Manny Pacquiao tells Dubai church service 'God will look in your heart'

The Filipino boxing legend attracted 2,000 to a service at Jumeirah Madinat Arena

Boxer Manny Pacquiao talks during a special Fellowship church service held at Jumeirah Madinat Arena. The boxing legend and Filipino Senator was interviewed by Pastor Jim Burgess about the difference God has made in his life, family, and career. Screengrab via Youtube Live
Boxer Manny Pacquiao talks during a special Fellowship church service held at Jumeirah Madinat Arena. The boxing legend and Filipino Senator was interviewed by Pastor Jim Burgess about the difference God has made in his life, family, and career. Screengrab via Youtube Live

Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao lifted his voice in praise of God alongside thousands of other Christians at a service in Dubai on Friday morning.

Pastor Jim Burgess led service for Fellowship Church at Jumeirah Madinat Arena, where the attendance of the superstar boxer Senator drew crowds of about 2,000 people who came to worship and hear his discussion about the role of God in his life.

“The world will look at outside appearances,” Pacquiao told the pastor while seated on a stage before the congregation. “But God will look in your heart.”

Pacquiao is in Dubai this weekend to headline the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, the competition’s first in the Middle East.

The church service began with an 11-member band playing the contemporary gospel song, “Never Gonna Stop Singing.”

Worshippers were welcomed in Arabic and English, as Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee looked on from the balcony.

“We could not all fit in Creekside, where we would normally meet,” said Pastor Burgess, welcoming newcomers. “We would just be too many.”

The congregation bowed their heads in prayer for the safe voyage for the UAE's first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, who is currently orbiting 400km above earth on the International Space Station.

The Pacquiaos then joined Pastor Burgess on stage to address the congregation.

Pacquioa discussed how his relationship with God gave him the strength to leave behind drinking, gambling and infidelity.

“The old Manny Pacquiao is buried and the new is come," said the boxer. "So that’s the story of my life. I think most of them they know my life story, Pastor, especially the Filipino people. My life story is an open book to everyone.”

“We came from nothing into something for a purpose and I think that purpose is to glorify His name.”

The pastor nodded. “I think you knew about God but you didn’t really know God.”

Mrs Pacquiao, a politician and movie producer, gave words of encouragement for women working in the UAE without family.

“Feed your mind with truth and free your mind [from] destructive thoughts,” she said.

Pacquioa advised Christians to read the Bible daily and memorise verses for guidance. “Learn how to humble yourself before God and before others,” he said, speaking directly to the congregation. “That’s very important in your life. Being a Christian, your daily activity should come from your new identity.”

Pastor Burgess noted how Pacquioa recited Bible passages before walking onstage. “I thought to myself, this is not just a man who waves to God when he wins," said the pastor.

He added “I used to think he was a boxer who could preach. Now I think he is a preacher who can box.”

It was an emotional day for attendees.

"We know the story of Manny’s life and we just want to hear it all over again because we are abroad and we need to fill our spiritual needs,” said Desiree De Guzman, a nurse in Dubai, who came with her three-month-old baby. "We wanted to hear him share his life’s experience. Listening to him made me feel like there is hope.”

Wadih Boustany, a Lebanese resident in Dubai, attended with his wife and daughter.

“It’s really nice to see someone who is successful be close to God and it’s great to hear his view on life and on how God changed his life and helped him be successful,” said Mr Boustany. “My take home message today is that God and family are very important and we should never forget our roots.”

Nino Cruz, a paramedic in Dubai, was moved by Pacquiao’s story of humility and sacrifice.

“People know his background and are inspired to come and listen to him,” said Mr Cruz. “He came from the bottom, rose to the top and is still so humble to verbalise his faith in front of so many people.”

Pastor Burgess finished the service with a reminder that servitude requires humility and sacrifice.

“There’s two Kingdoms. There’s the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of self. Which Kingdom are you going to live in?”

The service concluded with prayer, a hymn and thanks to the Lord.

Pacquiao was presented with a glass dhow engraved with the words "To the true champion who serves the One True Champion".

Updated: September 28, 2019 10:21 AM

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