Interviewer: What makes you happy?
Maricar Velasco Crisostomo: Food. Tacos. It makes me happy. Traveling? Because I traveled for a long time because of work, one of my favorite things to do is actually [to] meet other brethren from around the world at all [of] the other chapels. It’s the coolest thing knowing that wherever I go, I will always have a home.
I mean, I’m in San Francisco, I met all of you today! I have a home, this is so cool!
Interviewer: Yes, you always have a home. That’s true, the world is so small when you’re part of the Church.
Maricar: Yeah, I love it.
Hi I’m Maricar Velasco (Crisostomo), I’m 29 years old, and I was born and raised in San Diego, California. My parents were doing their best, but there was so much tension and friction because they’re trying to instill Filipino values in me while we’re living in America and around the time when I was nine years old, I went through a lot of personal challenges. I felt like maybe they didn’t understand what I was going through, maybe I would be blamed and it was my own fault and at the age of nine I went into a depression.
What started happening when I was nine years old, I started getting sexually molested, and that went on for four years. And I didn’t know how to cope with that as a nine year old. And by the age of ten, I was suicidal and every single day [in] 5th grade thinking about ending my own life… I was praying and praying, I’m like, “God please protect me. God please watch over me.” Like, “Can You please make sure that it doesn’t happen anymore.” And I was going through constant stress, and fear, and anxiety and praying to that god, and hoping that I would be okay.
I turned, a couple years later, to my friends. I’m talking about people who are twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old that I found out had similar experiences too, but how can a twelve, thirteen, fourteen-year-old guide you in the correct way when they’re still going through their healing process too?
I was definitely the hardcore Catholic but it was more so for the social aspect. I know in my mind that going to church, it’s the good thing to do because that’s what good people do. And when I got into college, I, right away, started looking for a Catholic community and I connected with some friends from high school and they brought me to the Catholic clubs on campus. But something that constantly was just in the back of my mind, right when I sat down for mass was, “I do not feel God here.”
I thought I felt God my entire life. I spent hours in the chapels when I was younger but for some reason when I was sitting down to worship God at that time, I just couldn’t feel Him and because I couldn’t feel Him, I stopped attending Catholic masses for about a year or two. But then going into the post-grad life, I needed more spiritual guidance. And my friends at the time, they [went] to other Christian churches or other Protestant churches and they were inviting me. And when I was going to these churches I thought it was so cool!! There were concerts in the beginning, we were jumping and dancing and it blew my mind! And I thought, “Okay, this is it, like this is definitely the church for me! I’m so excited, I feel good! And because I feel good, God is here!”
But then after going to those churches that exact same voice in my head was just coming back. Like, “Why do I not feel God here?” And then that’s when I really started searching. Every single weekend I was checking out different churches. It was at that time when I was introduced to the Church Of Christ.
There were two people that came into my life within just a couple of weeks. One of them I ran into in a taco shop in San Diego! When she invited me to the Church, it was truly the perfect timing and because of Michelle, I am so so thankful because she was very persistent and [invited] me over to worship services. And after a few Bible studies I knew I had to be baptized in the Church Of Christ.
My first impressions of the Church Of Christ is, I liked how [the worship service] was structured. I loved how the Church Of Christ really [focuses] on “Please pray beforehand.” There was a focus on God. There was nothing else, it was really just prayer, the teachings, singing and worshiping God, but there wasn’t a focus on someone’s own interpretation of the Bible.
But then, because I started hearing things that I did not grow up with, hearing beliefs that were never told to me. There was so much tension in the beginning. I always thought, “I’m right, because I know the Bible. I grew up with the Bible my entire life. There really is…” like “…there [are] three persons in one. There really is God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus.” And for months I could not accept the teaching that the Church Of Christ was teaching. That those are all separate and there’s only one God. And that was so so hard for me to accept. And at the first Bible study I was thinking, I’m not converting into this Church, there’s no way. But I’ll attend, like I’ll get to know these 28 lessons.”
Since I had grown up believing in the Bible my entire life, after I heard that first lesson, I could not debate with any of the other teachings that we taught in the Church Of Christ because everything else was biblical. I love how every single time I asked a question, not only was there an answer for every single one of those questions but there was an accompanying Bible verse for everything. That’s when my beliefs started building.
Another question was [about] the apostasy, the popes, why were they put in place? Why are they such strong and dominant leaders in the Catholic faith? And learning the truth about everything and everything truly being biblically backed up, every single time was amazing! And all of those teachings, the community that’s built within the Church, the care that the brethren and the [Church] Administration have for one another. It was so amazing because I constantly thought I was trying to pull direction and guidance from my friends who were so young and were still trying to figure out direction themselves, and if I had that guidance when I was that young, if I had the teachings of the Church Of Christ instilled in me at that young age, that I’d probably–that I would be in a different place, compared to where I was when I was nine years old or ten years old.
What I’ve realized is, when I was not a member in the Church Of Christ, I was constantly searching for some form of fulfillment. And I always wanted that acceptance and that happiness and fulfillment. And I was trying to find it in so many different avenues. And what I realized, reflecting back now, that I’m part of the Church Of Christ, is that I truly was just looking for something that’s already in the Church. Because all of that happiness that I was chasing, all of the fulfillment that I wanted in my life, I feel it every single time I sit down in the pews [for] worship service.
What I know now that I wish I knew when I was younger is the truth and having confidence in the truth. Because I went to a lot of Bible studies when I was younger. I went through the entire Bible course within the Catholic church. I never missed a mass. I was super dedicated in my [Catholic] faith but I never truly felt like I actually knew what all of these teachings meant.
It’s so beautiful to know that God is always watching over me and that He is always taking care of me and He is always working in my favor.
[On screen text graphic]
“God guided me to the Church that He wants to be worshiped in versus where I wanted to worship Him in.”
The difference between my prayers now versus before is beforehand I was constantly not sure if it was going to be answered or not. But to me now, every time I pray I always think, “God, if it’s in Your will, if it’s in Your timing, and if that’s really what You want for me, no matter what, even though I really want this, I want whatever You want for me.”
God is definitely my hope, my rock, the One that I always know that I can lean on.
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