Finding God in the Midst of Crisis

Finding God in the Midst of Crisis

Our current situation may have brought a lot of uncertainties and changes in our lives, but it has also helped most of us see hope in the face of loss, sickness, and hardship. Here is a story of a mother who found God in the midst of the COVID–19 outbreak.

 

In January of this year, my husband passed away. It was a very difficult time for me. It was not easy to start again and raise our children on my own at the age of 50.

To comfort me, my eldest son who attends our church in General Mariano Alvarez invited me to one of our services. There, I got connected with a Victory group that didn’t stop reaching out to me even after the lockdown.

I thank God that when the outbreak started, my relationship with Him was also gradually built. In spite of the new battles that came our way after my husband’s death—like my eldest son’s emergency appendectomy in February and his almost bout with COVID after being tagged as a person under investigation (PUI)—our whole family remained strong because of God. The harder the trials we faced, the deeper my relationship with Christ became.

During the enhanced community quarantine, I continued going through ONE 2 ONE with my Victory group leader via video call. I also continued to attend our Victory group meetings, which watered and tended the seeds planted in my heart. Now, I look forward to reading and hearing God’s word every day.

I am grateful to God that in the midst of the pandemic and even at this age, He pursued me and led me to Him. He used my son and our church community to help me know Him more and have a deeper relationship with Him. Now, I also get to share His goodness to my 75-year-old mother who gets daily encouragement and inspiration from God’s promises.

It’s amazing how God healed my heart from all the things that happened to our family early this year. He taught me to let go of the things that I could not surrender to Him before and made me realize that I should not be afraid of anything that might come our way. I know that no matter what happens, I can always depend on Him.

Finding God in this time of crisis gave me the strength to face each day with faith that comes from Him. It is my prayer that more people will reach out to their family members and friends in this trying time, so more people can know God and see His goodness amid loss, sickness, and hardship.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

Janette Coronel is an account supervisor with four children. She is growing in her faith as part of a Victory group in our church in General Mariano Alvarez.

Discipleship Never Stops

Discipleship Never Stops

Our current situation should not stop us from encouraging one another and growing in our walk with God. Here’s how one student from Olongapo continues to meet with her Victory group through calls and different online platforms.

How did you feel when you learned that the enhanced community quarantine would make it challenging to meet with people personally and engage them with the gospel?
During the summer break, I was really planning to spend more time with God through devotions and discipleship. I was looking forward to meeting my Victory group so I could finish going through ONE 2 ONE with them. When the enhanced community quarantine was implemented, I knew we could no longer interact with each other physically. That made me sad, but I also knew how important it was for us to stay home and be with our families.

What inspired you to continue making disciples even in this challenging season?
Because of social media, we were still able to chat and encourage one another. We would usually share lessons and insights from our devotions, and that always inspired me to continue what I was doing prior to the lockdown. Our online youth services also made me realize that even in this challenging time, we could still do our part in reaching out to other students.

How did you reach out to your Victory group? 
Just when I thought I could start doing discipleship again through social media, our town’s internet service provider encountered a problem. But instead of losing hope, God gave me the grace to still reach out to my group by doing phone calls with them. It’s a good thing that most of us are subscribed to the same mobile network; it allows us to do unlimited calls with each other.

Why is it important to continue making disciples in spite of the challenges we’re facing today?
I’m thankful to God that even though we did most of our Victory group meetings over the phone, we continued to stay connected. Instead of losing interest, they all continued to attend our meetings and appreciated that we didn’t let our situation stop us from growing in our walk with God. In times when we had spare internet data to use, we would also chat and send Bible verses to each other.

In spite of what we’re facing, I believe that it’s important to continue reaching the next generation. One thing I learned is that, if we do our part, it can make a great impact on the lives of the people around us. We have to continue pointing them to God so they can be reminded of His love in this season. And once they experience that love from God, they will also develop a desire to share that love with others.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another . . . Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

Rania Viduya is an incoming Grade 10 student. She is one of our Victory group leaders in Olongapo.
Above photo was taken in June 2019 inside their campus.

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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Leading By Example

Leading By Example

Oliver Odono“When I was younger,” says Oliver Odono, “I told myself, ‘whatever happens, I will never change my religion.'”

Because their parents both had to work to make ends meet, Oliver and his sister were raised by their grandmother, a devout woman who introduced them to religious traditions that they practiced but never fully understood.

“I memorized prayers,” Oliver recalls, “and grew up making regular trips to the church every Sunday.” This was their arrangement until he finished high school. Just before college, he decided to leave his hometown to study in Lucban, Quezon.

“Being independent, I experienced a lot,” Oliver shares. His world expanded, and he met new people. As a sophomore at Southern Luzon State University, he started looking for organizations in school, and was eventually introduced to Youth on Fire (known today as Every Nation Campus Philippines).

“I joined Youth On Fire activities with my friends, despite knowing that it’s different from my beliefs growing up,” Oliver shares. As he grew closer to his Youth on Fire friends, observing them friends time to time during prayer meetings, he sensed something had changed within him; something was not the same. One day in September 2003, Oliver went to church and listened to the preaching. The message affected him significantly, and he found himself responding to the altar call.

Oliver realized he was relying on his own good deeds and religious sacrifices to give him peace of mind. Because he was a good student and was generally obedient to his parents, he didn’t really believe that he needed anything more. However, he envied the joy that seemed to emanate from his new Christian friends at SLSU–it wasn’t a work-for-it kind of joy, but a kind of joy that can only be seen from lives that has found their purpose–and wanted what they had. He realized that it wasn’t about religion; it was about relationship with a God who loved him unconditionally, and Oliver sought to build relationships with others who could help him grow deeper in his relationship with God. Before long, Oliver met Victory group leader Paolo Grande, and was connected to his Victory group.

“Paolo didn’t waste time,” Oliver says, “He did One 2 One with me and was patient in answering my questions.” Oliver also started volunteering in Victory Lucban, and served in the music ministry. After graduating, he went to Manila to take the board exam.

Fast forward to 2010, Oliver returned to the Philippines after working in Macau, China for two years. “God blessed me with a Christian church I can be part of while I was there,” Oliver shares. When the financial crisis hit, he was forced to go back to the Philippines. After several months, God gave him a job at a hotel in Makati.

“Victory Makati didn’t exist then, so I started a new journey at Victory Pioneer,” he says, “I was introduced to Jim, who became my Victory group leader.” Jim empowered Oliver, and encouraged him to lead his own Victory group, too. Before the year ended, Oliver started leading making disciples and his first Victory Oliver 7group was formed.

“We grew in number because of God’s goodness and faithfulness,” he shares, “I went through One 2 One with them just like how my leader patiently went through One 2 One with me.”

Asked how he raises leaders, Oliver says he encourages them to lead their own group lead other people through One 2 One. He then identifies those who are capable and willing to lead. Last year, two of his Victory group members informed him that they wanted to lead their own Victory groups. Because of this, Oliver divided his Victory group into four smaller Victory groups, and assigned leaders to each one. “Every week, I attend to a specific group, so I can assist the leaders, and mentor them on areas they can improve,” he shares. Once he sees that the leaders can already lead on their own, he stops attending the group, and starts building a new one. “Today, I have six new members in my Victory group,” he says, “I’m also thankful to God because I became a discipleship coach last year.”

Oliver Odono 3For Oliver, raising leaders is not an easy task, but it is very rewarding. When he sees his Victory group members raising other leaders, he can’t help but be overwhelmed by God’s grace and goodness. For him, it’s just a matter of paying it forward and honoring God by leading people to Him, because a long time ago, someone also took the time to tell him about God at a time he needed Him most.

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The Value of Shared Life

The Value of Shared Life

How did being part of a Victory group help fifteen-year-old Dorothy Seldura grow in her relationship with God? Read her testimony here!

When I was younger, I chose to block everyone out of my life. You could say I was the typical shy loner that no one could reach. I grew up in a Christian home, but I didn’t think the Christian life was meant to be lived with others.

Later, someone invited me to join a Victory group. I was shocked when I first attended. “How could these people be so open to sharing their weaknesses openly?” I thought.

You see, I grew up trying to put up a strong front. Little did I know that it would lead to my downfall. I began experiencing depression and I started to doubt if really God loved me. I felt lonely, and I couldn’t talk to anyone because I didn’t feel like they would accept me.

All that changed when I became part of a Victory group. The change was gradual, but I learned so many things. I can now say that I have experienced, encountered, and continually testify to the love of God like never before.

I learned that living a victorious life includes being part of a spiritual family that lifts its members up in faith; they strengthen each other even when their weaknesses are in plain sight. Living a Christian life doesn’t have to be like walking a lonely path, and it was never meant to be that way!

It’s amazing how God loves us so much! He has taught us to love one another and encourage one another in His Word. I would not be here, growing in my relationship with Jesus, if not for the people around me. Through their godly example, I learned to give, and not just receive God’s love.

By God’s grace, I can say that I have overcome my extreme shyness. God has ignited in me a passion to share His word with other people. I now want to help more young women who are going through the same things I did before. They need to know that Someone cares and loves them like no other!

 

Dorothy is a high school student from Living Heritage Academy, and is an active Victory group leader in Victory Dipolog.

“I’m a Product of Discipleship!”

“I’m a Product of Discipleship!”

Discipleship is more than just a process—it’s a relationship. Singer-songwriter Yeng Constantino recounts her discipleship experience with her mentor and Victory group leader, Acel van Ommen. Check out her testimony here!

Yep, that’s right. I grew as a Christian through discipleship. And I’m still growing!

When did my discipleship story begin? One Sunday evening in 2009, I was attending a small group and Acel van Ommen just so happened to drop by. Since she was a musician like me, I assumed that she would understand me. I decided to ask her to be my “mentor.”

Yeng (left) and Acel

You may be wondering what I’m talking about right now. Let me explain what discipleship is, based on my experience.

Discipleship is helping someone in their walk with the Lord. It’s being there for the person in times of happiness and sadness, speaking the truth, and rebuking in love. It’s pointing them to the cross for repentance and forgiveness. It’s helping them to know Christ more, not just with words, but through your life. A mentor is the one who does that. It’s like having a teacher or a leader.

Acel did all that I said about discipleship. She was there in my lowest moments and my victories. She spoke the truth to me and rebuked me in love. She always pointed me to Jesus in times of grief and triumph. She helped me know Christ more not just with words, but with her life.

Maybe you’re thinking that Acel is a superhuman. Sometimes I see her cry, too. One time she went to my house crying because she had a fight with her husband. Seeing her that time didn’t made me think that she is a weak leader, because she’s not. She acknowledges that just like me—just like all of us—she also needs a Savior and God.

I am extremely inspired by Acel. I want to be like her—a mentor who will open up her heart and allow others to see how God works in her life.

Now, I’m ready to lead women to Jesus!

 

Yeng Constantino is a singer-songwriter whose heart is for the next generation. You may read more of her blog posts at http://yengonthemission.tumblr.com.