Rev. Elmer L. Saa
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
Whenever Rev. Elmer L. Saa sings this stanza from the hymn “I Surrender All”, he is reminded that he has no control over his life. And he worries not for to him, his life is a continuing witness to God's providence.
Like any good Christian, Pastor Elmer was not able to escape trials. Early on in his Christian ministry he figured in several instances when his faith and perseverance were tested. As a young pastor then, the realities of work on the ground on his assignment in Naawan, Misamis Oriental made him contemplate on quitting. The demands of pastoral work and the scarcity of monetary resources almost pushed the Pastor Elmer to give in to the temptation of abandoning what he was called for.
Pastor Elmer shares how as a young pastor, he experienced feeling so helpless seeing his wife and kids in a difficult situation. There was a time when his wife and kids were sick, and he could not even buy a single medicine for them as he had no money left in his pocket. That almost gave rise to a decision to leave the ministry. But as he struggled to let his faith prevail over his emotions, a friend suddenly showed up in his place unexpectedly. That same friend offered assistance to Pastor Elmer, enabling him to buy medicines for his family. On that day, he learned to trust more an surrender everything to the Lord.
A life devoted to Christian ministry was not evident in the first career moves of Pastor Elmer. He had pursued a course in the sciences at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, then later transferred to Velez College in Cebu in the hopes of obtaining a pre-med course. It was only while already in a pre-med course that he recalled a promise that he made to one day become a pastor.
He followed his heart. In 1974, Pastor Elmer transferred to Silliman University. At that time, students in the Divinity School were still required to finish an undergraduate degree before being admitted into the Bachelor of Ministry program. He chose AB Sociology, and graduated with such degree in 1977, cum laude. He then proceeded to obtaining the degree of Bachelor of Ministry, finishing the program in three years and repeating another achievement by graduating cum laude. Later in 1995, he received his Master of Divinity, still from Silliman.
Graduation meant a new beginning for Pastor Elmer. It did not only open doors for him to serve a local church; it also meant meeting his wife, Nilda Yap, also a graduate at the Divinity School in Silliman. Like Pastor Elmer, Pastor Nilda faitfhully serves the ministry as a pastor at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Magsaysay, Misamis Orientatl.
Pastor Elmer and Pastor Nilda are blessed with five children who are also Sillimanians: Celton Clyde, now working at the Commission on Higher Education; Nilmera Claire, a graduate of the Nutrition and Dietetics Department; Cyfril Faith, currently employed with World Vision International; Johanne Jules, a Psychology major; and Mercigrace Elm, a graduate of Management.
In 2008, Pastor Elmer received a “call” to serve the Silliman University Church as an Associate Minister. It was a welcome development for him as he has always found pleasure in providing spiritual nourishment for people from different ages. His call to serve the SU Church also brought him “home” again and allowed him to give back to Silliman. “God called me to serve in Silliman!”
Pastor Elmer is also a member of the faculty of the Religion and Peace Studies Department. He describes this as a “privilege” because he is able to interact with young people whose decisions impact on what lies ahead.
“As a teacher, I try my best to present the truth about the Bible to students for them to understand — not just possess knowledge — and use it for life,” he shares. And in his classroom discussions, he infuses valuable life lessons: “Whatever circumstances you are in, whether happy or sad, suffering or in pain, God is with you always walking, helping and guiding you on what to do.” Pastor Elmer impresses on them how God is always there in everything that happens, even during those times when people tend to ignore and deny His presence.
With a mission to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ, Pastor Elmer said that the church exists in order to continue the work of God for His people on earth. Apart from that, he wants to be remembered as a man who tried his best to fulfill God’s command of loving God and neighbor.
According to Pastor Elmer, Psalm 1 Verse 3 best summarizes his life: “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.”
Next month, Pastor Elmer will receive from his high school alma mater, Pilgrim Christian College in Cagayan de Oro City, an award as one of Ten Outstanding Pilgrimians for 2013.
Describe yourself in three words.
Humble. Patient. Persevering.
What is your mantra in life?
“Jesus is the Light of the world so I will also be a light to others.”
What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh when I hear jokes. I cry in the midst of sorrow, or when I am with grieving families.
What’s your favorite time/day of the week and why?
Monday evening because I don’t need to wake up early the next day. Tuesday is my day-off.
What do you love doing when not working?
Biking from the city to Bongbong, Valencia.
What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
Near the Rizal Boulevard and Alumni Hall.
What makes you blush?
When I hear someone say to me: “ You are handsome.”
If you were an actor/actress, who would you be?
Tell us a fact about yourself?
People will not recognize me that I am a minister when I wear only casual clothes.
What’s your favorite game growing up?
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
Lying at the sofa while watching TV.
What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
I’m into biking.
What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
“I Surrender All”
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
What’s your idea of a family?
Family is a place of refuge where you can experience joy and peace.