Monthly Archives: July 2013

Billboard Beauty

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[Guest post! This is written by my good friend and fellow missionary Melinda Karla Ramo. She is an amazing person whose resilience and joyful, pleasing demeanor belies her rather small stature.]

Lumaki ako sa paniniwalang hindi ako maganda. At alam kong hindi ako nag-iisa. Sa tuwing titingin ako sa salamin, nakikita ko ang isang dalagang pinaunat ang buhok, pinudpod ng pampaputi ang balat, kinalyo ng high heels ang talampakan, pinapayat ng diyetang nagpapaliit ng tiyan. Kabilang ako sa nakararami. At habang hindi ko pa nagiging kamukha ang hinahangaang artista, hindi ako makukuntento.

Malungkot kong aalisin ang tingin ko sa salamin, lalabas ako ng bahay at titingalain na lang ang mga naggagandahang babae sa mga billboard. Tititigan nila ako pabalik na tila sinasabing, “Pwede mo rin kaming maging kamukha.” Mapapangiti ako sa ideyang maaaring tama nga iyon.

 

 

Nagsimula ang lahat noong ako ay bata pa. Bilang madalas na pinakamaliit sa klase, tampulan ako ng tukso noong elementarya. Bukod kasi sa aking taas (o ang kawalan nito), madalas ko maramdaman na ako ay “pangit”. Titingin ako sa salamin at makikita ko ang rason: magulo at sabog ang kulot kong buhok, maitim ang aking balat at pango ang aking ilong.

Noong high school ako, mas lalo pang tumindi ang hikayat ng pagpapaganda.Sa isang kapaligiran kung saan ang kagandahan ay nasusukat sa dami ng iyong manliligaw o sa kung ano ang sasabihin tungkol sa iyo ng ibang tao, mahirap magpahuli.Naniwala akong mataba ako kahit noong mga panahong iyon ay wala pa akong 50 kilos.Sinubukan ko magpapayat.
Pagdating ko ng kolehiyo, mas sinubukan ko pa ang pagpapapayat. Sinasadya kong hindi kumain ng tanghalian. Hanggang sa mabilis na bumaba ang timbang ko. Napansin ko na lang na parang may mali nang magsimula nang magtaka ang mga tao sa paligid ko. “Ano nangyari sa iyo?” “May sakit ka ba?” “Umamin ka, may cancer ka ano?” Ipinagtataka ko ang mga komento ng ibang tao.

 

Titingin na lang ako sa salamin at tatayo sa timbangan, malalaman ko na ang rason. Mula sa halos 50 kilos noong high school, bumaba ang timbang ko sa kulang kulang na 40 kilos na lamang.

4th year higschool vs. 4th year college

4th year higschool vs. 4th year college

 

Hindi lang ang timbang ko ang pilit kong binago noon, pati ang kulay ng aking kutis, ang kulot kong buhok at ang aking kaliitan. Bilang solusyon, nagpaunat ako ng buhok, nagpaputi ng kutis, at uminom ng pampatangkad (na hindi epektibo sa akin).  Lahat ng ito sa ngalan ng “kagandahan”.

Batid kong hindi na bago ang ganitong kaisipan. Marami ang may ganitong pag-iisip tungkol sa kanilang sarili. Ito ang nanghikayat sa aking magtanong, mag-interview at magsiyasat. Pakiramdam ko ako ay si Boy Abunda (girl version).

Bubukas ang ilaw. Ihahanda ang camera. Sisigaw ang direktor ng “Action!” Magsisimula ang palabas at papasok ako sa studio at sasabihin ang kaniyang tanyag na linyang,Kaibigan,usap tayo.” 

Makikita ko ang aking sarili, nakaupo sa magarang sofa, kaharap ang isang kaibigan.

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Lights.Camera. Action!”

Nasa entablado ako kasama ang kaibigang si Alliana*: “Sa tingin mo ba ikaw ay maganda?”Isang iling ang nakuha kong sagot—iling na tila ikinakahiya ang sariling itsura. At kung tatanungin kung bakit, tila pareho kami ng tugon:Kulot kasi ang buhok ko, mataba at maitim dahil laging nasa labas.Hindi ko kapareho ang mga nasa ads sa TV at sa billboards.”

Tatango ang mga tagapanood. Maging sila ay ganoon din ang nasa isip.

 

Isa-isa silang magsasalita: “Pakiramdam ko ay hindi ako maganda,” sasabihin ng isang nanay, “dahil hindi na ako mukhang bata. Maghahanap na ng iba ang mister ko.” Muling tatango ang audience. Isang batang babae ang magtataas ng kamay:“Hindi ako maganda…” tatahimik ang audience, “…dahil hindi ko kamukha si Barbie. Walang ‘Ken’ ang lalapit sa akin paglaki ko.”

Bilang host ng programa, mapapangiti ako sa sinabi ng isang bata ngunit malulungkot ako dahil nakikita ko ang sarili ko sa kaniya. Kaya bago pa bumugso ang mga damdamin, magtatawag ako ng commercial break. “Cut!” sasabihin ng direktor.

Manatili ka sa telebisyon at makikita mo ang mga patalastas ng iyong paboritong telenovela. Ang mga bidang hinahangaan mo, halos iisa ang itsura: makinis ang mala-porselanang kutis, matangkad at maganda ang hubog ng katawan. Magtataka ka kung bakit karamihan sa mga modelo at artista ay may lahi o ‘half-half’ kung tawagin. Ilan na lang ba sa nakikita mo ang mukhang Pilipino talaga? Kakaunti na lang ang may morena o kayumanggi ang kutis. Bihirang-bihira ang mga maliliit o pango ang ilong. Kung may ganito man ay hinihikayat magpa-bleach, magsuot ng sapatos na mataas ang takong at magparetoke.Kung hindi naman, sa mga katulad nila napupunta ang mga karakter ng kontrabida, mga komedyante, o mga extra.

Kasunod nito, isusubo naman sa iyo ang mga produktong nanghahalina. Maputi at kumikinang na ngipin ang alok ng isang toothpaste. Mapapansin ka na sa wakas ng crush mo mo kapag ginamit mo ang “whitening, age-defying, skin smoothening” lotion na ito. Dagdag ganda-points daw kapag sinubukan mo ang isang pabango na ginagamit din ng paborito mong leading lady. Iisa ang nakukuha mong mensahe: Gusto mo maging katulad nila? Ayusin mo ang sarili mo. Gamitin mo ang produktong ito!

Lights. Camera. Action!”

Balik na tayo sa palabas. Nakaupo naman ako ngayon sa parehong magarang sofa, kaharap ang isang kaibigan sa midya, si Kira*.

 

Magsisimula ako ng linya. “Narinig natin kanina ang audience. Pakiramdam nila ay hindi raw sila maganda. Bakit? Hindi unat ang kanilang buhok. Hindi na sila mukhang bata. Hindi maputi ang kanilang kutis. Hindi nila kamukha ang hinahangaan. Alam mo bang malaki ang epekto dito ng industriyang kinabibilangan mo?” Tatango si Kira. Alam niyang malaki ang papel ng midya sa paniniwala ng mga tao ukol sa kanilang kagandahan.

Magsisimula siyang sumagot,“Kasi unang-una, iniimpose sa kanila kung ano ang maganda.Kapag hindi ka maputi, pangit ka. May mali sa iyo. Dapat magpaputi ka. O kapag mataba ka, pangit ka, magpapayat ka dapat. Ayos lang sana kung health ang concern, pero hindi eh. Ang nangyayari, iyong consumer, bibili ng product na iyon hindi para sa health niya kundi para magkaroon ng confidence or ma-attain iyong standard na imposed sa kanila ng media.”

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

 

Sari-saring reaksyon ang manggagaling sa studio audience. Maging sila ay nahikayat din ng midya sa iba-ibang paraan.

 

Babalikan ko ang pakikipanayam kay Kira.“Pamilyar ka ba sa kampanya ng Dove noong 2004? ‘Campaign forReal Beauty’ ang ibinansag nila dito.” Tatango siya. Mananahimik ang audience. Ipapakita ang istadistika sa screen at muli kong babasahin ang script. “Alam niyo ba na sa lahat ng lumahok sa kampanyang ito sa buong mundo, 2% lamang ang nagsasabing sila ay maganda?” sambit ko nang may kalungkutan sa tinig (para madrama). “Gayunpaman, 81% ang naniniwalang hindi makatotohanan ang pamantayan ng kagandahang ipinapakita sa midya. At 75% ang nagnanais ng pagbabago sa paraan ng pagpapakita ng midya ng kagandahan.” 

 

Papalakpak at hihiyaw ang audience sa pagsang-ayon.

Ibabaling ko ulit ang atensiyon kay Kira.“Ano ang maipapayo mo sa mga manonood tungkol dito?” Aayusin niya ang mikropono at sasabihing, “Huwag kayong magpapauto sa sinasabi ng media. Maganda kayo. Hindi niyo lang nakikita iyon kasi kung anu-anong konsepto ng kagandahan ang ipinapasok sa inyo ng mundo. Hindi ninyo makikita iyong kagandahan na iyon kung hindi niyo matututunang mahalin muna ang sarili ninyo.“

Papalakpak ang audience. Ngingiti si Kira sa camera. Kakamayan ko siya. Sisigaw ng “Cut!”si Direk. Titigil ang camera. Papatayin ang ilaw. Tapos na ang programa.

Tapos na rin ang ilusyon.
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Totoo ang mga panayam ko kanila Alliana at Kira (hindi nila tunay na pangalan). Hindi nga lang ako sigurado sa reaksyon ng audience tungkol sa mga sinabi nila. Palakpakan at hiyawan ba ng pagsang-ayon ang itutugon nila? Hindi ko masasabi.

Nakita ko kung gaano kalawak ang kahulugan ng kagandahan. Naisip kong ang konsepto ko ng ‘maganda’ ay nakabase sa kung anong depinisyon nito ang papaniwalaan ko. Naisip ko lang, kung ang depinisyon ng midya ang susundan ko, dadalhin ako nito sa walang katapusang giyera laban sa sarili kong itsura. Mapanlinlang at masyadong mataas ang pamantayan nito at isang bahagi lamang ng realidad ang ipinapakita: isang pantasyang ang pisikal na katangian ay perpekto at laging nasa ayos. 

Sa paghahanap ko, nakita ko ang sagot sa Bibliya:“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1Peter3:3-4).

Madali tayong pinapaniwala ng midya na ang katawan ng tao ay isang proyekto na dapat gawing perpekto at ang sinumang hindi papasa sa pamantayan nito ay dapat gumawa ng paraan. Makapangyarihan ang midya at alam nila ito. Kaya naman, ginagamit nila ang kapangyarihan nilang makapanghikayat upang ibenta sa atin ang isang pantasya ng kagandahan at ang mga ‘paraan’ upang makamit natin ito. Dapat maging mulat tayo na hindi lahat ng nakikita natin sa midya ay ang mukha ng realidad.

 

Ngunit sa kabila nito, nakakalungkot isipin na ang mga kalalakihan at kababaihan ay naniniwala sa pantasyang inihahain ng makapangyarihang industriyang ito. Hinuhusgahan nila ang kanilang sarili base sa pamantayang idinidikta nito sa kanila.

Iyon ang kinalakihan kong paniniwala. Alam kong hindi ako nag-iisa. Sa tuwing titingin ako sa salamin, nakikita ko ang isang dalagang pinaunat ang buhok, pinudpod ng pampaputi ang balat, kinalyo ng high heels ang talampakan, pinapayat ng diyetang nagpapaliit ng tiyan. Kabilang ako sa nakararami.

Malungkot kong aalisin ang tingin ko sa salamin, lalabas ako ng bahay at titingalain na ang mga naggagandahang babae sa mga billboard. Tititigan ko sila ngunit hindi na nila ako titignan pabalik. Mapapaisip na lang ako na sila na nasa billboard ay hindi buhay. Mga pantasya lamang sila na iginuhit ng isang makapangyarihang industriya. Doon ko na lang maiisip na sana ay hindi na lang ako naniwala sa sinabi nila.

Kaya naman, sa halip na sila ang tingalain, titingala na lang ako sa langit at tatandaan ang nabasa ko sa salita ng Diyos at doon ko sasabihing, “Oo nga. Ako nga ay maganda.”

At hindi ko na kailangan humanay sa mga babae sa billboard para patunayan iyon.

 

 

"The next time you worry about how long your lashes are or how manicured your nails look, remember that He took LASHES for your lashes and NAILS for your nails. He made you in His image. You are beautiful." -Anonymous <3

“The next time you worry about how long your lashes are or how manicured your nails look, remember that He took LASHES for your lashes and NAILS for your nails. He made you in His image. You are beautiful.” -Anonymous ❤

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“Beautyand the Body Image in Media.” MediaAwareness Network.http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/women_and_girls/women_beauty.cpm

Revis,Layla. “Beauty and the (Media) Beast.” HuffPost Style. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

layla-revis/beauty-and-the-media-beas_b_82908.html

“TheMedia Effects on Eating Disorders Around the World.” LouisianaState University.http://www.lsu.edu/faculty/jwither/Essays/Health/Anonymous1_Essay.html

*wriiten for PanPil 19, March 2012

Evangelism is a lot of things, but it isn’t scary.

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Being enamored with a dream and convinced by a vision is not enough to fulfill it.

I am reminded by this as I read this from The Write Practice: “There must be something driving you more than the desire to be one in a million, as that appeal rarely turns into motivation. Normally, the hunger to be on New York Times Bestseller list leaves me from accomplishing everything but writing. It takes laying all that aside and saying, “Kellen, just one sentence,” to finally remind myself that writing isn’t scary. It’s challenging. It’s rewarding. It’s frustrating. It’s a long list of things, but scary it is not.”

The writer is talking about how, as a writer, looking too much on the dream (in this case, to be one of the bestsellers, to “be one in a million”) causes stalling.

As a writer, I can relate to that. Sure, I can write for myself. I can write for an individual and several people even. But as an artist I have this innate desire to be read by as much people as possible.

I find, however, that I can relate to this too as a Christian doing evangelism.

A Christian’s dream is to let Christ be known, to help fulfill the Great Commission. We remind ourselves of that. We read the Bible and other Christian literature about it. We listen to Christian leaders and people around us talk about it. We “vision-cast”.

But, like I said, being enamored by a vision is not enough to fulfill it, no matter how convinced you are of it.

Don’t even get started on how we as Christians should be convicted, blah blah. Because believe it or not, I am convicted! I am convinced! I TRULY believe in fulfilling the Great Commission! Still, again, just as Steve Smith and Ying Kai say, “Conviction does not equal obedience.”

And so my sentiments (patterned from the writer Kellen’s) go like this:

“There is something driving me more than the desire to just evangelize (or see a task done), as that appeal rarely turns into motivation. Normally, the hunger to help fulfill The Great Commission leaves me from accomplishing everything but evangelize. It takes laying all that aside and saying, “Sarah, just initiate*,” to remind myself that evangelism isn’t scary. It’s challenging. It’s rewarding. It’s frustrating. It’s a long list of things, but scary it is not.”

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*Faithful to our CCC evangelism philosphy: that success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit

Ambitious Me, and what I learned from Moses

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Around the world, in the past and at present (and likely in the future), youth has been and is celebrated, glorified, put in a pedestal and thought of as something extremely precious. The freshness and vibrancy, the innocence associated with youth, are looked back upon with fondness, for some, looked back upon with regret. Still others too, for whatever reason, look back upon it with anger and hatred – but the hatred is not directed upon youth itself; the hatred and anger is for whoever or whatever tainted, ruined or stole it.

The Ambitious, Promising Prince

Moses was young. He was brave and fearless. Having been educated and raised in the best of his time, he felt qualified and equipped. Knowing his qualifications and his promise, he aspired. He had ambition. He was at the peak of his youth. He was a leader. He wanted to lead his people! It was a noble ambition, if anything.

He was the epitome of youth, a manifestation of everything good about being young. Being young, however, also has its limitations, and Moses, quite unwittingly, succumbed to it.

He was brash and brazen. In a moment of youthful unabashed faux superiority, he exercised what he thought he had, and what most young people wish to have – authority – and he killed a man.

Then he lost everything. Are we not all like Moses? Unknowingly making decisions resulting to more weight and consequence than what we originally thought of?

The Old Shepherd 

So he was stripped of everything, and he grew old. Next thing we know he has become a stuttering, shame-faced, lowly shepherd with an inferiority complex, smack in the middle of nowhere.

Why did God allow the young, strong, educated, potential-filled Moses reduced into that? Of course, from reading the succeeding chapters, we see how it was absolutely necessary to break him into pieces and turn him into nothing, so

God could turn him into the something He could use for His glory.

It is a Biblical truth echoed and reiterated throughout the Bible: God will reduce the proud to nothingness, because how else will He use them for His greater purpose?

God had to bring Moses to the lowest point and strip him of everything: his pride, his potential, even his seeming noble ambition, that is to lead the Israelites home. And we also know, from the amazing story of Exodus, how Moses eventually did become the leader he once aspired to become, but this time better and much wiser.

“We can approach God by making Him the means and everything else the end, or we can make Him the end, and everything else the means,” Tim Keller says.

Moses hid behind the seeming noble ambition of leadership, using God as the means to achieve it. His young, brash self made “leadership” the end, so God took it from him. When Moses finally learned, in the most painful circumstances, that God is, should be, and will be The Ultimate End, he then got to lead.

Seek first the kingdom of God, right? And then what? And all these things will be added to you.

Ironically (or maybe not), when Moses finally learned to seek and enjoy God, he then realized how much his previous desire paled in comparison to what he ultimately gained.

My Confession

This strikes a chord in me because like the Egyptian prince Moses, I feel that all I have now is my youth, and the ambition and idealism normally wrapped up with it.

And yes, chalk it up to narcissism or whatever, but I really do believe in my potential. Immense pride? Check.

And that is what I have been struggling with the last few weeks.

It is a difficult, sad and pathetic confession to make: in a lot of ways and areas in my life, I have been using God as a means to various ends.

Sigh.

(Screencaps from The Bible Series, 2013)

More than the Ideal

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We had just finished our Bible Study last Tuesday, and I really wanted to model sharing the gospel to Danielle. So we started walking around Palma Hall searching, searching. All the time we were looking, I was praying that God give us an “ideal” scenario. You know — like, we’d meet someone open to the gospel,then she would pray to receive Christ, and willing to be met again for follow up. 

But, it was not to be. We got more than the ideal scenario I was wishing for.

Here’s the rest of what happened, in Danielle’s words:

 

It was my first time and I was nervous. I never had the experience of sharing God’s message. I never wanted to do it. I felt unworthy because I didn’t know what to do in such situations. But, with Ate Sarah’s help, I was given a wonderful insight into evangelism.

It was truly an enlightening and inspiring experience that I now always look back to.

We encountered two very different people that day. The first one, Hannah, received us very willingly. We found out that she is a Christian as well, and actually owns a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws booklet! It was an amazing time, because she opened her ears to us, and she was friendly and welcoming.

The next student we encountered, Irene, was interesting. She had lots of questions for Ate Sarah, and through the discussion that ensued, I learned a lot of new things about the Bible. Irene asked a lot about arguments against the Bible, which Ate answered very soundly. It was a great learning experience for me. Ate Sarah did her job well, I felt that Irene might finally be able to open herself to God, and fulfill her desire of knowing Him.

I was able to learn and realize a lot of things that afternoon. 

I realized that not everybody is open to the Gospel yet, and still needs convincing. I was vaguely familiar with apologetics, but saw it in action for the first time that day.

I also realized that imparting the Gospel to others is never an easy task. I think the people who do it are blessed, because they are still on fire despite the circumstances – especially in a school such as UP.

Also, something that made a great impact on me was when Ate said that God’s word will never go in vain; it will work in the best and most wonderful of ways. Its effect on some people may not show now, but it could show later.

I was motivated to study more of the Bible, and share it to others! Through that day, I felt that God has blessed me with the importance of sharing the Gospel, and now, I am inspired to share it to others as well, in whatever way possible.

God can’t use Ivory Tower Christians

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“…You want to know why stark evil hasn’t made me rough or bitter?

…it was God who was prying the little girl’s hands off her eyes. As if He were saying, ‘I can’t use ivory-tower followers. They’re plaster of paris, they crumble and fall apart in life’s press. So you’ve got to see life the way it really is before you can do anything about evil. You cannot vanquish it. I can.

 

This quote is from one of my favorite books, Catherine Marshall’s “Christy”.

The character who says this is an older missionary (Ha! Which is why I can relate) counseling a younger missionary.

I’ve been musing a lot about this the past few days. Maybe because the last 2 weeks I have had many conversations with people — most of them students — whose stories, incidentally, are the stuff Filipino soap operas are made of. Oh, the drama. The sickening, sad drama of it all is just… depressing and sometimes horrifying.

I’d like to say that my eyes are already wide open, but the longer I live and the more I talk to people, the longer I discover that I still have fingers left on my eyes. My eyes are still half-closed, unwilling to stare at life’s mess. But I’m not naive. My twenty one years on earth so far are not enough, I know,  to take in all the evil in the world today. I am fully aware that more people, younger even, have seen much worse.

 

In one way or another, we’ve all acted like ivory-tower Christians. That, I think, is one of the saddest things. Jesus sent His disciples to the broken, the pained, the sick, the outcasts. We are supposed to go to them. Help them. Love them.

God has been opening my eyes, despite my resistance. He’s been reminding me, that if I keep my eyes closed to evil, I keep my eyes closed to God’s miracles as well.

And I miss how God can use me to counter this evil.

I do not want to miss that.

God can’t use Ivory Tower Christians. He needs workers willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty — figuratively and sometimes, literally.

What do you think?

How have you experienced God prying the fingers off your eyes?

That Smart and Lonely Girl.

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Make no mistake, her hostile attitude made me want to turn back.

It was witnessing blitz time, and so I went to the first floor of Palma Hall, scoured the floor, and my eyes fell on this girl sitting on the floor, leaning on a pillar near the entrance.

I think she sensed me about to approach her, because in the moment it took for me to redirect my steps towards her, her face instantly took on the a guarded look. As in, VERY guarded.

 

So our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello! I’m Sarah, and I was hoping to talk to you. You don’t have classes yet, do you?

Student: Noooo… why?

Me: I just wanted to ask you several questions about life. I’m really interested to know what students have to say about the subject.

 

When I said that, her face visibly relaxed. Then she Rolled. Her. Eyes. But the eye-rolling was a very appropriate prelude to her next statements: “I thought you were going to do Bible-preaching on me… I think religion is hypocrisy.”

Huh. At this point my curiosity had been sufficiently aroused, my senses peaked, that I was willing to genuinely pursue her, hostile attitude be damned.

 

THIS is why I love Aninag. Those picture cards are A. Mazing.

After several minutes of using Aninag, talking to her and asking her several low-key spiritual questions, student had sufficiently loosened up for me to ask if we can actually talk more about this stuff next time. This was tricky, I sensed she was debating internally if she wanted to talk to me again. After several minutes of negotiation, we finally settled on a date for next week.

The next time we met, she was actually in a good mood! I don’t know what I was expecting, but it seemed a very good sign.

And so we engaged in more dialogue, and from our (rather long) talk, I concluded:

1) That this girl is very smart,

2) Rather talented,

3) And also… lonely. There is no other way to put it.

She showed me this verse she wrote:

“Shall I ever be forgiven for my incurable sins?

Can water cleanse my dirtied hands when rinsed?

What is the perfect retribution for my crime?

Will it be forgotten or be washed away with time”

She told me she had tried asking God before, but God didn’t answer, so she concluded that God must have relegated her to suffering. She told me she has learned to deal with it by actually wanting pain (though I think that matter is debatable). She told me she can never believe that God can forgive her. She told me she cannot believe that anyone can recognize her talent.

 

Towards the end of our conversation I got to share the gospel to her, and…

This is the part where I wish I could say my incredible wit and invincible arguments convinced her to surrender her life to Christ and begin a personal relationship with Him, but no. (While I was sharing though, she stopped me midway and in an amiable manner said, “I just realized you’re already ‘Bible-preaching’ on me. But it’s okay, just proceed.”)

We parted ways as friends though, and I believe I sensed an openness not previously there.

 

Sigh. What pain must she have faced back then for a young thing like her to arrive to such conclusions?

 

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Have you ever had any similar experiences?