Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Surely most of us have heard these verses before. But for me, the very first time I heard it, it stuck with me and has posed a challenge that until this time I am trying to fulfil. That is one of the reasons why I am speaking in front of you today; to share my journey of that challenge that I chose to tackle.
Good afternoon and hope everyone is having a joyful time and is filled with the Holy Spirit from the praise and worship earlier. God is good!(All the time!) Amen.
For those of you who do not know me yet, I am Rhea Regina Bungabong Villocido. My equal half is Wilfred Villocido and we have 2 daughters, Aletheia, 14 and Amelie 6. I, with my husband is heading one Prayer Group of the KPF Palmerston North branch and we also serve in the branch’s Music Ministry.
When KPF Palmerston North began to hold our own community assemblies, I knew then that one day I will have my turn on this podium; my turn to share my spiritual journey to many. Such thought has bothered me a lot. After having witnessed the likes of Bro Neil, Bro Bim, or Bro Robert, to name a few…I began to wonder, what about my life that could be worth sharing for? What have I done to inspire people and could cause a positive effect in their lives? My life is not dramatic, it’s plain and simple; not overly difficult nor excessively easy. We have problems but nothing to cause us to despair; We have successes but not worthy of proclamation. These are the doubts that have been playing in my mind. The life-sharing of those people I mentioned…all I can say is…WOW! Their stories are awe-inspiring. I have been moved and have always looked back on those stories in times when I need picking up from difficult situations especially in the matter of Faith. I was very adamant then that I will never allow myself to be the life-sharer until “I AM READY”. Wilfred can attest to that. In fact, I convinced him that we should not say YES in case we get invited.
But this woman and a saint changed my mind…One day, I met this woman at a friend’s birthday party. We started chatting and she shared to me about her life as a missionary. Maybe because she knew I was Asian and she was a missionary to Cambodia before getting married. She met Mother Theresa in person. She reminded me of Mother Theresa’s motto:
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”― Mother Teresa
These words from mother hit me like a lightning. I then came to my senses and realised that all this time my fear was not because I have nothing to share but I have not done something great or magnificent, but what I am really scared of is humiliation, of not being listened to. To put it simply, PRIDE. Thinking about self-glorification rather than glorifying Him and proclaiming the wonders that He had done to my life no matter how small it may seem. So, when I was invited to be the life-sharer, I gave a very confident YES. So watch out for the next one …
Enough about myself and allow me to talk about my spiritual journey, my spiritual conversion with the KPF.
Before KPF, spirituality is part of my life already. As a Christian, I believe that to deny our faith and to neglect our practices is a sin. So I do my best to be a good Christian. I pray the Rosary at times, during Rosary month or during lamay sa patay cause it is the practice; we pray the grace before meals, you know the very standard … bless us o Lord… we have a personalised evening prayer that we say with our kids before going to bed, and we go to mass every Sunday just to tick our Roman Catholic obligations. Going to mass was so compulsory then that we come to mass in the middle or end of service and…we prefer to go to mass in the mall instead of a church…so we can go malling afterwards…in truth, while the mass was ongoing my mind was deciding where to eat for lunch, which shop to go to…will I have enough time for a mani-pedi, etc…etc…Charismatic community….Nah…too awkward. Why the need of raising hand???
When I came to NZ, I had a hard time looking for work in Rotorua, so I prayed hard asking to get employment. After about 5 months, I got a job in Palmerston North and the whole family moved here. Now my prayer has been answered, back to old habits again. Sometimes, we do not even go to church . Especially during winter time when it’s too cold to bathe early….
In my work here, most of my colleagues are atheist. There are only 3 Christians of different denominations, a Muslim and 2 Hindi. And the rest of the 50+ employees are atheist. Among the monotheist, the Christian Kiwi is the only one vocal about his belief. Every time he brings up the subject of religion, he is bombarded with criticism and belittling from our atheist workmates. The atheist arguments seem valid and very convincing that I started to doubt about my belief. My scepticism led me to say that the BIBLE is just a moral guidelines and my religion is something that is part of my upbringing and therefore, just like a habit that is difficult to remove. I have the idea then that atheism is the NORM. That there is no omniscient BEING that governs all thing, who is worthy of our praises; that, we are responsible to ourselves; that, for as long as we do not cause harm to others, no one will judge us. Which of course, I AM DEAD WRONG…
But even with this unbelief and doubt in God, life remained good and I never thought that I needed something more…spiritually, that is…in fact, I almost lost it.
Until such time when a friend, a Christian worship leader…as you have guessed…not a Catholic, invited me to attend a Christian fellowship. So we came to the gathering just to show gratitude to this person’s kindness and also to meet people as we only knew few people then being new to Palmerston North. Similar to a KPF PG, the fellowship had singing, praising, bible study and light snacks. Much to my surprise, I came out of that fellowship wanting for more. Not only did I get to meet people, but I realised that I am more thirsty of hearing His words, singing for Him and praising Him. So, I attended one fellowship after another …. and another … the purpose of coming to the gathering is not about gratitude to my friend or meeting new people anymore, BUT meeting my GOD and wanting to know more about him and showing my gratitude to Him by learning about his WORDS. I became bold about my faith. At work, I am not ashamed anymore to talk about my religion. I am ready to answer whenever I hear criticism and sarcasm about Christianity. I was changed, so changed that I even wanted to change religion. I told Wilfred…if he still remembers that, “you don’t really need to be a Catholic to be saved so long as you have faith and work according to His words”. Cliche right?
It was during this time that I met sister Alice and the KPF community. It was a Mother’s day celebration at St. Mary when we got invited to our very first prayer meeting. I did not want to go then since I was also invited by the other group for the same reason. But by some unknown force, we ended up going to the prayer meeting at sis Marietta and bro Arlen’s home. I remember vividly that the topic that time was about Mama Mary. The type of discussion you don’t often hear in other Christian group’s prayer meetings. From then on, we have attended prayer meeting after prayer meeting. I have slowly drifted away from the other group and now have focused my time with the KPF.
You might be wondering why did I choose KPF over the more established, well-organised, huge, heaps of bible scholars Christian group. Just to give you an idea, the Palmerston North group at that time was composed of about 5 families and individuals. and we rely more on our Wellington brothers and sisters for our spiritual nourishments. We travel to Wellington all the time to attend community assemblies, family day and sports activities. That’s quite expensive and time-consuming, don’t you think? But I stayed with KPF anyway. Why?
Reflecting on what happened, I believe the main reason is, KPF is a Catholic faith-based community and I want to grow my faith with it. Here at KPF we have teaching events 3x a year that provides in-depth teachings about our Catholic Church or faith;we have 16-session KLSP that focuses on deepening one’s relationship with the holy spirit; the prayer group meetings teaching track are solely based on Catholic catechism…etc…A lot of us Catholics convert to other religion because we do not try to learn more about Catholicism. We see the human mistakes of our church leaders and we blame it to the religion. Guess what, the people in it may be imperfect, but the church is perfect. If I have not met KPF, I am probably in another religion right now and I would miss the chance of knowing more about our dear mother and what she can do to intercede for us. Or the saints and how they can help us be a better Christian. I will probably not have the opportunity to meet my GOD every time I go to mass.
Another thing is, there could be people out there who are like me. Who do not seem to feel the need for God, but deep inside longs for it. Who may be drawn to change religion but just needs reassurance that they are already in the right religion. Who probably believe that they are doing enough to please God, yet feels something is missing. But if we reach out to this people and invite them to attend prayer meetings, there might be a chance for them to change just like I did.
That is why Matthew 28:19-20 is my lifelong mission. I want to reach out to these people no matter the distance or the circumstances. And so far GOD is with me or with us on this journey.
Moving to Palmerston North, meeting my Christian friend, sister Alice, saying YES to being a PG head is not a coincidence and not my own will and decision. It is God preparing me to Matthew 28:19-20. After growing the Palmerston North group into 3 prayer groups, more families and individuals have joined KPF.
After the PG growing into more than one group, sis Monic and Tita Nels brought 3 families into our group (Rastem and family, sis Gia and Spencer ) after learning that they were looking for a Catholic Christian community.
After sis Gia joined our group, she introduced us to the farm workers in Linton. The farm in Linton is 15-20 minutes away from here…and if you live in Palmerston North that is already far. We’ve learned that other Christian groups have been coming to their house to do bible study. One time Sis Gia read on their Facebook post this line, “Catholic and proud”. It was a hint for us that they longed for a Catholic Christian group. So sis Gia suggested we hold a prayer meeting in their place. And we did! since then, they have been attending PG meetings with us even after a long day of work.
Sis Charm introduced us to Julie, who happens to be flatting with an Iglesia ni Christo and she have been looking for a Catholic community to reaffirm her belief as her roommate has questioned her practices. Without a doubt, we hold a prayer meeting a week after the last in order to accommodate Julie and-and some of the new nurses here in Palmerston North.
Since more musically inclined people joined our group, Rastem and family, Bro Richard and the whole Laylo family, we finally formed the KPF youth choir where we sing regularly at St. Mary’s, Our Lady of Lourdes parish and the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. This could be a way for our youth to use their skills and talents in service to Him.
These are a few examples of small things we do to serve our Lord and to please Him. To shepherd more people towards that place where there is no more pain, no more hardship, no more chaos…a place where there is only GOD.
Before KPF, Catholicism is merely an inherent characteristic of being a Filipino. Going to mass is an obligation, even a burden. Serving in the church or the community is tagged with, “what’s in it for us?”.
After KPF, Catholicism is the religion founded by Christ himself; if you attended the teaching in the foundation of the church,you will know this. the mass is the highest form of prayer and every minute of it should be regarded with the utmost respect and should have our full undivided attention; our service to the church and to the community is not about glorying one’s skills and talents anymore but should be about glorying Him.
KPF has made our life busy…but for good reasons, as most of our time are spent in service to Him;if before, if we find every reason not to go to church, now we go to church an hour early every Sunday as we joined the church choir; We now read and reflect on the bible…specially when we prepare for a PG meeting; we now pray the rosary by joining the rosary crusade of KPF every Sunday night at 8PM AND now we know already the meaning of the rosary, so we pray with the right attitude; Even a simple grace before meal or prayer before bed is said with a grateful heart. In other words, we have developed a personal relationship with Christ. And all of these, thanks to our KPF community.
But don’t think that my or our life is perfect, virtuous, pious..no room for mistakes…Our journey to spiritual conversion has not ended yet…I believe it will only end when we come face to face with our Creator…every day is a continuous battle between good and evil…an on-going test of faith…many times we faltered, fell and succumbed to temptation…so please do not measure your faith to the church or to KPF based on our actions…especially our mistake. As I have said, the people may be imperfect but the church is perfect; because everything that GOD has established is perfect…our human mistakes are not that of GOD and should not be associated with Him.
The important thing is we are aware of our faults…of where we misjudged…and we work hard NOT to do it again, to change and strive to become better Christian.
To say YES to God’s calling is not easy…just like it was not easy for Jesus. But is sure is JOYFUL. Good afternoon once again and God bless everyone!
KPF Palmerston North