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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
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
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