By Mark Ellis –
At first, L.A. Times reporter Dylan Hernandez was shocked by the size of the breakfast gathering arranged by Filipino boxer and senator Manny Pacquiao. Then he was confounded by the boldness of his faith.
Hernandez walked into the relatively modest house in Central Los Angeles and was stunned to see 100 people enjoying breakfast together, with Pacquiao seated at the head of a table for 10.
Hernandez joined the table of the 40-year-old boxer and began to pepper him with questions about his faith and boxing career.
When Pacquiao finished his meal, he folded his hands together and bowed his head in prayer. He prayed not only before the meal but after the meal!
The L.A. Times reporter was invited to join Pacquiao in prayer.
“Are you okay?” the boxer asked.
“Yeah, I love babies,” Hernandez replied, thinking the question was prompted by the fact that a man was holding a baby next to him.
Pacquiao shook his head. “What’s your belief?” Pacquiao asked.
“Oh …Really, nothing,” the reporter said. “My mom’s Japanese.”
“Really?” Pacquiao asked.
“We don’t believe in anything,” the reporter said.
Pacquiao reached out and placed his hand on the forearm of the reporter.
“There is a God,” the boxer exhorted.
Pacquiao’s faith in God has been a big part of his identity in recent years, “the explanation the former champion offers for his venture into politics and the reason he gives for why people shouldn’t worry about him fighting at 40,” Hernandez noted.
His next fight is scheduled for July 20 against undefeated Keith Thurman, a 30-year-old welterweight champion “with a wrecking ball of a right hand.”
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s longtime trainer, who returned to Pacquiao’s camp last year after a 16-month separation, said the choice of Thurman made him uneasy.
“I wouldn’t fight Errol Spence,” Roach told The Times. “I wouldn’t fight [Terence] Crawford. I think they are dangerous fights at this time. And Thurman. They’re all beatable on a good night for Manny, but you can’t really count on having a good night every time at 40 years old.”
Roach was positive about Pacquiao’s chances against Thurman, but questioned who he might fight next.
“After this one, I mean, we’re running out of names,” Roach told The Times.
Roach believes Pacquiao has maintained his edge because of his faith in Jesus Christ. After the boxer repented and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he gave up womanizing, gambling, and drunkenness.
In Pacquiao’s testimony, God appeared to him when he was at the height of his career in 2011, but at a low point emotionally and spiritually.
As Pacquiao awaited a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., he was filled with disquiet and often cried himself to sleep, describing himself as “empty inside.”
Then God visited Pacquiao in a powerful dream. “I heard the voice of God in my dream. His voice was ten times louder than thunder. He said to me, “My child, my child, why have you gone astray?” he recounted to CBN.
In the dream, which unfolded in a beautiful forest, he saw two angels, according to an interview with The Blaze. “When I heard the voice of God I felt like I died. … I was in the middle of the forest and I was kneeling and praying with my face on the ground and then I saw a light, a very white light and I heard the voice.”
“I felt I was melting when I heard the voice of God. It was the turning point in my life. God spoke to me and he told me what He wanted me to do and I had to follow (Him).”
For a while, Manny tried to ignore the dream. But one day he felt compelled to pick up the Bible and begin reading it for himself. “I forgot about that dream, but when I started reading the Bible, the first verse I read said that God talked to a man through dreams. I realized, wow, my dream was real,” he told CBN.
As a result of the power of God’s Word, the working of the Holy Spirit in his heart and the compelling dream, Manny surrendered his life to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
He told The Times he reads the Bible every morning when he awakens and every night before bed. He said he reads through the entire Scripture every seven months.
Pacquiao’s faith inspired him to run for political office, something he had no interest in before he was born again. He became a congressman in 2010 and a senator in 2016.
He told The Times that only God could explain his improbable journey, which started in a house with a dirt floor and ended with him becoming a global superstar.
“Can you imagine that?” he said with a smile. “Can you imagine that? Can you imagine?”
“All of this, what I have right now, this is a blessing from God. This blessing is not for me alone, not my family alone, but also to bless other people.”
The Senate of the Philippines is currently taking a break. Their next session starts two days after his fight with Thurman. Pacquiao will have a private jet waiting for him in Las Vegas for his flight back to the Philippines, according to The Times.
There are many people who want Pacquiao to run for president of his country.
“A lot of people are saying that I’m going to be the next president, but I’m not thinking about that right now,” he said. “I’m focused on my career as a senator. If that happens, that’s God’s plan.”
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here