(by Mariel Salaveria)
This past weekend, I was overwhelmed with so many feelings. At first, going to congress wasn’t really something I was looking forward too, to be honest. I’ve never been to one before and during YFL events I felt alone at times, so would there be a difference? The answer was yes. First of all, I’m sure I can say that for all of us that attended, we had a very blessed weekend. The talks were very empowering and I got the chance to find myself after all these months of feeling sad and alone. This past weekend, I didn’t find God. He found me.
The first day of Congress, I didn’t know what to expect. There were so many people I didn’t know. I found one of my friends and we went up to our rooms and settled down then went around. Dinner passed, the first talk passed…I wasn’t really focused on God but more on my friends. Then during Dare Night, I saw so many people perform and I was speechless. They were all so blessed by God with incredible talents. Then it was time to sleep, although no one slept. Everyone was roaming around, hanging out, talking to their friends. We were all also trying to avoid getting caught by Tito Ian. Everyone was paranoid but I found it fun.
The next day, everybody looked like they were walking zombies. Although we were so sleepy, we got through the talks. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear session two because my chapter was doing confession, but when I walked in the room, I saw everyone opened up there hearts, and I was touched. Everything so far was going okay for me. I still didn’t really get to open up to God like I thought I would, but during session three, everything changed for me.
I wasn’t sure what we were doing at first but I was told it was adoration and that’s when everyone starts crying. Honestly, I’m not the kind of person who cries unknowingly, but I really didn’t know what to expect. We all knelt, and I see father walking down with the cross that represented the Holy Spirit. And right when he past me, I started to feel weak. I started to shake. Right at that moment, I felt the Holy Spirit enter my heart. When I started to hear people crying and screaming, I felt it even more. I felt the hurt of others. I felt that I wasn’t alone and that I wasn’t the only one hurting. The ache in my heart was fading. I started shaking even more, and crying, and screaming. That was the moment when God entered my life and told me everything will be okay and that you have so much potential and you are never alone, because He will always be with me. I let it all out; all the hurt and the pain that has been dragging me for the past months. I was freeing my heart and letting God cleanse my soul. I finally opened up and found the reason why I was called to go to Congress. When Tita and my friends came to hug me and tell me everything would be okay, I felt comforted and loved and cared for. Ever since that experience, I’ve never been the same with God. My relationship with Him grew stronger. The praisefest after that felt so good. I sang my heart out as loud as I could. I was really singing to Him. I was praising and worshipping him more than I ever have and it felt so good. I can even say it with all honesty, “God is good.”
Then we had the Dare to Shine dance. That was really fun, being able to enjoy with all the other youths. So many talented b-boys and dancers. And when it’s time to sleep, it was the same old story. We went around making new friends, but eventually we all fell asleep in the 5th floor common room.
Sadly the last day of Congress came. I really enjoyed session 4 because we got to make new friends while playing truth or dare. Then we had another praise fest. Andrew Brinas, who is such an inspirational speaker, lead us in praise and worship. It motivated me to love the Lord even more. We are so blessed to have him in our community.
Finally it was the end of the day, and I was sad. Not because of the reason I had when I entered Congress, but for a new reason, because I would miss Congress. I had more fun than I expected and I was sad that it was over. Congress went by so quickly and I feel extremely blessed because I came into Congress feeling alone, but I came out with so many new friends. In the three day span, I didn’t know I could care so much about people I just met. I miss all of them so much. I wish I could’ve gotten to know all of them more. Everyone has found a place in my heart. We’re not just friends though. We are all part of a strong community. YFL. We are one big family.
I wasn’t so sure what my conviction was at first, but it came to me. Dare to serve. I’ll be more active in YFL and serve when needed. Dare to be confident. I’ll overcome my shyness and be loud about my faith. Congress was the highlight of my whole life. I’m so excited to attend next year’s NYSC in Winnipeg. God is good and his love works in many ways. I’m so thankful for knowing him, and I’m so thankful to be part of the YFL family.