Last July 13, our CFC-FFL missionaries left for Brazil to attend World Youth Day. For each of them, it was an experience of a lifetime!
August is a special month because of so many things. Aside from the fact that this is my birthday month, there are so many memorable moments associated with August. Two years ago, we were in the airport on the way home from Madrid after attending World Youth Day. Two years after, I found myself again at the airport, this time going home after attending World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. It was a blessing already for me to be able to attend the World Youth Day once, but to be able to go again the second time is a grace from God that I will forever be grateful for. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that God would grant my birthday prayer to be able to attend World Youth Day again. As I look back at my World Youth Day journey, I realized that He was always there with me. He accompanied me in my World Youth Day journey.
All aboard! Bound to: RIO DE JAINEIRO
As my feet first stepped on the plane, I was already starting my pilgrimage journey with God. My WYD RIO is very different from WYD MADRID because I was traveling alone to RIO. All the delegates went to RIO via DUBAI and I was the only one going to the US. This, because I still had discounted tickets from my previous job as an airline employee and i opted to use it to be able to have cheaper flights. Although the downside of it was that I was on standby for flights. Meaning, if the flights are full, I will be scheduled for the next.
The flight from Manila to Los Angeles was a breeze. When I got there, I was accommodated immediately. As former airline employee, take off and touch down were just normal routine for me. But not on this flight! As we touched down on the runway, the child near me asked her mom if she can thank the Lord for the safe flight. As her mom said yes, she shouted at the top of her voice a simple but powerful prayer of thanks to the Lord. She repeatedly thanked the Lord and praised the Lord for the safe flight! That encounter was such an eye opener for me as the Lord taught me, through the eye of this kid, to see the beauty of everything. Not only to the easily seen blessings, but also to the blessings that you don’t immediately see. The blessings that if you won’t look hard enough, you would take for granted. Never did i foresee that this would be my battle cry for my whole pilgrimage journey to Rio.
After my flight to LA, I encountered situations which were firsts for me. First, traffic was so bad I got rebooked on the flight next day out of Los Angeles. The next day, I found out that my connecting flight from Miami to Rio was booked by the agent the following day instead of a same day flight. I tried to change it, but to no avail. As I arrived in Miami, I found out how bad the situation was. Their flight the night before was cancelled and I was the 9th on their standby passengers. The two flights were so full that they couldn’t even accommodate one standby passenger. And because of the that, i had no other option but to sleep in the airport. As I looked at the load of the following flights, there was a possibility for me to stay at the Miami airport for two more days as the other flights were full as well. As I tried to assess the situation, it was only through a miracle that I would be able to make the flight for tomorrow night. I tried asking people for prayers as the situation became really out of my control. I tried to be brave but deep down I was scared as this situation was new to me. I even thought, as an option, of me just going back to the Philippines and forego going to World Youth Day. It was only through the prayers and encouragement of other people that I had hope that God will see me through. At that time, I needed all the strength and encouragement from the Lord as I knew I was running on empty at that time. Also, at that time I sought the warm and reassuring embrace of our mother, Mary. I made every possible moment a prayer. I even tried to pray 2,000 Hail Mary’s!
As I waited for the passengers to arrive for the night’s flight, I saw that we were still nine on the standby list and I was the last one. Chances were small since when I checked the last time, only two seats were available. I resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be accommodated to the flight to Rio . This was where I saw the power of prayers and intercession. I couldn’t explain logically what happened! For that flight, all 9 of us were accommodated on the flight that night. A airline, that was so full with only seats available, was able to squeeze in all nine of us! A MIRACLE!
As I thanked the Lord, I realized all the providence that He sent my way: a dollar given to me by a stranger to be able to call my aunt, a woman who helped me find a bus and kept me company when I thought I was lost, free water at the fountain when I was thirsty, an employee who allowed me to stay at their lounge for the night when she found out I was looking for a place to stay, a lady who gave me a blanket when she saw that I was cold, people who I didn’t know smiling at me to remind me that there will always be a reason to smile about, and people whose prayers, concern and love I felt even though they were far away.
Thank You, my God the Father for being my stronghold. Just like a true Dad, you cheered me on. You gave me strength. You pushed me up when I thought I can’t go on. Yours were the hands that held me steady when my faith was wobbling. Without You, I don’t know if I would be able to have the courage to move on.
Touchdown RIO! Welcome Pilgrims!
I was so happy to be able to arrive in Rio! After all the difficulties that I encountered on the way there I was still in shock that I was already there! I… AM…HERE! SUPER THANK YOU LORD! I could not even count how many times I caught myself saying these lines! I didn’t know that when I said these lines that it would be one of the thousand times that I would say it in this pilgrimage.
I was excited but deep deep down, I was very scared in knowing that I am going to a place where I don’t know the language. They don’t speak English and we don’t speak Portugese! How are we going to communicate?
In the car, it was very evident. When they picked me up, I wanted to say so many things. I wanted to ask so many questions but I didn’t know how to say it. How do I say, “Did you have a hard time? How was the travel?” But I couldn’t say a whole sentence! Not even a phrase!
When we went to the parish, I found out that the other delegates there were from Panama and Venezuela. Not only did we have to learn Portuguese, we had to brush up with the little Spanish phrases we learned from Madrid. I think they thought that because we were under the Spanish regime for three hundred years that we speak Spanish. Little do they know that the only Spanish words that we retained were kutsara, kuwaderno, lamesa, etc.
But I came to know that words are needed at times but most of the time, we only need love to be able to understand each other. Because of the love that we have, everybody was patient with the charades that we did to be able to communicate. Everybody was patient while we typed the words we wanted to say so that we can Google Translate it. The hand gestures that we made enabled us to communicate that we were hungry or sleepy. The little words that we said that they were able to understand were comer, dormir, cansada.
I immediately thought that, “Hey this might be the Pentecost that they were talking about.” Different language, different races and different ethnicities but we were able to understand each other.
As we went going home, I wasn’t able to hold back tears, realizing that they played a big part in my life. It was like a home away from home.
The Missionary Week was just extraordinary! Thank You Holy Spirit for filling us with Your grace to be able to speak the language that at times we forget to speak. Thank You for teaching me that words are not all that is needed. As long as there is Love, then there is you. As long as we have love in our hearts, then we would understand.
Final Call! Destination : MANILA
I went home carrying the theme of the World Youth Day “Go and make disciples of all nation”. As I went home I realized that this August also marks my second year anniversary as a fulltime worker.
Two years ago, I never thought that my YES would make a big turn around in my life. Some people said before that it was a “fool’s” road, but I realized that it’s not a “fool” road but a “full” road. “full” of love, “full” of happiness, “full” of contentment. It’s not always a smooth road but that’s where I learned to be grateful, knowing that at the moment, God is molding me into the person that He wants me to be. I just have to enjoy life’s twists and turns, for in every bend and every corner, there is Jesus. Thank You Jesus for showing me the way. Thank You for being my role model on how it is that we should live. On how we may be able to have life. Others might think it’s a fool’s road but You have shown me how full this road can be.
My Father, Holy Spirit and my Jesus Christ I pray that I may never forget the learnings that I got from this World Youth Day. As I journey through life, may I always remember that I am never alone for You are with me. Let me always remember to see you through other people. May I always be steadfast in sharing You to other people. May I always remember that I may not have anything, but with You in my life, then my JOY is complete.
Me and You in this journey
As I look back on everything that has happened. I realized that each and every step of my journey, You are there with me. You are the Father that held my hand when I was weak and not sure. You are my guide when I am at a loss. Your love became my mouthpiece when I have no words to say. And You are my guidepost to follow when I try to find out how to be able to get closer to the Father and the people that You love.
Thank You to The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit in being with me each and every step of the way.