Inspiring Stories – Part 1

After Winter Spring

I served for more than 12 years in our armed forces, specifically in the Philippine Constabulary from 1983 to 1991. I was transferred to the PNP when the PC and the local police were merged. I was a policeman until 1995 when I became a victim of unfortunate circumstances and I was thrown into prison.

From 1989 to 1995, I was assigned to Mindanao and experienced being in the forefront of encounters. My life was put in danger several times. I took this as part of the job I was tasked to do, although my loved ones kept asking me to quit. They were very happy when I was reassigned in 1995 to Camp Crame, at the Base Police Section. For the first time in many years, my wife and I had the opportunity to answer God's call. We joined El Shaddai in November 1995. We became very active in the movement and felt that we were very close to the Lord.

Once again, I was reassigned to the PNP Sentinel Security as Gate Officer of the PNP GHQ. On January 11, 1996 while on duty at the Camp Panopio Hospital, several policemen arrived. It so happened that Inspector Villasanta, the administrative officer, was also at the guardhouse and he reminded the visiting policemen that liquor was strictly prohibited inside the camp. A few hours later, the policemen returned, looking for Inspector Villasanta. I explained that he might have returned to his office. They went off, presumably to look for the Inspector.

Much later, they again returned but this time, I knew they had been drinking, in spite of the prohibition. When I again failed to produce Inspector Villasanta, they turned on me and dared me to fight them. I kept my cool, knowing they were all drunk. My silence angered them further and one of them, a certain Gamboa, shouted that if, upon their return, I will still refuse to take them to Inspector Villasanta, they would kill me.

When they returned, they were all fully armed. Because of my deep faith and trust in the Lord, I still kept silent but determined not to provoke them. They opened fire and I was forced to return fire in defense of myself and of the camp security. When the smoke cleared, Gamboa was dead.

What followed was confusing and complicated. The NBI Medico Legal attested that the fatal bullet came from a special Caliber 45 and not from a standard issue such as mine. I knew I should have been absolved because one, the bullet did not come from my gun and second, I was supposed to have been simply fulfilling my duty as gate officer to secure the camp. But I was tried and sentenced to prison just the same. I was devastated! I turned away from the Lord. I felt I had given Him my faith and trust for nothing. He had allowed me to be stripped of my job and my honor. He had even denied me justice.

For the next five years, I lived without God.

But one Sunday, my feet carried me to the Chapel where I heard the invitation to attend a Christian Life Program beginning the following Sunday. When a fellow inmate asked if I was interested, no one was more surprised than me when I found myself saying yes.

When the CLP started the following Sunday, my wife visited and she was amazed to find me at the chapel listening to the Orientation talk. She stayed to listen as well. The Spirit must have been truly present then because we both felt that the words being uttered by the speaker were meant for us. Slowly, the heaviness in my heart began to lift. My wife came back every Sunday after that. Out of the 73 inmates who completed the CLP, we were the only couple!

The CLP and the unstinting service of the brothers and sisters in Couples for Christ allowed us to once more feel the loving embrace of the Lord. I realized that I had turned my back on Him because of a minor trial. But He had never abandoned me. I realized I should be joyful and grateful to Him because, through the CLP, He has shown me true freedom. I may be behind bars but His love has set me free. By Charlie Aguilar

The Bread of Life

I was born and raised in a good Catholic family. My parents instilled in me early on good Christian values but as I grew older, the influences of the society I moved in snatched whatever good I was taught. By the time I was twenty, I had become a drunkard, a habitual smoker and the company I kept was, to say the least, sleazy.

I continued to go to Sunday Mass however. In May 1999, the parish priest announced that several people would visit our parish (the Holy Spirit Catholic Parish in Omaba, Onitsha) to conduct a week-long program about family values. That was my introduction to the Christian Life Program. I came out of curiosity but after the Orientation and First Talk, as we were having the group discussion, I knew something eventful was about to happen in my life. I vowed I would complete the CLP and I did.

I joined a household after the CLP and the year that followed was one of wonder at how God was working in my life. My transformation was so rapid I was appointed SFC coordinator for my chapter. I even experienced God's healing, something Irma Cuenca shared would happen if only we rely completely on God's grace. She taught us to trust in the power of the Holy Eucharist.

I awoke one morning with excruciating chest pains, serious enough to allow the evil one to whisper that it was all right for me to miss my daily morning mass. Remembering Irma's sharing and not wanting to miss receiving the Lord in Holy Communion, I resolved to get up and go to Mass, even if I practically crawled all the way to church. The pain was so great I could hardly participate in the liturgy. It was an ordeal to stand and kneel. During the Consecration, I lifted up my pain to the Lord and uttered the prayer of the centurion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you; only say the word and I shall be healed.” I made my way painfully to the front to receive Communion and went back to my seat, adoring Him and meditating on His great power.

I was unaware that He had actually worked His power in me until I rose to leave the church and realized that the pain was gone! Praise God for His mercy and healing and for giving me the courage to share His word and love to everyone I meet.

Truly the Lord is good … all the time! by Micheal Iwuchukwu

Continue to Part 2

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