I’ve heard it said that man seeks pleasure more than anything else. Being a conformist (for a lack of a better term), I can easily attest that I do seek pleasure through different things (but not to the point of being hedonistic as my Socio 10 professor would put it). It can be time well spent with friends and family, getting myself a cup of Starbucks before going to work, buying new stuff to add to my wardrobe, having a movie marathon with friends, and sleeping for more than 7 hours. It would take me a long while before I decide to sacrifice one of them.

A month ago, I was invited to join OJ Isabela. Actually, I really want to go since I haven’t experienced OJ before (the closest I can get was Stillwaters’ Hope: Aurora back in 2006). Also, I have more freedom now to fix my schedule for those kinds of activities. I want to experience once how to be a CCC mover once again.

For one whole month, I’m struggling with a lot of personal issues. I started thinking twice whether I would still go or not because 1.) I don’t want to spend that sum of money (I wasn’t able to raise support), 2.) I would rather take a break, spend time with my family at home than bathe in the scorching heat of the summer sun, 3.) I find it hard to file a leave at work because I have to give my boss a good justification for that, and the list goes on. I want pleasure and comfort more than anything else. These excuses discouraged me to go but God is trying to tell me something through these things.

Part of my struggle would be spending time with God and knowing Him deeper. I’m still in the process of finding my real purpose in life. I keep on asking God what He wants me to do. A soul-searching of some sort. The hustle and bustle of the city won’t bring any help. At last, a good reason for me to go! I realized ‘Hey! It might be a great time to ask God about my purpose.’ With that in mind, I told my parents that I would be out of town on Holy Week for OJ, which was surprisingly just fine with them. Done with step 1.

After getting permission from my parents, I decided to sacrifice a part of my savings for the registration fee. Praise God for ‘brutally’ teaching me how not to spend much prior to the said event. But the battle within me became greater. I started thinking of the things that I can buy with that money. The devil started giving me pictures of false pleasures. But God is good. He made me realize that that sum of money is nothing compared to what He promised to me if I do anything according to His will. 🙂

Probably the hardest challenge that I encountered is filing a leave at work. Like what I said, I have to give good justification for that. Bahala na! I filed a leave for 3 days from March 29 to 31. Unfortunately, I was given new tasks to do during those dates. So I was kinda pissed off. My boss told me that I should be on the general assembly on the 30th since it’s compulsory. So I thought she didn’t approve of my 3-day leave. One workmate of mine told me that March 31 would be a holiday for us but if there are still unfinished jobs, some of us would still go to work. Thankfully, the late party of OJ delegates will leave on the night of March 30. After finding that out, I texted my boss and told her that I will be at work until the 30th and re-schedule my leave just on the 31st instead. She replied but it’s not the answer that I’m looking for. But I’ve already decided to go to OJ even though we still have work on the 31st. March 29 came and surprisingly, the universe conspired and my boss gave me a go to leave by the 31st. Praise God! I’m already good to go. I was still able to attend the general assembly right before our scheduled departure.

We arrived at the campsite after almost 10 hours of travel (including some mishaps in the directions going there). I was told before that we will live inside tents, which is just fine for me. I wasn’t able to bring my own beddings but thank God I got to stay in a big tent with some OJ delegates. The harder part would be taking a bath and/or doing doing number 2. We have to walk a few hundred meters to do our thing in a barangay hall which is still under construction. I’m out of my comfort zone indeed and that’s what OJ is all about. Surprisingly, I find it kinda easy to adjust to the situation. Probably the result of pre-psyching myself that I’m gonna experience the worst. I crossed a boundary!

Upon arriving at the campsite, we were only given a little time to eat lunch and prepare for the community immersion. Yes, immersion in the community during lunchtime. Add the fact that Isabela is hardly hit by the El Nino Phenomenon (you are doomed if you don’t have sunblock). Oh well, this is OJ. What do you expect? It’s known for these kinds of stuff. 😛 But seeing the younger delegates enjoy the truck ride, I don’t have any reason to complain. Besides, I signed up for this. I’m one of God’s soldiers now.

I was quite surprised with my decision to join OJ. Why am I still so eager to go there and be out of my comfort zone? Why is sacrificing my job seemed easier just for me to attend this activity? I don’t know the exact answer. But I know God is working in me.

I was able to share the Gospel on my first day there. Praise God for reminding me how to handle different responses. I was blessed by the enthusiasm of each one to go and reach out. The truck experience was great!. The last thing I had something like that was way back in LTI 2004. I was also able to walk 2 or 3 kilometers to invite people to watch the Jesus film. I got the chance to pray for the people we shared to and to the people who accommodated us in their homes. The Jesus film worked after a lot of technical difficulties with the DVD player. Hundreds of people were exposed to the Gospel through the film. The Living Waters sessions made me understand more about myself and about other people’s struggles. The weather is too hot but it didn’t stop us from going to the battlefield.

One of the highlights of this event is the commitment night. I like the way how Ate Coco led the night. I actually didn’t make a commitment, I made a re-commitment because I lost my desire to reach out to people. I’m glad that God gave me an avenue to (once again) find my purpose in life and to re-direct me to where He wants me to be (because I’ve been taking a longer detour these past few years). I praise God because I was able to spend time with Him in a more deeper and unique way. God is asking me to give up false pleasures, free myself of some excess baggage and lay them all down at the foot of the cross. He wants me to realize that He did everything on the cross… just for me because He loves me. He wants me to wake up every morning in the warmth of His embrace. My life should all be about Him. God set my heart on fire once again.

Setting foot in Manila became much harder for me because I gotta go back to work the morning after our last day. Super sabaw mode! But praise God because I was able to work well even though I don’t have a nice rest. I’m gonna miss Isabela. I met a lot of new movers from different schools and I had a great time with them. I saw with my own eyes how God worked ‘for the good of those who love Him.’

I think the greater challenge is not being able to survive the not-so-pleasant conditions in OJ but facing our own lives after the event. OJ might be a fun thing to do for most of us but what matters most is our passion to reach out to our friends, families, workmates, and communities not just in these kinds of activities but also in any occasion. The real challenge begins right after OJ, and that is now.