– Gem Itao, YFL Mission Volunteer for Campus Based
Summer of 2011. I found out that I was one of the few who got the summer internship at Nickelodeon. I was so thrilled at the idea that I had the opportunity to experience working for an American television network for children. But afternoon came and I was invited to go on a summer mission in Mindanao. And that’s when I was torn: Nickelodeon or Mindanao Mission?
As much as I wanted to relive my childhood by working for Nickelodeon, God obviously had greater plans for me. I ended up declining the summer internship for my first ever mission trip to Mindanao with Kuya EJ Aguila and Julius Eguia. Although it wasn’t my first time to go to Mindanao, as I have had several vacations there as well as spent Christmas with my family in Butuan, Agusan del Norte, this time around, I had a very distinct objective. I went to Mindanao for a reason – to proclaim God’s Gospel to my brothers and sisters there. Now, that was a first.
It was such a great privilege to do the cause of Christ in CDO, Davao, Gen. San and other provinces I’ve never heard of such as Polomolok, Tangub, Marbel and Bolul until this mission came. I was in awe to see such magnificent places, and it just shows how majestic and powerful God is for providing us physical manifestations of His love. That was just the start of the mission, for He still has a lot more to show.
Each day was filled with activities – Youth Camp, Live Pure Forum, Chastity Forum, planning and the like. And He just kept on surprising me through my daily encounters with Him. I met people from different provinces having different heartwarming stories, experienced a 9-hour non air-conditioned bus ride going to Davao and rode the habal-habal (which is an ordinary-sized motorcycle that could fit 4 or more people). There also came a time when 3 Youth Camps happened in a week. These were a lot of firsts that I never thought I would experience. But God sure has His ways of making things possible if you allow Him to work in you. Every single day was tiring yet fulfilling. Good thing there were titos and titas who provided us a home away from home.
The final stretch of the mission trip was spent in Bolul, a mountain located in Marbel. It was literally a mountaintop experience! My mission there was actually the highlight of the whole trip. This mission area is a bit challenging because Blaans, the people of Bolul, are a bit primitive in their ways in comparison to those from Manila. My experience with them personally opened my eyes to the beauty of simplicity of life. It made me realize that genuine happiness in this world can only be experienced if you have God in your life. By God taking me out of my comfort zone, I experienced His presence more powerfully than ever before.
With Tito Al, CFC Couple Coordinator in Bolul
Everything about Bolul was overwhelming. We found out the Blaans walked for an hour just to attend the Youth Camp. And some even walked for 4 hours! What is more amazing is the way the Blaans worship. To be honest, I laughed when I first heard them sing, because they were really out of tune. But then one would simply be amazed because they worship as if there’s no tomorrow. In Manila, I’m used to seeing newly Youth Camp graduates embarrassed during their first worship but the Blaans are inspiringly different. They worship with hands stretched upwards with their veins popping out of their necks (not literally though). The intensity of their worship was enough to make you feel intoxicated with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
My Mindanao mission trip was indeed life-changing. It taught me to have a deeper love and appreciation for the gift of mission; that there are so many things to be done, so much people to evangelize and so much more to life. This may be my first mission trip in Mindanao, but it definitely will not be my last. I am glad that I had God experiences in Mindanao that I could keep on coming back to so that I will not run out of love for the mission.
I will never get tired of doing God’s work. I may have not worked as an intern for Nickelodeon last Summer, but I know I worked for the greatest of all companies – His vineyard. And I would not trade any of it for that’s more than enough to make this the ultimate summer experience one could ever have.
With Tita Darlene, HFL Servant in Bolul