Lia Vergel De Dios
I have a thing about sticking with what’s comfortable, with what’s familiar. I have a circle of friends (quite a large circle!) with whom I spend most of my time. I like doing things with my family as well. Anything else that doesn’t include my family and friends, I only bother with if I feel a strong connection to it, if I feel it is for me, if it fits in with my personality.
I was in my last year in high school when a couple of my friends invited me to join them on a retreat. For the first time, I felt my eyes were opened to God’s unconditional, overwhelming love. Though I met a lot of new friends there, I never really became active in that community. Perhaps I needed to give myself time to decide whether this was for me or not. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted to know Him more, and so that very same summer, I joined another community for the youth; this time, a charismatic one.
Encountering charismatic worship for the very first time, I felt like a fish out of water at first. But slowly, I found a certain freedom in just letting go, and telling God how marvelous and awesome He is. So this was what it was like to talk to God, this was how to pray! I spent some time with that community and another one while I was in college—there was a certain high in serving Him, too. But I remember looking at the families that served together at those youth camps and retreats, and somehow wishing my family was there with me, serving and worshiping alongside me. Sometimes, I would just wish to have someone, anyone, to go with me during Sunday masses. Was life in community for me, could I find my place, did I fit in? At that time, especially with no family or close friends to join me, I never really thought so, and so I eventually left.
After college, I found myself diving head first into the maddening reality of the corporate world. I was introduced to vices and a lot of gray areas, which were okay because everyone else was doing it. Because of this loosening of what was right and wrong, I entered into a relationship with someone who spelled bad news from the very beginning. It was a hurtful, exhausting, demoralizing relationship to be in and yet, I cannot explain my actions to this day, I couldn’t get out of it, no matter how many times I tried. I wasn’t strong enough. It was only then, at my lowest, that I remembered the God I used to pray to, who was mighty and powerful and who loved me more than anything. And so I prayed to be saved, for a way out of this relationship. And through what should have been a disastrous experience—me receiving a harassing phone call (just a glimpse of how tangled this relationship had gotten)—the Lord did provide a way out through my father who intervened by making the decision I was too weak to make on my own—to leave the company I was working for where we met) and to leave the relationship once and for all.
Leaving my corporate job, I was suddenly faced with the dilemma of what to do. With more time to reflect and think things over, I decided to do volunteer work with one of my friends. There I met someone who inspired me with his passion for serving, as well as his passion for God (and who later would become my husband). I was later on invited to another retreat (the RTD), and here I was again reunited with the God I had met years before in my youth—His mercy and healing meeting me where I was, and inviting me to a new life with Him.
This year marks my 10th year with Living Hope. This life in community, which I could never have imagined before, has proven to be the most meaningful and fruitful years of my life. This community has witnessed the beginning and development of our love story: from courtship to marriage and in the last few years, the additional three little bundles of joy who complete our family.
I don’t think I can explain why I’ve been able to stick with this community and not the earlier ones. Perhaps it was because I had a handful of my closest friends already there ahead of me. Maybe it was because I am here with my husband (someone who not only goes toSunday mass with me, but also serves with me in community). But I believe it was just God’s perfect timing—a time when my heart had already tried searching for something that would fill this special emptiness inside, and found that He is the only piece that fits perfectly. Yes, this HE, is for me. As I am for Him.