October/November 2013 - Vol. 70
Youth On Fire in the Holy Spirit

Stepping Stones Retreat for Young Adults in Manila, Philippines

The Transforming Work of the Holy Spirit in My Life
by Bea Morales

[The following testimony was given by 16 year old Bea Morales at a meeting of the Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord) Community, the Sword of the Spirit community in Manila, Philippines. Bea is the oldest of three sisters, the children of Chito and Luz Morales, a coordinator and senior woman leader of Ligaya.]
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you 
and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. Ė Jeremiah 29:11

I believe that it was definitely Godís plan for me to be born into the Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord) community in Metro Manila, Philippines. Since my parents Chito and Luz Morales, were very active members of Ligaya, my  life has revolved around community for as long as I can remember, such that I actually find it hard to imagine life without living in community. My experience of growing up in community is very similar to many other kids who have grown up in community. I always tagged along with my parents, going to Ligaya events, especially on Sundays  even though I preferred to sleep in on Sunday morning or just stay at home. I didnít ďgetĒ why community was so important to my parents. There were times when I would see them so tired that Iíd question why they even went to community activities. I mean, stay at home if youíre tired, right? But  nothing ever hindered them from faithful participation in Ligaya events.

I survived the experience of growing up in community with the help of other young community friends who were experiencing the same things I was going through. All of us went to Ligaya events because our parents brought us along with them. We had somehow gotten a glimpse of the way of life of Ligaya and how the older people went about living community life together. But aside from the summer youth camp which I liked,there was nothing else about community life that was very appealing to me at that time.

Kairos Summer Camp in Mindanao

When I joined the communityís Young Adults (YA) program I started encountering God more and I experienced him doing something important in my life.

I learned that after attending camp each year, retreats were the next big thing which young people looked forward to in the Young Adults program. The Stepping Stones Retreat was the first community youth retreat I ever attended, and the first time I ever stood up in front of a group of people and publicly said yes to God. After that, retreats became my opportunities to once again say yes to God. That ďYESĒ was a constant reminder for me that I was allowing God to use me as an instrument to spread his word and witness to the great love he has for all of us. God did indeed use me and I recently found myself in situations where I was really given the opportunity to serve others. 

Bea with youg patient at Philippine General Hospital

Last December the other YA participants and I went caroling to a variety of  Christmas parties in several districts of the community. Our goal was to do some fundraising for an outreach project called Crosstraining. The goal of our project was to reach out to the children who were confined at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila. It wasnít easy service at all. There were a lot of transportation problems we had to face because Manila is a very big city and many young adults lived far apart from one another. But I experienced the overwhelming support of many community members through their generosity, despite the fact that we may not have been the best singing group in the world. Through our caroling we raised around 48,000.00 pesos (Philippine currency) Ė the majority of which we spent on the medical needs in the childrenís ward in PGH, and the rest was used for a mini childrenís party in the ward, with a magician as the main event. In the end, it was all very fulfilling!

This year I also experienced giving my first talk in an evangelistic Stepping Stones Retreat, which was also a Crosstraining project of our YA program. It led me to remember my own Stepping Stones Retreat and I realized how far Iíve come since then - from a reluctant participant to the speaker in front. Last April I got to serve for the first time as a discussion group leader at the Kairos Camp in Mindanao. I also gave another talk to the other participants there. Preparing for the talk was difficult. There were so many nights where I just felt frustrated and afraid that I would disappoint so many people. During a night when I cried over it, Dad told me that service is never supposed to be about me. God is merely using me, and as I give my talk, it will be God speaking through me. As long as I do my best to prepare, God will work through the words I say and allow it to make a mark on the participants.

It never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that I would be standing before the community as a witness to how God has worked in me through the years and allowed me to do the things I am doing right now.  Giving talks, being leaders, and serving has always been something I watched my parents do. I would just stand there wondering how they can do it and telling myself that itís their thing, not mine.

Godís plan for me did not stop when he allowed me to be born into Ligaya Community. Right now, He is continuing to fulfill his plan in me, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been transforming me to become the person I am today. And it is because of the Holy Spirit that I actually have the courage to stand here and testify to how God is truly amazing.

In hindsight, I realized that it was also the Holy Spirit working in me that allowed me to serve God and serve others. I was so passionate regarding the PGH outreach that it never occurred to me to give up despite the problems we were facing. I wanted the kids to experience Godís love through us, and I guess thatís what motivated us to keep going throughout the fundraising to the start of the outreach itself. The same thing goes for the talks. Iíd never agree to give a talk if I didnít love God and if I didnít feel passionate about serving him. I agreed to give the talks because I knew that God was presenting me with an opportunity to serve Him, and after all those retreats, it was my chance to once again say YES to God and in a very concrete way this time. I guess itís the Holy Spirit that keeps the fire burning, and keeps me passionate to serve God and have that desire to be used by Him for His greater glory.

I trust that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in and through me and I know that Godís plan for me is far bigger than I can ever imagine. He is determined to complete what he has started in me. And I will forever be thankful for the gift Christian community, and for the people God has sent to help me along the way, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in my life. 

Bea (second from right) with her parents and sisters Camille (left) and Coleen

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