When she was in college, Jam dela Cruz was invited by her best friend, Jhai, to a big event in Cuneta Astrodome. Clueless, she agreed to go, thinking it would be fun because Jhai would be there. The big event turned out to be Ignite 2011, and became one of the most unforgettable events of her life
“I kept seeing ‘It only takes one spark to start a fire’,” she recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘What’s the meaning of that?’ and ‘Why am I here?’ My life had no direction.”
At Ignite 2011, she saw how joy seemed to radiate from the people around her, as if they knew something she did not. It was then that she realized that, though she knew there was a God, she’d never acknowledged His presence in her life before, certainly not four years earlier, when something unexpected happened to her.
“I was a senior in high school,” she admits, “when I found out I was pregnant.”
Jam considers those days among the darkest of her life. Deeply ashamed of what happened, she lost respect for herself, thinking she had thrown her future away. Instead of turning to God for affirmation and healing, she turned to peers to fill the emptiness in her heart. One of them, a college friend named Jhai, seemed to care very deeply for her; it turns out that Jhai had been praying for her to know Christ for quite some time.
“Seeing people so passionate for God at Ignite 2011 also sparked a fire in my heart,” Jam says. “That was the moment I surrendered my life to Him.” Jam realized her worth because Christ died for her, no matter what happened in her past. God gave her the strength to forgive herself and start anew. Eventually, she was connected to a Victory group, where she was discipled and empowered to reach out to others who needed Jesus, too.
Two years after Ignite 2011, Jam became active in the youth ministry. Being the first Christian in their family, her heart was burdened to preach the gospel to her brothers and sisters: 20-year old Jelly, 18-year old Jill, and 15-year old Jack. She invited them to join her at church; because they had seen the positive changes in their big sister’s life, it wasn’t difficult to convince the siblings to come. Not long after they began joining her, Jam entertained the idea of inviting them to a youth camp.
“They weren’t really buying into the idea of attending a youth camp,” she recalls. “I think it may have also been because of the cost.” Having experienced refreshing and encouragement at a 2014 youth camp, Jam wanted her siblings to experience that same joy, and prayed for them, asking God to provide for even just one of them to attend.
Two years since she prayed that prayer, Jam entered a new season, getting engaged to a campus missionary; her wedding is this month. One night, she watched as Jelly, Jill and Jack walked through the doors of their family home, exhausted but excited, and full of stories from the youth camp they had just attended. Jam was dumbfounded.
“It dawned on me that God has answered my prayer from two years ago,” she exclaims, “to my amazement, not just one, but all of them!” Unlike two years ago, Jam’s siblings didn’t consider the camp expense a hindrance. Together, they raised funds for all of their camp fees. God honored their faith and blessed them with what they wanted, and more. They were able to raise more than enough funds, so they gave the extra amount to other students who needed help, too.
“God changed their heart,” Jam beams, “and I’m so proud of them.”
Today, all her siblings lead their own Victory groups consisting of high school and college students–a far cry from their old life of complacency. She is reminded of Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Indeed, God’s promises will come to pass, and He has already begun with Jelly, Jill, and Jack. Holding on to that same promise, Jam and her siblings believe that their parents will, one day, come to know God’s saving grace, too.