Sunday, November 3, 2013

Part 3 of our updates: Medical Assistance and Retreat Giving

Lending a helping hand medically
Karen and Philip Gacias together with their mother
We are still providing ongoing support for Karen and Philip Gacias, siblings with Nephrotic Syndrome. This long-term disease requires regular medical attention and Karen receives regular chemotherapy as part of her treatment. We pray for Gods healing for them and thank our supporters of the medical assistance program.
... and after!

Before the operation...
     Last year, a generous sponsor from Singapore assisted Mary Grace Limbaga in her cleft lip operation. After a full recovery, we are now looking into a second operation for her cleft palate.

Retreat from life toward God
From May till July, we have been providing individual retreats for various members of our Balikatan and Seeds of Faith ministries. Four adults and three youth took turns to come to our centre in Tagaytay for days of prayer, rest and renewal in the Lord.
Riza Naldo on retreat
Riza Naldo, 24, said, God drew me to this place so that I could face all my fears. Through this retreat, I realised that He is the more powerful than all of this scary stuff. He kept reminding me that I am precious to Him and that He loves me very much.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Part 2 of our updates: Empowerment in Montalban

Since March 2013, we have begun to reduce the frequency of our visits to Montalban in order to respond to the growing ministries in Tagaytay. The meetings in Montalban are still held once a week and are coordinated by the leaders of each ministry there. Thus, we are gradually empowering and forming more leaders from each ministry to continue the outreaches there.

Balikatan Ministry says yes to wedding vows...

March was a significant milestone in the journey of our Balikatan Ministry as three members solemnised their marriage and received the Sacrament of Matrimony. We were generously supported by members of the Woman to Woman Ministry in Singapore who provided funds for the church wedding and a simple reception thereafter.
The beautiful brides!

 It was a joy to see these women receiving the Sacrament, enabling them now to be able to fully participate in receiving the Eucharist at Mass. One of them expressed deep happiness at having her dream of getting married in Church fulfilled.

...and commitment

In May, our Balikatan prayer group members renewed their commitment to support each other in their faith and prayer life through the prayer group. Seven Balikatan Community members renewed their commitment and two new members were added to the community. It was a powerful proclamation of faith and commitment to help each other live out their baptismal promises through the community.

Balikatan community members and their commitment certificates

signing their commitment

The Balikatan community members continue to coordinate weekly prayer groups, even when we are not there, and it is heartening to see their commitment in sharing their faith with others despite their hectic schedules. One member shared, The Balikatan prayer group has helped me grow closer to God and I have experienced that nothing is impossible with God!

Growing in faith - Seeds of Faith Youth Group

Since March 2013, our Seeds of Faith youth have been meeting amongst themselves for Bible sharing and reflection. Our monthly meetings with them resumed in July but they continue to meet weekly to share and support each other in their faith.
Seeds of Faith members and their multivitamins

Group activity- who is a Catholic?

In August, 11 of the senior members came to Tagaytay for their annual retreat. Here, they were challenged to recognise their identity as forgiven sinners who are greatly loved by God. With that, they were encouraged to walk the talk as Christs disciples and to renew their commitment to know and to follow Him.
We choose to stand for Christ

Seeds of Faith retreatants

We were blessed to see each of them taking another step forward to stand for Christ and His values. At present, the group is studying the letter of Saint James and striving to live out what they have learned from their Bible study sessions.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Part 1 of our updates - Reaching out in and around Tagaytay

We continue reaching out to our Barangay (village) with our monthly home visits and Eucharistic Celebrations.
The celebration of the Holy Eucharist in our centre


Our Barangay children have been receiving monthly catechesis and faith formation through our Children Ministry in Tagaytay. Commencing in September, the meetings have increased to once a fortnight.

Who knows the answer?

Working hard on our project

Love God and Love our neighbour

This Pentecost past, our Barangay youth joined us to celebrate the joy of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. Together with some youth from Montalban, they gathered for a day of prayer, fun and rejoicing!
Praying for each youth


A gift-giving day in Magallanes

Thanks to a generous donor from Singapore, we have been able to share and distribute clothes and books to children and their families in the rural area of Magallanes in Cavite Province.

Located an hours drive from Tagaytay, these families subsist from hand to mouth as they till the land, planting vegetables and fruits. Thank you Aunty T for blessing these families and helping us by sending over the donation of books and clothes!

 Bearing fruit

In June 2012, Riza Ymas, a Seeds of Faith member from Montalban, began her first year of high school education at the SHIM International School in Tagaytay. She won a scholarship that covers part of her tuition fees but she stays with us in the community as we continue to support her other educational needs.

Through her hard work, Riza was awarded top student in her class at the end of her first year in the school. Apart from her educational needs, we also assist Riza in her faith formation and personal development - this includes helping to prepare her to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, English tuition and computer lessons. Riza just started her 2nd year of high school this June. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My time with the ICPE Mission Philippines

In April, Riza Naldo, one of our Balikatan members from Montalban, spent 3 weeks in our mission centre. It was Riza's vacation cum retreat as the pre-school where she works as a teacher closed for the summer break. During her stay with us, Riza had the opportunity to experience life in community. She shares with us her testimony of her time here:-

Riza enjoying some quiet time in our garden
God is so good all the time…I am very blessed because the ICPE Mission has given me an opportunity to spend my vacation in their house. I did not expect that this would be also a magnificent holiday with our almighty God. During this time, I really felt the presence of the Lord, with His eternal, uninfluenced and sovereign love for me.
        My Lord has special plans for me and He desires to call me to dwell in this place for three weeks. Throughout these days, He invited me to go to church everyday, receiving the Holy Eucharist as my daily seed of strength and protection. I had times of praying, sharing, fellowship, baking, cooking, etc. Most of all, I had the chance to attend different events about choosing my vocation. Through this, God wants me to ponder my deepest desire in life, to be generous to Him, and discern my lifetime vocation. He is challenging me and inviting me to act upon His will.
Riza, with one of our neighbours at our regular home visit

          I am glad because I also met numerous disciples of God in this place. I have joyful memories with priest and nuns from different congregations. I also visited astonishing churches and chapels.

         Our Father in heaven is really amazing because He drew me to this place where I could face all of my fears in life. He wants me to trust Him and to overcome what I am afraid of. I realized that He is the more powerful than all of these scary stuff and I should renounce all of these evil things in my life.

         “You are most precious to me. I love you very much”,…This is what God is repeatedly saying to me. He never misses the opportunity to make me aware that it is He who is doing all of these marvels to me. Even if I failed him, He still loves me. That’s why He brought me in Tagaytay, for me to feel His presence and His great love. I will cherish this moment for the rest of my life.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Reverse Carolling 2012!

An update on our Reverse Carolling this year.. praise be to God for all the families, volunteers and sponsors of the project. We were all blessed to be a part of it!

Reverse Carolling 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New life in the Lord!

Balikatan Life in the Spirit 2012 participants and team

Each participant receiving a Tagalog Bible and notebook
 I came to bring fire to the earth ... (Luke 12:49) - this was the scripture for the Balikatan life in the Spirit seminar held on 16-17  June 2012 at our house in Tagaytay.

We welcomed nine women and two men from Montalban. Most of them had already been regularly attending the Balikatan prayer group for the past year. This seminar is to deepen their relationship with and commitment to the Lord. It is also an initial preparation for their commitment as Balikatan prayer group members.

It was an intense weekend. In the first session, Denzil shared on the revelation of God as father, and his invitation to us as children. The participants became aware of their distorted images of God - as one who is far away, and silent in their lives, or like the policeman waiting to catch them in the wrong, and punish them. The effect of these false images brought fear into their lives rather than love resulting in acts of superstition at times, and  finding it hard to believe that God loves them as his precious children. Struggling with their lives, they feel burdened and overwhelmed by their poverty. In these struggles, it is easy to think that God does not love me or is punishing me. As Denzil gently presented the truths about God who loves as Father, the participants expressed that in the prayer time, they  experienced the Father's love.

nailing their sins to the cross
 As we focussed on the Father's plan to bring all to Him, Jitka spoke on sin, it's effects on our lives, relationship with God and others, and our need for salvation, our need for Jesus. Graced in the Father's love, and becoming aware of the sins in our lives, we asked the Lord for forgiveness and  nailed our sins on the Cross, a symbolic gesture reminding us that Jesus took our sins on the Cross and died for us. Fr Gerald, ofm was present offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was an experience of the mercy of the Lord and healing.

In the evening, Esther shared on the new life that Jesus offers us through his Holy Spirit. In order to receive the new life, we have to be willing to die to the old life, and to clothe ourselves with the new man or woman that Christ calls us to be. During our prayer, there was indeed the grace of letting go of old ways, and allowing Jesus to give us his new life in the Spirit. Many shared that they felt the grace to let go of their past, their wrong choices, and receive God's love anew in their hearts.At the end of the first day, there was joy in their hearts as they shared their experiences.

Day Two began with Mass at the neighbouring parish. One participant later shared that as she received Jesus in Holy Communion, she was overwhelmed with the joy of his presence. thanks be to God! In the next session, we prayed with the participants for a new empowering by the Holy Spirit in their lives that they may grow in their love and knowledge of the Lord, that their hearts be set on fire that they may be transformed into witnesses for the Lord in their families, and neighborhoods. We could experience the presence of the Holy Spirit setting our hearts on fire, transforming us from within.

As our journey of discipleship is ongoing, Jitka shared on the importance of growth and ongoing transformation in Christ. At the end , each participant wrote a letter to Jesus, expressing their thanks to him, and what they have experienced. In this letter, each also wrote the concrete steps they will take in their lives to respond to his love. This letter is then closed, and kept with us for the next three months. In three months' time, these letters will be returned to them, and they will read and see how they have lived their concrete steps.

Commissioned to go forth in the new life in Christ!

One participant shared that his concrete step would be to stop his drinking bouts that he had once or twice a week. Instead he would spend the time with his family, and prayer. As heavy drinking is a real problem in their area, let us pray for our brother that the Lord will give him the grace to surrender his drinking to the Lord, and that our brother will not be put off by the sneers of his neighbors. Instead may he be a witness of Christ's light and freedom in this area. Alcoholism and gambling are the things that break up and keep families in much hardship.

During this weekend, the participants were very blessed as they had the space to receive from the Lord. One man expressed that he was touched by the way that the missionaries served them, that there was no division between us. Another shared that she was touched by the respect and dignity that the missionaries gave them. They were grateful for the food that they received, a sign of God's abundant provision and love for them.

We thank the Lord for the opportunity to serve our brothers and sisters and to witness God's liberating hand at work in their lives. This is a step towards empowering them in his love, to take responsibility for their lives,and make choices that lead to life, Thank you to our benefactors and friends who have made this possible through sharing generously with us your resources and prayers. May the Lord bless you richly!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Renewed in the Holy Spirit for Christ!

Alive with songs and praise
     On 26 May 2012, twenty five members of our Montalban youth group, Seeds of Faith, had a special time with the Lord at the Anawim Lay Missions Foundation Centre. It was the eve of Pentecost, and like the disciples, huddled in the upper room, we gathered to meet and together we welcomed the Holy Spirit anew in our hearts.
Is my heart like the stony ground?
     We began the one day camp with a time of action song and Praise and Worship. The core team leaders from the Seeds of Faith then performed the Lifehouse Skit entitled “Everything”. Depicting the battle against sin and Jesus gift of salvation in our lives, the skit touched many of them as it highlighted their own struggle within to choose God and to overcome sin. Ultimately, it is in and through Christ alone that we are more than conquerors. To appropriate this truth in our lives, we need to be the good soil as described in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13ff) and so the youth were encouraged to reflect on the condition of their hearts as they went to different prayer stations around the compound. They then returned to pray for the renewal of hearts and to recommit their lives to Christ. For some, it was a tearful moment of returning to the Lord and desiring to be the good soil instead of being thorns where the seed falls and is quickly choked up by the cares of the world. One member shared “In my prayer, I could see Jesus coming to me and giving me a big hug. I felt so unworthy and so relieved as He held me and forgave my sins.”

How is the Holy Spirit present in me?
praying together for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
   After lunch, we continued sharing about the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity. Through short skits and a group activity, the youth discussed the different actions of the Holy Spirit in our lives and how the He is present in our lives through the Sacraments and in prayer. In our small groups, we then started to ask for the same outpouring of the Holy Spirit as on Pentecost so that the youth could be further activated to be better witnesses. In the prayer time, all of them were led to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and many were released to pray in the Spirit. It was a truly wonderful moment as we ended in thanksgiving and prayed as the Spirit led us in one harmonious chorus of praise.

One youth shared, “As we prayed, I was so happy to receive the Holy Spirit. I have always wanted to pray in the Spirit and I’m delighted to be able to do so now.”
As each of them came forward to share their experience, we could only give thanks to God for making His presence so tangibly felt.
Special thanks to Amilia Chai, our ICPE Companion from Singapore for serving with us in the camp and members of the Anawim Lay Missions Foundation for allowing us the use of their beautiful chapel and grounds. God bless you all!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Today we bring you news of great joy... the birth of a community

 On 4th March 2012, nine women from Montalban, Rizal Province took an important step in their journey of faith. Together, they said "yes" to the Lord's call of starting a community of people gathered around the Lord, the Balikatan Community.

For some of them, the journey began 6 years ago when we started the Balikatan Ministry in Erap City, Montalban. They came as they wanted to grow in their faith. In this time, they walked shoulder to shoulder, and supported each other through the challenges that faced them and their families ranging. They are women who have faced adversity: struggling to find means to support their families, crying out to God for food, healing for their children, jobs for their husbands. Through it all, they have continued to hold onto faith despite their doubts and allow Jesus to walk with them.

Supportive husbands witnessing their
 wives take this new step

Balikatan prayer group celebrating the birth of the Community
  They have been empowered... from women who lacked confidence to women who know their dignity as beloved daughters of God who have been given a voice and can make a difference in the world today. It has been a gift to have shared the journey with them.
Their commitments
The nine women professing their commitment

On 4 March 2012, before their husbands and children and the Balikatan Prayer Group, Georgina Calanao, Noralyn Gacias, Jocellen Abbang, Reina Galupo, Maricor Cunanan, Janice Abelardo, Sonia Baduria and Susan Ranola signed their commitments as members of the Balikatan Community.

Jitka presenting a statue of the Holy Family, model
 for the Balikatan Community's mission to families

Balikatan Community members withe their fanilies
 and Balikatan Prayer Group

The journey towards community...
As the Balikatan Ministry developed, there were a group of women who were committed and wanted this ministry to develop and bless more people. They had experienced the goodness of the Lord and wanted to share with others. In 2010, they made a commitment in the Balikatan Ministry and in 2011, this was renewed.

In these two years, 8 of them were empowered and served as leaders of small groups in the Balikatan Ministry. The team also coordinated the small group meetings that occurred once a fortnight. During these two years, besides attending the usual  ministry meetings in the morning, they were also receiving training as small group leaders in the afternoons. We saw them coordinating more our activities, and visiting families in the area. For the reverse carolling projects, they visited and found the 300 families that were in need.

At the end of 2011, they were ready for more. It was clear that the Lord was wanting to give them more. From December to February, we had some intensive formation towards community. This climaxed in our weekend in Tagaytay on 11- 12 February.

Community formation weekend in Tagaytay
Community preparation weekend 11- 12 February 2012
Over this weekend, we spent moments together in prayer, community building and planning for the Balikatan community. Jitka gave sessions on the blessings and challenges of community, team building and growing in relationship with each other. Other sessions focussed on the practical aspects of living out community. As it was also the feast of our Barangay and parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, we were invited and shared in the fiesta! Our time ended with nominations for the first leadership team of the Balikatan community. There was much excitement as we prayed for the Balikatan community. It was clear to all that the Lord is giving them a gift of the Balikatan Community and he was assuring them of his presence with them as they respond to his call and invitation. 

Our journey as community begins today
Congratulations to our sisters of the Balikatan Community! May the Lord bless the Balikatan Community, and continue to give our sisters His joy, wisdom and courage to share Jesus in their neighbourhoods and make a difference. May Christ's light shine through them brightly!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our praise report for Reverse Carolling 2011!

 It's finally over! Weeks of singing, visiting families and praying with them- Reverse carolling - our annual project where we always end up receiving so much more than we can give. Truly Jesus is incarnate in the families that we visited. Special thanks to our benefactors who have made it possible for us to support 400 families this year. This year, we also enjoyed the company of our 7 volunteers from Singapore who braved showers and challenging conditions to reach the poor families in Montalban and Tagaytay. Thanks for responding to God's call to share this special time with us!
Please read on for pictures and a summary update...
Reverse Carolling 2011 Report

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reverse Carolling- an extraordinary period of grace

We went reverse carolling 13th -14th December in Montalban, near the dumpsite and also in Tagaytay on 15th – 16th December with a group of seven Singapore volunteers. Here is what two of them have to say:

“This is my second time reverse carolling in three years and while the format was familiar, there were many new things that struck me this time around. For one, the Balikatan Ministry members amazed me with their sincerity and love in reaching out to their fellow brethren when we walked with them, laden with Christmas food hampers, in the outlying areas of Montalban to visit families living in places I would not term houses.
Many of the members are in “the same boat” as the families we visited, and yet, they were generous with their time (they took time off work which meant no income for two days) in reaching out to the fellow brothers and sisters.   
I was also affirmed by their strong faith and the leadership qualities they displayed in organising the reverse carolling endeavour in Montalban – from  doing the groundwork to select the “poorest of the poor” families to visits, to facilitating the visits, and leading the prayer sessions confidently.
Nothing bonds people more than a common purpose and the desire to bring God glory. It was heart-warming to be part of a group of people, most of whom I did not know and yet work so well together with them to help bring some cheer to the families that we visited.
 There is nothing pretty about poverty and while it is easy to slip into despair at the futility of our efforts, 400 Christmas food hampers being a drop in the vast ocean of economically disadvantaged families that surrounded us both in Montalban and Tagaytay, I know that what we did touched the hearts of at least 400 families and made a difference in their lives, and for that I am most grateful.

The Christmas party for the child street vendors was new as it was the first time ICPE has organized such an event and it was lovely to be able to spend time with the kids and get to know some of them as we played games with them and ate fried chicken and ice cream with them.
It was initially difficult to watch the group of children gathered outside the door who could not gain access to the party, for we could only host 25 children, but the kids inside would share whatever they received with those outside. And many of them packed food which they did not finish for their siblings at home. I was humbled to see the generosity of their actions for I could never match them in generosity, giving from the little that they received so easily.

So many thoughts and emotions crowd my mind from having experienced reverse carolling this December, but foremost is the gratitude I feel for having been able to be part of an extraordinary period of grace.
Most of all I am glad that I have been able to give back to them what is their right and due in some small way and I thank God for giving me this opportunity this Advent season.”

~Jackie Pau