(adapted from my journal written May 28, 2011, 1:00am at Batangas Country Club)
Looking around, I saw that my two companions are fast asleep. 1:00am and in the a quaint not-so-tidy room in Batangas Country Club, I am fully awake and refusing to sleep. As my thoughts run on yesterday’s plenary message, I cannot help but look back at the time I experienced my very own “Job Moments”. My mind is flooding with memories I never thought I experienced before. From the moment of childhood up to this present two-decade life, I realized that I have been through some toughest of experiences in life. My memory has now become so vivid and so detailed, remembering all those experiences from our humble abode in Bacolod City up to the tiniest detail of my life especially in our present yet similarly humble niche in Quezon City.
My family was a maysarang (en. capable) family in Negros which was able to send us to the best Chinese school there could be in the city. Life was generally in comfort and I was able to get everything I so wanted. I remember buying some expensive toys in Lopue’s East Centre, what used to be Bacolod’s largest shopping mall just a decade and a half ago. I was running freely, joyful and carefree. My Dad was a pastor of a local church then and he was an example to me that I also wanted to become a pastor when I grew up. What could be more perfect than a comfortable life and a family serving in ministry, right? Everything changed at the turn of the millenium when my family started to incur financial losses. Personal attacks from people forced my parents to step back further in life. For a child, it was nothing much to me since this was something I could barely understand. I was even on the point of being rebellious because I cannot have anything I want. So insensitive I was even when I often hear my parents talking about the financial problems and the heartbreaks they felt.
Growing up, I realized how much sacrifice my parents have to deal with in order to keep sending us in an expensive Chinese school to be equipped and be able to rise in life. This was done at the cost of expenses which buried my family in debt. I remember the time that we only have apan-apan or swamp cabbage in soy sauce everyday at our table picked from the kangkong we planted in the backyard because we only have little money. My books were always second-hand and when my school organized several out-of-town trips, I remember being jealous with my classmates because they were able to go and I cannot. I always ask God why can they enjoy such wonderful blessings and I cannot?
In a lonely night of March 2006, sleepless for the thought of being not joining a career trip to Cebu City, I found time to read the Bible. I happened to open Romans 8:28 and I couldn’t help but just digest everything in my mind. I felt that God wanted me to do something. When I tuned in to the television, I happened to pass by a late night telethon of The 700 Club Asia. At that time of tuning, I heard Peter Kairus explaining God’s way of saving grace. When he asked the televiewers if they want to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I fell on my knees and prayed the sinner’s prayer. Despite the setbacks I experienced in life and all the difficulties my family is facing, I have never felt peace in my mind before.
Despite the problems in life, I compensated every difficulty with academic studies. I aced most academically related quiz bees and competitions for my school. This training in education and my achievements enabled me to pass every single entrance exam offered by various prestigious universities in Manila, the only thing is that they either rejected my application for scholarship or have not even replied to my request. How then can I gain that quality education I wanted? My family is poor and they cannot afford to pay the tuition fees these Manila-based universities have! I cried at this and submitted myself to studying in Bacolod. As I was about to submit my requirements to an engineering university in my province as my last remaining school of choice, I was suddenly called by the admissions office of the University of Asia and the Pacific informing me that I am given a merit scholarship. This meant that I don’t need to pay any tuition. The youth ministry of Ikthus Bacolod, my home church in that city, prayed for me in their Friday worship as I was about to go to Manila. Even as the question of financing my stay in Manila keeps on swinging like an axe, I took the step of faith.
Being a provinciano student in Manila was hard. I have to live in a dorm, get to know people way different from what I am used to in my native city and balance the limited money sent by my parents from back home. The first two challenges I was able to pass through and even do well in my studies. God even led me by Providence to GCF which became my permanent Christian home. However, I always had problem with my finances especially when I have to spend on some projects in school. I remember going hungry every night just to have something to spend in the morning. Even as my stomach rumbles in hunger, I have to contend sleeping for me to be able to get through. My eyes were welling with tears as I asked God every night why He is letting this happen to me even as I was serving Him as a leader in the UA&P Frontline. I have to contend keeping this for myself even as I appear happy with all smiles to the people I meet. The battle for hunger is my daily struggle and it is a big blessing every time people treat me to eat in a restaurant or being invited to the meetings in the Youth.
As I battle for hunger, I also have to battle the thoughts of worry as my parents keep on receiving death threats for a certain business venture my Dad hopes kickstarting to be a breakthrough for my family. Not only do they have to contend with this death threat, they also have to deal with the hurtful words that my very own relatives keep hurling on them. They humiliated my parents while they just have to humble and keep things to themselves. Even as I pray steadfastly for them, I kept anger in my heart and even vowed to avenge my parents once we have the upper hand.
Two years ago, my parents moved here as my brother went to study in UP. It was of Providence for them since at that time, that was the lowest point of our family. Even as I wallow in doubt, God kept on sending me rebukes through the mouths of my parents. Even as life was hard for them in more than a decade, they still held on to the promises of God. Slowly but surely, blessings begin to flow for my family. From a struggling, jobless man, my Dad was hired in a company as a General Manager for his past experiences in overseeing operations. That in itself is unbelievable since I have never seen that before but with God, all things are possible. He even rose up in ranks to be an Executive Vice-President. God gives blessings in trickles but these trickles just serve as the beginning of the eventual downpour that God is sending us along the way.
As God was sending all these blessings, I feel the loving rebuke of God Himself for doubting Him in my life. He even made a way for the situations to reverse between us and the people who have been maligning my parents. As the opportunity to strike back came within distance, God reminded us of Christ’s forgiveness and love. He shown us that these people themselves need God. As God reminded me of these, I felt compassion on them and burdened to help them rise again in life.
I thought everything was okay until I was involved in a relationship that is sinful and not glorifying to God. Though I maintained a cosmetic look of religiosity by continuing to attend Sunday Services, sin has darkened my view of God and instead put this girl at the center of my attention. My heart was so focused on protecting this relationship in the end. I even faced off with this girl’s previous boyfriend, even as he was threatening my own life. To me, she matters more than my own life. Though I was not listening to God, I know He does not like my relationship. I did not heed God’s repeated warnings to repent and turn away from this sinful relationship because I was happy to be with her and that is all that matters to me.
Suddenly one day, the Lord took her away from me when she broke up with me an returned to that very ex-bf of hers that threatened my own life in the past. I was devastated but I have to keep this matter to myself again because I thought no one would understand what I am going through. I wait until my parents and younger brother slept before I cry, asking why does this have to happen to me. Even at those times, I was blessed to have a bestfriend in the person of Paolo Abdon who always prayed for me. My discipler, Ahia Beej who was in Canada at that time keeps me connected through YM. These two people have been a blessing to me and not to mention Didi Paraso who patiently answered one of my desperate calls in the middle of the night.
As I lay down in this bed, I see clearer the plans God has for me. If that did not happen, I would not have been here and still wallowing in sin. These very struggle strengthened my interaction with God and I was able to affirm one thing I have wished since I was young, to devote myself to pastoral ministry. I am so excited to tell Ahia Beej about this later at breakfast or lunch. In awe and wonder for the faithfulness of God in my life, I cannot help but strive to return all the glory and my service to Him and Him alone. Yes! I wish to enter seminary once I complete my UA&P studies soon enough and become a pastor. Nothing is stopping me from consecrating myself for God’s service. What more can I give thanks but myself in service?
Thinking about all these, I am ever so thankful that God is in control of everything even as things are blurry before my eyes. Even as the troubles and problems storm their way into my life, I can never imagine the wisdom of God has He carefully crafted my life for His service. I am so excited of Commitment Night later for I want to make myself right with God. Wherever He leads me, I will go to, whatever he wants, its for me to do in advancing God’s kingdom. I have made up my mind and I am for Him alone.