This is just the beginning!
Uncertainty, fear and doubt were some of the few things that clouded my mind when I was asked if I’d consider going for the Exposure Programme in Thailand. An international training? Another country? Why me? Am I good enough? How am I meant to pay for it? The questions kept rolling but through all of it, I very distinctly remember a JY leader telling me, ‘all you need to do is make yourself available and the rest will be taken care of by God’. I write to you today to testify that everything did fall into place, only more perfectly and beautifully than I ever expected it to.
After a lot of contemplation, a jumble of confusion, many a discussion and a fair bit of preparation, I found myself on a Bangkok bound plane with Gavin and Steffi and realised that I had taken a plunge into the unknown and there was no turning back. I was aware that the Exposure Programme was an international event but I sure didn’t expect the diversity that met me when I landed there! I was taken aback to say the very least but mustered all the positivity I possibly could and launched myself into the Jesus Youth Exposure Programme 2010. The next ten days were an overload of information and activity and covered topics ranging from paradigm shift and the power of forgiveness to science vs. religion and team building to name a few. Each of the 25 participants from 11 different countries varied in their opinions of ‘best session’ and ‘most memorable moment’ but what follows is a sneak peek of all that I personally cherished during my stay at the Garden of Gospel Peace.
Growing up in a Catholic charismatic family, most of my ideas of God were borrowed from my parents and retreats and were not really my own. I dutifully fulfilled my Catholic obligations but never really had a deep rooted relationship with God. By God’s grace and the merit of my parents’ prayers, I had an almost perfect life. The few things that were not so perfect, I decided I could live with. After the completion of my Masters degree in Interior Design about 2 years ago, I had a lot of spare time that was previously taken up by studies and hence I got a little more involved with my local parish. Amazingly but not surprisingly, even though I didn’t see it then, God sent various people my way to help me with my spiritual journey as soon as I opened up my life to Him. It was small ‘coincidences’ and little miracles that gave me a reason to pull myself up every time I faltered.
My conviction is that God calls us all in our ‘own language’, which in my case was singing. My unrealised childhood dream of singing for the Lord began becoming a reality when I made a conscious effort to give more of my time to the Lord and I began singing for my local parish and monthly night vigils. Like every other ‘coincidence’ so far, I began going to JY in July 2009 and was a ‘Friday JY’ up until Dec 2009 when I was asked to sing for a teens’ programme. Singing for JY coupled with the fact that I was meeting young people who were working for the Lord was rather exciting and my saying ‘yes’ led to getting to personally know a lot of JYs. I had a hands-on encounter with the JY lifestyle and I have been hooked since.
The Exposure Programme held from the 12th-22nd July 2010 urged me to change my perspective on simple things like God’s love - something I’ve heard so frequently about, that I took it for granted. The magnitude of God’s love was a constant source of amazement, and a new view on the fact that I am a child of such a magnificently awesome God was a source of amusement and delight and it drove home the responsibility that came with it. It made me realise that no matter who we are, where we come from and what our pasts hold, we are all His children and He loves us all the same and expects us to love one another just as much. Through the various sessions I was able to grasp the necessity of a strong personal relationship with God and that I was to prioritise my relationship with God above all else, and was convinced that everything else I need and want will follow.
Humility was an important virtue I learnt just by watching all the resource people and their interactions with us as well as between themselves. I was really struck when a leader said, “if you see another person with the same talent as yours but better, and you can say, ‘thank you Lord for this person who can glorify You and work for Your kingdom’, without being jealous, that would be humility”. Interacting with participants from various backgrounds and cultures also made me realise that there are people out there who are willing to work for God even in their suffering and pain. It was truly inspiring and made me question myself to see if I’d be faithful to God even in times of adversity.
I thank God for making the Exposure Programme possible and more importantly for giving the 25 of us the grace to respond and say ‘yes’ to the call to attend it. It’s my prayer that we all persevere as soldiers of God and continue to grow in love for Him and for each other. It sometimes discourages me to think that I have so many areas of weakness that need fixing but it gives me hope to think that ‘this is just the beginning’! What say Fr. Cherian? It was with a lot of apprehension that I decided to go for the Exposure Programme and it wasn’t until the very end that I really felt connected to everyone there. But I know for a fact that I’ve learnt something from everyone I got to know over our ten days together and that you’ll have motivated and encouraged me in one way or the other and above all, taught me about love and hope in ways you’ll will never imagine.
Cassandra De Silva, Australia