34 Years Later

34 Years Later

If our prayers do not get answered right away, will we continue to trust God? Read how June waited for more than three decades to finally meet her father and be reunited with him. Here is her inspiring testimony.

I was only two years old when my father left me and my mom. When I turned 11, I started asking about my dad, but my mom would always refuse to talk about what had happened. Because of that, there had been an eagerness in my heart to see him and ask all the questions I had been asking myself all these years.

In 2001, I found my dad’s social media account and learned that he lives in the United States. We started communicating through e-mail, but a few things happened here and there, which further widened the gap between us. I started to harbor resentment against him because of that.

When I went through Victory Weekend in January 2014, my resentment against my father came out. I tried to ignore it, but a few years later, while I was going through a counseling session, my abandonment and rejection issues resurfaced. Unable to take it any longer, I made a resolve to finally deal with all the hatred and unforgiveness in my heart. During our time of prayer and fasting last year, I asked God to make a way for me to see my father. I wanted to finally meet him and tell him all the hurts and pains that I had been struggling with all along.

I knew that releasing forgiveness is a process, and I couldn’t do it overnight. In August last year, while praying to God, the Holy Spirit prompted me to finally release the hatred I had been harboring in my heart for years. I cried out to God and let it all out. A month after that, an opportunity for me to go to the US came about. I knew it was the chance I had been waiting to get since I was kid, but I knew I did not have the resources to go there anytime soon. I prayed hard to God and even fasted about it.

Not long after, my half-sister in the US told me that she and her husband were willing to pay for my round trip ticket—and my family’s, too. (I am now married with two kids.) She offered a place for us to stay and even arranged a surprise meeting for me and my dad. I was beyond grateful. I knew it was God working through them. As if that were not enough, God also provided for my family’s visa expenses through my mother-in-law. Our interview went on smoothly and we were granted a ten-year multiple entry visa to the US.

Finally, on June 20, 2018, we flew to San Francisco and stayed in Tracy, California. My dad drove all the way from Vallejo to Tracy on the day of our arrival. We were all excited but at the same time anxious. After 34 years, I finally met him. We hugged each other, and he whispered “I love you” to me. I did not know what to say for a while because it all felt surreal. It felt as if all the hatred in my heart melted at that moment.

During our brief stay in the US, God made a way for me and my father to have a heart-to-heart talk. He said sorry and we both cried. I learned about what had happened when he left us, and hearing everything straight from him somehow pieced together the puzzle in my head.

Until now, I am still in awe of how God worked in our midst and made a way for me to finally be healed from all the bitterness and hatred I had kept in my heart for years. God is not just a healer of illnesses. He is a healer of relationships.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

God can heal the wounds in our hearts. He makes all the pain-filled parts new with His love. We can surrender all our broken parts to the Lord and allow His grace to restore every ailing piece.

Finding Hope Amid the Rubble

Finding Hope Amid the Rubble

What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9) See how this promise continues to manifest today in a world where things often fall apart. Find hope and assurance in God as Tehz recounts how He worked in her life and restored her once broken marriage.

1986. It was a significant year for me; it was the year I married my husband, Gary. It was supposed to be a happy year for me—for us—but instead of joy, bouts of shame and guilt crept up on me.

I was pregnant when Gary and I made the decision to get married. It was not out of love nor commitment for each other. There was no solid foundation right from the start. After the wedding, we fought several times and even agreed to throw away our marriage. We were so immature. Our relationship was full of issues.

In 2002, we faced our greatest challenge. My husband lost his way and began a relationship with someone else. That, for me, was the final straw. Though unable to bring our children with me, I left our home to stay with my family in Olongapo. I was torn apart inside.

In Olongapo, I tried my best to support myself. I wanted to prove that I could stand on my own, so I took whatever job I could get and soon found a place in a music bar owned by a relative. While I was there, I got involved in relationships that were not pleasing to the Lord. I tried so hard to justify my actions, but God never got tired of reminding me of His love—no matter how much I was hurting Him and myself. He loved me too much to let me stay in that mess.

One day, for some reason, a pastor reached out to me. He found out that I was a Christian—something even I had forgotten for a long time. He listened to my story and encouraged me to go back to God. I did not know why, but amid my hopelessness, he made me realize that God had a better plan for me and for my seemingly irreparable marriage.

I made a bold move and started praying for my husband. I knew it was a long shot.

While serving in church, I held on to that small hope in my heart and kept praying that God would heal me and Gary. I told God that if it was His will, my husband would find his way back—even though it had been years since our marriage had fallen apart.

Beyond my belief, in 2011 (almost a decade since we had separated), my husband reached out to me through our children. He talked to me and asked for forgiveness—something I never imagined he would do. I cried out to God. I knew in my heart that it was what I had been praying for, but I wanted to be sure that things would be different. I kept praying while braving the uncertainties in my head.

A year later, God answered all my questions.

I learned that while trying to restore our marriage, my husband had also been actively seeking God with his Victory group. His resolve to follow Christ took away my fears and doubts. On March 22, 2012, I made a decision to start a new life with him again. Gary and I remarried.

It is a sweet thing to be married once more to the man I’d loved all these years, but it is a far better blessing to honor God with a man who had been powerfully transformed by His love and grace. Gary and I are now growing together in our faith in God while serving in Victory Subic.

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

Indeed, only God’s power can heal our wounds and pull us from the rubble of pain and heartache. Only He can change hearts. Our job is to trust Him and hold on to the hope we can find in Him. Nothing is too hard for the Lord!

God at the Center

God at the Center

Dennis Poliquit first met his wife Monica at the radio station where he worked as a DJ. “I remember her having a pixie hair cut, but I was not attracted to her then,” he laughs. “We became friends for a long while before we became an actual couple.”

Dennis found Monica’s company irresistible. “I found that I could talk to her about a lot of things,” he recalls. “From politics to history, and most especially, movies and pop music. She has this jeepney horn kind of laughter you’d recognize from afar, and strong opinions about anything. I mean, a beautiful lady I can talk to about a wide range of topics. That was pretty attractive.”
Dennis became a Christian in 2000, but did not take his relationship with God seriously. He and Monica soon became intimate, and in 2003, Monica gave birth to their first child, a daughter. Deciding to move in together shortly after Gaby was born, it wasn’t long before they became parents to their first set of twins. Because they moved in together so soon after becoming a couple, they realized there wasn’t really much of a discovery stage, and had to learn more about each other as they went along.

“It was a roller coaster ride,” he admits, “with ups and downs, loops and twists and turns. It was crazy. We had great conversations. We had so much laughter. And we also had arguments like you wouldn’t believe.”

Dennis and Monica’s fights became more frequent. Over time, financial issues and the fact that neither of them was serious in pursuing God, found them drifting apart.

“We both let our pride overrule everything else,” he says. “Often, those arguments came from misunderstandings. Stuff we could have avoided only if we chose to actually listen each other instead of just waiting for our turn to speak or get loud.”

Monica’s strong personality, which was the initial thing that attracted her to Dennis, also made him hesitate about marrying her right away. “We both did not want to back off from anything. We were both stubborn in our opinions,” he says, “and I think it was mix of fear and indecision that made it take a while for me to decide to marry her.” He pauses, measuring his words. “I regret making her wait for me to ask her to marry me. If I really loved her, I needed to love her for who she really is, and not who I think she should be.”

Ephesians 5:22-33, in particular, spoke to Dennis. He identified with the Christ-like love that the verses encouraged husbands to give their wives, and he knew God was telling him something: getting right with Him meant getting right with Monica. Still, he was hesitant to take the initial steps.

“Then Monica threatened to leave me and take the kids with her. That jolted me wide awake and opened my eyes about what I had been doing.” Dennis consulted his Victory group leader, who advised him to seek God first.

In 2006, Dennis and Monica decided that they needed to get right with God, and began to pursue God in earnest. They soon began to see changes in each other. “Our relationship got way better,” he says. “We agreed that when we did not see each other eye to eye on matters, we should consult His Word and what it says about things. We also learned to forgive and let go as we get to be forgiven too.”

“I am pretty certain things could have turned out differently if I tried doing things on my own,” Dennis says. “Truth be told, it’s what I did before and it led me nowhere but to more trouble. I have learned my lesson.”

Realizing he desired to honor Monica in the best way the Bible says how, Dennis formally asked Monica to marry him, and they tied the knot in May 2006. “I wanted to honor her,” he says, “for her love for me and our children.”

“We lived together for almost three years without the covering of marriage,” he adds, “and I wanted to make things right.”

“I’m thankful for God’s grace,” he says. “Like myself, Monica was struggling with a lot of stuff, and yet, she ultimately still chose to stay with me. Yes, we still have arguments for both serious and petty stuff but by God’s grace, it does not escalate into a raging fire.”

Looking back, Dennis sees how God lovingly yet consistently called him to passionate leadership in their marriage. “There was a time when I was whining to God about my marriage,” he recalls, “and His Word was to love my wife. I cannot always be stubborn and see her as the enemy in the argument. I learned that we were both coming from a place of love, and to listen more and more to each other.”
As he honors her, Monica, in turn, respects and takes good care of her husband. “Monica has become more patient and understanding with me,” he says. “I still make many mistakes, but now a quiet word from her would be enough. She has learned to pause and ask me to clarify things to make sure she understands what happened or what I said.”

“As a husband and for one who has been and is forgiven, my role to is to love my wife and forgive her as often as needed, just as she needs to forgive me as often as needed. It is not my role to change my wife, nor should she expect me to change for her. It is God’s role to change both of our hearts.”

Today, Dennis and Monica are parents to five children, including two sets of twins. Fueled by their love for God, their passion for each other and their marriage continues to inspire others in the church, especially couples who are experiencing what they have. Their advice? Go back to God.

“Monica and I tried our very best to solve problems on our own,” Dennis says, “and while it helped for a while, we eventually went back to old habits. The only real solution for us was to go to God. He is our arbiter. He has final word on things my wife and I cannot agree on. Even how we treat each other, His Word is our ground zero. It is the only way to live married life. Respect, honor, love and most of all, the pursuit of and obedience to God will ensure a storm proof married life.”

The God Who Restores

The God Who Restores

Offense is a word, an act, or a misdeed that lures you to harbor pain. Much of it is based on miscommunication and misinterpretations. When you clarify the intention and not merely judge by the action, or worse, what other people said, there is healing to be had.

In this blog entry, Victory Fort senior pastor Paolo Punzalan tells the story of two friends whose friendship was healed by God, showing how forgiveness is the reset button for any relationship, and how God is indeed the God of restoration.

From Slavery to Freedom

From Slavery to Freedom

Nevin Hongayo“I lived in darkness and I was full of hate,” Nevin Hongayo reveals, “I was convinced I wasn’t God’s child.”

Born to a religious family, the twenty-one year old grew up with a head knowledge of salvation. He viewed church attendance as a requirement that he had to fulfill to live up to other people’s expectations, but deep inside, he never really understood why he had to do it.

When he was younger, Nevin was bullied in school by his classmates. He was also abused by his teachers emotionally and physically. “But nothing was more painful than hearing people I loved tell me that I needed a psychiatrist to exorcise my demons,” he shares. Hearing such damaging words at a young age took its toll on Nevin’s life. He felt unloved, and was convinced that he didn’t belong.

“I started to question that God is good all the time,” he confesses, “If he’s really good and loving, why would He let me undergo such pain?” Completely disillusioned and burdened with self-pity, he started questioning his belief that he is God’s child. Nevin made a 180-degree turn and subscribed himself to self-worship Satanism, which advocates egoism and fleshly indulgence.

“I chose to be my own god,” he shares, “ To choose right and wrong, on my own terms. I just lived in total darkness.” After his decision to be a self-worshipper, Nevin developed unusual fears. He had Christophobia, which is the irrational fear of Jesus, and staurophobia, which is a phobia toward crucifixes, and causes him to be disturbed during Holy Week, when crucifixes are more prominently displayed.

World changers  Isolating himself from his friends and family, Nevin started getting used to his solitary lifestyle. He found himself hating God and other people. He felt that being alone was much better. “I discovered that the more evil I acted, the more respect I gained from others,” he says, “If they feared me, I could get more and more of what I wanted. I was drawn to the power of authority that the devil gave me over people.”

Years went by, and Nevin knew that God was trying to get his attention amidst the dark life he built for himself. He was invited to church by the few people who remained his friends, but he rejected them twice. On the third instance, Nevin had no choice but to take notice.

His academic life was a failure, the number of his friends was dwindling fast, and he was estranged from his family. “I had a friend whom I didn’t know was already a Christian, who invited me to Victory,” Nevin says. Feeling tired and defeated, he finally went to a worship service for the youth last October 2015 at Victory U-Belt.

He was then introduced to Karlo, his mentor and Victory group leader. Nevin was also connected to a Victory group, and started getting discipled through One 2 One. After two months of attending church and finally finishing the One 2 One booklet, he still hadn’t received Christ in his life. This year, however, a particular preaching thawed Nevin’s hardened heart and started to minister to him. “On that day, I realized that God never stopped pursuing me, so I decided to follow Him and received Him in my life.”

Victory WeekendUnshackled from the bonds of his former perverse lifestyle, Nevin underwent a drastic transformation emotionally, mentally and spiritually. “The grace that saved me started to change me,” he declares. “My life has meaning now, because I found my purpose in Christ.”

Formerly someone who hated people, he developed compassion and generosity towards homeless people and street children–the same people he used to laugh at and ostracized. God also gave him the strength to mend his relationship with his younger brother, whom he hadn’t talked to for more than a year because of hatred and pride. Best of all, Nevin was filled with a yearning to share to his friends and classmates how God changed his life.  

“From a person full of hate and evil, I never thought I would see myself walking in the light and living in His love,” he shares.

On his birthday, Nevin shared the whole One 2 One booklet to his family.  Seeing the power of the gospel at work in his life, they attended Victory the following day. Now, his mother and his brothers are now attending Victory regularly, and have also experienced the transforming power of the gospel.

Today, Nevin leads his own Victory group and believes that discipleship is crucial to anyone intent on maturing and growing in his walk with God. “When a person is discipled, he discovers that he was saved for a purpose,” he says, “It spurs people to honor God and make disciples, which is what we are meant to do.”

Change the campus change the worldNevin is excited to be a disciple-maker to the nations and hopes to fulfill his calling to be a cross-cultural missionary in the future. “I just want to share the love that I experienced in Him. To love God and to love others, just as Jesus told us to do.” From a life of misery and darkness, Nevin now walks in the light and is filled with an outpouring of love that can only come from the assurance that he is a child of God.

“I have been transformed from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, from guilt to forgiveness, and from the power of Satan to the power of God,” he declares, “I have been rescued from a rogue kingdom to serve the One and only rightful King, Jesus.”

Save

From Broken To Whole

From Broken To Whole

b7e981fcae540a0051e1c8e8e0f51437f72117bef23db06207c64d53b3ea3416Twenty-four year old Clare Recla was a college student at University of Makati when she first heard the gospel. A friend invited her to attend a February outreach event that promised to talk about love—and that was precisely what attracted Clare. To her disappointment, campus minister Coach Robert Gonzalez preached the gospel. “Oh no, this is about God, I thought it would be about love! The flyer misled me!” she thought to herself, getting up to leave. While she quickly tried to leave the venue with another friend, she was caught by the person who invited her, and she returned sheepishly to her seat.

Stuck, forced to listen, and at her most defensive, Clare suddenly realized God was breaking down her walls. The flyer did not mislead her at all–because Coach Robert talked about the greatest love of all time: God’s love. “That was my turning point. The love of a Father for His child. It was my first time to hear that kind of love,” Clare recalls.

Her yearning for fatherly love stemmed from a childhood that was devoid of good role models. “I was ashamed of my life, my family. I was the daughter of a drug user,”  Clare explains. Growing up, she would always see her parents fight violently. Because of his drug dependency, her father would hurt and curse her, causing her to develop a deep-seated hatred for him. One day, he was admitted to a rehabilitation center and released six months later. He was released, a changed man, and asked for Clare’s forgiveness, but she couldn’t find it in her heart to forgive. “I told myself I would never be like my father,” Clare admits. She strove to be a better person. She wanted to please other people to mask her insecurities and shame, but inside, she felt unfulfilled.

Victory Christian Fellowship Testimony: From Broken to WholeIt was during that outreach event and after undergoing ONE 2 ONE when God prodded her out of her hiding and broke down her walls. “I don’t have a mask anymore to cover my shame. I have Jesus,” Clare declares. Now armed with the love of God, she was able to extend forgiveness and reconciliation to her father.

She started preaching the gospel to her family, and eventually invited them to church. Now, her youngest sister is also a follower of Christ, and she continues to believe for the salvation of the rest of her family.

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Have a story of family restoration you’d like to share with us? Please visit http://victory.org.ph//mystory and share your story of God’s restoration!