From Mistaken Identity to Identity in Christ

By Ruben Junior Hernani, Philippines Program Manager

A destructive typhoon in the Philippines only served to strengthen one man’s faith in God as well as his resolve to fully support the OneChild Hope Center program where his son is enrolled.

Sonny, with his son Tristan, surveys some of the damage caused by the typhoon.

Augustine “Sonny” Purgatorio’s life is a story of God’s sovereignty to turn a bad circumstance into a good one.

In 2020 he was sent to jail in a case of mistaken identity, but through that experience God ministered to him and brought about his transformation.

Sonny, 40, a baker in the Philippines who earns the equivalent of $6 to $8 a day, is the father of Tristan, 6, a boy newly registered in OneChild’s program. Sonny’s wife is Madelia, a homemaker, and they have five children.

After he was jailed, Sonny was sent to a rehabilitation program where he met a Child Champion at San Fernando Hope Center, which led to the sponsorship of his son.

Also, during the rehabilitation program, he committed his life to Christ.

Sonny with his son Tristan, who is in the OneChild program.

I met Sonny on Jan. 11, 2022, at San Fernando, Cebu, when we visited communities devastated by Super Typhoon Odette that struck on Dec. 16, 2021. Five partner churches of OneChild Philippines in the Visayas regions survived the typhoon, but more than 700 registered children and their families were severely affected.

Sonny says he never expected the catastrophic damage that Typhoon Odette would inflict on his community.

He says it was the strongest typhoon that ever hit their area. He only learned of the coming typhoon by word-of-mouth and regretted not preparing better for it to avert disaster.

Sonny was with his wife and three children at a small store they operate when the storm gusts began to grow stronger at 9 p.m.

They evacuated to a neighbor’s house, which was made of sturdier materials than his store. He did not sleep as he was preparing for the worst to happen.

He just trusted the Lord and prayed for His protection to be upon his family while the typhoon hit the hardest.

During the storm, Sonny prayed especially for his two other children and his mother-in-law who were in a house a few miles away that was surrounded by coconut trees, which can fall on and crush homes.

During the storm, at least 10 of the coconut trees fell around his mother-in-law’s house, but none hit the house. Sonny praised God that no one was hurt.

Before the typhoon hit, Sonny had secured a loan to build a new house for his family. The house was mostly finished when the storm hit and tore the roof off.

Sonny says that the trial they experienced during the typhoon strengthened his faith in the living God.

Before the typhoon hit, he had already promised the church partner pastor, Pastor Jimbert, who is assigned in community outreach, that his newly built house will be used for house worship at 3 p.m. every Sunday even if the people in his community began persecuting him for this decision.

He said in the vernacular, “Malipay ko kung lutuson” (I will be happy if I’m persecuted for Christ’s sake).

He is deeply committed to the expansion of the kingdom of God and to fully support the OneChild Hope Center program where Tristan is enrolled.

Community residents walk through some damaged areas.

With aid from OneChild’s Children’s Crisis Fund, Sonny and others whose homes were damaged or destroyed will repair and rebuild as needed, and Sonny’s dream to make his home a house church on Sunday will come to fruition.

Sonny’s life is a strong testimony of the apostle Paul’s declaration, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV).

If you’d like to help families like Sonny’s who are affected by natural disasters, please give to the Children’s Crisis Fund.

About the Author

For the past 20 years, Pastor Ruben Hernani, or Pastor Jun, has been an effective resource mobilizer and builder of partnerships, a dynamic resource speaker, trainer, workshop facilitator, and retreat master in schools, universities, NGOs, FBOs, churches, youth organizations, and various public and private institutions. He contributes to people empowerment and positive change in the community.

Pastor Jun has been training and equipping pastors since 2008, with significant contributions in pastoral ministry including the disciple-making process, grief care, hospital chaplaincy, community partnership, medical missions, Christian education, and nurturing and training church and community leaders. He is also a creative religious instructor handling the New Testament and Christian Ethics for theology and non-theology students. He is an advocate of urban poor empowerment, transformational development, and wise stewardship of God-given resources.

Today, he is a program manager of OneChild Philippines, a Child Champion for the neediest families in slums, coastal, and tribal areas with a special focus on the long-term holistic child development of the most vulnerable children living in poverty.

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