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Saturday, November 19, 2011

MY SOCIAL IMMERSION ~ A Sharing by Sharon


The majestic St Dominic de Guzman's Church, Sto. Domingo
The 2-week social immersion, which is part of  our 10-month formation program in the Institute of Formation, Fondacio (IFFAsia) was held from October 20, 2011 to November 02, 2011 in Legaspi, the regional centre of  Bicol Region in the Southeastern end of Luzon Island, Philippines.
Participants and local community with Fr Manny, 2nd from right, last row
I was eager yet nervous looking forward to the immersion. This would be an occasion for me to put into practice the knowledge I have learnt in the classroom for the past six months. It would provide me the opportunity to build good relationship with my foster family and at the same time, build my confidence and  be open in receiving with a willing heart, anything that God has in store for me. 
L-R: Charlon, Tuyet, Sharon, Nui, Rose, Mary An, Patrick, Leslie
Students, Interns and Formators of IFFAsia and local youth with Bishop Baylon after the Eucharistic celebration
I was assigned to Sto. Domingo together with my four batch mates, Charlon (Philippines), Tuyet (Laos), Nui (Thailand) and Rose (Myanmar), together with our beloved Ate Leslie (Philippines) and our two formators, Ate Mary An (Vietnam) and Kuya Patrick (Malaysia).

During our orientation in IFFAsia, we were asked to share our thoughts on what we wanted to achieve during our stay in Sto. Domingo. I shared with my group that I was nervous because it would be my first time staying withstrangersand to call them 'my family'. However I am open to receiving the surprises that God has for me and  am convinced that the Lord will provide as in 2 Cor 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come.”
A sharing session with Fr Marlon (in black t-shirt and with spectacles)
A pose in action with Mount Mayon Volcano in the background
I must admit that initially I had negative feelings. However, when I arrived and events unfolded, I was simply touched by their warmth and hospitality. I was assigned to the Lozada’s family. My foster father and mother are no longer working. My foster mother is a Barangay (village) Pastoral Council Chairperson and my sister Divine Grace is a student in one of the local university and she is one of the local youth leaders.
My foster family
God has a plan for everyone. I was meant to be with them. The short stint had drawn me close to my foster family. They took good care of me, showering me with their love. They made me feel at home and accepted me as part of the family.  On one occasion, while we were singing together as a family in the veranda, there was a black-out and we lighted some candles to continue our singing. I simply felt that God was in the midst of us. We were bonded together and felt  close to one another.
The tricycle, our mode of transport in the barangay
Not only that, there was also a time when my foster parents almost had an accident with a truck while on their way to the city in their tricycle. I remembered my foster mother said,God did not take our life away, because we are blessed that so many of you from IFFAsia are coming and God wants us to continue our mission, to take care of you, Sharon” I was moved and I felt blessed and thankful that God has provided me a good and loving foster family. Father, why send me to this family? I understand now. I have taken my own parent’s love for granted before and He wants me to see and to feel the love of parents to their children. I am only their foster daughter, but the love that they gave was unconditional, what more of my own family.
My most significant experience during the immersion was during the Youth Congress which was held in Sto. Domingo and I was picked spontaneously to do a testimony in front of 600 youths. That was my first time where I had to stand in front of such a large audience to share my story. Within a short span, I struggled hard to reflect on what I had to share. I was  really nervous at that time. When I stood in front, I just believed that God will guide me and I let the Holy Spirit speaks for me.  I am  glad and thankful that Ate Mary chose me to share my story to others. Even though my life story was not beautiful, but I knew, through my sharing, the youth would be able to see how wonderful is the gift of life and to appreciate on what they have at the moment.
The third significant experience for me during the two weeks immersion was the interview we had with the Barangay Lidong people. Despite of potential volcano eruptions, and sited on the “way of the typhoon”,  the people never complain or blame God for the natural disaster that they had experienced. Instead, they said, it was a blessing from God and they are very thankful for everything that they had. I questioned myself, 'Why do these people never complain?  For us, we complain over little things such as when the sun shines and the rain falls'. 
Together with the Parish Youth Council

From their sharing, I realised that I need to be more faithful and grateful to God  for everything because He has given the greatest gift of all and that is LIFE. The suffering, the pain and the obstacles we encounter in life are but  little tests that God has put us through.  He will be there by our side at all time, be it good or bad. God is good and He will never leave us for He has said in Matt 28:20 "And remember that I am always with you until the end of time"

From the immersion experience, I had received many blessings and am enriched about God and life and the community  I stayed with. The relationship among the group members has grown stronger, closer and more colorful.

Amen!

Sharon Tan, Batch 6 Student of IFFA
from the Diocese of Sandakan, Sabah

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