One of our primary tasks as missionaries in Sagay is to work with the youth. We are teaching all the religion classes at Holy Rosary High School; prior to our arrival, the students had no religion teachers at all! Outside the classroom, we have other ways of ministering to the young people. We recently held half-day “recollections” or retreats for the 3rd and 4th year students. The theme of the recollections was the central message of the Gospel:
- God loves you and desires to be in a relationship with you...
- ...but because of your sins you destroyed that relationship...
- ...so God sent His Son to save you from your sins...
- ...and now through repentance and grace you can have a new life in Christ and in His Church!
I enjoyed giving the final talk (#4) to wrap up each recollection and to solidify in the students’ minds the importance of being a new creation in Christ! I even taught them a new song on my ukulele:
“I have decided to follow Jesus! No turning back, no turning back!”
I wanted the students to know that their lives truly could change from this point onward -- that they didn’t have to go home and return to their same old sins. After experiencing God’s love and recognizing the power that sin has to separate us from God, the students had the opportunity to go to confession and leave behind the sins of their past.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the retreats was the small group sharings. It was heartbreaking to hear the personal stories they told -- many have experienced the pain of hunger, sickness, broken families, absent parents. Many feel unloved. One young man acknowledged that he knows he is supposed to believe that God loves him, but in his heart he does not believe it; the circumstances of his life have left him jaded and discouraged. In such a harsh world, he wonders, what is there to live for?
During one of the recollections, as I was speaking in front of 40+ high school students, I broke down and wept. I cried as I explained to them that we traveled all the way from the other side of the world because we love them. That we came here to share with them the joy and love of Jesus that is overflowing in our own hearts. And that if they are unable to feel His love at home, from their family or friends, perhaps they can experience it through our love for them.
I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit was able to speak more powerful words through me than the words I had planned to say. I know the students were moved by my honesty and by our true desire to be the face of Christ to them.
Thank You, Jesus, for strengthening the love that I have for the people I serve. Thank You for making it possible for me to love them because You have loved me first.