Unplanned and Half Meant…

Josie (3rd from the left) with some of the Young Graduates in GenSan.

After graduating from college and passing the board exam, I decided to become a GT Volunteer for a year as a way of expressing my gratitude to God for all He has done to me. Yes, I did it. During that span of time, I was just amazed how God worked in my life. It was a joy for me to be used for his glory. What I really like the most was the opportunity to minister to the students and my fellow young graduates. Journeying with them was something worthwhile.

After that, I worked to pursue my profession and to financially help my parents. I praise and thank God for it did not take me too long to find a job. I was employed in a poultry company and assigned as Production Admin Assistant Officer. At first, I was very happy and excited that I could finally experience what it is like to work in a corporate world. I was grateful to have a very nice workplace. My workload was light and my weekend was free. I promised to utilize my weekends to continue meeting the students as a GT Volunteer. Sadly, that didn’t work. Not long, I decided to resign because I was no longer happy with my job. I tried to love it and again it didn’t work.

Eventually I became so stressed and tired. I became unproductive and my spiritual life was also affected. So, I quit. My initial plan after my resignation is to have a long break, maybe a month, before jumping into another employment. I thought for myself that I needed some time to think and pray. However, things did not go the way I planned it. The very next day after my last day of work, I received a call from Kuya Darby. To my surprise, he was asking me if I’m willing to be the region’s next Staff Representative. Without any hesitation I said yes while laughing. He thought I was kidding, but I was serious that time. I laughed because I  remembered the last conversation I have with Efren Rubino (the outgoing Staff Representative) during his last visit. He said that he was about to leave his post. I thought it was a just coincidence because that time I just submitted my resignation letter. Then I told him maybe I could take over. It was a half meant statement. I know it would be impossible since the region would prefer to have a male Staff Representative due to many possible risks and gender-based limitations. A backpacker life for 15 days every month around the region? The leadership dared to give it a try.

Difficult it may seem but not impossible. It was a quick decision I made and I have not thought it well. I have not even thought if it is really God’s will. But I don’t want to back out. I am determined to accept this task because once again I wanted to serve the Lord through this Ministry. Thankfully, my parents are very supportive with my decision so I don’t have any worries at all.

I scanned through the pages of my old journal and I remembered what I really wanted to do. I want  to serve the Lord and do the things I am passionate and that is to journey with His people and minister to them. For me, this opportunity is an answer to my prayers. Being a Staff Representative never crossed my mind; it was out of my plan. But I believe that this is not an accident but part of God’s plan. I am  looking forward to how He will use me again through this ministry.

People may doubt my capabilities but I know that greater is the One who is in me. I pray that God will give me a humble heart of service and He will use me to serve the people around me with love and selflessness.

By: Ms. Josie M. Artos, the new and the first female Regional Staff Representative

Budding Seeds of Grace

ISCFers who visited the Bahay Pag-Asa Rehab Center in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley.

How would you teach a child about fishing if he is not brought to the sea? How would you teach Algebra without his basic skills on arithmetic? Could he pronounce series of words without recognizing single sound? How about forgiving apart from having been forgiven? And loving and caring and praying apart from Christ?

Experience is the best teacher. This is so true when ISCF Condensed Sibol Camp was brought into our school last January 6-8. Forty-eight students were invited and eventually have experienced Christ, His way of reconciliation and salvation. One month had passed now since they professed their faith, and by God’s grace, a number of them are never the same again!

It begins from a genuine encounter of Christ which drives them to pursue more of Him which becomes a special subject to them, the study of God. They become inquisitive about the doctrines along their practiced traditions. Christian disciplines are slowly developed like Quiet time, Bible studies and Prayer time. Stories of doubts and transformation and even rejection in their homes are often shared with tears shed, of joy and fear. While seeing these students growing in His sweet grace, the once cold teacher sitting in a corner has now a soldier in her rising for war. And it is not a comfort! Thanks to the pre-warned of the cost of discipleship in Luke 9:23. As I journey with these students, I understand that we are on the same road to learning- rocky, hilly, narrow.

Keep pressing forward beyond fear. Whenever torn between school priorities and ministry opportunities, I am sometimes tempted to sacrifice the eternal. Sadly, ministering becomes only an option. Yet the Lord has provided ways to manage my responsibilities in both areas. After the Condensed Sibol Camp, request for ‘mentoring’ to the students at-risk of dropping out  is granted. Discipleship for the potential student-leaders, without hesitation, is allowed. This one hour of mentoring/discipleship in a day is the most reserved quality time that I could spend with my students who are seeking for truth, if not disrupted by bad weather condition or school activities or meetings. Alone and worn-out, I was not so driven to ministering for the previous two years. However, God is a promise-keeper. He will finish what He has started despite my unfaithfulness. Right now, there are three regular volunteers who are helping for discipleship and a newly hired Christian teacher who has also a passion for students ministry.

His grace richly abounds. When we prayed for Bibles, He provides over our expectation. The Lord gave the students’ needs of Devotional guides (like Our Daily Bread, etc.) which they are now using. And surprisingly, the Lord has also opened opportunity for us to minister outside school, a rehabilitation program (Bahay Pag-Asa) for 15 young men. Our first visit has overwhelmed the students while observing and listening to some of their stories. It was their first outreach visit as new believers. Then followed by another visit which one of my students, Flonie Mae Romulo, Grade 10, delivered for the first time a talk on ‘Waiting upon the Lord’ from the story of David and Saul. Such experience has inspired some other students to share His word and even to volunteer for other works. Praise the Lord for all!

These activities held inside and outside school are just manifestations of the Lord’s finishable work in the lives of the students. All starts from a genuine conversion experience through Christ.

By: Cristy Ann G. Blanco, Chapter Adviser and GT-Volunteer of ISCF-Kao NHS

A Serious Business

Nowadays, numerous problems are faced by high school teachers. These problems are typically range from minor issues like absenteeism and misbehavior to bigger ones such as early pregnancy or drug addiction. As a future educator, it is inevitable that sooner or later I will be dealing with these issues and I am truly disturbed. Psychologists and other professionals have given interventions to resolve these concerns but, are these solutions enough to change the students? Or is there something else they must experience for real and lasting change?

Condensed Sibol Camp in Kao NHS, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley
Condensed Sibol Camp in Kao NHS, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley

An ISCF (Inter-School Christian Fellowship), a ministry for high school under IVCF held a 2-day Condensed Sibol Camp with the theme “Change is Coming” in Southern Mindanao. Sibol Midsayap (Dec. 9-11, 2016 at SCC Nature Farm, Pob. 8, Midsayap, Cotabato) had 23 campers, 4 of them were church delegates. After the camp, one of the campers, Christine Rhufer Fajota testified, “… This camp changed my perception in life as well as the relationship I have with God. Through God I was changed because the moment I accepted Him, I learned how to deal with my problems, how to walk and deal with the world. I learned how to watch my actions and the words I speak. I learned how to be a blessing to unbelievers. I realized the need to prioritize and seek God first—to trust in Him without any doubt. As a result of this camp, I committed to find a time that is only for God because he is not just any god but He is the highest of all, the Holy One who loves us.”

Praise God! Change became evident in the lives of the campers. God opened their hearts. It did not only change their perspectives in life but also their connection to the Lord. Sibol Camp gave hope and became an instrument of change in the life of the teens. The camp did not only impact the delegates, but also the counselors. They were reminded of their commitment to the Lord. One of the Junior Counselors – Auron Wee Villegas said “…Sibol Camp is something that reminds me of how great, lovable, glorious, victorious, and majestic our God is. It reminds me to what it really means after you have received Jesus Christ in your life. This event reawakened my inner thirst… I became inspired to really live for Him, to commit myself and offer it for Him 100 % and now, it’s time to allow Him to change my life and for me to turn away from all my impurities and wicked ways. Truly, truly, change is coming.  Change has come.”

“Lahi ra jud si Jesus!” as what Kuya Ricky entitled his message on the “Uniqueness of Christ‟ during the Condensed Sibol Camp held at Kao National High School in Sto. Niño, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley on January 6-8, 2017. Indeed! There is nothing that compares to the Lord because He is absolutely unique and morally perfect. Forty-eight delegates joined the camp, five of them were non-Kao NHS delegates and the rest were either the „cream of the crop‟ or the “delinquents‟. Most of the students dealt with problems in school, peers and family. They are dealing with difficult problems at their young age. No wonder they rebelled and became the problems of the society.

Seeing these students broke my heart. The community judged their misbehaviour by disregarding the pain that they go through. This camp opened my eyes to that fact that Christianity is a serious business, that I must be consistent with my calling – to become a teacher! There are great numbers of students who are in danger of conforming to worldly things and need to know Jesus. I also realized that I must not be the controller of my life but it must be Him. In the first place, I am nothing without Him.

After the Sibol Camp in Nabunturan, I was inspired by how the Lord touched and changed these lives. Jonil Villaroya, a Grade 10 student wrote in his testimony, “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoon dahil malaki ang binago ng aking buhay…Ngayon ay confident na ako na pinatawad na pala ako sa pamamagitan ni Kristo Hesus. Binigyan ako ng Diyos ng tibay at lakas ng loob na harapin ang aking pamilya sa kabila ng pagiging masamang anak ko sa kanila…Pag-uwi ko’y sisiguraduhin kong may pagbabago ang lahat. Ilalaganap ko ang pangalan ni Hesus sa abot ng aking makakaya..”

Condensed Sibol Camp in SCC Farm, Midsayap, Cotabato
Condensed Sibol Camp in SCC Farm, Midsayap, Cotabato

Hashem Balaba, a Grade 9 student also shared her testimony, “Sa pagsali ko sa Sibol Camp, marami agad ang nagbago… Ito’y nagbigay sa akin ng interes na ipagpatuloy na basahin ang salita ng Diyos… At ngayon, buong puso at walang pagaalinlangan kong masasabing “Ako ay anak ng Diyos! Binibigay ko ang lahat ng aking tiwala at pananampalataya kay Hesus. Maraming Salamat po Panginoon! As one of the counselors of this event, I confirm that the camp is truly life changing. With these testimonies, I can attest the text that says “Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you– majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11, NIV). No one! Only Jesus can heal broken heart. Only Jesus can bring change in one‟s life. Only Jesus can rescue us from difficulties. Only Jesus can make one‟s life meaningful.

(Written by: Crezel Joy S. Feller, IVCF Graduate from USeP Tagum City)

 

Praise the LORD for:
  • the Dec. 2016 NLE passers like LV Joyce Espero & Nick Anthony Torreon;
  • the success of the 2nd DLTC for the college/university last Dec. 18-23, 2016 at Basilio Property (adjoining Seagrass Beach Resort), Brgy. San Miguel, Peñaplata, Island Garden
    City of Samal which was participated by 28 delegates and 27 staff and counselors; and
  • the success of the Condensed Sibol Camp on Jan. 6-8 at Kao NHS, Sto. Niño, Nabunturan, ComVal which was pariticipated by 48 delegates and 21 staff and counselors.
Pray to the LORD for:
  • a consistent follow-up and discipleship for the Sibol Campers. Pray for more volunteers and partners;
  • the preparation for ISCF-LCDC on May 13-20. Pray for an appropriate venue and the camp subsidy;
  • financial provision for the regional operation. We are on deficit by P 53,847.41 as January 15, 2017;
  • safety and cooperation as the region will host the upcoming Kawayan Camp on April 9-May 11 in Davao City;
  • more responsible student-leaders and volunteers as we are about to end this School Year; and
  • wisdom for our brethren who are preparing for the upcoming board exams (Pharmacy, etc.)

Flirting With Men?

I started college in 2010 at Bukidnon State University in Maragusan External
Studies Center and soon transferred to the University of Southeastern Philippines by 2012. My disobedience caused me to be transferred to another university. I had a romantic relationship with someone in there while studying. It was hard for me to accept that my studies were significantly affected; I had to extend another couple of years in school. For me it was a mess because my primary goal was to finish college within 4 years and taking longer than that never crossed my mind.

GT-Volunteer on the go! Reshyl while helping the students in their fund-raising activity in USeP Tagum...
GT-Volunteer on the go! Reshyl while helping the students in
their fund-raising activity in USeP Tagum…

Moreover, I was more disappointed when my own family and relatives believed that I was just flirting with men instead of studying seriously. My brother also had to stop schooling to give way for me. I became depressed, felt alone and rejected to the point that I thought about committing suicide. Negative thoughts rooting from self-blame started to flow. I am a failure. I am a useless daughter. I felt ashamed.

I and my elder sister were not that close before. We used to fight a lot; I was amazed by the significant changes in her life. She started to always mention about God. She consistently shared Jesus’ love as well as my parent’s love that I can barely feel. But her life allowed me to experience what she has been saying. Indeed, I am surely loved!

I first came to know Jesus in summer 2012 during the season of my disappointments. My sister invited me to join a retreat with her. Thinking it could have been another avenue to look for handsome guys, make friends and merely enjoy the moment as we used to do, I affirmatively nodded. This has been one of my coping mechanisms when I’m in the midst of depressing time.

However, God’s plan was different. It became a life transforming event. It was way more than what I expected. It’s more than what I needed. God found me and offered His love. But above happiness and joy, He offered me His gift of salvation and healing. Received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I gained confidence through Him. I am saved all by God’s grace!

I praise the Lord for all my disappointments because if were not for that experiences I probably would not have come to know Him. God used my disappointments for His glory; they turned into praises. Because of those things, I want to share God’s love to my family and relatives but I still have fears. I have thought that maybe I am not credible because of my past and they won’t believe in me. Thus, I always pray that someday God will give me favor of success as a platform to testify God’s Glory.

Living a Christian life is not easy, yet fulfilling. On June 2012, my sister introduced me to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Through IVCF, my relationship with God grew intimately deeper. I found Inter-Varsity as my training ground in sharing the love of Christ. As an active student-leader, I became the chapter president for three consecutive years. God used this ministry as an instrument in uilding and molding my character into the person that He wants me to be.

I praise the Lord for the people He used to help me grow holistically, the people He had given me to journey with and the students that I led in our campus. I praise the Lord for giving me favor to finish college in spite of life’s scarcity and hardships. I may have not finished it according to my plan but God’s way is better than mine. His plan is perfect and now I know His purpose.

Furthermore, I highly praise the Lord for letting me pass the September 2016 Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). My prayer has been answered by our faithful God! A prayer for an opportunity to testify God’s glory through a favor of success!

I am Reshyl Labor Pongase; a servant-leader, a graduate volunteer, a professional licensed teacher. All the glory, honor, praise and adoration belong to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
(Written by: Reshyl L. Pongase, a graduate from USeP-Tagum
and a GT-Volunteer)