WYD2011: A PILGRIMAGE NOT A VACATION

(Joanna Oliva, Peru)

Words aren’t enough to express what happened in Spain. One thing I am sure of, it was definitely a date with Jesus. My trip to Spain to attend the World Youth Day brought about a lot of realization, thanksgiving and awe with all the greatness God has done in my life.

It was mid 2009, when I first landed my feet to Latin America, I’m not even equipped with basic Spanish and at the back of my mind asking myself why did I take Mandarin for 2 long years as my foreign language in college. The first few months on mission was very challenging for me – not knowing how to express myself. God definitely has taught me to be humble by listening more and just take in everything and know that God is probably teaching you something amidst all the worries, disagreements, disappointments and corrections that you want to put on the table. Now, attending World Youth Day in Madrid and translating for my co-missionaries who are more inspiring and I guess even holier than I am gives me far greater humility to be the channel of God’s grace to speak in behalf of God’s message through the Holy Pope.

Several times while translating I would just stop and whisper quietly “Lord, give me the grace that I need.” I am so afraid that I might translate His words incorrectly or not even actually understand what the Pope was saying. With God’s grace, I just realized that God will touch the hearts of each one of us differently. Like how God has touched mine in a very unique way.

Most of them cried when they saw Pope Benedict XVI finally went down from the Pope Mobil and greeted the youth who have been waiting for him for 6 hours under the 42 degrees summer heat of Madrid. I am NOT one of them. A co-missionary jokingly said over dinner, “Maybe, those who didn’t cry have a rock hard heart” then said afterwards “We just react differently.” That statement left me thinking, do I really have a cemented heart already after suppressing my emotions to cope up with the hardships and homesickness brought about by mission? Or do I just react differently? The answer came in just when I needed it. During the CFC-FFL World Youth Assembly (we invited all CFC-FFL members present in Madrid to a get together assembly), just like how we normally start our assemblies, we just had an opening prayer and 1 worship song (it’s not even a full worship yet) gave me a bucket of tears. I was crying like a baby, I was trying to stop my tears from flowing; I even shut my eyes so that it will stop. I was trying so hard to control my emotions by inhaling so deeply but I just couldn’t stop. The great feeling and message that God gave was that, I am in Spain – the country who brought Christianity to the Philippines, worshipping with His World’s Army and knowing that I am one of them gave a great amount of joy and pride to just know that it will always be worth it to live for Him! Missionaries from Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and me, from South America are all gathered to just be nourished and be together as His army.

World Youth Day is never a vacation. It takes a lot of patience to appreciate the beauty of this event. I found myself washing my clothes by hand, bathing in a common shower area – without curtains and dividing walls, sleeping on a cement floor, sleeping on the sidewalk, sleeping on mud, walking at least 20km everyday, squeezing in public transports, queuing long lines just to eat, enduring the scorching heat of the sun, tolerating the unfamiliar scents of different nations, ignoring the currency conversion and so on and so forth. But we try to remind each other that World Youth Day is not a vacation, it is a Pilgrimage. And in a Pilgrimage nobody complains about anything because the more you complain the harder it becomes. All you have to do is see beyond the discomforts and marvel at the great privilege that you are part of God’s church and as the youth of today, you are also the next generation of keepers of the faith. World Youth Day is just one of God’s ways of PLANTING US and BUILDING US UP IN JESUS CHRIST TO BE FIRM IN FAITH.

See you all on World Youth Day 2013 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and let us all GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS. 😀

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