There are many times my life could have gone very wrong. My life is a testimony how God has a plan and can change a life, and save a family.
I was kidnapped when I was seven months old. The man was my mother’s suitor. I was taken from Zamboanga in the south of the Philippines to Bicol in the north.
When I was only three to four years old I was put to work, carrying sugar cane. I was beaten if I didn’t work well enough. I was also molested.
When I was six, my kidnapper’s sister arranged for me to be reunited with my mother, who lived in Manila. I can still remember the first time I saw her. Somehow, even among all the people, I immediately knew it was my mother. I also meet my stepfather, stepbrother and stepsister.
It was a huge change for me. I spoke Bicolano (which my family doesn’t know), while Chavacano is the language in Zamboanga and Tagalog is spoken in Manila. I had lived in poverty, and now I lived in a family with two maids. My stepfather was a Catholic, while I had never heard of God. And my mother worked abroad.
Two years later life changed again for me, when my mother and stepfather broke up. I moved to live with the family maid while my mother supported me by working abroad. I began blaming God.
I did very well in school and won an award. It should have been a moment of triumph but I felt embarrassed because everyone else who won an award had their families there. I had the family maid. I didn’t blame my mother, because I understood she had to work abroad, so I kept blaming God.
When I was about 10 my mother met a Swedish man. I hated him at first and burnt the photos of him that my mother gave me. Eventually my hatred softened to tolerance when I saw that this man was taking good care of my mother. He gave me presents, too, and provided security and stability for the family. I could also play games at the internet café this man was running.
Just before I turned 12, the family moved to Sweden, to a town just outside Gothenburg. I didn’t have a good relationship with my mother or stepfather. Or with God, for that matter.
I began hanging out with people in school that I thought made me “cool”. I started drinking at 13 and life was about parties, girls and fights. I lived a double life, keeping a good face at home, despite the rocky relation I had with my mother and stepfather.
Then the family moved into Gothenburg, which gave me a much needed fresh start. I made friends and became the goalkeeper in the school football team. I was popular.
However, family relations were about to be strained. My mother and stepfather had one baby, and then another one that wasn’t planned. It put pressure on the marriage and things looked dark. But then a friend invited my mother to church. She accepted Christ and everything turned around for the family. My mother’s marriage was saved and she had the baby.
My mother showed her new faith in the way she behaved rather than simply asking other family members to go to church with her. I clearly saw the change in her. Even though things were looking up for the family, at age 16 I hit my own rock bottom. My girlfriend (of two days) had broken up with me at a party. I had been drinking and smoking, and I asked myself: “Is this all there is?” I felt empty. The following weekend my mother asked me to go to church. The timing was right and I agreed.
“They had smiles like I had never seen, a happiness I had never encountered. They laughed from the heart. No alcohol and no partying. How could they be so happy?”
I sat in the very back, hood up, observing, without being seen. The service didn’t touch me, but the program after did. I met the youth group and found them so geeky. But they had smiles like I had never seen, a happiness I had never encountered. They laughed from the heart. No alcohol and no partying. How could they be so happy?
I introduced myself and was welcomed in the group. Six months passed and I was torn between my old lifestyle and the new one that had begun to sprout. I felt a bit ashamed to be with these geeks in the youth group. I didn’t think they did anything old me considered socially cool.
The youth group were preparing for a church celebration, and would rehearse their dance in a public park in the city centre. I was struggling at the prospect of being seen in public, dancing to Christian music. I made my way to the park reluctantly.
I then decided to play the odds with God. I would go to the closest tram stop, where trams arrive every seven minutes, and if a tram came within the next five minutes I’d get on it and return home. When I reached the tram stop I looked up at the billboard and saw: Cancelled.
Somewhat defeated I headed for the public park and joined the rehearsal. The song was “My savior lives”. I experienced happiness and belonging. I didn’t care if others saw me, if others thought we were geeks.
Later that year the youth group went on a Christmas camp in Norway. I was inspired and learned more about having faith. I was handed a bass guitar and given 10 minutes of instruction. When I began playing, it was like my hands moved on their own.
I still wasn’t committed, but in February 2013 I was at an encounter event and learned about calling and grace. People were invited to share their life stories. I jumped at the opportunity. I told my story, the story you have read here. I felt free, the burdens I carried were lifted, the grudges I held were gone. I was anointed with oil, and I literally fell to the floor and had a vision. I was giving bread to people. I now know it’s a vision of giving the bread of life – a pastoral calling.
“The Bible is a manual, so you can be successfully used for God’s glory.”
Today I am a youth ministry leader. I preach in church and play both the guitar and piano. The youth group I initially thought of as geeky I now consider the coolest people in the world. Coming to Christ changed my life and saved my family.