Sunday Christian to a practicing Christian
"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28).
I was a Sunday church going Syrian Orthodox Christian who thought I was relatively doing well spiritually. My first encounter with Jesus Youth was through Shigy Gopinath, a nursing school teacher at S.H. Medical Centre, Kottayam, Kerala. Her name sounded Hindu but why she was associated with something Catholic is something I did not dig deep into. But whenever there was a prayer request, Shigy was the person to go to. A relationship which started as a great friendship ended up in Holy Matrimony on 1st September 2003 witnessed by around 25-30 Jesus Youth. During the discernment process for our marriage, I got the opportunity to meet some great leaders of Jesus Youth – Chackochan Njavallil, George Gloria, Raiju Varghese, Santhosh Antony and most importantly, Shigy’s Spiritual Father, Fr. Sebastian Arikat. There was something special about these people but then I never knew the reason behind it.
Shigy cleared her exams to immigrate to the USA in 2001 and 5 yrs of waiting eventually brought us to the land of opportunities on 14th May 2006. I came here with big materialistic dreams like owning at least a Harley Davidson bike and a BMW/Benz car to name a few.
The first four months we were jobless which allowed us to spend most of our time in Syro Malabar Mission, Garfield, New Jersey headed by Fr. Joy Alappat, cousin of Fr. Sebastian Arikat. The first ever retreat of mine was led by Fr. Uppani in Garfield itself. During the retreat God gave us the message that we were going to have a child, after 3 yrs of marriage and a missed pregnancy in the first 4 months after marriage. He convicted me with the power of the Rosary since in my Church we did not have the Rosary prayer. My journey with the movement started in late 2006.
The North East RST was re-constituted and Shigy was called to be a part of the RST. Accompanying her to the meetings were my baby steps in the movement and later on I started representing her. Helping with the 2007 Rexband tour to US gave me greater responsibilities and the retreat animated by them led me to personally encounter the lifestyle of various leaders in the movement which challenged me to lead a holy life. As a preparation for Love Beyond Borders in Dec. 2007, there was a one month 24 hrs Adoration throughout US and not out of thorough conviction, I took the slots between 12-3 am. I had never experienced in all my life the power of the Eucharistic Adoration since I came from an Eastern Orthodox background but here, each adoration convicted me of the strength that comes from sitting in the Lord’s presence. Now as a Jubilee year offering, our region is having weekly Night Vigils and I never miss an opportunity of spending the whole night in Adoration.
2008 saw me be a part of Fr. George Kumblumoottil’s retreats in New Jersey; though it was for teens, the first hand experience of a full fledged initial retreat challenged me to enter into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Fr. Dheeraj Sabu and Alicekutty chechi’s formation in the same year strengthened my conviction of living the JY lifestyle especially of having a sweet time with the Lord in personal prayer. The Lord has been gracious in my life of being a JY. He has put me in the best Cell group I could ever think of. I got invited into the Cell of Saji Sebastian, Monagi Thomas, Hector Lewis and Dr Mathew (who is in India right now); a concrete opportunity to deepen my relationship with the Triune God. Now the Cell has evolved into a Family Cell group with Jotty & Jyothini in it. Re-constitution happened in the region in Oct’ 2008 when it was decided to have 2 teams co-ordinating the Youth and Family ministry respectively. The Lord entrusted our family to co-ordinate the family ministry in the region and henceforth be faithful to the call, obviously with our immense human weaknesses. As I have always heard in the movement, the Lord gives the Grace according to His call and He graciously pours it out to every Co-ordinator to fulfill his mission.
Part of this testimony is being written in the Tokyo airport since my flight has been delayed by 4 hrs; on my way to America after the International Leaders Training 2010. The 12 days of intense training on Paradigm shift, Integrity, Time management, Setting Priorities, Leadership, Apologetics, Stewardship, Commitment, etc, and doing workshops, listening to personal testimonies; has all been a life transforming experience to serve the Lord better as a leader and a Jesus Youth. I am driven by the powerful words of Manoj Sunny, “Give the best to the Lord” and I could witness that in everything during the training.
Programme Co-ordinator Raiju Varghese instructed all of us to speak in English. Obviously we as good students did so for a couple of days and also when he was around. But even after all had left and there was no one listening, Raiju was particular about speaking in English to Fr. Bitaju while evaluating the day and planning for the next day.
What great Management Gurus we have in our movement!! The amount of knowledge these humble people carry, the amount of hard work they do to give us the best is simply amazing. One single session of CC Joseph on the different styles of Leadership I believe was after referring over 50 books or more. He was eluding that he could give a reading list of around 200 books which were used for the whole training excluding the Holy Bible, CCC and Church documents. Manoj Sunny shared of how the commitment we have is great and that people outside the movement wonder as to how we have inculcated it in our people. However he said that this was not enough to carry us in the next phase of the movement. This woke me up as many a times I was getting complacent to the fact that I am relatively spending more time with the Lord. Fr. Fio shared the story of the Lord telling someone on the final day that ‘you could have done more’; and when we have a closer look at the face of the person, it is Mother Teresa.
In the last 4 yrs my life has taken a 180 degree turn. The dreams with which I landed in this country have now turned into the dreams of our powerful Lord. The International Leaders Training has challenged me to make another 180 degree turn in my life. I have found a treasure in Jesus Youth and also know that it has been given to me in a delicate earthen vessel. We enjoy today the platform which has been created by so much of hard work and sweat.
How many more years do we have in our life?
How many more days left?
The Lord has invited me into His Kingdom, solely by His choice; can I offer Him even a slice of me?
Lord, will you help me to commit my life to you through this movement?
Lord, I offer myself for a second conversion in life as it happened to St. Paul.