picked up and went back to our lives, trusting in Christ to carry us through.”

And Jesus did. Gina graduated from college and spent a year doing student missionary work in another part of the Philippines. May went on to marry an Adventist pastor. Both young ladies are still on fire for the Lord—and they can trace it all back to one little parcel full of Young Disciple magazines, sent by loving hands from across the sea.