To Follow the Voice in the Desert

When we got married in 2004, serving as a missionary couple was far from our minds.  We were contented to start our new life together as husband and wife in the Philippines.  We started by renting a small apartment, saving up for small investments and serving as a young couple in the community. We were contented to serve the Lord full time in Manila, not wanting to leave our comfort zones. 

It wasn’t until a year after in 2005, when invitations to go out on long-term mission were offered to us by our elders.  But still our hearts were stubborn to God’s call. 

In October of 2005, we found out that we were going to have a baby, finding this as our perfect excuse for definitely not committing to go on mission.  But 8 weeks into the pregnancy, Sam suffered a miscarriage.  She started bleeding and ultrasound results showed that the baby had no more heartbeat.

It was a difficult time for us.  After a year of being married that baby was the greatest gift we have been praying for but we lost it.

During those times of sorrow, heartache and mourning, God showed us the light of His plans.  Thoughts of going on mission had been on our minds and disturbing our hearts.  Together, we felt that our supposedly first-born was a clear
message from God.  A reminder to put God first and he will take care of the rest. 

Packing our bags, giving up our house, stocking up the little things we have invested, and leaving our families behind, we flew to the Middle East to start our long-term mission in March of 2006. 

It wasn’t an easy task to be in a foreign land such as the Middle East.  We literally live in our suitcase, moving from one place to another, not having a permanent place to stay in.  We need to observe and adjust to the limitations of practicing our catholic faith.  We need to adjust to the culture and lifestyle in the area.  Our schedules were dependent on the validity of our visas. 

Serving in the community is also a major adjustment for us. Unlike in the Philippines, where there is a Church in almost every major town, there is only 1 church per area here in the Middle East.  It is difficult to get large venues to conduct activities in except to spend for hotel function rooms.

But the Lord, ever faithful that He is,  never allowed all these hindrances to get in the way of our mission work and growth of the community in the region.  God is always one step ahead of us with regard to our mission and personal needs.  That’s why it is with great affirmation for us to witness the many lives being transformed, the victory of His works and the growing commitment of our brothers and sisters in service. 

On a personal note, however, there is still a part of us longing for that one thing lacking in our lives – the desire to have our own child.  In the midst of all the victories happening around us, we continued to wonder when our time will come to finally receive God’s blessing.  2 years into the mission and 2 years since we lost our unborn child we began to question God’s plan for us.   

But God’s timing is always perfect.  In 2007, blessings after blessings started pouring in for us.  First, we were able to find a more private and permanent place to call our home. Second, we were both granted residence visas, which allowed us to be more flexible in our mission. And in December, the moment we’ve been waiting for finally came.  We found out that Sam was 6 weeks pregnant.  He took care of all our needs first as a couple before presenting to us this wonderful and special gift of a child.

August 2008 was one of the happiest moments in our lives when our son, Miguel Joaquin, finally came to this world making us a complete missionary family.  Miguel is for us, God’s symbol of His ever-generous love and unwavering faith.

However, becoming a missionary family posed new challenges for us.  Juggling responsibilities with our son, growing demands of service, quality time in our relationship and satisfying our individual needs started to cause stress and tension between us as husband and wife.  Finances and the future began to worry us as well.  In fact, we would encounter encouragements and suggestions for us to pursue greener pastures by establishing ourselves in the Middle East, leave fulltime missionary work and look for secular, high-paying jobs.  Many times it crossed our minds.  But our hearts are just not into it. 

It’s so easy to be lured to desire a materially, comfortable lifestyle, especially serving in a first-world region such as the Middle East.  But we believe that this is not the calling of God for us here.  For some, it may be God’s will for them to uproot their families here for greener pastures.  But for our family, it is our calling to continue to witness as missionaries and bring Christ to the lives of those who may have forgotten Him out of comfort.  A lot may not understand, but a simple yet fulfilled life is the right path for us.   

We left for mission the year CFC celebrated its Silver anniversary… it was our gift for the community to respond to God’s voice calling out on us from the desert.  And indeed, we received so many blessings because of this… if may not come in material form, for these were blessings that we will carry in our hearts forever.  This mission transformed our individual brokenness… this mission bonded us as husband and wife… this mission allowed us to become a complete family… and this mission gave us an opportunity to be better servants of God.  And as we look forward to a future full of hope for our family, our inspiration will always come from the moment we decided to follow God’s Voice calling to us in the desert…where He restored us from emptiness to being filled with His oasis of love. 

*Article for the CFC 30th Anniversary Commemorative Book (Pearl Book), also featured in the CFC Middle East Website for Feast of the Holy Family, December 2011