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Gathering of Christian Youths – Part 1

Holy Spirit Power! This was manifested in all events of the Youth for Christ (YFC) International Leaders' Conference.

First of all, there was power in the number of conference delegates. From a mere 300 youth leaders during the first YFC conference five years ago in Antipolo, a staggering 5,500 youth leaders from all over the Philippines plus some other countries were present this year. Multiply that by the number of members each one of those leaders are taking care of, and also by the number of people each one of them 'infects' in their day-to-day Christian living. An expanse of God's kingdom … Holy Spirit power! CFC chartered three luxury liners to transport these leaders to the venue. Two ships, M/S St. Francis and M/S St. Peter carried the delegates coming from Luzon and Metro-Manila, and another ship M/S Sta. Ana brought in the delegates from Mindanao.

There was power in just being together. Not a single moment was wasted because the conference unofficially commenced aboard the three liners. Dubbed “Praise Cruise,” the boat trips were replete with activities like men's and women's fora (with junior and senior versions), sharings, entertainment, games and endless fellowship. The crew, a bit dizzy not because of the sea but probably because of the energetic young adults, cheerfully looked after the YFC needs and enjoyed the worship at the sidelines.

TV monitors beamed the activities in the main dining area to all over the ship where passengers could watch from the comforts of their own bunks. The fora speakers, Gerry Padilla and Tony Meloto in M/S St. Francis, Bernie Cuevas and Junie Rodriguez in M/S St. Peter candidly and powerfully handled the topics. The exciting 18-hour boat trip was a crescendo to the whole weekend.

Conference delegates bear the heat of the crowded gym as they worship the Lord. To them it was the warmth of God's love.

Excitement was in the air as the ships docked at the Iloilo port and thousands of conference delegates disembarked. Since the conference was to officially start in the afternoon, the delegates went around the city in the morning. Walking around the malls they saw groups of people wearing familiar CFC gear. It looked as if the malls were CFC country. It was a foretaste of a future we are looking forward to.

The Praise Parade in the afternoon was colorful with the many creative presentations from the participating groups. Because of the large number of delegations, presentations were done by region and not by province. Practicing in their respective regions for the past weeks, there was power not only in their messages but also in their unity and coordination!

After the many Praise Parade presentations, the youth literally rushed from the grandstand to the middle grounds of the Iloilo Sports Complex for the Opening Ceremonies and Worship.

That's the youth! Tireless and full of life!

The main conference talks were given the following days, Saturday and Sunday by CFC Family Ministries Director Tony Meloto, SFC Manila members Mandy Ochoa and Tonypet Albano, CFC USA elder Terry Savage, and CFC International Mission Director Frank Padilla. Every talk had several sharings which were just as powerful as the talks themselves. God truly spoke His word clearly through each one of these speakers.

Saturday evening saw the youth dressed up for the occasion, enjoying the night in their dashing clothes. The Praise Party had ingenious and creative touches of the Philippine Centennial year as the program unfolded. The “Titos” and “Titas” (terms of deference used to address the YFC coordinators and other parents) in the meantime sat apart from them throughout the night taking a breather to rest their tired bodies, happy that the Praise Party provided them a brief respite. And the YFC? They just sang and danced the night away!

Sunday morning found the grandstand jam packed as the day started with Holy Mass. Father Boy Celis, Youth Coordinator of the Archdiocese of Jaro won everyone not only with his wit and humor, but with the depth of his messages. Before the Mass, those who didn't know him wondered who would celebrate the Mass - the long, curlyhaired, bronze-skinned guy talking with the Mass lectors or the clean-cut man in formal 'barong' who was preparing the Eucharistic hosts. It turned out that the hippie-looking guy was Fr. Celis, as he got into the priestly garments (the other was a lay minister). “We should be humble enough to admit the inconsistencies of our faith,” he said in his homily as he tackled the gospel (about Thomas, the doubting apostle) and as he referred to “the stereotypes in our heads.” Fr. Celis brought greetings from Archbishop Piamonte who was in Manila.

The morning continued in fun and entertainment, skills and talents, with the sports and song competitions. Even lunch was “powerful” with guests who are “big” in their respective careers - Bing Viera, Oland David, Erik Manalang (all presidents of companies), and Philippine presidential candidate Rene de Villa.

Towards the end of the conference, the CFC Council awarded the winners of the various competitions held during the conference. Outstanding YFC delegates were also awarded. A Power PraiseFest capped the conference, sending off delegates to their respective provinces with Holy Spirit Power, that they may continue the work of evangelization that the Lord has called the CFC family to do. By Annie Faust

Following are comments from the participants:

BASIL HAURO, YFC: PAPUA NEW GUINEA

I'm 17 years old. I come from PNG, which is very different from the Philippines with a totally very different culture. I come from a broken family, yet YFC brothers and sisters here have made me and the other foreign delegates feel at home. I feel that this is my family here – YFC in Philippines.

I don't care if my family is broken, because I know God is my Father. God has told me that “if you have no father, i will be your Father. I'm the Father of the fatherless.” He is my provider and I trust in Him. I give all my burdens to Him; He will provide for my every need.

Before I came over to the Philippines, I was told that I was going to be a delegate to the Philippines for the International Youth Conference. I didn't have any funds but I prayed to the Lord and asked Him, “Father, is it Your will that I go there? So I am here, now!”

I'm going to serve God, because He makes everything possible for me I'm now making a decision that like says in the conference, “He's gonna lead me by His Holy Spirit.” I'm gonna serve my God.

PATTY GAMBOA, YFC MANILA

God has just sucked me out of an incredibly long, dark, greasy, yucky tunnel. It's smelly too! When I was about 6 years old, I had a yaya. She was this huge woman, and I was so tiny then. She would sleep right beside me, and from the age of 6 until about 8 years old, I was sexually molested by this woman.

I have to live with that memory. I have gone to 3 therapists and I have also gone to 5 Christian communities like this and you know what, the problem is still here with me. I kept so much bitterness and so much hatred that all I want to do is to get back at her.

Yesterday, I crawled on the floor with tears falling down my eyes, wailing. I couldn't utter a word except - Jesus take this pain away from me. Take my bitterness away from me.

He did. He broke the cage that I was living in for the last 18 years. I know now that the pain and bitterness is no longer with me, that healing is taking place within me now. It feels so good to just finally see the light. This will last me through to the day that I die.

Continue to Part 2

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