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Grace's Testimony

My earliest memories are of my mother kneeling each night before her statues of Mary and the "saints" on her dresser, praying the rosary, which were 50 repetitions of a prayer called the "Hail Mary," and her novenas, different prayers to saints, each of whom were known for what they could grant you. When things were at their worst, my mother’s knees were visibly purple from kneeling so much on our hardwood floors.

As I got older, my sister and I joined my mother praying to Mary and her statues each night. I was the youngest of four in a Filipino family; this was our culture, our identity, the air we breathed.

When I reached kindergarten, my parents sent me to St. Joseph's school for the next nine years. In second grade, I received with the rest of my class what was called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is where we confessed our sins to the priest and he absolved us of them, telling us then to pray a few Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s when we returned to our pews.

After a couple of years of doing this, I began to wonder: What was the point of confessing my sins, if nothing ever changed? I was disrespectful to my parents, mean to my sister, I lied a few times. Nothing changed. I remember once trying to solve this problem by coming up with another sin to confess, but when I told the priest that I had stolen something, I found that the next time I was supposed to go to the priest, I still had the original problem – the same sins to confess.

My next attempt at a solution was to try as hard as I could to stop sinning. The result, of course, was total frustration. I could no longer sleep at night. I had grown up thinking and feeling that I was close to God, that I talked with Him silently every day. But now, I lay awake at night, feeling a profound loneliness and emptiness, as if a vast sea lay between me and God. What do I need to do to be close to You again, God? What do I need to do? I would cry out to him at night, tears streaming down my face. I told no one what I was feeling.

About a year into this, in fifth grade, my cousin Tony from West Virginia started going to West Point, the military academy in Upstate New York, an hour away from our house. He and his family were all Christians. For the next four years my aunt, whose face seemed so peacefully radiant, and uncle visited Tony and us often, continually sharing the gospel with my parents. Tony, who was 19, and my sister, Gayle, who was 17, became best friends. Gayle was full of questions, searching for spirituality herself, and he shared the gospel with her. I was ten years-old, taking in everything I saw.

Every weekend Tony came over, bringing one or a few of his friends, and they were usually Christians. They were different from anyone I had ever known. They were so warm, kind, and sincere. When Tony’s older brother and sister visited, they seemed to really like each other and miss each other so much. My sister and I hated each other and we were usually fighting. I felt so drawn to these Christians, yet after a few hours around them, I always began to feel a deep, black emptiness in me, which made me feel simultaneously repulsed by them. “I know what it is,” I finally concluded, “It’s what I hear my sister’s friends say about people like that. They’re too good, too wholesome. I don’t feel comfortable around that. I don’t like that…Right?”

Two more years passed and Christmas break of seventh grade my sister came home from her sophomore year in college. She was much nicer. We were fighting less and less and getting closer. Now, she was singing praise songs all the time. I would sing along with her and think, “God, I want to sing these songs too. I agree with these.” Tracts from the fellowship group she was attending were left all over our room. I would read them over and over. By the end of Christmas break, I knew that sometime in there it had clicked. Baptism when I was a baby wasn’t going to save me. Doing the Catholic Sacraments like Confession and eating a wafer that they said was the real body of Jesus wasn’t going to make me closer to God. In fact, it wasn’t at all about taking steps to get closer and closer to God. No, I didn’t have to work my way to God! I had already found out that that was hopeless. Rather, I could be forgiven of all my sins by asking Jesus to forgive me and by His death on the cross and His resurrection, He could cleanse me from all of my sins. And that I needed to submit to Jesus as my Lord. I thought, “Yes, Lord! I don’t know exactly what it shall mean to submit everything to You for the rest of my life, but whatever that means, I do submit to You. I just want to live my whole life for you!”

It was as if a great weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt clean and at peace for the first time in my life. And finally, for the first time in years, I could sleep at night. When I returned to my Catholic school, all I wanted to do was share the gospel with all of the girls in my class.

the Lord also saved my husband, Andrew, though he had rejected him his whole life. While he was once a drug dealer, now, only four years later, he is an amazing, godly husband. I feel like it is not fair that, I, of all people should get the best husband in the whole world.

When I look over the past 13 years that I have known the Lord, I only see God’s goodness and faithfulness to me. Though there were extremely difficult times, I feel so thankful for them, because I know that it is what the Lord used to sanctify me, purify me, and draw me close to Him. I know what it is to be alone with the Lord and to know the sweetness, the richness, and the solidness of His presence. To feel as if His face is less than an inch right before my face, loving me, comforting me, upholding me. Truly, He has made my cup overflow.

Read Andrew's Story


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