To be speaking in front of you is a humbling experience. And to be sharing my life with you and how God works in every aspect of my being and existence even more leads me to a total disposal of myself to God’s plan and my complete submission to His Holy Will. I am bro Arnel. I have been in the KPF for three (3) years now. Today, I will share with you my life. The story of my life is rather simple and sometimes inadequate. But I hope that out of my life’s simplicity and inadequacies, I will be able to make you appreciate and see that simplicity is a gift from God. And that inadequacy is an opportunity to deserve the blessings of God. The more inadequate we are, the more we deserve God’s love and mercy.
I can say that my life is a journey of miracles. I have been married to my wife, Girlie for twelve years now. I met her 13 years ago at a time when things just seemed to be falling apart in terms of hopes of finding a life partner. I was already 42 years old then. At that time, I even felt inadequate of the capacity to find a partner for myself. But God blessed me with my wife who is not only kind but also a God-fearing person. We also belong to the same Catholic faith.
Looking back to my younger years when I graduated from high school, my father wanted me to take up Accounting because he wanted me to take over in running his accounting firm. But what I really wanted was to take up electrical engineering. We were always in a clash when it comes to my career. At first, I was hesitant to disobey my father because I was always an obedient child. But when time came when I was confronted with circumstances and that decisions had to be made, I courageously followed my heart. I took up electrical engineering at Mapua. Of course, my father was not happy with my decision. When I finally graduated and passed the electrical engineering licensure exam, only then did my father accepted my career and become proud and happy of what I have achieved. God finally granted this desire of my heart.
Before I never read the bible because I find it difficult to understand, that’s why it just stayed on the shelves accumulating dust. A lay minister at Paco Park Church asked me to join him because they are lacking in volunteers but I politely declined him since I think it is just a waste of my precious time. It is enough for me that I go to church, sometimes even late in hearing mass. It was only after joining KPF did I realize that the Lord has long been calling me to serve Him.
The most important thing for me in my married life was to be a good provider financially. As for my spiritual life, it was enough that I always attended Sunday masses. There was no real effort on my part to be involved in church activities. I would rather spend my time relaxing. I continued working in several companies in the Philippines, from electrical and construction companies to a major telecommunication company. I was so focused on earning a living but my salary is still insufficient.
My wife started on a casual job when she moved to Manila from Gensan, and eventually became permanent. She sends money to her ageing mother. Because we hardly could make both ends meet, there was no other recourse but to use a credit card. Our weekly groceries were purchased using credit cards. By the end of the month, we could only pay the principal but not the interest. Our credit ballooned to P60,000 pesos. I had to sell my owner jeep which I inherited from my father at a low price just to pay some of my credit card expenses.
Then the time came when I decided to widen my horizons and to venture on possibly getting a better chance at future; to try my luck on working or even living abroad. The decision was also a last minute decision. My only sister who was already a New Zealand citizen offered to help me pursue a future here in NZ. She told me migrating to NZ will have two purposes. First, to be with my ageing mother and sister and second to have a better future here in NZ. My sister sometimes finds it difficult to work and at the same time take care of 80 year old mother then by providing her needs by cooking and accompanying her to doctor’s appointments. My mother could no longer walk unless she uses a walker. In short, I agreed to my sister’s proposal to come to NZ. However, I could only come here if I enrol in a technical school at Wellington since immigration is getting stricter with its laws. I came here to NZ in February 2012. My sister paid all my credit card dues.
I initially studied Mechatronics at WelTec, which is a level 7 course. In December 2012, I was invited by sis Luz to attend the year end thanksgiving of KPF. By some unknown force most probably from the Holy Spirit, I readily accepted the invitation without hesitation and became a member of KPF. I went back to the Philippines to spend the Christmas holidays but when I came back in January 2013, I became actively involved in KPF. I started attending prayer meetings and had a deeper relationship with the Lord. My studies, however then began to get more difficult to me as the course is more on electronics and C programming which is not my specialization. I was studying Robotics and Automation which I could hardly understand.
I was so stressed in my studies that it affected my health. My blood pressure went up and at one point, I was shaking uncontrollably that I asked my sister to bring me to the hospital emergency section as it was already 10 pm and there were no more doctors in the outpatient clinic. I stayed there overnight and the doctors’ assessment was primarily due to low sodium but also put in their diagnosis as anxiety attack. The bill was $800 since I was not a permanent resident, hence without benefits. Fortunately, thru God’s help, I was able to reimburse the whole amount of $800+ which my sister initially paid to the school insurance. This is because every student is automatically insured once he is enrolled and is included in his tuition fee.
I reached up to third year second semester of Mechatronics but I failed in the Mechatronics project. I asked my sister that I go back to the Philippines since I find it difficult and stressful to complete a level 7 degree. But the Lord has other plans for me. He did not allow me to go back to the Philippines. The school’s dean approved my request since I am going down from level 7 to level 6. So I continued studying at WelTec,
With God’s grace, I successfully graduated from WelTec. I was hesitant in joining the graduation ceremonies, since I could not afford to pay for the graduation gown. Bro Ed insisted that we should celebrate and that it comes only once in a lifetime. He not only paid for the graduation gown rental but was also the official photographer of the special event in my life. Bro Allan went straight to the graduation ceremonies after completing his office works. Bro Dennis, on the other hand spent for the graduation dinner. We had a sumptuous dinner at a restaurant in Wellington. Bro. Allan was also the one who patiently gave me free driving lessons.
Joining KPF made me aware of the five basic tools of what an authentic Christian should be. These are prayer, bible reading, service, community, and sacraments. Before I only have prayer, sacraments, and little of service. Our bros. and sis in KPF have helped me in so many ways and things. KPF has led me closer to God. In each and every day that passes, the more I have felt the love of God for me through the generosity and genuine concern of our brothers and sisters in KPF. It is really important to have a community especially if that community is Christ centered.
I applied for a job search visa after graduation. I was granted a 1-year open work visa. Trials persisted. I had difficulty in finding work related to what I finished. My sister decided that it was time for me to go to Christchurch since there are more opportunities here due to the ongoing rebuild. August 1 2015 last year was the date that my sister booked me to a flight in Christchurch. Again through KPF’s help, I stayed temporarily at sis Lynne’s home. Sis Lynne’s son JB accompanied me to the office of the recruiting agency since I am not familiar with the streets in Christchurch and I was scheduled for an interview. Fortunately, after the interview, I was an electrical trade assistant in a commercial building project. I was happy because it marks the first time I will be gaining local experience which I can put on my CV plus the fact that I can now send some money to my wife in the Philippines. The job however only lasted for two months. The foreman reckons that I was not up to the speed of a true electrician and he decided to terminate me. I could not complain since the job of an electrical trade assistant is not really the kind of work I do in the Philippines which is more on supervision, designing and project management. The 24th of October was my last day in that project.
The following week, I received a call from Bro Rico asking me if I wanted to earn some money on a cash basis to help him in installing digital tv sets in the hotel he was working. It was a big help to me to be able to pay my daily expenses and weekly house rental fee. Since the job was only temporary, it was finished after a month’s time. I was very thankful to bro Rico for he was used by the Lord to provide for my needs here in Christchurch.
I was able again to find work thank through a recruiting agency in a project at University of Canterbury. I was able to last only for a week this time. The site foreman again terminated me for the same reason. I was disappointed because I lost again another job even though I gave my best but it was just not enough to those who are supervising me. It was already the first week of December 2015 and the construction and employment opportunities slowed down because of the Christmas season.
After spending some time here in Christchurch, I returned to Wellington to see my sister and my mother. Even though it was nearing the holiday season, I applied for jobs through emails but this time looking for permanent or full time jobs. The temping jobs at recruiting agencies are simply not acceptable to NZ immigration to extend my soon to expire job search visa. By God’s grace, I was shortlisted and scheduled for an interview at Orion in the middle of January and at Connetics by early February. After the holidays, I went back to Christchurch last January 11, 2016.
I prepared hard for both interviews. Both job interviews went well according to the technical people but unfortunately I did not made it in the final cut-off as there were more competent applicants than me whom they gave a job offer. Two months without a job has diminished my savings. There was only $2000 left in my account. I was using my credit card in my daily expenses but my sister is the one paying for it except my house rental. Without much money in my pocket, I weathered all the challenges and hardships and still my KPF community supported me in many ways but most of all by praying for me to get a job offer.
The expiration date of my work visa is April 22, 2016. It was already March 2016 and I still didn’t have a job offer. A prospective employer called me for an interview last March 19 for the position of Test and Tag technician. After the interview, he said he can give me a job offer but I will have to wait until the middle of May. I cannot put into writing the promise of this employer to NZ immigration as it will only be outright rejection.
At that time, my wife Girlie was scheduled to come to NZ on April 12. Instead of worrying about the possibility that both of us will just be tourists here in NZ, I told her that we pray harder and remain hopeful that something good will happen before my visa expires. My wife told me to never lose faith in God. She said that even if it’s only 1 day left for your visa, if God permits you to stay, by all means you will stay. God will find a Way. My wife added that this year is the Jubilee year of Mercy. Pope Francis said that let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God. Maybe in a day or two we will only be surprised with a good news from any of those companies you have applied in. Just have faith. Padre Pio said Pray, Hope and Don’t worry. My wife is a devotee of Padre Pio.
There were several companies that I applied for different engineering positions that I was still waiting for response. Among the last companies that I emailed my application to was Power Jointing Ltd. I applied there a week before the holy week. I was interviewed on Holy Wednesday, by a panel of three consisting of the General Manager, the Owner and Director, and a senior electrical estimator who was surprisingly a Filipino. The interview went well and after the interview I was even toured around the office and got introduced to some of the staff working there. This to me was a good sign although nothing is still certain.
On Easter Sunday, the 27th of March, I did my usual Sunday obligation of hearing mass at St. Anne’s Church. Since it was also KPF’s Family day, bro Rico and sis Jean invited me to join them at the Family outing at Spencer Holiday Beach Park to relax myself and just expect that something good will happen in my applications. The following day, Easter Monday, the 28th of March, a legal holiday in NZ, I never expected for any news from any of those companies. It was almost 5 pm when my phone rang. It was the General Manager of Power Jointing Ltd. at the other end of the line who announced the good news of giving me the position of an electrical estimator. She then asked if I could report for work the following day, Tuesday. I said of course, I am more than willing to start working even on just a short notice. Alleluia! Praise the Lord! It is like I resurrected together with the Lord from my long wait to have a job offer. I can be compared to a comatose patient who suddenly returned back to life. At that moment, I cried tears of joy in front of the portrait of mama Mary (given to me by sis Lina). I texted the good news to sis Jean immediately. I could feel God’s love embracing me. I knew it was Him making all of those things possible. God indeed had made a way!!! And He just surprised me with this good news!!! At the last glimpse of hope, at the last minute, I’ve got a job offer!!! My wife was right, even if there’s only 1 day of hope left for your visa, if God permits you to stay in NZ, by all means, you will stay. Just have faith.
Currently, my employer has given me a three month fixed term job offer until the 29th of June. I am now almost two months working at Power Jointing as of this day. My papers are still at immigration awaiting approval for a two year work visa extension. The results of my medical examination were favourable. We pray and believe that another miracle will happen. It will either be my employer giving me a one year job offer or immigration granting me a two- year or a one- year work visa even if my job offer is only three months. With God nothing is impossible because God will make a way.
Truly I can say that no matter what trials this life has to bring, we’ll just have to hold on to HIS promise and believe. As stated in Mark 11: 23- 24 “Truly I say to you, if you say to this mountain ”Be taken up and cast into the sea and have no doubt in your heart, but believe what you say will happen, it will be done for you. Therefore, I tell you whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be done for you”.
Let us always remember that No problem will ever be greater than the Love of God. In 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 13, it says No trial greater than human endurance has overcome you, God is faithful and will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. He will give you, together with the temptation the strength to escape and to resist.
We should not be afraid of trials, but instead, let us take them as opportunity to share in Christ’s passion. Challenges and trials in life are not meant to destroy us but they are meant to bring us closer to God.
Today, I give my life in service to the Lord to help build His kingdom here on earth. I accepted the responsibility of being the media ministry of KPF Christchurch when it was assigned to me by my prayer group head. There will be struggles and persecutions but I will remain focus in doing what is pleasing to the eyes of the Lord. Only in serving Him can I find true peace, happiness, and fulfillment in my earthly life.
[Shared by Bro Arnel in KPF Christchurch Community Assembly, May 2016]
Photo Courtesy: sis Lola Maria