45-year-old American volunteer in the Philippines dies after strange illness
On April 1, 2017, Paul Penaranda, an Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS) volunteer passed away while being treated for an illness in the intensive care unit of Capitol Medical University Center in the Philippines. The cause of death is currently unknown. Penaranda was 45 years old and is survived by his wife, Sheryl, and three children, Joshua, Jared, and Rachel. A memorial service was held at the South Philippine Union Conference church on Sabbath, April 8.
At the time of his death, Penaranda was serving as a Bible teacher at Nanuri International School, in the North Central Mindanao Conference church region in Cagayan de Oro City. Although his assignment, according to AVS, was to be completed on May 1, Penaranda had recently requested to extend his service for another year.
“We can’t wait for that long-awaited day when Jesus Christ comes back again!”
“Paul was passionate about serving his church as a volunteer with the North American Division’s AVS,” said Bill Miller, US Potomac Conference president, in a statement. “Our hearts are heavy as we’ve learned of the sudden and untimely death of one of Potomac’s shining lights.”
Penaranda, a member of the Leesburg Seventh-day Adventist Church in Virginia, had been active in youth ministry through the Pathfinder Club. Previously he had been involved in ministry as a lay pastor in California, a Bible teacher in Palau, and a Bible worker in Bahrain. Penaranda was a graduate of Mountain View College in the Philippines.
When preparing his AVS application, Penaranda wrote: “As a servant of Jesus Christ, I am passionate about serving the Lord and His church with the integrity of heart, a surrendered will and skillfulness of hand, such that people may know Him and His love and apply the Word to their lives.”
In an email letter written by teen son Joshua to friends and family, the Penaranda family said, “We are truly thankful for everyone who made the effort to lift him up in their prayers. We would also truly appreciate it if you will pray not only for us but for the other people who were grieved by this event.”
In the letter, the family explained that in spite of the complete sorrow and sadness that fills their hearts, they must stay strong and remember that God has a plan that, sometimes, differs from our ideals. “We must also remember that God has the power to turn something so horribly bad into something good,” reads the letter. “We can’t wait for that long-awaited day when Jesus Christ comes back again!”
“We must also remember that God has the power to turn something so horribly bad into something good.”
In the conference statement, Miller said, “It was evident to those who knew him that Paul loved God with all his heart, loved the youth he was serving, and truly loved his family. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Paul’s wife Sheryl and their three children. We pray for the comfort that only our Heavenly Father can give.”
Elden Ramirez, director of the Office of Volunteer Ministries (OVM) for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, spoke at the April 8 service. He also read a letter of condolence to Penaranda’s wife and children from the North American Division’s administration team.
“We pray that you are drawing comfort from your new family at the school where you are working,” said the letter. “Please draw strength from the many hearts that are reaching up to heaven, asking God to lay his hands of comfort and compassion on each of you.”
The letter reminded that mission work requires a special commitment, which Paul clearly had, before concluding: “We know that you take hope in that blessed morning where Paul will join you as you look upon the face of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on His soon return.”