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My father Pastor Virgilio Olaer passed away exactly a week ago. Our grief with my Mom’s passing last January 4, 2017 is not even over yet when Pa died last Saturday. Nonetheless, we believe that they are in a better place now. No more sufferings, no more pain.
We would like to thank all those people who came to mourn, celebrate and expressed their sympathy. It was indeed a week of both sorrow and celebration. Sorrow because someone left us at least in this physical world, yet it was a celebration seeing someone you love so much finally found his rest, peace and eternity. Special thanks to pastors who came and preached on his funeral; Ptr. Silas Felongco, Ptr. Mel Fernan, Ptr. Garvic Garcia, Ptr. Celso Olaer, Ptr. Anselmo Macolor. and Ptr. Eli Salinas.
Many people can indeed testify about my father. He may not be a perfect man, but he indeed blessed so many.
Below is Ptr. Tom Smith’s reflection of my father and my mom who was a his co-workers and ministry partners.
My Reflections on Pastor Vir Olaer
By Tom Smith
Missionary to the Philippines
Oct. 20, 1989-December 31, 1999
Like the lyrics from the theme song for the movie “Love Story” in 1970, so do I ask “Where do I begin?” as I write these reflections on my dear Brother-in-Christ and suod nga amigo, Si Pastor Virgilio Olaer.
I don’t remember the first time I met him; however, I do remember hearing much about him from veteran missionaries like Jack Branan and Gerald Davis (the younger) while we were still in language study in Butuan City, Mindanao. They knew we were moving to Leyte after graduation and wanted us to know we would be working with one of God’s finest pastors and church planters after getting to Ormoc City.
And, they were right. Exceptionally right. Thankful-to-God-for-an-eternity right.
They’d worked with Pastor Vir during his time as a pastor up in Manila. They knew his love for the Lord Jesus. They knew his Faith, fidelity and faithfulness. And, they told me I’d be serving alongside a great saint of our Lord—and, again, they were right, for he was
One Who Helped Pave the Way
Prior to our arrival in Ormoc City in April, 1991, Pastor Vir had already been up to Ormoc to try and help find a house for us to live in when we arrived. He went to visit Erwin Brodeth and got a lead on a house up in Carlotta Hills. So, later on when missionary Keith Williams came over from Cebu to lease the house, one was waiting—for which Margaret, our three boys and I were very grateful.
It didn’t take long for me to realize firsthand that Jack Branan and Gerald Davis’ testimonies were true. We immediately feel in love with Vir, Doray and their three sons, Vince,
Vien and Viel. We quickly bonded with them since we also had three sons close to their ages. And, Margaret and Doray were very much alike in temperament and approach to things—while Pastor Vir and I were “mora’g mga kaluha nga nabulag sa pagkatawo!” The only difference was that he was short and I was tall. . .he had black hair and brown skin and I had brown hair and white skin. . .and he had a short nose while I had a long one.
In fact, I used to tell everyone that we were, indeed, twins separated at birth and I was the first one to come out. They pulled me out by my nose—that’s why it’s so long. But, when Pastor Vir came out, they paddled the wrong end—and that’s why his nose was so short! J
Many times we’d find Doray and Margaret sitting around talking about their trials-and-tribulations of being married to us. Both of us were free-willing spirits who loved to help others in need; so, it wasn’t uncommon for us to give money to someone else without letting our wives know. They always thought we’d probably cause our families to be bankrupt, but that never happened—and we’d always tell them “Pobre ‘ta dinhi sa kalibotan, pero dato na gyud atua sa Langit! Ug kanunay’ng magisuply Ang Ginoo sa atong kinahanglanon tungod kay matinud-anon S’ya.” J Amen and amen.
As most folks who knew Pastor Vir will recall, taga-Baybay/Kambonggan Si Pastor Vir. Pero, pagkahuman sa graduasyon sa high school, nibalhin sila sa Luzon so he could attend seminary for a while in Baguio City. And, then he became pastor of Cainta Baptist Church in Manila, a very large and growing church. For several years he led them faithfully in their service to our Lord.
But, there was one problem: his heart was still back home in Leyte.
For quite a while he battled that burden and finally told Doray that they would have to move back to Leyte to begin church planting since there were only two Southern Baptist churches on the entire island: one at Kambunggan and one over at Mayorga with Pastor Eli Salinas.
So, mora’g mga Pilipino nga misyonero sila, he and Doray and their three young sons moved back to Baybay to serve. It was very hard in every way—financially, physically, relationally and spiritually.
For a short time they served with Missionary David Packer in Ormoc City, but he and his family left after about a year. So, Pastor Vir, Doray and family continued faithfully serving the Lord and began a small fellowship in their home in Baybay, which would later become Paglaum Baptist Church in Baybay.
Thus, when he heard that my family and I would be moving to Ormoc City in April, 1991, he was excited. In fact, the month before that I had the opportunity to come up to see the work in Leyte, the house we’d be living in, etc. And, it was then that I finally got to meet Pastor Vir, Doray and the family—and immediately fell in love with them
Needless to say, we hit the ground a-runnin’ when we moved to Ormoc City. We began going out starting Bible studies in various places. Sometimes Vir would come up to visit us in his old, blue truck. And, sometimes I’d go down to Baybay to visit him there—and we’d always go out to get some lechon nga manok diha sa baybayon. Of course, we always had to have ice cream. J And, even though Doray would get on to him (and me) about his eating that, knowing he had diabetes, we’d both just laugh and continue eating.
It wasn’t long before I would drive down to Baybay, pick him up and then drive over to Mayorga to pick up Pastor Eli. We’d then drive up to the MacArthur Resort for lunch to talk, plan and pray about the work in Leyte. Later on Pastors Ben Marcelino and Boots Asiseo also joined us and from those meetings sprang the dream of our first association, which we named “The Leyte-Samar Baptist Association,” otherwise known as LEYSAMBA. When I proposed that name to them they were very excited since “samba” in Tagalog is a much deeper word for worship than “simba” in Cebuano.
They also helped us write our first associational constitution and organize our first annual associational meeting in October, 1992 with Bro. Jack Branan as our first speaker. By that time we’d grown from only two churches to eight as charter members.
Needless to say, Pastor Vir was overjoyed and shed many tears of thanksgiving that first meeting. By Faith they’d moved to Leyte and now those dreams were beginning to be realized. So, truly, it was his vision and dedication—along with Pastors Eli, Ben and Boots—that laid the foundation for the work that continues to flourish today in Leyte and Samar. How thankful I am that God allowed me to be a part of this and made Pastor Vir, Doray and his family a beautiful part of our lives.
Pastor Vir was also
One Whose Life Preached A Sermon
As someone once said, Pastor Vir was one of those folks who embodied the saying: “What you see is what you get.” There was nothing phony or pretentious about him. Truly, his word was his bond. And, there was never a question about his love for the Lord Jesus or others.
After the terrible flashflood caused by Typhoon Uring hit Ormoc City on November 5, 1991, Pastor Vir was the first person to show up at our house in Carlotta Hills. Several of the bridges between Baybay and Ormoc had been washed away by the flood waters.
But, that didn’t stop Vir.
He and some members of the church in Kambonggan and Baybay showed up at our door to assist in the relief work. Later on after three other missionaries and other Filipinos like Pastor Eli came, we were able to distribute over $3,000 worth of soup, soap, shampoo and mami noodles to those who’d lost everything. On the front of my truck we had a large cardboard sign that said “We Care. . .Because Jesus Cares.” And, that would later become the ministry motto for the Lighthouse Christian Resource Center, the first church in Ormoc.
In reality, that also described Pastor Vir: he cared because Jesus cared. Many times he’d drive up to Ormoc to go out to remote Bible studies with me. He’d give me good cultural lessons on how to effectively relate to the Filipinos. And, there’d even be times when I’d mispronounce a Cebuano word or use an inappropriate one, and he’d pull me aside and tell me a better way to say or do it.
Truly, in many ways ours was a Jonathan-and-David relationship, whose hearts were knitted together in love because of our love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are so many memories I could share of those years together, but time doesn’t permit. But, I still remember us sleeping on the floor in a nipa hut, trying to keep from getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and hiking the muddy, mountainous trails during a heavy downpour.
I especially remember the two times we crossed the river going out to the Bible study we began at Lambay and how the river had risen by the time we came back. The first time we made it across okay even though the swift-running water was up to Vir’s neck. The second time almost proved to be the last one for Pastor Vir.
As we were wading across—with him holding his camera and Bible above his head—he stepped into a hole on the river’s bottom. I quickly pulled him back to the top and he handed me his things as the water swept him away. A part of me thought I’d never see him again as the water carried him far downstream. But, thankfully, it pushed him to the bank and he was able to climb out, even though his billfold was soaking wet.
We laughed about it and I told him on the way home that we’d not do that again—for the Apostle Paul died after his third missionary journey!! J But, those were truly some of life’s “Kodak moments” for me that I’ll never forget.
I also remember one time we went to a remote Bible study he’d started around 100 kilometers from Ormoc City. We stayed overnight and the owners had a brand-new clock that played a different song every hour on the hour.
So, we’d try to go to sleep, but every hour when the music started loudly playing, I’d awaken with a start! And, Pastor Vir would be there lying on the floor. . .just looking at me. . . and laughing very hard!
Yes, there are so many precious memories I could share—whether it was helping strengthen the work in Samar with Pastor Boots or help start the Abundant Life Campground over near Javier. In some ways, Pastor Vir was the proverbial godfather of the work in Leyte—but never in a dictatorial or authoritative way. He simply pointed us to God the Father and helped us to begin a good work that God continues unto this day.
That’s why there’s really no need for a sermon or funeral message today as you gather to remember and rejoice in Pastor Vir’s Homegoing. He preached his message every day that he lived—which could probably be best summarized by the children’s song “Jesus loves me” and/or “Oh How I Love Jesus.”
Even though we can’t be there to comfort and celebrate with you all at this time, just know you’re in our prayers. And, the last thing I would say about Pastor Vir is this: he was.
One Who Pointed Others to Jesus
To him, that’s what it was all about. Whether hiking out to a remote area to begin a Bible study or preaching a sermon in the annual convention meeting or undergoing dialysis in the hospital, Pastor Vir had but one purpose in life: to point others to Jesus in hopes they would also come to know Him as Savior and Lord. Or, as the Apostle Paul put it, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Like John the Baptist said, “He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30). Or, as Paul summed it up that day when he spoke to the pagan philosophers at Mars’ Hill: “It’s in Him (Jesus) that we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
That was Pastor’s Vir’s life’s motto and mission-statement: It’s all about Jesus. All about Jesus.
Thus, from the time he began a new Bible study until the time they organized as a church, he constantly said “Look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your Faith” (Hebrews 12:2a). When he’d begin grooming a young Christian man to become the pastor of one of the new churches, he constantly reminded them to keep Christ first in their lives and ministry.
That’s why we shouldn’t be surprised that he was witnessing to others in the hospital who were also undergoing dialysis. That’s why he continued preaching right up unto the end, even though he had to do it sitting down and was so weak. Like Jeremiah, “God’s Word was a fire shut up in his bones and he couldn’t refrain” (Jer. 20:9b).
There were times he grew weary in body, mind and soul. There were times, like the rest of us, when he was discouraged in the work, wondering why others wouldn’t love the Lord as he did.
But, that didn’t stop him.
Like Paul, he continued “fighting the good fight, running his course and keeping the Faith” (II Timothy 4:7). And, now, like Paul, he’s received that “crown of Righteousness which the Lord had reserved for him” (v.8).
There’s no doubt in my mind that Pastor Vir heard those welcome words from Jesus that are reserved for those whose time is up here on earth: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful in a few things. I’ll make you ruler over many. Enter now into the Joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23).
For him, the words the Apostle John heard from Heaven in his Revelation also apply: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors—and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).
Therefore, to Vince, Vien, Viel, the rest of the family, friends and co-laborers together in Christ, “Do not weep as those who have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13b) today as you’ve gathered to reflect and rejoice in Vir’s Home-going.
He’s not dead; he’s simply away. He’s gone Home—to that Place which Jesus had been preparing for him (and us). He knew Jesus was/is the “Resurrection and the Life” and, therefore, because Christ promised, he knew “he’d never die because he both lived and believed in Him” (John 11:25-26). Hallelujah!!
In the end it was his body (his earthly tabernacle) that died—not him. Even though the lights are out and the door’s closed on that empty shell-of-a-house you see before you, he’s not there. He’s Home. And, he’s seen our Savior face-to-Face and been reunited with Doray, his parents, Ate Margaret and all the other saints who’d gone before him. Even though we may never understand why he suffered as he did for the last two-and-a-half years or why God called Ate Doray Home when he did, may we—like Vir—say without hesitation, “He does all things well.”
Amen and amen. God bless you!