(Re-posted from CFC SFL)
Hello Brothers and Sisters, my name is Sarah Ignacio from SFL Dallas, Texas USA. This year I have been privileged to attend the WSC 2012 in Silang, Cavite, as well as serve at the SFL USA Conference in Newark, NJ. Going to the Philippines this past February 2012, was a refreshing experience for me as I had the opportunity to see my family and friends living there. Little did I know that God was already preparing my heart and my life to experience Him to the fullest. He gave me the opportunity to spend time with family and meet up with friends, but more importantly He gave me the opportunity to attend the WSC with the theme “Dare to Live.” I did not know what or why God allowed to be in attendance at the congress, until I was presented with the opportunity to share about my life as Single Catholic Christian Young Adult growing up in the United States. I realized that my walk with God for the past 15, has led me to a Choose God in many situations of my life and as a result of that God has protected me heart and my body from sin.
As I shared my life in the Philippines, I allowed God to continue to use me as His instrument through the preparations for the SFL USA Conference this past July 27-29, 2012.
From the time I arrived back into the USA, God was already forming my heart to be free from distractions, such as an over-infatuation with a “friend”, so that I would be to focus my attention on serving the SFL USA brothers and sisters at our national conference as a co-director side by side with a hardworking and dedicated brother Nick de Leon from SFL NJ. Before I has arrive into New Jersey, it was such a struggle to focus on the task God already prepared for me with the struggles of many distractions coming my way. I had many reservations about my call to serve, but day-by-day God revealed and affirmed that He had called me by name to go and bear fruit that will remain. He called me to Choose Life, so that I and my descendants may live. One huge affirmation for me was during a visit I made to NJ one month before the conference. God had allowed me to attend a youth pre-conference in Massachusetts, where to my surprise the venue was a retreat center for Our Lady of LaSalette, similar to the retreat place we held our WSC in Cavite. And through the homily and session that day, God spoke through the priest and speaker with this message- God spilt his blood for us on the cross because he loves us unconditionally, he laid down his love for us and none of us are worthy to be with God, but He purchased our salvation so we must be courageous, have faith and make a bold step in choosing God in our hearts so we can take the steps needed for Him to do his work in us.
So as I arrived again into New Jersey one week before conference for the preps, we had the opportunity to go to Adoration at around 1am in the morning. It was at that moment, I had another one to one with God speaking to him “Lord, here I am to serve you completely and fully for this conference. Please use me the way you want me to, and please show me the way. It was at this moment that He allowed my divided heart to be complete and whole. With this sense of wholeness I felt an unwavering sense of peacefulness. From this moment forward until conference, and even until now my heart exudes with so much joy, love, and peace.
As I prayed for guidance during this time, God placed in my heart the desire to continue to build relationships with everyone in the team and to be one family and I believe we were able to achieve that. And yes despite the trials and challenges of the minute details- overall the family was together working on their parts and responsibilities to make everything complete. I am very blessed to be an instrument of God’s divine hand in sharing His messages to the SFLs across the USA. We were blessed to have Bro Ed Rana, a former SFL member who now serves in NJ as a PFO for his CFC FFL Chapter be the speaker for Session 1- A Life Chosen by God, and then we were blessed to have Danielle Tindugan a sister from SFL Las Vegas, to share about how God’s hand was in place as she moved from LV to Utah to finish her schooling as a nurse and how God is constant in our lives no matter where we are. We ended this session with our brother Bham Garcia from SFL Chicago to share the timeline that God created for him and his family as he led us into Praise and Worship for the evening. Friday night ended with a showcase of talented brothers and sisters from all over the USA Daring to Show the blessings God has given them as they performed as a music ministry, or Spoken word, or danced.
Saturday morning Dare to Talk -talk show was for session 2 “Dare to Choose” where I was privileged to be a co-host with a good friend and brother Tom Park from SFL NJ. God moved through this session allowing us to connect with the participants to help them realize the choices we make affect our today and tomorrow, and how if we disobey God like the Israelites, we miss out on the promise God has for us to live life to the fullest. Then Saturday afternoon, we were very blessed to have three religious and consecrated men and woman to share with use powerful messages about how in Choosing God we are able to Dare to have a Voice- by Fr Brian Needles, Dare to Value by Sr. Marilyn Minter, and Dare to be a Dynamic Catholic by Fr. Bismarck Chau. In the workshop Dare to have a Voice- Fr. Brian spoke to us about the importance of Speak up and Speaking out in regards to being firm in our beliefs and to be bold in defense of religious freedoms. In Sister Marilyn’s Workshop Dare to Value, we were taught that we need to have passion in what we do especially when it comes to loving our neighbors and she broke it down by asking us who is our neighbors and what are the times we can do to value each person we come across. Then in Fr. Bismarck’s workshop Dare to be a Dynamic Catholic, he brought us to a deeper understanding that Catholicism is a dynamic transformation as we striving to live the Gospel. It is more than a religion, it is a lifestyle as we learn more of our faith we live life to the fullest. We also had spotlight introducing Campus Based USA to be under the umbrella of SFL.
Saturday evening was a special evening where a powerful speaker Brother Joe Bernal, from CFC FFL Seattle, WA spoke to us about the blessing we receive in life when we “Choose God”. We had five powerful witnesses and testimonies from our sister from SFL NJ Sheri Seminski in sharing about how in Choosing God despite the chaos of her life she lives a life of peace. Then our USA Full-time Missionary Stephanie Salecedo shared about how in her choosing God everyday she is kept from sin and evil as God allows her to live a life of protection. Our third sharer is a sister from SFL Dallas, TX, Ping Pabelona, who shared about the lessons she has learned in life led her to Choose God and then go about having a life of purpose in teaching her students important life lessons. We were also blessed to hear from Mr. Anton Quiray and Mrs. Marie Quiray, former members of SFL who God had blessed with the sacrament of matrimony two weeks before our conference. The Quirays share about how in choosing God and in remaining faithful to His love and their desires to serve, God continues to provide a life of Promise, in allowing them to move forward together in their service as husband and wife. And our last sharer for this session is a brother from SFL NJ RJ Barrera, who shared about his struggles, but in Choosing God and serving Him, he was able to live a life full of Providence as God provided many things for his family, his financial situation and allowed him to have more time to serve in the ministry. Here we were able to give Glory back to God as we sang God Alone. Then we reflected to the song Take Me Away as the creative team portrayed through dance about the choices we make and in the end, true life and the fullness of life happens when we walk and dance with God as our choice.
On Sunday, the LIVE PURE movement entertained us with a fashion show exhorting that modesty is in with an exhortation by brother Joseph Tesoro. We concluded the conference with a session on Dare to Live by our SFL National Coordinator Jun Felix, as he gave us his wisdom on the steps we need to take to be able to DARE TO LIVE through household relationship and the 12 Dare to live statements. We ended this session with a reflection of our personal Dare to Live conviction statements that we wrote on tree leaves and hung up on our SFL tree of life. Here we were able to depict that a once barren tree (no leaves) can be transformed into a tree full of life when make the choice towards life as we choose God and DARE TO LIVE for Him.
To recap the past few weeks and during the conference, God has placed in my heart a deep desire to shepherd and care for the hearts and minds of the SFL USA. It is as if God was asking me to stand accountable during this weekend to help shepherd his people, the flock under our care, so that they will receive God’s message for each of us in the deepest part of their souls. And with my reflection on all the messages and words God spoke to me, one thing I realized is that I have took for granted in the previous years my calling to be a shepherd to my brothers and sisters in SFL and in my family. God spoke to me this weekend and got me thinking, helping me realize that there are choices I need to make, for God, in order to allow Him to continue fulfilling His work in me. God placed in my heart the message that He was in control when he created us and God IS in control now even if we have chosen apart from him. Yet the message remains true- if and when we choose God, we choose life for not only ourselves, but for our future families and generations to come. God is calling me to let my heart be opened and vulnerable in allowing love to come in as I build relationships with others in my family and SFL family especially as I share of my life of who I was, who I am, and what God desires me to become. So in DARING TO LIVE- God reveals that all things are possible through Him and with Him. The dare to live conviction statement I wrote for our tree of life said “I Dare to live out my life completely trusting that God is in control. I will dare to excel and proclaim the greatness of God in the little and big things we experience. This conference was filled with many moments that too my breath away and as I look back on all everything, I truly thank and praise God for all the service team members to make this conference a blessing for the young adults in our ministry. I thank God also for this opportunity to be His servant and I look forward to many more chances to choose Him and to Choose life as I Dare to Live for Christ. As I end, I want to share with you our SFL Chant “Living the good life, CHOOSE LIFE! Living the good life, AMEN!”