“Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”
Before the pandemic, Pure Heart Philippines was invited by St. Joseph College (SJC) in Maasin City, Southern Leyte, to take part in their weeklong activity entitled “Crossroads,” which was participated by more than 800 grade 12 students.
When I heard about this mission, I was so excited. This would be my first ever week-long mission and first ever “overseas” mission. However, preparing for this mission was a real challenge for me, as I was preoccupied and busy with work. At some point, it came to my mind not to go to the mission as I really wasn’t prepared. But God really gives us His assurance. I was able to talk to Fr. Thomas—the spiritual director for Pure Heart—and confided to him my fears and doubts, and then he calmly said, “Do not fear, for God anoints those He appoints.” Those words were more than enough to calm my heart.
I am in awe and overwhelmed to see how God’s hand was working all throughout this mission. I was unable to travel with the other servers due to a prior commitment, so I had to travel alone. After my event, I rushed to the port area without any ticket yet, and when I was about to pay, I realized I didn’t have my wallet with me! I started to panic and felt a bit embarrassed. Then a woman approached me and asked what was wrong, so I told her about the situation, and without a second thought, she offered to help me. Amazing! God has always been with me—through the woman who offered to help me buy the ticket, through the man who offered me his seat in the bus going to Maasin City, through the bus driver who offered to drive me back to city proper (yes, I fell asleep on the bus and almost reached a different municipality when I woke up). Indeed, God’s hand at work!
I arrived at SJC at 5:00 a.m. And together with the other servers, I attended the 5:30 a.m. mass at the cathedral. The warm welcome of Fr. Niccolo, the head for Campus Ministry in SJC; the Franciscan Sisters; and all the people there including the students made us comfortable and ready for the mission.
It was a bit challenging on the first day as there were only three of us, but with God’s amazing presence, we were able to pull it through. The students were so participative and very attentive to the talks. During the Q&A, we were overwhelmed by the number of questions raised, and even some students were brave enough to share to us what they’ve learned. We ended our day with adoration and confession. How amazing it is to go back and have an intimate encounter with Jesus and ask for His forgiveness. When we finished the day, our bodies felt really tired, but our hearts were burning with desire to spread God’s message of love to the students. Then Eric said, “If sometimes we get tired or exhausted during the mission, let’s always remember that we are doing this out of love for the students.” And those words stayed in our hearts and served as our motivation to give our best day by day.
With the help and support of the SJC Campus Ministry, we were able to finish the mission fruitfully. It was so heartwarming to hear from the students about their learnings and realizations. One student messaged me on Facebook and said, “Ate, nice kaajo injong mga talks, daghan kaajo mi ug nakat-onan. Naghilak jud ko sa skit ninjo about hope and redemption.” (Ate, your talks are very nice. We learned a lot. I cried during your skit on hope and redemption.) Another one said, “Ate, ganahan kaajo ko naminaw ninjo kay di makaduka. Informative and fun injong way.” (Ate, I really like listening to you because you’re not boring. Your way is informative and fun.) Praised be Jesus Christ for touching the hearts of all the participants. May the seed of faith, hope, and love that God has planted in their hearts bear fruit for them to live the life that He has planned for them and guide them to be the sons and daughters He created them to be.
It’s always an amazing experience to be used by God as instruments and bearers of His light to the world. Every time I go on a mission, I always end up receiving more than I give. I learn more, I gain more friends, and I can feel God’s love all the more. He never fails to spoil His servants. During our last day in Maasin City, we decided to watch the sunrise by the beach. So we went out at 5:30 a.m., and it was still dark, and it was so cloudy! I prayed in silence, “Lord, please let us witness the sunrise today.” When we reached the shore, still the sun wasn’t shining, but we were amazed at how calm and peaceful the sea was. It seemed like the whole world was in a state of great solitude. We each took some time to pray in silence. A few minutes later, the rain started to pour, and I was like, “Lord, the sunrise, please!” but the rain continued on. Despite that, we stayed, and the rain eventually stopped. Rays of sunlight started to show behind those thick clouds, and it seemed like the Holy Spirit was descending from heaven. It was such a sight to behold. I was even more amazed when God showed us a rainbow: not just one, but two! As I watched the vibrant colors painted in the sky and reflected in the water, my heart was just in awe! Birds were soaring over the water and singing, while hundreds of fish began jumping in the water. It seemed to me that they were also praising God that very moment. We were just asking for the sunrise, but He gave us so much more!
As Fr. Niccolo said, “Sometimes, God’s gifts don't always come wrapped in pretty bows.” Indeed, God let it rain, not because He didn't want us to witness the sunrise, but because He needed the rain to create the rainbow and prepare something more amazing. The same applies in life: If God allows us to experience trials, challenges, and even suffering, no matter how dark and difficult the road we are taking, we can always trust in Him. He has always better and more amazing planned. Indeed, there’s always a rainbow after the rain.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the opportunity to serve you.
Analou Zarco is 26 years old and originally from Hilongos, Leyte. She moved to Cebu in 2009 to study BS Management Accounting at the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She has served with Pure Heart Philippines since 2016.