I grew up as a Catholic. I studied in a Catholic school from Elementary to High School. An altar boy. It was my mom who influenced us. She takes us to church every Sunday. My father was not religious person. He does not go to church. He always says that he was a member of KBL, he only enters church during Kasal, Binyag and Libing (KBL). When one Sunday he attended the mass, it was one of my happiest days, but he did not know it.
I am your typical nominal Catholic guy, I go to church every Sunday because that was how I was brought up. I became an altar boy when I was in Grade 4. My fellow altar boys and I wanted to serve as much as possible the second mass on Sundays. Because that was when most of my female classmates go to. Pa cute kumbaga, not really there to serve the Lord. During my high school days, again, I only went on the second mass in the morning, and this is not only me but most of my classmates as well, to see our “crushes”. During Misa de Gallo. I attended the mass and even able to complete the 9-day mass. I remember, my best friend and classmate (RIP), we just sat at the confession box located at the back of the church and slept and to wake up during the communion. I hear mass and not remembering what was the gospel all about.
I used to have a short temper. I always settle my differences with my enemies with fistfights. From my childhood neighbours down to some of with classmates in Elementary. I also had a few fistfights when I was in high school. I even had a fist fight with my high school nemesis the day before my high school graduation, luckily I did not end up with a black eye on my graduation, he did… And that continued during my adult life. I was already working and in fact, was already married when I engaged in a fist fights with my 2 different workmates at the Bureau of Fire Protection, on 3 different occasions and one of them was in front of my boss and the whole team.
Life in New Zealand
Then I came to New Zealand in 2015 through the invitation of my younger brother who is also nurse like me. During those days, I did not have any plans to go, work and live overseas. I was already contented with my job at the Bureau of Fire Protection and sidelining as a dog trainer. But in God’s grace, which I did not know back then that it was a grace from Him, I was able to travel to NZ and start another chapter of my life with my wife sis Eva. I was fortunate because I did not go through difficulties in coming over here. It was served to me in a silver platter, so to speak. I got a job after I finished my nursing competencies. And then sis Eva followed 11 months after I arrived.
I was already here in NZ when we were blessed with 2 beautiful children. We had Sebastian 10 years after we got married. Life continued normally. We go to church every Sunday. For me, as a Catholic, it was an obligation.
Weaknesses. Some Stories.
On my days off, I like to drink a few bottles of beer, some other times red wine or whiskey and I took photos and post them on Facebook. I immediately got more likes and comments compared when I post bible verses.
I was addicted to pornography. There were no days that I have not watched it. On one of the prayer meetings, I sat randomly. As we discussed our topic and It was my turned to read the paragraph, I read about pornography and that Bro. Bo Sanchez was also at one point was addicted to it. “Muntik akong mabilaokan bros and sisters”. Kung bakit ba naman sa dinami dami naming present that night sa akin nataon at sa bibig ko pa nanggaling.” It was not a coincidence that the paragraph I read fell on me. There was a message that night, a subtle one.
My addiction was worse than I thought since I was still watching videos during the KLSP but before the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I cannot overcome my addiction, but God helped me defeat my enemy. And I cannot even remember if I prayed for it to go away. One day, our computer crashed. I had to bring it to the shop for repair. For 2 weeks we did not have a computer. When I got our computer back my addiction was not there anymore. I have not watched any pornographic materials since then. I believe that if we are struggling or cannot overcome our enemy, God will help us. He would use others or create situations to free us from that bondage. We have to seek and ask for His help though.
I am one of the founding members of a Poker group here in Lower Hutt. We started back in 2009. I used to play every Saturday night. I am off by 7pm. The game is on until ~4am or sometimes 6am. But for me, I have to leave by 11pm win or lose as I am working 7am the next day. It was fun, there are foods, wines, beers. I played for years and developed my skills. I have won championships, wherein I was the last man standing amongst 25 to 30 players.
We have tournaments. There are at least 30 players for one Champion on tournament nights. And we have a “Wall of Fame” wherein Champions photos are posted on the wall. I have few photos on that wall. I have beaten almost 30 players a few times. I have won more than thousand dollars during those times as I played, and lost a few.
I would like to say that I improve as a good poker player overtime as I regularly play. To become good poker player, you need to have timing, when to fight and when to run and fight another day, ability to analyse yours and your opponent’s cards, guts, nerve of steel, courage, controlled aggressiveness, ability to read your opponent’s mind, body language and know to profile.
On special days of the year, like Christmas holidays, Queen’s birthday, Father’s day, Halloween, we used to do theme dressed up party. We dressed up as Men in Black on Halloween, some pyjama party, etc. It was fun. We hire female kiwi bartenders. Every Father’s day we have a special event. We hire stripper brothers and sisters for a private show. 2 years in a row, I was chosen by the stripper to be danced upon, to the envy of my poker mates. As a husband, I also succumb to the power of the flesh, that have caused infidelity to my wife.
Catholic Beliefs and KPF
Even though I went to a Catholic school in elementary and high school and have religion subject, I do not know much about Catholic beliefs and traditions…I was probably absent when It was taught. Things like, why do we do sign of the cross, why do we have statues of Jesus Christ, Mama Mary and saints, why do we have rosary, etc. On a very rare occasions only I read the Bible.
A few times when we went back to the Philippines for holidays, my Born Again Christian brother always talk about God and religion to me. He knows a lot of things about God and the Bible. We discussed the Bible, he subtly attacked the Catholic beliefs and traditions. I cannot defend my faith because I realised, I do not have a lot of information about my religion. I almost reached to the point that I was starting to get confused and starting to agree with him. I was trying to fight him in my own little ways but doubts slowly creeping to myself and started to wonder and asked myself. If I have not found this Catholic Christian community, the KPF or Kapatiran Prayer Fellowship, I probably would also become a Born Again Christian, and I’ll start attacking you instead of defending our Catholic faith.
After we came back from our holiday in the Philippines in January 2013, we attended a PG on the invitation of our good friends bro.Ogie and sis Kity. As a good and dutiful husband, I went not because I want to, but because I did not have any choice… I was the driver. And there I met Bro. Allan who spoke about Mother Mary and title of the topic, If I’m not mistaken, was “Common Questions About the Catholic Faith on Mother Mary”. Right there and then I found the answer that I was looking for. I said to myself, “This is it! this is what I am looking for” I said to myself. and I found that in KPF. God gave me the answer even though I did not know that I was actively looking for it. Since then I have not missed any prayer meetings. We joined the then Ampong PG the LH3 now under the guidance of their PG head Bro. Rey and sis. Ayi Cabauatan.
In 2014, sis Eva and I attended the KLSP, we did not missed any sessions, we were awarded perfect attendance during the Commitment ceremony. I was in 7th heaven, I had peace and joy in myself. I received some gifts from the Holy Spirit. I know I will receive more blessings, or so I thought.
Test of Faith, Trials and Tribulations
At the beginning of 2015 trials and harassments started coming in. Eva had a miscarriage in February, 5 days before our anointing as the new PG head of LH 4. But that did not deter us. I remember bro. Archiel Ampong asked us if we still wanted to proceed with the anointing or to postpone it. I said to go ahead with the anointing.
In March, the person that we sent to school and finished Computer Science suddenly died on his sleep. I was about to ring him 3 days before he passed away but I kept on leaving it for another day until I heard the news from my mother that he died on his sleep.
During our Marriage Weekend Retreat (MWR) my mother texted me for a financial support due to a problem back home.
I said, we already finished the KLSP, we should be enjoying the grace and abundance from God but instead it was the other way around. I had the test of faith during those times. The things that I read on the social media and TV programs that I saw did not help either as it just added up to the doubt that was slowly going inside me, my faith was slowly being tested and started to question. One of our brothers said that, I was given the test of faith instead of blessings because there is something big that is going to happen.
Months before the start of the 2015 Wellington-KLSP, we were asked if sis Eva and I will accept the nomination to head the 2015 Wellington-KLSP mission. Sis Eva and I joyfully accepted the nomination and served as the mission head. We also served as the mission head for the 1st 2016 Auckland-KLSP. And this year, we were anointed as the Unit 2 head.
The blessings started pouring in brothers and sisters. More than what we expected…5 days after the KLSP was finished last year, God gave us our own home. God also provided sis Eva a new job that would make her travel less and do not have to do shift works anymore as it would be impossible for us to juggle between shift work and children.
I started on a new job last 26th of August. The first time for over 10 years that I don’t have to work on Sundays anymore. I can now regularly attend our fortnightly Sunday unit meetings. I don’t have to do an 11pm to 7am shift. I can now spend my week nights with my family and most especially I can now attend our fortnightly unit meeting on Sundays. Those I asked from our Lord God. Petitions that He granted because I have put Him first above everything else, as He promised on Psalm 37:4, “Make the Lord your delight, and He will grant your heart’s desire”.
We are blessed and grateful that we have brothers and sisters in KPF and friends that help us with looking after our children whenever we cannot pick them up on time.
Keeping the Faith. The Journey Continues
I strive to live a life of a good Catholic Christian. I pray every day and I read the bible. I will tell you bros and sisters how I started reading the bible. During our KLSP in 2014, I was really impressed with my seatmate Bro. Mon Araiza. In our group sharing he told us his routine in the morning. Upon waking up at ~0530H he prays the Rosary and read the bible. I also wanted to be like him. But it did not come quite quickly for me. Therefore, I desired and prayed for it. God gave me the answer one day through the Bible, it was at Ezekiel 34:1 and I quote “the Word of the Lord came to me.” Tumayo ang balahibo ko mga kapatid. On October 6, 2014. The first time I begun to regularly read the Bible. And it was Galatians 1:6-12 and I quote “I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by [the] grace [of Christ] for a different gospel (not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach [to you] a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.
Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
From then on I have my quiet time, in the morning. I pray and then read the Bible. I always ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand the Word of God. I also started making journal of the verses that struck me. I also take photo of the verse and post it on Facebook. I write a line or two captions. It is one of my ways to evangelise.
Before my wife sis Eva and I joined the KPF, our Bible was just sitting in the corner, gathering dusts literally. Now I am happy to tell you that if you look at my Bible, sis Eva and I have one of each, you will notice that it has really been used, nakatatak ang DNA (laway) ko in almost every pages. Ang idol ko na Bible ay yung Bible ni Bro. Allan, I want my bible to become like his one day. You will know what I am talking about when you see his Bible.
I do not play poker anymore for 3 years now. It just died naturally on me since I joined KPF. I do not watch any pornographic materials anymore. When there are offensive videos or photos that the appears on my social media news feed, I remove it.
I become bolder in talking about our Lord Jesus and my relationship with Him whenever I have the opportunity. At work with my colleagues, my patients, my friends and family. When I drop Sebastian at Sts. Peter and Paul school, I go to the chapel and pray and read the daily readings.
Alam niyo, gaya gaya ako mga kapatid. Reading the Bible at the chapel after I pray was an idea I learned from one of our brothers. We have kapatid here who I always see at the chapel. After he prays, I noticed, he goes to the front and read the Bible readings of the day. Ginaya ko rin siya mga kapatid. After saying my prayer, I go to the front and read the Bible readings of the day. That brother of ours is no other than Bro. Bim Zapanta.
I now listen more to Christian worship and praise songs. But that does not mean I do not listen to secular songs anymore. I still do because that is part of who I am. I now just choose the songs that I listen to and played on my guitar or in the band.
Attending regular prayer meetings or any KPF activities has a ripple effect on our children. They look forward to the next prayer meeting, they pray better than me when I was there age, they sing songs that we sing at church and at prayer meetings. When I misplaced my car key and my wife sis Eva asked them to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to find it, they were praying “Praise to God!” “Praise to God!” and right there and then I found the car key.
There is no more coincidence for me. I have already dropped that word “coincidence” from my vocabulary brothers and sisters after we attended the KLSP back in 2014. Every single Saturday, on our way to the KLSP, my only prayer request to Him was to give us a car park. And every Saturday He gave us always, without fail.
For me, everything now is according to God’s plan. I now never question the Lord if I did not get what I asked from Him. For He knows the plans for me until I die. My plans are not His plans. I leave it all up to Him. Hinahalintulad ko ang buhay ko ngayon as passenger, not as myself being the driver. I have a chauffeur and how good it is to just sit at the back of the car and somebody is driving for you.
Coming here to New Zealand has a purpose. Never in my wildest dreams would I be standing in front of you sharing my life to you. Raising my hands when I sing praises to the Lord. I have never cried so many times since in awe with the Lord.
My life to the Lord is still has trials, temptations and harassments. I still get angry, still get upset. I am not perfect, but as a renewed Catholic Christian and with the help of our KPF community through regular prayer meetings, teaching events and most especially going to mass, receiving the body of Christ and going on regular confession are my armour in protecting myself against the dark powers.
In Ephesians 6:10-17… and I quote, “Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
In my old life I was serving myself and my world priorities, in my present life I am now serving the Lord building his body of Christ in our kpf mission and evangelization through my calling as servant of the Lord as Unit servant head and in the servant team of KPF Wellington. Together with my wife Sis Eva, we were already in mission heading the KLSP mission in Wellington and Auckland, I’m thankful to the Lord for the grace of opportunity truly serving Him in moments that I can’t imagine, that I can experienced the mission journey of apostle Paul in this present time…it is a rare privilege to powerfully experienced Him.
Brothers and sisters, I still fight every single day to be a person He wants me to be. I cannot lead our Prayer Group if I am still in my old self. My journey continues as long as I live, and I know that it will not be smooth sailing. But having a relationship with Him, I know that He will protect me and He will not forsake me. Amen!
Bro Tom with Sis Eva
[life Sharing 10 Sept 2016 KPF Wellington Community Assembly]