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“Choosing My Faith Over My Fear of Failure”
Gus: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always avoided letting my parents down. Whether I was playing sports or in school, I’ve always made sure to put a smile on my parents’ faces, to make sure my mom and my dad are proud of me. And we say this because my father and I had this one connection: we played soccer since I was born. He put me in soccer from the moment I could walk. And while I loved the sport, I grew to realize that I was really only playing this sport to continue to make him proud of me. To continue to see him smile. His happiness when I scored a goal or won a game.
Now this went on for a while—for twelve years actually. It took me until the age of fifteen to finally confront my father, to inform him that soccer wasn’t my sport. He was devastated, and he was disappointed. But I knew he would be okay. I knew he would understand because our connection is still there, even though I stopped playing the sport.
Now I say this because we’ve all experienced situations like this. We love our parents, and the thought of hurting them is tough. But what if one day I were to tell you that you letting your parents down is actually for the better? You may be wondering, how can letting my parents down be for the better?
Well, let me backup and tell you guys another story. It was Wednesday, June 27 2018, 2pm in the afternoon. I was sitting on my front porch, feeling that warm breeze that summer in Santa Cruz brings along. Birds are chirping, kids are running up and down the block, the joy in everything seems to be everywhere.
Well, all except where I was sitting. Instead of joy, I felt angst. Nerves taking over my body. My stomach was in a knot, staring at the sky rehearsing my lines.
How am I going to tell my mother and my father that I’m leaving behind this Catholic tradition? It was not easy.
I knew that telling my devout Catholic mother that I’d be joining the true Christian Church is going to be a bit harder than me telling my father I wanted to stop playing soccer. But I wondered, how much harder? Well, I found out.
As I dialed the phone, my mother picks up and she says, “Mijo, como estas?” This translates to, “How are you, son?” I was beyond scared. I knew that sense of care and love in that voice would go out the window. I had so much to say, but all that came out was “Perdóname ma, no te enojes, pero te quiero decir algo” which translates to, “I’m sorry, Mom, please don’t get mad but I need to tell you something…” And then she tells me, “Que hiciste?” (“What did you do?”). That hurt.
And as I slowly began to inform my mother of my decision to join the Christian Church called the Church Of Christ, I felt as if I had hit rock bottom. I heard everything from, “Are you really putting the Church over your career? Think of your future. What is the Church going to give you? Nothing.” “Just focus on your career and once you are done you can come back and help us out.” And although those hurt, there’s one line that hit my heart that destroyed me. And it was my father telling me, “You’re ruining your life.” I was devastated.
My two worlds were clashing, and I could not understand why my family could not see the happiness the Church Of Christ was bringing me. When we hung up the phone, I couldn’t help but ponder and think what brought me up to this point?
Growing up Catholic is a thing that is much too common in my Mexican- American upbringing. Although I’m not a devout follower, my family was just raised with these Catholic traditions for generations. And the same comfort and familiar feeling continues to bind them to these teachings. For while I grew up in a Catholic family, I have always claimed to never be religious.
Whenever I had problems, issues, trials, I never found answers or purpose in the Catholic Church. So I looked everywhere else for answers, for happiness.
Then, I was introduced to the Church Of Christ. As I opened my heart and mind to the Church Of Christ, I knew that that search for love and for hope had come to an end. Yes, of course, it took some time for me to accept the teachings and the truth. But once I let God’s words influence my life, I not only felt happier, but I began to see my life change for the better. I finally learned who the true God is and what it really meant to have Him in my life. And when I learned about the teachings of the love of the brotherhood, and the unity inside the Church Of Christ, I didn’t just hear it—I lived through it, I experienced it. And everything I’ve learned has helped me revamp my life and establish my faith.
I remember, as I learned more about the Church, I’d be reminded constantly that in joining the Church Of Christ it didn’t mean that these trials would end, these challenges would not continue to hurt me. But I knew that it would mean that a lot more trials and tests would be headed my way. And I said to myself: Well, what better way to test my faith, than to tell my devout Catholic mother that I found the true Church.
I know, the story may seem kind of heartbreaking and sad, but I think it did not go that bad. I love my parents so much that I know I had to share my faith. I had to inform them of the truth and the happiness I found in the Church Of Christ.
And the day after making that phone call to my parents, I got ready for worship service in the Church Of Christ. I vividly remember entering the house of worship. Crisp black suit, white dressing shirt, black knitted tie. As I walked down the left aisle, I could feel my face hot as can be, my hands as clammy as can be grasping onto my handkerchief as hard as I could. I was nervous. And I did not understand why. I knew my heart was in a knot and my chest was as tight as can be. Sitting in the first pew, my heart filled with emotions, I looked straight ahead, waiting to just let it out. I closed my eyes. Before the hymn singing started, I prayed. I prayed to God. I pleaded for His guidance. And I think most importantly, I asked for hope—for hope in my family. I wanted them to see what made the Church Of Christ so special to me.
In that moment, I could not explain what I experienced. But all I could say is, as I continued to ask for strength, tears were streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t feel sad—I was happy and I felt warm. I could not understand why water was on my face. All I could think of, and all I could say is that I did not feel alone. Unsure what I was feeling, I just thanked God. I thanked Him for giving me the opportunity to continue praising Him. I thanked Him for that feeling as if the troubles were not as heavy on me as when I first walked in.
This feeling is an unexplainable feeling of comfort and love. And this is the only way to describe this warm feeling of care that I felt as I was seated praying. All throughout the service, the minister emphasized the love that we need to uphold toward our Almighty God, because persecutions are really only meant to test our faith. And I said, what better way to test my faith, than to hear the disapproval from those I love and look up to the most.
But I’ve understood that this disagreement with my family is me putting God first in my life. And by putting God first, I know that I would find good in my future. And I just prayed that one day, that support would be included for my family. And most importantly, their willingness to see why it continues to make me happy.
And on December 29th, 2018, glad to say, I was baptized in the Church Of Christ. Finding the Church Of Christ gave me that long term happiness that I’ve always been looking for. I’ve always come to understand—I’ve come to understand now that I’m never alone. And it’s hard to feel alone when you know you can turn to God when times get tough. And an immense amount of support from the brethren is there when you feel like the world is turning against you. And that’s somewhere you don’t find anywhere—that’s something you don’t find anywhere else. Becoming a Church Of Christ member has given my world a bit of color, a form of spiritual strength that I know can support me when the colors turn gray.
And somehow this experience has given me new hope when it comes to my relationship with my family. Today, my mother is more understanding of my decision. And she still struggles with it. And those struggles can still lead to arguments. But I’m thankful that she understands and sees my happiness first. This opens the opportunity for me to show her the truth I found in the Church Of Christ. On the other hand, my father avoids the topic of religion, avoids conflict whenever we talk, and honestly I’m okay with that. I have hope that sooner or later he will see and wonder why that smile on my face does not fade away even when times get tough.
Now speaking of tough times, if we look around all we hear is talk of viruses, of pain, of unemployment. Yes, times are tough, even for me. What better example to show my parents than to let them see how I endured this pandemic? COVID-19 has taken the lives and the livelihood of many. So it’s no wonder people constantly ask, how do you stay positive during times like this? Well, the best and only answer to this frequently asked question is that I put my faith in God and in the Church Of Christ.
So now more than ever, I pray. I pray that my parents will see the strong faith and the strong will that I now have as a member of the Church Of Christ. And most importantly, I pray that by encouraging my parents to search and find the happiness that I found, we will be together, walking around with smiles on our faces, ready to face whatever we encounter in our lives. Thank you.
Brother Johnny Martin: Dear friends, once again on behalf of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), we are so grateful that you joined us in our Faith Speaks Online Event.
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Brother Johnny Martin
Minister of the Gospel
Brother Johnny: For some of you, you know, this may be the very first time that you’ve heard about the Church Of Christ. For others, perhaps you were able to attend our previous events or activities in the Church. Either way, we sincerely hope that this won’t be the last time that we get to see you. Because besides sharing with you an opportunity to meet these brethren of ours and hear their inspiring stories, there’s something more important that we’d like to share with you. The words of God written in the Bible. Why is that so important?
Think about the world we’re living in right now, dear friends. How many people are feeling worried, troubled? How many are feeling anxious, depressed? With so much uncertainty in the world people wonder if there’s really anything to hope for.
Sure, the stories we heard today were inspirational, moving. We were touched as we listened to the stories. Well, why were the speakers able to stand before us and tell us their stories? Didn’t they get sad too? Didn’t they feel discouraged at moments in their life? And if they did, should that surprise us? The Bible tells us this, in Psalm 42:11:
But I say to myself, “Why am I sad and discouraged? I should not be sad and discouraged! I will confidently expect God to help me, and I will praise him again, my God, the one who saves me.”
[Psalm 42:11 Translation for Translators]
Brother Johnny: This servant of God said right here, “Why am I sad and discouraged? I should not be sad and discouraged!” So there may be moments in our life when we feel that way. But God’s servants, they don’t allow themselves to be overcome by those feelings. Instead, what do God’s servants do? They confidently expect God to help them, and save them.
In short, they put their hope in God. They put their trust in God, in what God can do, in the promises of God.
Dear friends, God keeps His promises. If God promises to His servants that He will help them, well, then He helps them. And what kind of help does God give His servants who put all their trust and hope in Him? In Ephesians 3:21 and 20, well, let’s listen now to what this passage of the Holy Scripture shows us right here. Ephesians 3:21and 20, this is stated:
“All of us who are included in the church of Christ, we should praise him forever and ever…
[Ephesians 3:21 Traducción en lenguaje actual (Translated to English)]
God has the power to do far more than we could ever ask for! We can’t even imagine what God can do to help us with his power!
[Ephesians 3:20 Traducción en lenguaje actual (Translated to English)]
Brother Johnny: Dear friends, that is what the speakers today experienced. That’s what we would like you to experience as well. And so, we again invite you to our Bible studies in the Church Of Christ. Join us and receive God’s wonderful promises.
So as we come to the end of our program, we want to thank our beloved Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Church Of Christ, for guiding us in the holding of this event. And if you would like to learn more about the Church Of Christ, visit incmedia.org. And once again, thank you, dear guests, for being with us today on our program “Faith Speaks.”
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