How do you begin to let go of 25 years?
It was 1991. My dad, in a heated conversation with mom, told me to pack my things because they wanted to part ways. I remember crying while I got my clothes. Silently, I prayed to God for help. Minutes later, I heard the doorbell ring and when mom opened the door, I saw Tito Nitz and Evelyn Sucgang head to our living room. That night saved my family.
Since then, my parents became active in Couples for Christ – Foundation for Family and Life. I was there when the young ministries began in 1993. My parents became one of the first kids’ ministry coordinators in the South area. I remember eating spaghetti every weekend as I got to know other kids and as we all got to know Jesus together. These kids I were with still remain my very good friends today.
Kids’ ministry taught me to love Jesus and Mary. The first traces of me writing and speaking were honed by the titos and titas who saw the spark of mission in me. In between grilled cheese sandwiches and the endless spaghetti were planning for assemblies and playing with my peers. Tita Maita Cabinian made me organize the kids’ newsletter back then in our area. She would do the layout and print it monthly so our parents can be updated with what’s up with all of us. It also became invitations for other kids to join us. Each time our parents would meet for weekly prayer meetings, we would also tag along and gather in one room. We had kids’ camps with the much-anticipated firehose bath, a tradition that lives on up to present. Our parents would get a fire truck to hose us with water on the last day of then camp as we played and ran in a field. I’d like to claim that the nurturance of my faith was due to the fact that my childhood was rich with God-experiences. I told myself, I’d like to die still part of CFC – FFL.
Then came youth ministry. How do I begin telling the story of my youth? The ten years of youth ministry allowed me to discover who I am in God’s eyes. Youth conferences, meetings, speaking stints, writing manuals, prayer meetings, fellowship… the in-betweens of my school-home routine. I met friends who never gave up on me and who saw me through the dark drama of my teenage years. Don Bosco said that to grow in virtue, we should also choose who we will be friends with. I gained friends in youth ministry who became my inspirations to be a better person.
Youth ministry sparked in me the beginning fire of mission and evangelization. I remember one battlecry from way back: “that all shall kneel before Christ.” It became something that I held so dear when I was 16. Service became a big part of my life and the zeal for souls urged me on in the major life decisions I did later on. I saw God’s grace work in my life and the lives of others around me.
And then it was time again to move on to the singles’ ministry. Here I found myself searching now for what God wanted me to do for the long haul. Here I got to grow even deeper in my relationship with the Lord. Here, I found friends for keeps and those who I know shall stay for the long haul. The pains of heartbreak, waiting, seeking, longing and the joys of moving on, finding, owning, taming… made my singles’ ministry experience very rich. It was also at this point that I discovered how God is leading me to care for more people in one-on-one encounters. Here, God taught me the different facets of love – especially that of loving people I barely knew. Here, I began learning how it was to love without counting the cost, how it was to love others who hurt me and judge me, how it was to love by willing the good of the other. Here, I learned the gem of discernment. Here, I learned what total surrender meant and how it is possible with grace (though very painful).
How do I let go of 25, precious years? What if the moment asks now that you let go of what you thought was the permanence you desired? What if detachment now is necessary?
If there is one thing I kind of understand at the moment, amid the many uncertainties and mysteries, to let go of something doesn’t mean forgetting. Maybe to let go graciously, we need to come to a point wherein we begin to be thankful of the moments that made us who we are today. Nothing that has passed by in our lives is devoid of meaning. Each experience, each person we encounter have contributed to the chiseling of our very selves as we progress to whole-ness and holiness. No experience ever goes to waste in God’s grand scheme of things.
So here I am, thankful for what was. I realized that when I look at pictures in my instagram account, 80% were all about the adventures God brought me to in CFC – FFL. While it’s time to go another way and take God’s hand to a new family and to a new adventure, the past 25 years will always be very, very, very close to my heart.
For a moment, yesterday, before the send-off of those who are resigning from missionary work, there was a point when I tried to fight back the tears as I took a long look at the people in the room. I remembered what my spiritual director told me when I “knew” God was calling me to leave, “you will know it’s time when you learn to love, even if the people you love hurt you and misunderstand you.” I found out that the entire 25 years in CFC – FFL was a training of love in the 1 Corinthians 13 fashion. I know I still have a long way to go in learning to love like Christ but these 25 years have made me grow so much that all I could ever express now is… “thank you.”
Thank you for the 25 years. Thank you, because this new quest of loving more people and loving God singularly was brought about by the wonderful, wonderful 25 years.
It’s not really goodbye but “see you soon.” In this one path of bringing the entire world to love Christ, I know I’ll see each one, still, along the way. And when I do, I know I bring with my smile the beautiful years of being in a loving, Christian community.
Thank you, CFC – FFL.
“We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if You never grant us peace …
But, Jesus, would You please …”