KOTA KINABALU – Teenagers at a recent youth camp here shared how they emerged feeling renewed in their faith of the Lord after truly experiencing Christ’s love.
Many confessed they were caught up in two minds whether to attend the 2016 Life Teen Youth Camp, aptly themed “His Love, but were grateful they eventually answered the call to join the camp, held at the St Simon Educational Complex in Likas here from 30 Apr to 2 May 2016.
Emily admitted that she nearly passed up the opportunity on learning none of her friends were coming. But she was glad that she followed a strong intuition in her heart.
“I registered anyway, I don’t know why. I didn’t expect this camp will change me into a better person (or) help me to be closer to God, to know God better … but guess what? It really did change me,” said the 17 year-old.
She learned to welcome and embrace God’s loving kindness into her life after listening to the talk and sharing by camp speaker, Marcus Peter. “During the healing session, my fear was that I won’t be able to feel anything. I prayed so that Jesus will help my heart receive the Holy Spirit (but) the whole session I still didn’t feel anything. So I talked to Marcus about it and he said ‘it’s not that you don’t believe in God, you just have trust (because) you have been hurt so bad in the past,’” said an emotional Emily, before adding, “and right there I broke down and cried.” After that I couldn’t stop smiling … for the first time I felt so light and free.”
Now, she said Jesus has helped her open a lot of doors in her life, particularly in growing her faith as a Catholic and relationship with Him. “It was not until this camp that I really understood what being a Catholic meant. And whenever I feel down and de-motivated, I will always pray – who would’ve thought talking to God would be this easy?” smiled Emily.
Another participant, Daniel Ezekiel Laban – who only signed up after knowing his close friends were joining – strongly felt that God is calling him to join the clergy. The 17-year-old said the thought had been on his mind for some years now but he never entertained the idea much until the Life Teen camp.
“People say I have features of a priest but I just laughed it off as a joke! But for three years that calling has been haunting me,” he said, adding he always had that lingering feeling of wanting to know more about his faith.
“During the last day of camp, the speaker stated that there were two people who were called to be priests – it hit me like a truck. I broke down and cried … that was when I knew that calling was for me. It was then I realised that it’s time for me to accept the fact that God is calling me to preach and spread His Word,” Daniel said.
Although the priesthood is not something he can pursue too soon, Daniel trusted in God’s plan. “Always have faith in God because He is the one who provides for you in anything you do,” he said.
Meanwhile, for Rozanne Deidre Leonard, 18, forgiveness is something she struggled to receive, and in turn, to give. Without going into too much detail, she said people have hurt her deeply before and she just could not find it in herself to forgive them. But listening to the talk about the sufferings and the biggest sacrifice Jesus went through so that we all would be reconciled with the Father opened her eyes to God’s boundless and unconditional love. Forgiveness is also a form of sacrifice, she acknowledged, and therein is the beauty of it all.
“The speaker told me that even if I can’t forgive someone, I have to try in order to be happy … and I am now. Praise the Lord!” she said, adding making your peace with whatever situation you are in is important so that we can move on and rejoice in the Lord’s love.
Despite being young as they are and with many more challenges to come, nonetheless, this is an important point in their lives, said Life Teen and camp coordinator, Kimberly Tamayo.
“They are still very young and have a long way to go but what’s significant is that they have learned to open up and allow God into their lives. God will work with that because He is good all the time. I pray they would all realise the potential they have in them – as God had planned for them,” she said.
Kimberly was moved that so many of the participants expressed their desire to deepen their relationship with Jesus.
“Our camp goal was for the teens to experience God’s love through healing, forgiveness and suffering. As a team, we are happy that a majority of the teens shared and testified that Jesus has touched their lives and made them see no love is greater than His. This has truly been a humbling experience and God’s love and mercy were felt throughout the camp,” she said, adding Life Teen will continue to reach out to teenagers through their weekly Life Night gatherings.
Kimberly also said many of the camp participants turned up for the Life Night a week after the camp, eager to share their experience. “It was so nice to see familiar, and new faces, at our gathering, and how they were so open to share about their life.”
A total of 130 teenagers, aged between 13 and 18, from various schools here took part in the camp organised by the Sacred Heart Cathedral LifeTeen youth ministry Kota Kinabalu.
The speaker, Marcus, a former redemptorist missionary, is a lay minister and an actively serving parishioner of the Church of the Holy Family, Kajang. This was the second time he spoke at a LifeTeen camp, the first being at the 2013 camp in Manis-manis Resort.
Life Teen has been serving teenagers aged between 13 and 18 since 2004, with the vision to “Lead Teens Closer to Christ.” The weekly Life Nights are conducted at room F6, Sacred Heart Parish Centre from 8pm to 10pm every Saturday. – Durie Rainer Fong