More Like You

More Like You

Who do we look up to and aspire to become? In this article, Elmo recounts how God gave him the grace to follow Him and be molded into His image day by day.

I grew up in Tondo, Manila with my family. Unlike most kids, I was introduced to smoking, drinking, gambling, and other illegal activities at a very young age. Seeing people being consumed by vices became a normal thing for me. I saw it every day while growing up.

Aside from doing things that I saw being done by the people around me, I also started putting so much value on material things. I thought those things could make me secure and happy. I thought my image depended on the things that I possessed.

When I reached college, a friend invited me to attend a worship service at Victory Katipunan. I didn’t know why, but for some reason, I kept going with him. I started attending weekly, until I became really interested to know God more. All along, I was unaware that deep down inside, I was actually seeking God—there was a void in my heart that no vice or any material thing could fill.

After a few months of attending our worship services, I accepted Jesus in my life and got connected to Victory Malate. I joined a Victory group, finished ONE 2 ONE, and went through Victory Weekend. I also started serving every Sunday as a volunteer in our church, but for some reason, I knew a part of me was still struggling in my relationship with the Lord.

In 2017, I got an offer to work in UAE. Just a month after I arrived, I received a call from my mother. It was the worst phone call ever. My father was dying, and he didn’t have much time left. That news broke my heart and knocked some sense into me. I prayed and cried out to God like a son pouring out his emotions to his father. For the first time, I surrendered everything to Him. And it was during that time that I became really serious with my relationship with Christ and received Him not just as my Savior but as the Lord of my life.

Though I lost my father just a few days after I fully surrendered my life to Christ, God gave me the peace and grace to accept his passing. I may have lost my earthly father, but I gained a heavenly Father who will stay until the end.

God’s love filled my heart like no other vice or material thing ever could. His love inspired me to walk in His love and be like Him in every aspect. And there’s nothing like it. Nothing compares to being able to reflect Him in the way I live my life. There’s nothing I desire now but to be more like Him every passing day.

Now, I am part of our Every Nation church in Abu Dhabi. And I am blessed to be a witness of how more and more people are coming to know Christ and desiring to be more like Him in this part of the world.

The world will offer us so many things that will influence us on how we should live our lives and whose image we should try to imitate. But nothing comes close to a life lived according to God’s plan. Nothing comes close to a life lived for Him and a life that reflects His image.

Loved by a Great God

Loved by a Great God

When Angelo battled with suicidal thoughts in 2016, God’s love gave him hope in the midst of the chaos and silenced all his blaring thoughts. Here is his story.

Everything started when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in the third quarter of 2016. My brother was suffering from depression then, and my sister was reviewing for her board exam. Not wanting to add further burden to my siblings, my mother and I decided to keep my father’s condition between me and her.

Unknown to my family, I was also dealing with so many things at work and in my personal life at that time. A lot of painful and difficult things happened in my workplace; it came to a point where I did not even want to go to work anymore. Problems kept piling up; it felt as if everything in my life was in utter confusion and chaos.

That’s when suicidal thoughts started plaguing me on repeat. I could not think straight anymore and negative thoughts started to consume me, but I still refused to open up to anyone. I bottled up everything inside me.

On April 8, 2018, God knocked some sense into me. Instead of allowing myself to be alone with those thoughts, I went out of the house and told myself that I should take a stroll somewhere to shake them off. But as I was about to withdraw the last money I had left in my account, my ATM card was captured by the machine. Left with not much option, I decided to just head home again. I took a longer route and eventually passed by an old mall. At the back of it is a terminal of a bus company heading north—and its name suddenly reminded me of my sister who’s attending in Victory Caloocan.

I immediately messaged my sister and attended a worship service with her. My heart was really heavy then; I cried and wept throughout the entire service. I knew it was God talking to me that day. He was telling me to find what’s good and beautiful in the midst of all the chaos and noise.

After that, I surrendered everything to Him. I lifted up my hands and cried out to God. I sang away every dark thought and allowed Him to replace the unpleasant thoughts with the beauty of His grace.

And I never looked back after that.

Now, I am part of a Victory group and continuously growing in faith. There are times when I still make mistakes, but God always proves to me that He is faithful; He never gets tired of bringing me back to Him. He is the best gift I ever had, and I will be forever thankful to Him for saving me and giving me a new beginning.

Life is precious, and my life is so valuable to Him. I am deeply loved and valued by a great God.

“Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…” (Isaiah 43:4)

We are all loved and valued by God. We are all precious in His eyes. Any dark or negative thought cannot take away the great love that He has for us.

Believing God for the Impossible

Believing God for the Impossible

Seeing his whole family in church choosing to follow Christ was a far-fetched dream—until God did what He does best and made it all possible. Be encouraged as Junnel shares his powerful story of forgiveness and faith.

I was in high school when my father left our family. My mother, my younger sister, and I were all clueless on where he had gone. I spent most of my teenage years wondering where he could be, harboring ill feelings for what he had done.

Several years later, I learned that he was in jail. I visited him there not knowing what to feel. Being reunited with him that way somewhat intensified the pain I had been dealing with all along; it planted further seeds of resentment in my heart.

But God has His ways indeed. One day, a campus missionary visited our school and reached out to me. He preached the gospel to me and started spending time with me every week, guiding me in my budding relationship with God. Not long after, I surrendered my life to Christ and believed that one day, my whole family would do the same—no matter how impossible it seemed.

As I grew deeper in my relationship with God, He slowly took away the anger in my heart and replaced it with compassion, forgiveness, and love. I soon found myself spending a lot of time with my father, encouraging and building him up while he was in jail. During one of the court hearings for his case, he asked me why I was still extending love to him despite everything. Though emotional and in tears, I boldly took that opportunity to preach the gospel to him. Right then and there—in the middle of the courtroom—my father received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

A photo of Junnel and his father, Noel, during Victory Weekend.

Immediately after choosing to follow Jesus, my father was released on bail. He then made the most of his time outside jail going to the services and learning more about God with his Victory group. His new life with Christ also soon paved the way for his reconciliation with my mother. We are now living together again under one roof—as one family.

But God did not stop there.

Brimming with faith, my father did the most unexpected thing—he reached out to my mother and sister. He preached the gospel to them, and not long after, my far-fetched dream of seeing my family together, not just in one home but also in one church worshiping God, finally came to be. Now, every weekend, my whole family attends the worship service in Victory Lipa.

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19)

It is true that when God makes a promise—no matter how big or small—He is faithful to fulfill it in His perfect time. Do not give up, and do not stop believing God. He is faithful to His Word and always keeps His promises.

Finding Purpose Again

Finding Purpose Again

Manuel Gan2“I would drink alcohol for breakfast,” confesses 35-year-old Manuel Gan. “I started drinking at thirteen years old; I would drink everyday, even if I was alone.”

Growing up, Manuel had to adjust to the harsh reality of living in a broken family. When he was around seven years old, his parents separated. He and his sister were forced to live with their father in Nueva Ecija, while their mother remained in Manila. Being the older child, Manuel took the separation to heart, and the burden he felt to repair their fragmented family soon took its toll.

He dropped out of high school one day, and never returned. Without direction, his life soon revolved around addictions and fleeting pleasures. “I got angry at God,” he shares, “I felt that he let me down when he allowed me to grow up in a broken family.” His deep-seated anger led to depression, which then led to total rebellion. This further damaged his relationship with his father. In an attempt to assert control over his defiant son, his father would beat Manuel when they would get into disagreements—which happened often.

Manuel would drink everyday, hang out with his buddies, and play computer games; this became his routine. He eventually went to Manila, hoping that his mother would take him in and allow him to live with him. To his dismay, his mother turned him away, but promised to continue giving him money to provide for his needs. She couldn’t take him in anymore; she has already started her own family with another man.

Manuel Gan VGFeeling rejected and abandoned, Manuel spiraled further into depression. At the age of 14, he had to be checked into a rehabilitation center to address his alcohol addiction. “I stopped drinking for a while,” Manuel says, “But after some time, I fell back to my old habits.”

He left Nueva Ecija and started living on his own in Manila. This reconnected him with his mother, who has started attending Victory. Still unable to find a job, Manuel continued receiving money from his mother, who has long given up trying to reform him. “I was full of anger. Whenever she tried to interfere with my life, I would just get mad at her, and then we’d fight,” he explains. This went on until Manuel turned 30 years old. He realized he let his life pass by wallowing in self-pity, anger, and alcohol.

One of his arrangements with his mother was to drive her around. One Sunday, she asked him to drive her to Victory Fort. When he was invited to attend the worship service, Manuel surprisingly obliged but he had reservations. “I was compelled to attend because nothing was happening in my life,” he shares, “But at the same time I was judging my mother for being a Christian because I still saw her faults.”

Manuel Gan VWSoon, Manuel found himself attending Victory worship services regularly with his mother, who has already received Christ in her life. He was eventually connected to Alex Monis, who became his One 2 One mentor and Victory group leader. “I didn’t finish school, I don’t have any job to speak of, and I was an alcoholic for almost two decades but Kuya Alex didn’t make me feel inferior,” he shares. This year, Manuel finished One 2 One, and underwent Victory Weekend last May.

During Victory Weekend, he released himself from the bondage of alcoholism, low self-esteem and entitlement. For the first time in his life, Manuel felt unburdened and accepted without judgment. “I gave everything to Jesus,” he says, “I told Him that He is in charge of my life from now on.” His attitude towards life radically changed. Manuel realized he has a purpose, and that is to glorify God in his life. “There’s a reason He has still allowed me to live for this long after all the damage I’ve done to my body,” he says.

Slowly, his relationships with his family improved, emotional wounds were healed and Manuel learned the importance of forgiveness. He also developed a desire to preach the gospel to other people. Today, Manuel is studying more about discipleship and leadership at a ministry school in Parañaque. He is in faith that he will be able to reconnect with his old friends and share his testimony with them.

From someone who was so mired in hopelessness and anger, Manuel now desires to reach out to more people and tell them how God has changed his life around and given him purpose again

Overcoming Self-Righteousness

Overcoming Self-Righteousness

image (2)“I thought I knew God,” JR confesses, “After all, I prayed regularly and went to church.”

That was the mindset that the young professional had when his best friend invited him to one of Victory’s Sunday services. He knew he wasn’t a bad person. He was a sinner, compared to other people committing heinous crimes and making immoral decisions. Thinking that he was on relatively good terms with God, he made up excuses and declined his friend’s invitations numerous times.

Not one to be deterred, JR’s best friend continued to invite him, saying that he should just give it a chance because he had nothing to lose, anyway. “I finally said yes just to shut him up,” JR recalls. “It was only for two hours, so I relented.”

Once the two friends got in the worship hall, JR immediately felt a different kind of atmosphere. He remembers the day vividly. “It was weird, but in a good way. Everyone was singing, people were dancing, and they were raising their hands,” he added. “Deep inside, I was in awe!”

When the preaching started, JR couldn’t help but feel that the pastor was talking to him specifically. He left the church convinced that he would return; he knew that God spoke to him that day through the message, and it was unlike any other feeling he had before. It was something beyond mere attendance and muttering prayers; it was an encounter with God.

imageTwo years later, JR continued to attend worship services. One Sunday afternoon in 2013, he finally gathered up the courage to publicly surrender his life to Christ. “Before, I was so hesitant and shy to even respond to the altar call,” he reveals, “I guess there was still a bit of pride in me, so I would just respond to God quietly on my own.”

JR knew that his courage to step up and publicly acknowledge Jesus as his Savior came from God Himself. Emboldened, he knew he made the right choice. He immediately took steps to be connected to a Victory group, and that’s when he met Marlon Valientes, the guy who would become his Victory group leader. He was also introduced to Martin Remos, who would eventually lead him through ONE 2 ONE. On the first of June in 2014, JR publicly declared his faith in God during Victory Weekend.

“It felt so good to finally shout it out to the world!” he exclaims, “I was so glad God didn’t give up on me despite my many hesitations and insecurities.”

The change in JR may not be so evident on the outside; he didn’t have vices to get rid of nor did he have a perverse lifestyle, but inside, the transformation was drastic. God renewed his mind. He realized he was not better than other sinners, and there was no such thing as mild sinning. JR was so on fire with God’s love, he couldn’t help but tell other people what He did in his life. He joined this year’s prayer and fasting with these prayer requests in mind: to grow deeper in his relationship with God, to be involved in ministry, and to finally lead someone through ONE 2 ONE.

image (3)After a week, JR was invited by one of his friends to be part of the Tech and Stage ministry and he happily committed to serve. He has also started leading someone through ONE 2 ONE, and is in faith that God will empower him to disciple more people in the future.

“Discipleship is important because Jesus commanded us to make disciples,” he shares, “I want to preach the gospel to those who don’t know God because I know how it feels to be lost and just know him, instead of really knowing him.”

With the knowledge and understanding that everyone needs God, JR is believing for his whole family to be saved, too. “God is great,” he proclaims, “He is true to His promises, and that’s something we can always rely on.”

Never the Same

Never the Same

JD Perez“Frats, drugs, alcohol, and pornography,” twenty-year old JD Perez enumerates, when asked what ruled his life before he met Christ. Violence was so ingrained in his character that hurting other people was the norm for him. “I would beat up a guy just to prove I’m not afraid of him,” he shares.

His temper and misguided behavior estranged him from his family. His relationship with his siblings deteriorated, and he was disrespectful towards his elders. Instead of attending classes, he would spend his time at a computer shop to play video games all day. The rotten condition of his heart manifested through his words and actions. “I would chain smoke, get drunk, curse a lot, and beat up other people out of spite,” he shares, “I was the perfect example of immorality.”

With no regard for his future, JD exploited various vices and lived a hedonistic lifestyle. He became such a troublemaker that his neighborhood started treating him like a criminal.

JD Perez 3His turning point came during his third year in high school, when a friend invited him to attend a worship service for young people. That’s when he met Jomari Badiong, the guy who would eventually disciple him and become his mentor.

When he heard the gospel for the first time, JD discovered God’s radical love. “He completely took hold of my hardened heart and He taught me how to love and forgive,” he says.

Through <a href=”http://facebook.com/one2onediscipleship”>One 2 One</a>, JD learned of a Father’s love that is unconditional, steadfast and eternal. Faced with such overwhelming truth, JD couldn’t help but share how God transformed his life radically. He started preaching the gospel to other people, risking persecution and being called a hypocrite. After all, he was the neighborhood troublemaker.

“The gospel changed my life inside out, but I wasn’t content to be the only one experiencing God’s life-changing love,” he shares, “I had to share it to other people, no matter what.”

JD Perez VGWith encouragement from his mentor, Jomari, he felt empowered to start his own Victory group. Today, JD leads two Victory groups, and mentors college students aged 17 to 19 years.
He considers discipleship very important and stresses that a healthy relationship is a big part of it. “When you disciple someone, you discipline them because you love them,” he says, “After all, God doesn’t just want to see us saved, He wants see us changed, too.”

In the future, JD yearns to lead more people to Christ as he pursues his dream of becoming a Mechanical Engineer. “My mentor is so passionate in sharing the gospel, even in public places, that it rubbed off on me!” he exclaims. He is in faith that if God can change his hardened heart, He can also change the lives of his brothers and relatives, who have yet to know Christ.

“Discipleship is a catalyst of change!” he declares.

New Series: All and Nothing

New Series: All and Nothing

Starting this weekend, join us as we discover Jesus’s supremacy in our lives in our newest series, “All and Nothing”.

After this series, may each of us have a greater perspective on Jesus’s Lordship and His finished work on the cross. May this, then, lead us to live lives that are centered on Him.

Here is the list of weekly topics:

  • Week one: What God has Done for us
  • Week two: The Supremacy of Christ
  • Week three: Fullness in Christ
  • Week four: Position in Christ
  • Week five: Living in Christ
  • Week six: Household for Christ
  • Week seven: Mission in Christ

Join us at a Victory location nearest you! Victory is one church in Metro Manila meeting in 29 locations across the metropolis. We also meet in multiple venues throughout the Philippines.

If you’re tweeting about the “All and Nothing” series, please use our official hashtag #AllAndNothing.

Invite your family and friends! See you at our services!

The Man Who Lost Everything

The Man Who Lost Everything

Vincent Garcia had everything he wanted. At 20 years old, he had more money than a young man should have. He could eat anything, go anywhere, and do whatever his heart desired. He was a self-described spoiled brat, and he loved it. He was enrolled in various schools in San Juan, Manila, but never paid attention to his education.

“I would go to school for my allowance,” he confesses, “And to meet girls.” He took BS Business Management at the Central Colleges of the Philippines, but never completed his course.

Vincent GarciaInitially indulging merely in designer clothes and expensive perfume, Vincent’s penchant for a hedonistic lifestyle soon found him experimenting with drugs and joining dangerous motorcycle drag races. One night, after winning a race with his friends, they decided to celebrate. Vincent got on his motorcycle, without a helmet on, and cruised along a highway in Morong, Rizal to meet his friends who were also on their way to their party venue. Before he could reach his destination, Vincent figured in a head-on collision with a pick-up truck.

“I didn’t exactly know what happened but I woke up with a fractured left leg,” he shares, “I also dislocated my right knee.” The doctors had to put metal plates in his legs to secure the fractions and dislocations. The accident wasn’t enough to keep Vincent away from his indulgent and illegal lifestyle. After he had healed enough to be able to walk with crutches, he returned to his wayward life, with little concern for his future.

Because he couldn’t ride motorcycles anymore, Vincent soon found another hobby. He brought his mobile phone to a friend to have it repaired. There, he found out that repairing mobile phones actually interested him. He asked his friend to take him in as a shop assistant. While working at the shop, he developed his skills and studied more about cellphone repair. Some time later, Vincent was able to put up his own cellphone repair shop. He had additional income again, but despite the second chance he was given, he still chose to spend his money on his dangerous lifestyle.

In 2009, Vincent met Grace, and they started living together. After a year, Grace gave birth to their son Kurt. With this big change in his life, Vincent attempted to live a healthier lifestyle, unable to reconcile being a father with his life as a drug user. Eventually, he realized that his current lifestyle was not the solution, and for the first time in his self-indulgent life, Vincent wanted to find peace. He wanted to change.

It was then, however, that his business took a downturn: he started losing clients. To make matters worse, Vincent’s father was soon diagnosed with lung cancer, and cursed his son for his bad luck.  Vincent tried to meet the needs of his growing family by starting a business, but even that failed. Left with nothing, he never felt more alone in his life. Without a way out, Vincent contemplated the only thing he could do: suicide. “I was ready; I had no other options,” he confesses, “I had no value or purpose left.”

At his lowest moment, devoid of any hope, everything blurred for Vincent. He was in his room, with muddled thoughts of ending his life, when he spotted the only lucid thing he could see: a book. Though covered with a thick layer of dust accumulated through years of storage, Vincent pulled out The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and suddenly started reading.  Filled by a deep, unfathomable need to do what was written in the book, Vincent decided then and there to stop doing drugs. “I told myself, drugs are history,” he says, “A bad page in my story.”

Vincent - VGThe Purpose-driven Life recommended Vincent find a small group. He went to a nearby church, inquired, but was rejected. However, the rejection couldn’t douse the fire in his heart. For the first time, Vincent prayed. It was a short four-word prayer, “What shall I do?” And for the first time, Vincent heard a voice so comforting and clear, a voice he absolutely knew he could trust.

“I knew it was Jesus,” he shares, “My heart was pounding but I felt peace for the first time. It was beyond explanation.” He knew Jesus was telling him to read the book again, from the beginning. When Vincent opened the book, he saw a handwritten note behind the cover. It was from his cousin, whom he had been avoiding for the longest time. Vincent didn’t waste any time. He called his cousin, and soon, the two of them were on their way to Victory Fort.

Seeds of God’s Word were sown in Vincent’s fertile and thirsty soul. He was prayed upon, and in no time, he underwent One 2 One. Without struggle nor doubt, he surrendered his life to Christ, the only one who has given him peace that transcends understanding.

Vincent Victory WeekendWhile doing One to One, Vincent was given the opportunity to clean landline phones in an insurance company, on a weekly basis. His wages were meager compared to what he used to receive, but there was contentment and gratitude in his heart. “I knew God is my provider, it was indescribable joy,” he declares, “I knew that God was moving in my life.”

After his Victory Weekend, Vincent made up his mind to return to his cellphone repair business, acknowledging that his skill to repair cellphones was given to him by God. Without any capital, he prayed to God and asked Him for his go signal to start his business again. God answered his prayer by sending people who would help raise the business capital he needed. Before long, Vincent was able to set-up his stall again. With the help of his spiritual family, he got back in business and decided to save up for his surgical bone operation. 

Grace and Vincent“The metal plates the doctors used when I got in an accident were actually the wrong plates,” he reveals, “My legs got infected.” Vincent was ready for his operation. He was just waiting for the surgeon’s schedule to be finalized.

While waiting for his operation date, something started nudging the peace he had. Vincent realized, he had been living with his longtime partner, Grace, since 2009. Wanting to set everything in his life right before God, Vincent decided to forego the much-needed operation for his legs, and decided to marry Grace. In a simple ceremony prepared by his Victory group, on the 18th of July 2015, Vincent and Grace tied the knot before God.

Seeing Vincent’s desire to please Him, God gave him a surprise. A client who brought her iPad to be repaired found out about Vincent’s need for a surgery. As he was doing the repairs, Vincent talked about Jesus. When the repair was completed, he mentioned that he was going away for a while because of his operation. His client then suggested that Vincent take a second opinion at their hospital, the Philippine Air Force Hospital. He was also offered to have his operation in the said hospital, with a better solution, at the same expense and a faster recovery period. He was endorsed by his client’s husband, a senior officer in the Philippine Air Force.

Phil Air Force hospital personnelWhen Vincent chose to honor God by marrying Grace, Vincent’s operation became God’s concern. Truly, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. As Vincent chooses to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first, everything is added unto him.

Today, he shares God’s love to every customer he encounters in his stall at the Greenhills Shopping Center. He serves clients from all over the country and has continuously received excellent feedback. “For every repair or inquiry brought before me, I work at it with all my heart because I  know that it is the Lord whom I’m serving.”

Today, Vincent is part of a coaching group and also leads his own Victory group.  He has preached the gospel and the goodness of God to his sister, Mercy, and to his sister-in-law, Michelle. Both Mercy and Michelle attended Victory Weekend together and belong to the same Victory group.

God has truly begun a good work in Vincent. From the man who has lost everything, he is now the man who has gained everything in Christ. That, for Vincent, is more than enough.

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A Son’s Unwavering Faith

A Son’s Unwavering Faith

Lowell Ramos“You keep going to these things, but you still haven’t changed!” Twenty-year old Lowell Ramos recalls these words were often hurled at him by his mother, Nanay Tarcy, whenever they had disagreements. She didn’t approve of him attending youth services at Victory Cabanatuan because of her preconceived notions about Christian culture. She also thought Lowell was just wasting his time. After all, he wasn’t exactly the epitome of obedience. His mother knew that he spent time drinking and cutting classes to hang out with his friends. He lived by his rules alone, and had no regard for discipline and responsibilities.

For Lowell, however, that’s all part of his past. Ever since he attended a youth service after being invited by a friend, his life drastically changed. “After the service, I was invited to attend a life group,” Lowell narrates. “Someone asked me if I wanted to do ONE 2 ONE, and I knew that I needed it, so I said yes.”

It was during ONE 2 ONE when Lowell encountered Jesus, and all his questions about his purpose and direction were finally answered. While consistently attending Victory group meetings, he learned more about God’s word and promises.

Lowell and NanayHe also learned how to handle persecution at home. Being the only Christian in their family, Lowell wanted nothing more but salvation for all his family members. “That had always been my cry to God,” he reveals, “But my family knew about my past, so I understand why it was hard for them to believe me,” he shares.

There were times he was tempted to give up, especially when his faith would become the cause of their disputes at home. He was also challenged to debates, but he kept quiet, because he knew it wasn’t the best way to engage them. “I just continued praying for them, especially Nanay,” Lowell says, “I know I am Christ’s ambassador–outside, and especially at home.”

Eventually, Lowell started leading other people to ONE 2 ONE. He also started his own Victory group, composed of fellow college students from his school, Wesleyan University. Last May 2015, he was also given the opportunity to join a Ten Days mission trip to Thailand. With all these positive changes happening in his life, Lowell wanted nothing more than to share it with his family. He didn’t stop, literally praying over his family while they slept.

God knew the desires of Lowell’s heart because last January, after prayer and fasting week, Nanay Tarcy finally asked him about Victory. “She was curious why I spend a lot of time there,” he shares, “So I told her about my ministry. I told her my testimony, how God changed me.” Lowell mustered the courage and asked his mother to join him at the worship service the following Sunday. To his surprise, she said yes.

>That day at the worship service, after Lowell prayed for her for nearly four years, Nanay Tarcy received Jesus as her Lord and Savior. “I was overwhelmed with joy!” Lowell exclaims, “At the start of the year, I dared to believe God for the salvation of my mother, and now a week after prayer and fasting, He answers it!”

Nanay's Victory GroupThe Sunday worship service became a regular routine for both mother and son. They praised God together, sang worship songs together, and also studied God’s word together. Today, Nanay Tarcy is now part of a Victory group and is being discipled through One 2 One. From someone who used to persecute him, she is now Lowell’s biggest supporter as he disciples other people and lead them to Christ.

Last mid-year prayer and fasting week, she and Lowell dared to believe God together for the salvation of the rest of their family. “God’s grace extends beyond you. It extends to your family, too!” Lowell says when asked what God has revealed to Him through this experience. He continues to pray for the salvation of the rest of his family. This time, he has Nanay Tarcy by his side and together, they’re daring to believe God for more.

Shepherding the Black Sheep

Shepherding the Black Sheep

“I debated many things with her,” Kath reveals, “but I couldn’t question her changed life.”

Twenty-two-year-old Kathlene Parungao shares how her close friend and discipler, Kara de Leos, steered her from her self-serving lifestyle to a life that honors God. The two girls met in college in a less than typical way. “I didn’t like her at first because she was dressed in a way that irked me. It’s probably a girl thing,” Kath laughs, “I knew she was a party girl like me.”

Coming from a Christian family, Kath knew about the gospel and salvation but, as with all the other members of her family, her knowledge didn’t translate to a changed life. “I thought Christianity was just about following a set of rules, looking good in the eyes of people, and going to church every Sunday,” she shares, “I never understood that it was about a relationship with God.”

Growing up, Kath would attend church out of fear that she won’t be saved if she missed a Sunday. Her so-called Christian life evolved around a “good works mentality.” For her, God was Someone too far to reach. Christianity was in her mind, but it never touched her heart. She never established the necessary foundations in her Christian journey.

During her teenage years, she harbored anger towards her parents and felt that no one really loved her. She started to fill her need for acceptance through her peers. “I did things that I never thought I’d do just so people could accept me or be friends with me,” she reveals. Soon, she entered into a wrong relationship, learned how to drink and smoke, and embraced the night life. Kath was branded the black sheep of the family.

Victory Group When she entered college, Kath became her worst nightmare. “Because of my rebelliousness, I brought a lot of pain to my family,” she confesses, “I’ve made my mom cry, my siblings, my lola, and probably even my dad! That’s how hardened I was.” She also started influencing other people with her wayward lifestyle.

Every day after school, Kath and her friends would go straight to Greenbelt to hang out and drink. It became their routine, until one day, Kath was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt. “I heard a voice ask me if I was really happy destroying my life and lying to my parents, she reveals, “It asked me if I was happy trying to live up to the world’s standards.” Faced with reality, Kath had to be honest with herself and accept that she wasn’t really happy. She knew that if she kept up with her lifestyle, it would only be a matter of time before she crashed and burned.

“I knew I needed help, so I started praying,” she says, “I prayed every single night: God save me.”

Kath eventually transferred to De La Salle University, seeing this as an opportune time to start on a clean slate. Unfortunately, without a strong foundation and by relying completely on her own will, Kath was swallowed by temptations and ended up reverting back to her life as a party girl. In her new university, she felt that it was still her old life.

Until one day, she noticed something different in Kara, the girl in her class who annoyed her. She felt the feeling was mutual. She knew Kara partied hard like her. “But when I saw her again, she was different! She was dressed modestly and her face was radiant,” she exclaims, “I felt that she had a lighter spirit, and that really got me curious. So, I stalked her online!”

Kath found Kara’s blog, wherein she wrote how God saved her life. Being a party girl herself, Kath related so much to what she read. She sent a message to Kara on Facebook and asked her more about her transformation. It was a call for help, and Kara answered right away. She invited Kath to the La Salle cluster of Every Nation Campus Philippines, where students gathered for Victory group meetings.

“I was so shocked because people there were so kind even after knowing my story,” Kath shares, “I didn’t feel judged. I didn’t feel that I had to do anything to be accepted.” It was a far cry from her experience of pleasing people for approval. From her life-changing encounter that day, Kath was connected to a Victory group.

Kara started leading her to ONE 2 ONE, and patiently walked with her in her new Christian journey. “I saw her relationship with God and how she was so deeply in love with Jesus. So, I prayed to God, ‘Lord, I want that kind of faith, too.’”

Kath started reading the Bible, in faith that God would speak to her, too just like how He spoke with Kara. She would read His word everyday, always praying for Him to speak to her. Until one day, she got her answer. “I couldn’t forget the day God finally spoke to me! All my questions were answered. It all made sense, she reveals, “That encounter is the encounter I always go back to whenever I feel the urge to give up. God spoke to someone as small as me. He had me at my worst and still chose to love me. What a personal God!”

This encounter stoked a fire in Kath’s heart. She felt an overflow of love that she had to share with other people. She went back to her previous church to inspire her friends there that it is possible to have a relationship with Jesus. She also started leading others to One 2 One, until she was able to create Victory groups in high school and in La Salle.

Kath VGHer family, who initially persecuted her, also started attending church after seeing the dramatic change in Kath. After years of praying for them, Kath is ecstatic to see them being discipled. Her sister has just undergone Victory Weekend, while her brother just finished ONE 2 ONE. Their mother now attends a Victory group and Kath is excited for her to start ONE 2 ONE, too. “I thought reconciliation was impossible,” she confesses, “But it’s happening now by God’s grace.”

Recently, Kath was given an opportunity to go on her first mission trip to India. She couldn’t help but be amazed at how God uses her for His mighty purpose. Three years after she met Kara, Kath still helps in the campus even after having graduated for a year already. “Imagine, with my previous lifestyle, I was so close to doing drugs, until God sent her to me. She took a chance at me before the world could! If she delayed her obedience, I would probably still be the old me.” With this, Kath realized that every second counts.

Throughout her journey, she learned that the youth can make or break the future of this nation. She admits that it’s not an easy journey to lead other people, but for her, there’s nothing that compares to winning the souls of young people for Jesus Christ. She is in faith that one day, the young people she’s discipling will choose to honor God and stand for what’s right wherever they’re planted. <

“I realized being a Christian is more than having a religion, but it’s a relationship with Jesus. It’s as real as any relationship we have now.” From being a black sheep, she is now sheep of His pasture, a disciple of Jesus who was lost and has now been found.

Of Fairy Tales and Happy Endings

Of Fairy Tales and Happy Endings

Camilla Rivera  “I used to search for love from fairy tales and romance films,” says 27-year old Camilla Rivera, a self-confessed hopeless romantic.

Growing up in a broken family, she has craved love and acceptance since her parents’ separation when she was 12 years old. The memory of the day they separated is still vivid in her mind.

Throughout her high school years, Camilla felt alone. She described it as one of the most difficult times in her life. Like all girls her age, she needed proper guidance but didn’t get any from her parents. So, she turned to her peers. Enrolled in an exclusive school for girls, she looked for love, even entering a same-sex relationship to see where it would take her.

Camilla also developed an indulgent lifestyle that she thought would fill the emptiness inside her. While in college, she entered the modeling industry to sustain her wants and whims. While studying, she met the man who would eventually father her child. Not wanting to be alone anymore, and thinking that she already wanted her own family, Camilla got pregnant at 20 years old. “But after six years of this relationship, we decided to part ways,” she reveals. “I realized I was not really happy.”

Camilla RiveraGiving birth to a daughter didn’t stop Camilla from entering into a lot of flings and short-term relationships. Finally, she met another man, an Indian who became her long-term boyfriend. Camilla found comfort and security in her relationship with him. “My life revolved around him,” she confesses, “I didn’t know it then, but I realized I was guilty of idolatry, and he was the idol.”

The man proposed marriage to Camilla, and she accepted. It was exactly what she has been dreaming of since she was a little girl–her own Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. “I was on cloud nine!” she exclaims. However, after the initial thrill of the proposal passed, Camilla started having second thoughts. She was in the midst of wedding preparations when she realized that she wasn’t happy. She started questioning if she was actually in the right relationship. “He accepted my past, yes. He loves me, yes. But he wanted me to leave my daughter here. We couldn’t bring her to live in his country,” Camilla explains, “That just changed my entire perspective!” With a heavy heart, she decided to end the relationship and her fiancé left the Philippines for good.

The break-up shattered Camilla’s life. She was devastated and started questioning her purpose. She blamed God and asked Him why He had to let her undergo such a painful experience. It was Christmas Eve when Camilla encountered God through Isaiah 66:9 (NCV), “In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord.

In the solitude of her room, while crying out to God, Camilla felt comforted. She felt that God was asking her to come home. “He brought me back on the right track, just when I seemed to be so lost,” she shares, “He understands how painful discipline can be, but it is His way to remind me to trust His plans accordingly.”

Victory WeekendAfter her intimate encounter with God, Camilla remembered her friends, who had been consistently inviting her to attend Victory and join a Victory group since 2014. So, last January 2016, she finally decided to join them during the Dare to Believe prayer and fasting week. She only had one prayer: to have a personal relationship with Christ.  “Father, I want to know you,” Camilla prayed, “I want to keep my eyes on you and have a relationship with you. Reveal yourself to me.”

Last April 2016, Camille publicly declared her faith and was water baptized at Victory Weekend. God heard her prayer, and answered it. “I was not worthy of His love, but Christ still died for me,” she declares, “I was forgiven and his grace has saved me. I now live to honor Him and advance His kingdom.”

Today, Camilla serves as a KIDS Church volunteer, where her daughter also participates. She is in faith that she will be able to lead her own Victory Group by next year.

From someone who craved acceptance from the wrong places, she is now overflowing with God’s redemptive love. Now stronger and content, she’s not looking for ‘happily ever afters’ elsewhere, She has now found her eternity in Christ.

Transforming Hearts and Keeping Promises

Transforming Hearts and Keeping Promises

vcf_jam3When 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.

Transforming Hearts & Keeping PromisesTwo 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.

vcf_jam2“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.