By Chin Chin Ellevera
2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
It was July 29, 2021 when I was to fly from Manila to Butuan, a small town on the southern Filipino island of Mindanao. Rain greeted me as I entered the car to go to the airport. Tears were in my eyes. An intense silence filled the air and I only heard the sound of my own deep breathing and my heartbeat.
My mom was in the front seat with her husband, who I call him 'Tito'. He was driving the car while I stared out the window. I was still wondering about the huge life decision I had made. I went to Manila and completed university expecting to work in the corporate world, but now I felt convicted and called by God. It was a dramatic shift in life path: to become a missionary.
It was a strange feeling to be melancholy and joyful at the same time. I knew that if I chose to become a missionary it wouldn't be easy. There were so many things to learn and many many things to unlearn. My uncle Gil was a 'Strict Reformer' and in the past I wouldn’t have wanted to stay with him, but now I was excited to serve God – but I was also nervous at the same time. I’d set my mind already for the things I had to minimize.
My love for food, my love for fashion, my love for music and all the habits I used to be comfortable with must now be put away. Besides, my uncle lived in the countryside. There was no convenient store, no shopping mall, no night gala, etc. But I really had the courage to be better. To be a better person than I used to be.
At Butuan my grandfather, uncle Gil and the family fetched me at the airport. After many long years I was so happy to reunite with them again. We traveled an hour from the airport to RTR, a small municipality, and from there it took a bit longer to arrive to their countryside place. The place was full of coconut trees and had a river beside it. I felt so refreshed coming from the city where I could only see lights and buildings. Here I was close to nature: the green grasses, the trees, and the sound of water flowing. It was so calm and away from toxicity.
Behind the tranquil scenery, a battle was raging inside me as I tried to keep outwardly composed. One night, I had a terrible nightmare – even my sleep was becoming disturbed, something that I wasn’t used to. I burst into tears. I was so guilty that before I left Manila I never visited my dad, even to just say goodbye to him, due to the current dispute between the family of my mom's husband with my dad. It was such a long long story.
Was I just running away from all of my family problems again? But I told myself 'this will be the last time that I run away'. And I believe that God is looking after me and would help me from all the heavy burdens I was carrying. I just need some time to meditate, to do some soulsearching and gain more spiritual wisdom – then I would better face my problems.
Staying in the country was so exciting to me at first as I was exploring lots of things I never did growing up in the city. I was confident that I didn't even need to be taught anything, especially household chores. I told myself, 'Household chores are just a basic thing. Anyone can do it!' But when I tried to do it I was embarassed and ashamed that I couldn't even light a wood fire for cooking. It took me so much , but I didn't ask for help and wouldn’t use the stove because I was trying to prove myself (what pride!).
Then my aunt came and told me “What took you so long? You should use the stove! You're still practicing?!” (I was holding my breath so as not to respond). My pride was pricked and inside I was seething with anger, though I didn’t show it. 'I wasn't expecting that someone would correct me?!', I told myself silently.
It was then that I realized that I wasn't used to being corrected. It was extremely painful to realize that I wasn’t good at many things. But in my subconscious mind I knew Jesus was allowing me to realize this, while encouraging me that He still was looking after me and working in me despite all my pride and self-confidence. He was always there watching me, revealing to me my imperfection and gently telling me that I could ask Him to help me. With His guidance I could confess my sin.
Yet I am a hard-headed child. When I was told of some bad character trait I had, I would do or be exactly as they said. Totally rebellious! I knew myself that I am idle and lazy, not taking initiative to work or to help because I am not empathetic with others. I knew that I was not a burden bearer but a burden to the family. But when I was told so, I hardened my heart and thought, ‘So what!’
I would harden against the the message that eating certain foods that I loved would cause harm to my body. When I was told that something wasn't good, I wouldn’t respond and instead eat that food in front of them so that they could see.
When it came to fashion, I love fashion and style and wearing long dresses seemed to me to be out of style or like an old lady. But when I was told so that it wasn't good and not modest, I hardened my heart and acted more rebellious! Then came all my self-loathing, negativity, frustrations and resentments. I wanted to be a better person but it seemed to me like it was hopeless.
I was expecting that the more reform minded people in the countryside could help me, but they couldn't and I am was so discouraged. I was expecting that if I am surrounded with religious people that they would be really tender, gentle, loving and make me be a better person than I used to be.
But I realized that I was so sensitive, easily getting hurt and discouraged when I was taught something, or being corrected or reproved by someone, especially those who were close to my heart and were family to me. I had overly high expectations of people and blamed them so as not to feel bad about myself, feeling they should know better since they were ahead of me in spirituality – especially knowing the character of God!
But then God rebuked me; I heard the still small voice that I should not rely on anyone else, even the ones close to my heart. I learned to trust, obey and have hope in God through Christ that no matter what circumstances may come, even if those who are close to me broke my heart in pieces, it will never hinder me from knowing who God is: that my God is a tender loving Father and that the character of God must start from within me.
Looking for flaws in others got me easily distracted and discouraged. I realized it was a hindrance for my spirituality to grow in grace and maturity. I should draw closer to God and ask for more of His gentle loving spirit that I may represent Him rightly and correctly. I would look on the positive side of others rather than the negative, like Jesus did with me.
I am blessed that through the character of God study, I am always reminded not to point and look for holes in others but to search my own heart. God has given me the free will or the freedom of choice to choose. No one forced me to do things; they were only reproving me of my sins. I admit that I was wrong for choosing to harden my heart; that led to me wasting years on self-loathing, hearing these negative voices that I am not good enough and that I am not worthy of being a missionary. I chose self-destructive thinking rather than spending my time learning, growing and thanking God for all His goodness.
But I would now testify that God is indeed a loving God. By passing through the school of affliction, I tasted His love and found that He is gracious. I have experience that I have with me a heavenly companion. Without Him allowing all those pains and heartaches I wouldn't be this much stronger, holding and clinging on to God's promises.
I praise our heavenly Father and His Son for giving me hope! I believe that God through Jesus will make me anew, and I have assurance to keep pressing forward in faith!
For Chin Chin's complete testimony, see Chin Chin's Story
For more info that will help you overcome, go to the books section: https://fatheroflove.info/books
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