By Criscel Leo Garilva
You would never look twice at Jerald Pelayo if he took his seat four chairs down and two rows to the left of you in any class. It was easy to overlook the shy teen from the central Philippine island of Masbate.
Jayboy and His Bible
Jayboy, as friends called him, was way smarter than he was shy. But it was only in college that he discovered freedom from slavery to excessive studying, while amazingly increasing his mental output. “Actually in high school, I read my Bible, but I hadn’t discovered its real effect yet,” he says. “It was just a dry routine. The same was true about my first several years in college.”
To keep his college scholarship, Jerald was required a set unit load every semester. Running out of credits to take, he and several other nursing majors, almost as an afterthought, enrolled in a theology course! In that course, Don Leo Garilva, a dynamic teacher who taught the basic Christian disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and witnessing, became a mentor to him. That class would forever reshape his perception, and mine too, about the power of God’s Word.
The teacher required us to journal our daily devotional time with God, and Jerald started to discover the impact that daily time spent with God had in his life. He found new joy in searching the Scriptures and hearing God’s voice through the written Word leading and guiding him. But the best was stillto come.
Year three meant nursing internship. “It was so hectic, I thought it would be impossible for me to get good grades there,” he says. The requirements were so physically and mentally demanding that no one had ever kept a full scholarship through nursing internship. Better students with more time to study had tried to keep their scholarships and failed. But besides studying and directing a choral group, Jerald was class president. Doubts started nagging. But haunting memories drove him along, memories of having to borrow ill-fitting uniforms just to enter classes. His only real solace was in studying his Bible. “I did that every morning, literally crying out to God: Lord, please help me, I cannot do it.”
And help him God did. Now he tells everyone about it: “That was the first semester of my third year of nursing. I was already in the clinical division (internship), and had a two-part exam on oxygenation. For part one I studied from 8:00 p.m. until 5:00 next morning, the hour the exam was scheduled. I only read my Bible and prayed for about 10 minutes total because, of course, I was in a hurry to finish studying all of the diseases and indicators. The results came out and they were good. My efforts did pay off.”
As the second exam approached, Jerald kept remembering Dr. Garilva’s advice: Do not lean on your own understanding. Spend time in prayer. Spend time with God’s Word. “I did some self-evaluating,” he says. Am I too confident in my own efforts? Do I think that I can do it by myself just because I did my best and topped the first set? “It was then that I decided to try ‘the experiment’!”
Jerald decided to spend time reading and meditating on God’s Word and then sleep at 10:00 p.m. “I said, ‘Lord, I want to try this out and experience it for myself.’ So immersed was I in reading and meditating on Scripture passages that I lost track of time. The next day’s exam took last place in my mind. I focused on being asleep at 10:00 p.m. I meditated and read my Bible for about 30-45 minutes. And after that I just read my class notes, but no textbooks. I was really tired from going on duty. I was in bed at 10:00 p.m. I awoke and took the exam at 5:00 a.m. the next day. I felt happy and confident. I didn’t regret what I had done. My score was incredible, far outstripping part one when I had slaved so hard at studying! Since then I have never gone back!”
“I still study, but health comes first.” Jerald now has more time with family and friends, more time to enjoy life, but primarily, more time in God’s Word. He now spends quality time studying God’s Word every evening. “When I study the Bible, I have goals. Every night I read at least two chapters. I read the stories and the promises, and apply them directly to my life and to the lives of others. And I also pray hard. I pray for other people, very specific people. Then I end by meditating in silence.”
“You’ll be amazed!” Jerald declares. “Activities you set for 3 hours, once you read God’s Word, you can finish in a half hour with full efficiency and accuracy!” About the Bible he says: “There is this power that (we) haven’t valued, this greater power! [I keep wondering why] I was so confident in the lesser power that I had!”
Jerald kept his responsibilities and his scholarship, graduating as class president and most outstanding senior with the highest GPA in the college’s history (3.97 on a 4.00 point scale). He used the same principle when he studied for the national Nursing Licensure Examination in December of 2011. He finished in first place, something none of his teachers had ever done.
As he enters one of the country’s top medical schools (he just finished co-authoring a book, too), the boy who used to wear borrowed uniforms continues to dedicate his life to God. His continued prayer is: Lord, use me so that through whatever gift You have endowed me with, I can tell the world about You, about the power of Your Word, about prayer, about faith. “It should never be about me,” he explains, “or just about academic success, because for me it’s more of a spiritual nature. I could never have done it on my own. I don’t understand how it could have happened. So this was my promise to God: Place me where You wish, and I will lift You higher! And I believe that God has answered my prayer so that I can tell the world through this experience.”
It strikes me that the psalmist seems to have Jerald in mind when he exclaims: “I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes” (Ps. 119: 99). I think too of words penned more than a hundred years ago: “There is nothing more calculated to energize the mind and strengthen the intellect than the study of the Word of God. . . . If God’s Word were studied as it should be, men would have a breadth of mind, a nobility of character, and a stability of purpose that are rarely seen in these times.”*
Jerald’s experience has revolutionized how I perceive the Scriptures. It has created in me the thirst to drink deeper drafts from the fountain of God’s Word. More important, it has drawn me closer to the Author of that Word. You see, I’ve heard stories about the power of the Bible. But they were always in some far-off time and place. Can God work His miracles where I am? We’ve all asked that question. Apparently He can. Sometimes as close as four chairs down and two rows to the left of you.
* Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 249.
Criscel Leo Garilva is a graduate of Mountain View College in the Philippines with a degree in theology. This article was published September 20, 2012 in Adventist Review – The flagship journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church..