After Volunteer Summit in Manila last October 2013, our Southern Mindanao CCC Staff team planned to climb Mt Pulag for Team time. This plan was made known to other CCC staff who eventually joined us– one of them is Raissa. We actually don’t know each other. Not until in that climb. To be honest, I am not a love-at-first-sight type of guy, so seeing her for the first time while trekking did not really struck me. Though there were moments I could remember that I took her bag on our way up, observed her reactions while being teased with somebody, she asked about my age but I playfully didn’t answer, and offered help when I noticed she’s looking for something. But for the record, Raissa and I became friends after our topload-of-the jeepney conversation travelling back to Baguio City and enjoying watching “chinito-rosy-cheek-kids” on the road.
I met Jep first time in Baguio for a Mt. Pulag climb but we were not even formally introduced to each other. Since we were in a big group, we didn't have the chance to talk during the climb. It was only during our way back to Baguio that we had the chance to at least know a little about each other. It all started on a top-load jeep conversation with him. But nothing special. It was just a normal conversation with someone I just met for the first time. But there were significant things I noticed in him that impressed me. He is a good leader, has a good sense of humor and sensitive to the needs of others. But one thing that struck me the most was when everyone was getting ready to sleep from a very tiring climb, he still managed to stay awake and read his Bible.
With so much prayer, God led me to apply as full time missionary with Philippine Campus Crusade for Christ. I went to Manila January 2014 for training as Full Time Staff of CCC. During my nine-month training there's joy within and even fulfillment mainly because of being where God wanted me to be and being into new adventure with new environment. What added color to the journey was seeing Raissa in Manila. For my entire stay in Manila, Raissa and I had many moments of getting to know each other and developing friendship in group setting. This caused me to know and appreciate her more; she’s very vibrant, kind, mature, and fun to be with. Slowly I was captivated but still very reserved.
Four months before I finished my training I already have the high consideration to pursue Raissa but I can’t because of many issues, like my dormant feelings for her and God's leading wasn't there yet. I cannot face her and look straight in her eyes telling my intentions if those issues are unsettled. And so, I became intentional in seeking God and letting Him work in the process as He shed light to my heart towards Raissa.
After Mt. Apo,I have no doubt that Jep really captured my heart. I wrote in my journal, “Lord I want a kind of man like Jep.” First time that I made a kind of prayer like that because I knew from the start the kind of man I wanted. So I became intentional to pray for our friendship to grow. My admiration to him grew even more as we get to spend more time in Manila with other friends. I always feel that I’m a woman every time I’m with him. For me he is a perfect gentleman. He is always ready to serve others especially women who will need his help and strength.
Eventually I became more serious with my feelings for him that led me to become more specific in my prayers. I asked God to help me surrender my pride and help me not to suppress my feelings for him. I was afraid that my feelings will not be reciprocated but I was really sure of Jep that I took the risk to be hurt. As the old saying says, “It’s better to love and be hurt than not to have loved at all.”
Waiting silently during those times was the hardest. I was dying to ask about us but I know I need to learn to be silent until I have dealt it over thoroughly with God. I asked God, “How long must I wait?”
The Lord answered, “Raissa, a moment of waiting is not a wasted moment. Trust me.”
What Really Matters
Since Day one of knowing Christ personally, I am certain that what matters to God is the matter of my heart towards Him. Those moments that I earnestly sought Him, He was faithful to answer. Even the time I was journeying for my desire to pursue Raissa , God responded very profound. What happened for the next few months was stunning. God moved me to take action. First, He helped me process my “dormant feelings”. He made me realized that it happened because I was very reserved to her, so cautious protecting each other. The truth is, in many situations, actions precede emotion (which I lack towards Raissa). Then, He affirmed me through significant people, highlighting my Parents who prayed and blessed me when I shared my journey and desire to pursue her. And finally, God affirmed me during my personal moments with Him. He caused my heart to choose whom I love and love my choice with faith and conviction of no turning back. He gave me peace upon my decision, overjoyed and excited to just even think of pursuing, loving and honoring her and to be with her in serving God in this lifetime.
All Is Set
Four days after her birthday I asked her out for a birthday treat as an excuse. She came wearing a nice blouse with her ever beautiful smile. I gave her my gift, we ordered food, eat and chat about our highlights in the Staff Conference that happened few days before that day. I got really nervous. While Raissa was talking, a waiter came close and asked him to get the flowers I left with him. In her surprise, her face can’t be figured when I gave her the flowers. Almost speechless, she asked if was it still part of my birthday treat. And I said, “It’s more than just a birthday celebration. Raissa, I am captivated by you…” I told her, “I invite you to pray, because if you say yes to me this would also mean yes for marriage.”
“For marriage???!!!” It banged in my head really hard. All that I could hear from him was about marriage. I can’t speak straight so Jep offered me a glass of water and said to me, “I know communication is two way, so what can you say?” I accepted Jep’s invitation that night to seek the Lord for the possibility of an exclusive relationship with him. Jep easily gained my trust because of the way he conducted himself towards me and others.