For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? – Mark 8:36 NASB
I could vividly recall that point in my life when I was posted in Vietnam, a place I called home for almost four years. I had just arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, a testy 26 year old who might have finally bitten more than he could chew. Although I had a relatively strong spiritual foundation for being a part of a Catholic charismatic community back in the Philippines, being away from my homeland and my community made me lonely and stressed with work. I had only God as my constant companion – my confidant, cheerleader, counselor and protector. In those days, when faced with insurmountable challenges I would fast and seek the Lord’s counsel.
I was nearing the end of a day-long fast when I heard a voice, “Serve Me!” My first thought was, I must be going crazy from hunger. So I decided to stand up and grab something to eat before it got any worse. As I stood up, I heard the same voice. This time louder, more authoritative and powerful, “SERVE ME!” I fell at once to my knees and prayed. That was how my life of service began.
In the four years that the Lord stationed me in Vietnam, I, along with others of similar conviction, relentlessly buried ourselves doing God’s work. We were able to establish a Catholic community for singles among the Filipinos in Vietnam. It was a very diverse group of household helps, factory workers, mid- level executives and heads of businesses. This eventually transitioned to a community for married couples, which to this day remains a thriving community.
Religion is technically illegal in Vietnam and the Catholic faith was tolerated for as long as the sacraments were said in Vietnamese and witnessed by the local communist party office. At great risk to ourselves, we established a small Catholic community for foreigners who were working in Vietnam. We had our first baptism and confirmation for teen-aged expatriate children. My wife and I had the chance to visit Vietnam five years ago and this church has been blessed immensely. It now had a truly international membership base and had moved to an even bigger location.
Having a church to call our own, we then set about establishing catechism classes for children. My then girl friend, Jeannie, who is now my wife, and I decided to put up Legion of Mary to honor our Lady and teach children the devotion to the holy rosary. Together we also organized the Knights of the Altar, in order to instill in the young the value of serving the Lord.
Needless to say, this was an endeavor that required a lot of commitment from us for we all had regular day jobs. But what made it such a miracle was that none of us sought any reward or recognition. Seeing a happy community worshipping God and rejoicing in His majesty was reward in itself for all of us.
Truly, one can never outdo our God in His generosity and He sees through the heart. For while I was busy doing His work, He was very busy rewarding me with graces that were even beyond my wildest dreams. My career took off. From Brand Manager, I was promoted to Marketing Manager in charge of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. I was subsequently transferred to Malaysia where I was made responsible for southern ASEAN markets. This was followed by a transfer to Switzerland where I was given a global role overseeing several regions and markets worldwide.
The Lord blessed my coffers with blessings so immense that I forgot the meaning of want. Traveling on business class in almost all our trips. Stays and conferences in the best hotels – Beau Rivage in Switzerland, Burj Al Arab in Dubai, Waldorf Astoria in New York, Conrad Hilton, Grand Hyatt, Four Seasons, Shangri-la and all luxury hotels and resorts in many destinations worldwide. A penthouse apartment overlooking Lake Geneva to call our home with a luxury car to get around the city.
I felt that the world was truly at my fingertips and everything I touched turned to gold. So successful had I become that I began to believe in my own greatness. Where I once held a bible for strength, I now held Bloomberg Businessweek. Where I once sought the sanctuary of the church for comfort, I now sought parties, diplomatic grand balls, socials and golf courses. My hands that once tightly clasped the rosary for strength had held marijuana and alcohol.
I thank God that He didn’t allow me to continue to stray from Him. After the novelty of the luxuries waned, I realized how superficial they all were. I yearned to gain back the relationship that we once had. Upon our return to the Philippines, my wife and I searched for a community that would nurture our spiritual needs and help grow our faith.
God led us to Living Hope Catholic Charismatic Community through a friend. It took ten years but it felt like coming home back to Him. This community provided us with a holistic framework. Its approach to transformation begins with the challenge to embrace Christ and to learn more about the Catholic faith.
I find myself asking the Lord the most obvious question, after being away from Him for so long. “What must I do?” His response was so clear, “Serve Me once again. Multiply your talents for My sake and commit yourself to My service.”
In truth, I do not know where this road will lead me. I do not comprehend the path that lies ahead. I feel a very strong need and desire to stop and reexamine everything. But one thing is certain, I need to prepare myself for this path of service.
And so my journey with the Lord begins yet again. A journey that began almost two decades ago that I up-ended. And now He has offered to pick up where we left off. “SERVE ME!”