Highlights of my first three months: A mission update

To put it in a really general way, my main job as a staffer for Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA) is to get to know college students and help them grow in their faith. A lot can go into this.

The Oblation Statue at the University of the Philippines

I work for the CYA chapters at the University of the Philippines (UP) and Ateneo de Manila University, the top two universities in the country. Pretty much every day I’ll go to one of these two college campuses and meet up with some students. Sometimes its to meet just one student for lunch or milk tea (my favorite), or sometimes its to hang out or play sports with a group of students. So far I’ve mostly been getting to know students that have already been part of CYA before I got here, but I’m starting to work with some new students as well. This part of the work is important because having strong relationships with the students and just getting to know them as people is critical if you want to be able to help them out in deeper ways in their life.

The Chapel at Ateneo de Manila University

The other main part of what I do as a staffer is help out with official CYA events. Every other week we’ll have a prayer meeting for each of the two chapters I work with. At these meetings we’ll have a time of worship (singing songs) and someone will give a talk or lead a Bible study. I’ll go to all of these meetings, and sometimes I’ll give the talk or help with leading in some way. In my first month or so I gave a talk at an Ateneo prayer meeting about how the Christian life is simultaneously peaceful and filled with adventure (inspired by Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton). Last month I led a Bible study at UP on the passage John 14:1–14 where Jesus says he is “the way and the truth and the life”. We walked through this passage together in groups and talked about how critical and helpful it is to know Jesus. Because of Jesus we need not have our hearts be troubled (John 14:1) and we may ask for anything in his name and know he will provide it (John 14:14).

At certain points during the school year, CYA hosts some major events for the students in the chapter. These have been some of the more memorable and notable experiences for me so far with CYA:

CrossRoads Retreats

CYA runs these retreats every year, and I’ve been able to help out with two of them. They’re an opportunity for new students to CYA to take a weekend and consider the decisions that are ahead of them in school, life, and faith. Students are given an opportunity to hear about the love of Christ for them and have a chance to make decisions about how they want Christ to be in their life going forward (if at all). Most students who join CYA say that this retreat was one of the turning points for them in their faith, and that it’s one of the reasons why they decided to really become active with the group.

For my first CrossRoads Retreat, a couple of the other CYA staffers, some of our students, and I went up north to a city called Baguio to run the retreat for a small CYA chapter in the city. I was able to give the first talk for the retreat on the topic “Where are you going?” This was an introductory talk for the retreat, meant to help students realize where they are in life and the decisions that are ahead of them.

During this retreat I also led a discussion group during the retreat. One of the guys in my group had a particularly strong experience. He was a guy who grew up going to church, but hadn’t ever really had a relationship with God. It sounded like things had been difficult for him for awhile, especially with broken friendships in the past. He said that the day before the retreat he was sitting in class and heard his teacher talking about the retreat and had felt like God was urging him to go. Apparently he decided to write a poem about it that day, and in it he wrote about how he felt like God was saying that he’d find the friends he didn’t know he had at the retreat. Once he got to CrossRoads, he seemed very moved by the talks and the way people welcomed him. He kept telling me that I was one of the friends God had promised him. Haha, it was a bit strange, but cool to see how God was working. That guy decided he wanted to really follow Christ and has joined the CYA in Baguio where he seems to be pretty committed.

The CrossRoads Retreat in Baguio

I was also able to help out with a CrossRoads Retreat for all of the CYA chapters in Manila, including the two that I work with. This was kind of a crazy event. There were around 200 people total at the retreat, and it happened during the middle of a typhoon. It was amazing to see so many students decide to take a weekend for the sake of their faith, and to just see that many people willing to come together for God. I again worked with a discussion group and saw how good it was for the students to take a step back, look at where they are in life, and see the good things that Christ is offering them if they want it. The students in my group were all in different places faith-wise, but the time clearly had a good impact on each of them.

Shooting M-16s at a Filipino Army Base

Every once in awhile CYA will have events just for guys or just for girls. For the guys, this is meant to build a sense of brotherhood among the men and to help them see what it means to be a son of God in particular. So for our men’s event this semester we logically decided to go to a Filipino Army base and shoot M-16s. It was pretty awesome. And pretty Filipino. Here are some pictures and a video of our time there:

The group that went to the Army camp
Unfortunately no video of us shooting the M-16s, but here’s me holding one!
Typical functions of the Army of the Philippines

Brotherhood was successfully built.

Bringing toasted siopao to the poor

Poverty is extremely prevalent in the Philippines. It’s all around you when you live here and it’s impossible to ignore. As a Christian living here, you feel almost powerless. There are so many people in need, what can you do to help any of them? I’m still trying to figure this out, but a few students and I went to a poor neighborhood to give out toasted siopao (tasty buns filled with meat) for Christmas. Just a small gesture, but a good way for our students to learn how to serve, and a good way for us to show love to those that deserve it.

Some happy Pilipinos
Empty boxes are good!
Hanging out afterwards with the guys who showed us around the neighborhood. They made us some food too!

Just a few highlights from the past few months. More big things to come!

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