• Living the Life

    Karina Vera

    Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

    My first encounter with Living Hope Community was 9 years ago. At that time, I was living the type of life a lot of single ladies my age hoped to have–I had my dream job in fashion retail, I had a cool boyfriend, I had a full social calendar. This had been the kind of life I’d led since college. I was having fun, it wasn’t destructive (I wasn’t hurting anyone), I had everything I could ever want. Yes, I was living “the Life.”

    Prayer meetings and community life were very foreign to me. Although I grew up in a Catholic family and studied in a Catholic school, anything to do with spirituality and religion were contained in school and Sunday masses only. Anything beyond this, in my opinion, cramped my style. If I ever looked for anything beyond or deeper than my life of partying, I certainly did a good job of hiding it.

    An old friend had incessantly been inviting me to attend prayer meetings. She hounded me with texts and emails, pulling out all the stops trying to convince me to attend. She didn’t just send me invites, she actually sent me her conversion story! Talk about hard sell! But one particular invite intrigued me though: it was to a talk entitled “Will and Grace: Understanding God’s Ways.” It was interesting enough to get me to say yes to that prayer meeting.

    The first part of the prayer meeting was pretty awkward for me. People were singing, raising their hands, closing their eyes–I felt like a fish out of water! It was so uncomfortable that I really considered walking out the door.

    But after that interesting start, I was surprised to find that the talk was not given by a priest or a nun, but by a “regular” person, someone whom I could easily relate to because of the simple way she talked about spirituality. The talk was so real, so practical–I couldn’t believe it! All this time, I never bothered with talks and retreats like these because I assumed anything “religious” or “spiritual” was difficult to grasp, beyond my reach.

    After that fateful Friday night, I knew I was hooked. I would go every Friday because the talks nourished my hungry soul. I looked forward to the sharings of the members because they made me want to know God the way they knew Him. They would talk about God as if He was a tangible father, a brother, a friend. They would share about simple miracles happening, answered prayers, realizations about how big our God is.

    I began to see a different God through Living Hope. I began to see how loving our God is, how He would give us the desires of our hearts no matter how big (or small!) these might be. I began to see a God who was no longer distant, but One I could talk to in moments of joy or pain. I began to see how God is so much bigger than I could ever have imagined. I started to believe that whatever happened in my life, I would never be alone because He would be there to hold my hand.

    In August 2008, my older sister announced to our family that my 6-year old niece had a brain tumor. It was inoperable, and chemotherapy would only do more harm than good. We then turned to prayers and alternative medicine. I was confident then that our Mimu would survive, despite her showing signs of unresponsiveness to medicines. I really believed that we wouldn’t lose her. God was with me, how could I possibly doubt that she would get better?

    We lost Mimu that October. I distinctly remember how everything felt so surreal, as if things were happening in slow motion. But somehow, I felt God holding my hand throughout the ordeal, reassuring me, comforting me. I somehow knew then that she was in a better place, without pain, without any sufferings. She was already home with our Father.

    Now, I don’t think I would have reacted the same way if I hadn’t been in community, if I wasn’t renewed. I would have questioned, I would have doubted, I would have been really angry with God. But all I felt then was peace, acceptance and the reality that God was still in control.

    And it was at that exact moment that I realized why He had brought me to Living Hope. He was preparing me for a time like this, when my faith would be challenged. He gave me the grace to accept His will and the strength to move on. And that was the only thing I was clinging to during that painful time. I praise God for this amazing gift!

    My deepening faith in Him also helped me when my family went through a financial crisis 3 years ago. There was no security for our future then for the solution was out of our hands completely. My only reassurance then was that I knew in my heart that God is my Provider, and that God is faithful. In 7 months, He answered our prayers, and I cannot thank Him enough for giving us exactly what we needed.

    I am a witness to so many amazing stories about God’s faithfulness, and I can’t help but be awed by this wonderful God. The only correct response to His faithfulness is to serve Him. A few years back, I joined one of the ministries in community and was later asked to head that ministry. Two years ago, I said yes to head the different ministries in Living Hope. And though it’s not easy to say yes to His call, I know that saying yes to Him is more fulfilling and more rewarding than anything the world can offer.

    I am very happy where I am now. I’ve been married for seven years to my cool boyfriend and we’ve been gifted with a wonderful daughter and son. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend–but more than anything else, I am a servant of God.

    I praise God for introducing me to Living Hope 9 years ago. Although my reason for joining community then was to have a spiritual life, what God gave me was so much more–a changed life. He continues the good work in me and has made me realize that I am His beloved. I can now say that I am living “the Life.” A life filled with His love, full of hope, centered on Christ.

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