“Worth it!” is how Helri Caadan, a Master of Divinity graduate, described his life at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary (APNTS). The countless times he cried to God, the sleepless nights, the seemingly endless amount of requirements, and all his sacrifices were nothing compared to what he gained through his seminary life.
Helri is from Butuan City in Mindanao. He grew up in a Christian family and had been attending the Sibagat Free Methodist Church, together with his parents and three older sisters, ever since he was young, before coming to APNTS. Although he was brought up in a Christian home, it was not until he reached the age of 15 that he truly gave himself to serve Jesus.
“The turning point in my life, from a mere churchgoer to getting myself deeply involved in God’s ministry in the church, was during a youth camp. There was an altar call and I was one of the first ones to come up to the front. As we were singing, I lifted my hands and I really felt like I was holding God’s hands. I felt a cold wind, like a whirlwind, that came from my feet up to my head.”
That experience with the Lord changed Helri’s life.
He received a new passion for the Lord and a passion to serve the people in the church. From then on, he started serving in the music and youth ministry.
After graduating from high school, Helri took a break from studying. For two years, he spent his time serving in the church while waiting for opportunities for him to go back to school. He planned to become an engineer, but eventually God led him to study in a Bible school. His family supported his decision to study theology; however, he still faced difficulties as a Bible school student. During his first week, he had to make ends meet with just 200 pesos. There were other similar occasions which, to this day, he cannot figure out how he managed to get by with such limited resources.
Helri always had in him the desire to study and learn more about God and how to improve himself as a minister of the Lord.
When he was in his third year at Bible college, the president of the college introduced APNTS to him. It was one way by which he was able to realize the direction God wanted him to take. After many conversations, he decided to pursue a Master of Divinity degree after college.
His decision was a step of faith. Helri had to leave Butuan — his hometown, his family, and the church he was serving — and go to a new place even without having all of the financial support he needed. Although he received support for his fees in school, no one had promised to support him with his living expenses. Nevertheless, Helri proclaimed, “If this is God’s will, He will provide for my needs.” True enough, the Lord provided for his needs through different means.
In May 2019, Helri finished his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree. He gained more than knowledge from the seminary. He also gained a deeper relationship with God and a wider perspective about matters concerning his spiritual life. Although Helri graduated from a Bible school and learned about similar subjects in his undergraduate program, he realized that APNTS helped him grow and develop even further.
While studying, Helri served as the worship pastor of Kamuning Free Methodist Church. For him, APNTS played a big role in confirming and embracing his call to be a pastor. It is not only the lessons in the classes that he considers valuable, but also the many other lessons which have helped him mature.
As an APNTS student, Helri developed discipline and learned how to balance his studies, ministries, and personal life. He learned how to live in a community where people came from different countries and learned how to respect other cultures. Through APNTS, Helri experienced serving in various ministries which he could not have imagined doing otherwise. Helri notes, “My experience as an APNTS student is life transforming because through APNTS I was able to know and embrace who God wants me to be.”
Praise be to God!
Originally published for the Student Stories segment on Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary’s website. Reprinted with permission.
Holiness Today, Jul/Aug 2019