It was July 19 and as I was sitting on one of the benches in NAIA Terminal 3, holding my passport and my boarding pass, travelling as one of the YFL delegation, I was able to hold a short prayer and whispered to God “Lord thank you for this.” Up until I was there at the airport, it was impossible for me to comprehend the reality that was once a dream for me. This once in a lifetime chance of being able to join the World Youth day and visit a country I never thought I could be at.
In this trip, there are three things that I will never forget. Despite the 16 hours of travel time and the 6 hour time difference from the Philippines, the Polish people who were are hosts were blessed with love, generosity and hospitality. Being far away from hometown wasn’t much of a problem since these families from Poland treated us as their own. For two weeks I became a Lisicki and a Wandas. Families Lisicki and WAndas were our two host families in Legionowo and Weiliszcka. I believed that I met the Lord in them for many reasons, one is that everytime I wake up and see them prepare food for us, and I see Jesus provide for me. Two are the times they speak about their families and about Poland, I see Jesus welcoming me to His presence. Third is everytime they on us before we go to sleep and to know if everything that we need is provided, I see Jesus giving me security. Fourth is that every time one of volunteers go in front and lead us to the next destination, I see Jesus leading the way in my life. And lastly, every time I see a Polish shining out a smile or say “dien Dobre” to us while we walk on their streets, I see Jesus smiling at me. I thank them for bringing Jesus in my life during my stay in Poland. I thank them for letting me see Jesus in a different perspective. I thank them for letting me appreciate the little things that God has done to my life.
Another thing that I am thankful for are my YFL delegation. It was a challenging task for me to lead the group since it was also my first time to join the WYD. Besides being a first timer, our team was very diverse. We were composed of people from different places, races and experiences – there were lives of different ages and position in life. Yet this challenge was actually a gift from God for He used leading these people of different walks of life to talk to me. During one of the masses in the first week of WYD, I was pleading for God to help me lead the group – I felt all kinds of emotions, I was desperate, anxious and nervous. But it all got dissipated when one our WYD veterans, Kuya Fryo and Ate Gem, helped me all throughout my WYD. They gave me guidance in navigating and making sure no one gets left behind. We also had the help of other members like Migs and Michael. They made sure that everyone is hyped up through the chants and the jokes. They also helped us to get in line and mark a spot because of the flag that they carried. With the help of Ayana, Nikko and Hannah, we sure shot had well documented memories of this once in a lifetime phenomenon. They captured every precious moment that we could ever have. Also, I had to thank our walking energy ball, Piper, who never failed to hype all of us. She was called as such for she blazes up the fire of energy within us. When everyone else is focused on their phones, or felling restless and tired from our endless walks, Piper will shout her famous line of “Bless up, fam bam!”
I was reminded of being humble and being a true Kuya because of the YFL delegation. I remembered to find the good in all things. We, at the group, had a lot of memories together. I will never forget shouting “Pilipinas! Pilipinas!” I will never forget our endless walks and loud chants. God used the delegation to speak and remind me of all good things.
Lastly, Pope Francis. I remember people telling me before: “You don’t need to go to world youth day just to see Pope Francis. You saw him twice in the Philippines last year.” Yes I saw Pope Francis before. And I want to see Him again. Not because I can brag about it and just for the sake of seeing Him for the nth time. I wanted to see Him because Jesus is in Him. He brings hope. He brings change. He brings inspiration. He brings Jesus. And if you bring Jesus, people will flock to you. Pope Francis is the most awaited person in World Youth Day because He leads us to Jesus – to the reason of World Youth Day. Three things I’ve learned from Pope Francis; (1) never be afraid, (2) do not be a couch potato, and (3) love strangers. Today, people are afraid of a lot of things; speaking, fighting for their faith and many more. But Pope Francis reminded us not to be afraid to bring Christ and not to be afraid to carry our crosses. He also reminded us not to be lax and to go out of our comfort zones. Lastly, he told us to love strangers. Welcome strangers just the like what Jesus did. We were a stranger to Him but He welcomed us, embraced us and loved us. I thank God for Pope Francis. God spoke to me through him.
I thank the Lord for WYD 2016. It is an experience I will never forget. The experience and the learning is a challenge for us to dream big for our families and our mission. The pope inspires us to go out of comfort zone and try bigger things for the Lord. This experience makes us appreciate more of our Catholic faith. I thank God for everything. All for the Lord.
DR Arellano, CFC YFL Full time worker