My Story, for HIS Glory
I have a Father, HE knows my name, HE knows all my thoughts, HE sees my every tear and HE hears me when I call out
Until the age of fifteen, I thought that Christianity meant Catholic because the places I lived where completely dominated by Catholics - my family, my school, my friends, and my society. Sunday school catechism was a place to kill time and to freak out. Going to Church was only to ask God for whatever I wanted, a list of things that I needed, and confession was just an obligation, a place where I could download all my sins and get back to the world to do new ones. These are the few lines about me as a young traditional Catholic.
I finished my secondary schooling and being a go-getter, I found teenage as the right age to enjoy my life. The only thought that kept running through my mind was to keep enjoying the freedom. I had no concerns for anybody. If somebody had a problem, it was their fate. I thought this is “my life” so I just needed to worry about myself and forget the rest. I was growing more selfish as the world around me was asking me to be so. This was the time my family went into a great financial depression. The problems that were creeping up eventually opened up the doors of renewal and my mother got into a serious time of prayers. By then, I started realising that there is a God of miracles but not for me. I knew HIM, I prayed to HIM for help, and sometimes I received it and sometimes I did not.
In my second year of engineering, one of my friends asked me to go for a stay-in retreat for seven days, the Discipleship Training Programme - my first exposure to Jesus Youth and to the love of Christ. Through the retreat I came to know about a God who loves, a God who knows my family, a God who knows my situations and a God who knows my thoughts. God gave me the grace to completely come out of my habitual sins and to lead a life according to HIS will. This was the first time I responded to HIS call. I started growing in the Lord and learnt to forgive people, to understand and to respond to the call of the needy. People around me knew that this was not the old but a new Cijo; I started being a witness in my own family. My friends in my college gave me a new name, Fr. Cijo. I had to confront persecution in different forms within my friend’s circle, being bullied for the faith I stood for; within family and relatives, for giving priority to Jesus; I was being questioned about my faith wherever I went. The same people, the same situations, the same college, the same society but not the same Cijo, I had Jesus with me. Things were not easy in my life but with HIM I could see things from a different angle and my hope was in HIM.
I started off in the Jesus Youth with the Campus ministry in Bangalore. For two years, I remained active in this ministry, bringing youth to the Lord by organising retreats, DTP’s and many more programmes. Through these programmes and retreats, I could see the hands of the Lord working in many young people and how people were growing more close to Jesus. This is when I started growing spiritually.
The times that boosted my faith the most were during programmes when I used to take burden and pray for the souls. I could see My Jesus answering my prayers and souls getting converted. I could see and experience the power of prayer and intercession. In one of the counselling sessions that I attended, the counsellor, a farmer from Kerala, just prayed for me and began to reveal materialistic thoughts that were running through my mind. I was happy for a minute and excited that he was telling me things that I had never shared with anyone but then he added one line after that which changed my life. He said, “Jesus knows your every thought and everything that you do, even the smallest thing that you think about”; a true realization that JESUS is close to me every minute of my life.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from far away.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O LORD, you know it completely.
Ps 139: 2, 4
Then came a new surprise, a new twist in my life. My family’s financial situation was growing worse everyday. But even amidst these troubles, my sister’s wedding was a blessing and all our relatives helped us, which indeed was a miracle that happened. We were almost bankrupt after that. The next stage was like a scene from a realistic movie. Due to the financial crisis, people from all sides started literally attacking my family because we couldn’t pay off the debts. The police took me into custody but I was released the same day. Soon after this my mom and I were beaten up and thrown out of our own house. We lost everything! I was passive. It did not mean that I was away from the Lord but I was away from the ministry for almost two years since I had to support my family. God taught me many things during this period of silence (away from the ministry). I had to take up the responsibilities at home and also help my dad with his business and go to work. The few things that I learnt during this period were to love my parents and sister, understand that family is the first church. Between the tight schedules HE taught me how to be humble and at peace. All during this time my cell mates and my fellow Jesus Youth brothers were supporting me, holding my hands to get me back active in the ministry. Gradually I started getting back to the ministry. When I look back I find “JESUS was and is” in full control of my life and my family during all the situations of my life. Ministry after my retrieval; I was a part of the first DTP team of the Karnataka parish ministry and was helping the Counselling ministry in Bangalore as a translator.
A new beginning, like Jonah, when God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, he did not respond to God’s call and went far in the opposite direction. But still our Lord did not leave Jonah and Jonah did according to the will of our Lord. The same thing happened in my life, there was this money factor somewhere down in my heart and so I wanted to go abroad to make money and settle down doing a little bit of ministry, but this was running away from the actual call. Slowly things started to change according to HIS will. From the day I landed in London, the Lord has been guiding me in different ways through programmes, through prayers, through elders and many other ways. I can clearly hear HIM calling me for HIS kingdom and I gladly responded to HIS call once again. From then, I’ve been strongly living my life according to His call.
The Jesus Youth International Leaders’ Training Programme 2010 provided me with answers to questions like who I was, who I am and what I will be doing in my life and in the movement; a clearer picture of what to do with the call I have received; an anointing to answer HIM, “Here, I am” when HE asks “whom shall I send”; a new conviction to say I have decided to follow JESUS and there will be No turning back, No turning back and No turning back.
Like Fr. Fio’s prayer, growing to be a Fully Catholic and Fully Charismatic, I ask every youth in the world to taste my JESUS and soon you too will join me in singing -
“I have decided to follow JESUS,
No turning back, No turning back…”