He had been hurt by his congregation, but a novel church initiative helped him to heal.
Fernan Globen Talonding was born in Digos, Davao del Sur, Philippines. “Bem,” as his friends call him, grew up in the church and came from a Seventh-day Adventist family. Growing up, Bem felt the church’s lack of empathy toward the community and was affected by what he saw as the pride of some of its church members.
“I saw that the more years I spent in church, I noticed individuals becoming overly proud of its doctrines, and I witnessed the church’s lack of empathy towards others. We speak a lot about [doctrine], but we neglect to spread the message of hope and love to others,” he says.
“There was a period in my life when our family needed support, and the only place I felt I could turn was the church, but regrettably, the church abandoned me at my most difficult time,” he adds.
Bem stormed out of the church, enraged and disappointed. But he continued to bring his children to a local Adventist church where his wife was a member. He didn’t enter the building for more than a year; instead he sat quietly beneath a tree only a few steps away from the main entrance, watching people. Rather than spending time inside the church, he thought about how he might help the church with his passion for digital technology.
Despite his internal turmoil, Bem kept looking for answers. He vowed in his heart to seek the truth that would liberate him from the chains of disappointment, freeing his heart from immense loads that hindered him from truly dedicating his life to Christ.
“I have dedicated my whole life and talents to the ministry by sponsoring and attending as many ministries and church events as possible,” he says. “I used to have a lot of faith in individuals who seem to be so close to God because of their positions in church, and if I became involved in ministry, it seemed like I was piling up points for my salvation.”
In 2019, Bem was invited to join the Digital Evangelism Initiative (DEI) that was organized in Pasay City. With his skill set and expertise, he became interested in participating and applied to participate in the project. Despite applying late in the employment process, he made the DEI’s initial batch of missionaries and subsequently advanced to the post of Team Leader, which he still holds today.
“I had no intention of joining the team, but I eventually felt encouraged to give it a try,” he says. “I am thankful that I followed that call, and I believe that I made the right decision to be God’s digital missionary.
“My initial reason for joining DEI was the remuneration that I would get to maintain my family needs; I never expected to discover my second family via this ministry,” Bem says.
He has met DEI colleagues twice in person since the project started, yet the trust and relationship they established in this ministry have grown exponentially in different aspects of their lives. The team seeks time to find ways to aid them and the church through digital marketing and SEO work. Bem is focused on church service and technology’s influence on the church.
Bem admits that he held a grudge in his heart against the church even while he was in DEI. However, after all the time working closely with people passionate about bringing salvation to the world and experiencing the joy of producing content for people seeking hope and healing in Jesus, his heart gradually melted, and he decided to receive Christ once more through baptism.
“I am glad that the Holy Spirit encouraged me and led me to make this important decision. I am still a work in progress, and I know the Lord is not yet done with me, but I am willing to surrender my life to God and my family as He uses us to further His mission through digital evangelism,” he explains.
With that decision made, Bem chose to give his life to Christ through baptism on January 28, 2023. After years of suffering, he was finally able to remove his heart’s burden and place it in God’s hands, accepting the serenity that can only be found in Jesus, he says.
DEI was critical not just in providing hope to individuals in the digital space but also to the hearts of those involved in developing and creating various online content, leaders behind the initiative said.
Bem’s journey from unhappiness at lack of empathy to a digital missionary in the SEO sector exemplifies the transformational power of service to others. His enthusiasm for utilizing technology to help the church motivates those who want to use their God-given talents using the digital platform, leaders said.
The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.