I couldn't believe I still passed as youth when I was invited to attend the FCCF Youth Camp last May 22 to 26, 2011. I almost did not join when I heard the word youth. But since many of my friends were going there as counselors and a couple were attending as delegates, I decided to hop on the plane with them and headed to Cebu, Philippines. Never did I regret a second since then. The whole experience was very beautiful, quite surreal.
If I were to express my whole camp experience in two words, like the name of the resort, it is: BE -- Beyond Expectations.
Let me tell you my top 8 BE experiences (based on the order of appearance).
1. Calm Chamber
When I swiped in my keycard and opened the door to room 422 of BE Resort Mactan, all I could say was wow! What I saw was beyond my expectations. I felt like Percy Jackson on his first trip to Vegas. It was too beautiful to be a camp room that a thought like, hmm... could Satan be luring me? came to mind. I later realized, it was simply one of God's blessings to me that I should be thankful for.
I felt like melting in the calm colors of the room.. the hues of blue and green.. the plumped up pillows.. the climb-in-like-a-queen beds. I absolutely loved the soft coffee colored window seat with its accessorized pillows and the very witty display of frosted glass with round mirrors of varying sizes of which reminded me that Hey, we also have a beach! But nah, I'd rather curl up in the window seat and read a good book until the sky paints red and then fades to black.
2. Woman in White
My roommate and I were feeling a bit off on our third day. She had colds and I had a bit of sore-throat, so that morning we decided to drop by the hotel clinic for a quick check-up. A petite nurse with a warm smile opened the door and ushered us in. She checked our blood pressure and gave my friend the last cold medicine from her kit. As for me, she admitted apologetically that they had no available lozenges. That afternoon, I received a call from a camp officer saying that my lozenge was already available. I received a set of 10-pcs Strepsils inside a Mercury Drug Store plastic.
In the next days of camp, I heard that this woman in white would ask the unwell campers how they were doing when they'd bump into each other at the lobby.
3. Surprising Seat
At first glance, this wooden chair is as hard as mini wooden logs clumped and tied together to be used for roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. But when I sat on it, it was delightfully soft and comfortable. It followed the curvature of my body. Later I learned that unknown to the naked eye is the foam underneath the numerous wooden cylinders.
4. Breakfast by the Beach
It was my first time to enjoy a meal of bangus with garlic rice and a bowl of Arroz Caldo on the beach, with (rocky) sand under my shoes and the sound of tides in the background. Soon, I found that all meals were set on the beach.
5. Packed with Punch
I realized I wasn't too old for this youth camp. The camp may have a broad target group, but surprisingly (almost) all the scheduled talks were substantial and helpful for the young and old. The teens were silent and behaved as they listened intently and laughed occasionally when the speakers threw in some jokes (evident that they were not sleeping). The older ones listened just as attentively. Sometime during those days, you might have caught me, my seatmates, some counselors (males even) tearing up.
The messages were very powerful. Like the breath of the Holy Spirit, they filled and guided the attendees, blowing them (those who were open and willing) forward and upward. The speakers spoke with utmost honesty and strong conviction of the truth. There was a message on prayer by Pastor Arnel Tan, a pep talk by Elder Cecilio Pedro, four revival messages by Pastor Jebo Banzuelo and four theme messages on the four chapters of Philippians by Rev. Chris Chia. Learnings were definitely beyond expectations!
6. Selfless Speakers
It was my first time to encounter guest speakers giving spontaneous messages during their supposed free time. Both Pastor Jebo and Reverend Chia gave additional sessions on separate occasions (mind you they did not overlap) for those who raised their hands to go full-time and those who are already in ministry, respectively. I sensed their genuine concern for those who heeded the royal call to do the royal task.
7. Compassionate Counselor
Cathy Chi (older sister) met with us fifteen minutes earlier than the designated group devo time. She knew that we would be too tired to read, digest and answer the devotional questions late at night. And so she gave us time to read the passage silently during the morning devo time and patiently waited until we were already moving about in our seats, before she asked us to share the principles we got from the passage. She also tried to provide as much help as she could for our individual growth, in life and in ministry, during our short stay in the camp. She's indeed one of the sweetest!
8. Solemn Signature
The final climactic stage of the camp was the dedication night wherein attendees would be asked to make one of the biggest, life-changing, earth-stopping decisions in their lives. After much prayers they would be asked to choose between (1) To dedicate one's life to the Lord, (2) To rededicate one's life to the Lord, or (3) To commit one's life to full-time ministry.
God knew how lost I was (and honestly, still am). I am at a crossroad of my life where I don't know which path to take... north, south, east west, forward, backward, sideward, diagonally. Every path seemed probable and reasonable. I may not know my path, but God knows. I choose to let God take hold of the "full"-ness of me and lead the way. And so I walked to the front with my eyes filled with tears and feet trembling, I placed my name on the yellow poster together with the others who've decided to do number 3. My signature doesn't tell people that I am already a pastor or a missionary. It just says, "No reservations anymore, Lord. Wherever you take me, your princess is willing."