Stories and Reflections



Advent Reflection: Zero in on Zero

By: Mae Ann Hilario


A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that our son deleted all the files of my laptop. He's been borrowing my unit from time to time for schoolwork purposes.


He thought of deleting all files, including those cherished videos of family events and milestones, because he noticed that my laptop is running so slow. He innocently emptied even the trashbin! Not a single file -- from remnants of my corporate life and personal memories from decades ago -- was left.


My husband tried to retrieve the files, but it was an epic failure. For days, I felt like I was stripped of all my past. A sense of disturbing emptiness creeps in.


Then I realized that God had a message for me right there. As we are in the midst of, and midway through the Advent season, God desires to empty me, so He can fill me up.


He needed to empty me... literally of my pasts, getting rid of what I seem to be unknowingly clinging on to or considering as treasures. He wants me to make room just for Him.


As I look back to the start of 2017 and how it has unfolded, I realize that it's also been a process of emptying - letting go of excesses that have apparently become a norm or a must, veering away from familiar comforts of life, embracing the unknowns, and receiving God's miracles and favors along the way.



The angel’s message to Mary "Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God" strikes a chord in me.  To find favor and be blessed takes on a different meaning. God is redefining my ideas of success and victory, of reward & favor.


God knows better and sees beyond what the human mind cannot. Thus, He interrupts and shakes our conventional days. God knows that I cannot live each day, each moment, with a tight-fisted grip on what ought to be. God wants me to live fully, even in the interruptions.


Emptying of self is like walking in the shadows, and finding nothing but the One who walks with us.


It is in the shadows that we rediscover God, not merely the One who provides, but the Bread itself. Not merely the One who saves, but the Savior Himself. Not merely a guide through the darkness, but the Light.


Indeed, God's glory breaks forth in the shadows, in moments of empty and darkness. He strips away the veil made of personal expectations and wrong perceptions, to set us free, and to prove once more His love.


Mae Ann is a member of the Central Sector of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon Community .



A Deeper Joy

Growing up, my family was not well off but we knew how to laugh.  When I stepped into Ligaya as an underway member in 1987 as a single man, I felt like I was back in my childhood home.  After prayer and worship, there would be amazing storytelling, laughter to tears in moments and shared meals and celebrations.


It was the joy of a shared life of a home a gift of becoming a family that served together.


Like most of you from my generation, I had to face reality and grow up. We jumped from one thing to another: starting an evangelistic prayer meeting, serving in countless events and shows in Community. The members of the prayer meeting, our audiences, and the servants …all of us, we found joy.


It was a joy sharing the gift of service, a gift of becoming a family that served together.



The next stage of my life was getting married to Maricza, my wonderful and understanding wife in 1993. God gave us two beautiful children, Kyla and Noah and I learned to become a father.


As my family grew, so did my service. So I became a pastoral leader and Senior Leader. Then, I got thrown into the wild and wooly world of the Young Adults and youth work changed my life forever.


Couple that with several years of running summer workshops and play productions with the King’s Kids Production group. In all this, we found joy.


It was the joy of going through life’s changes together – growing up, getting married, raising everyone’s kids together.



So I found my joy and peace in being with God’s people. No matter what the storm was outside, the brothers and sisters were my safe harbor.  All was well in the world. But God wanted me to find an even deeper joy that only He could give. This was to be His latest lesson of joy.


Maricza is the epitome of the busy wife, mother and daughter.


But tiredness from her overloaded schedule and her weakened immune system came to a disastrous synergy fused by a mysterious but powerful virus. The combination sent her blood pressure so low and sepsis had started to set in, her white blood count had dropped and a fever that was breaking past the 40 degree ceiling.


In a matter of hours, she was in ICU.


And I was sitting beside her the whole night.


In the early morning hours, after Maricza had just dozed off, I thought about her compromised immune system, no appetite, mysterious viral and bacterial infections, more blood tests, medicines and IV tubes in all of 4 heplocks that were inserted into her hands, I sat there and I could not find joy.  I felt lost and tired, fearful and helpless.  All I could do was to tell her, “We will get through this together.” But I did not know how. We prayed and asked God to show his healing power and love to us, even in the ICU.


Intercessory prayers started in Ligaya and different groups for Maricza. Even her classmates around the world would meet in a voice chat to pray the rosary together for her healing.  Prayer vigils by brothers and sisters were formed to intercede for her healing every hour. I told Maricza, ”Everyone is praying for you!” And for the first time, she smiled even in the midst of her weakness and pain.  We very tentatively began to hope that maybe joy would return.


But Maricza’s condition did not improve significantly despite all the medication. Her vital white blood count and platelets stayed at dangerous levels.  Her appetite disappeared and she lost about 20% of her body weight and she continued to get weaker. The doctors were talking about blood disease and bone marrow problems.  We sat there, discouraged and drained. Our faith was hanging by a thread. We had run out of joy.



Then the flood of people started to arrive. I was overwhelmed by the groups of brothers and sisters who came, even from the Central and North Sectors.  Some even came into the ICU with wall decorations and prayer aids to encourage Maricza. Others came to pour out themselves in service and bring huge amounts of food.  They came to take turns watching and helping Maricza while I got some rest or had to check on her medical bills.

One Sunday, the nursing staff on our floor got the surprise of their life when our floor’s lobby was filled by brothers and sisters who came over to pray over Maricza, but since she was in reverse isolation, most of them just waved to her from outside the door. The entire group then gathered in the lobby and prayed with Maricza over the phone.  It was a marvelous and encouraging moment where I experienced God working through the love of brothers and sisters and their prayerful faith to overcome any sickness and obstacles.   And every nurse and doctor who witnessed it would comment, “Mabuti pa si Ma’m, maraming nagdadasal para sa kanya.


Then and there, I gratefully understood that God was using our trials to show us that joy didn’t depend on a happy situation but in the hope that beyond our perseverance is God’s life-changing victory.


We became stronger in that joy.  A joy that can hang on in a storm and believe. A joy that comes when brothers and sisters pray, encourage and support us to persevere. And this is pure joy; because we didn’t make it -- it is supplied to us by the grace and love of God.


Excerpts from the sharing of Beda Manalac at the Feast of the Covenant 2017 at the Aliw Theater in Pasay City. Beda is a Senior Leader at LNP South Sector.



In God's Time, In God's Terms

I am a lawyer by profession. When we entered Pathways, I was a manager in a multinational company. My career skyrocketed while in Ligaya. A year after community weekend, I was made regional director handling Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. For a time, there were discussions of us moving to the regional office in Singapore. But it wasn’t in God's plan then and we happily stayed on although the traveling was tough.


Life in a suitcase


I was traveling 50% of the time and many times had to attend my men’s and women’s group meetings straight from the airport with my suitcase in tow.


In 2010, I heeded the Lord’s call to serve more and transferred to another company to do a local role.


Indeed, the months thereafter were my golden months of serving the Lord and our community. We were even asked to be pastoral leaders, and proceeded on to the process as covenant aspirants in 2012.


Stepping out of my comfort zone


However, it was quite clear that the Lord was asking me to leave the comforts of Ligaya and move my family to a foreign land. The mandate was explicit-- step out of the open door.


The why wasn’t so clear though. I felt that He wanted us to go on mission. It was a call for obedience, trusting that He will reveal His plans eventually.


I left in January 2013. The family followed soon thereafter.


It was when we were away from Ligaya, in a place where the call of the world is so strong, that Ronald and I became more steadfast to live the way of life.   We believed it was crucial for our children as well as for our relationship as husband and wife, and as a family.


We were honored for having inspired families in our adoptive community, the Servants of the Lord in Singapore especially in the areas of celebrating Lord's Day regularly, having husband and wife meetings, and faithfulness in attending community activities.


In Singapore, I grew into a deep personal relationship with the Lord. He allowed me to experience pruning with challenges at work. He allowed me to grow in wisdom and faith and experience joy and peace regardless of the circumstances. There, I had experienced how big our God is.



Going home, going to great lengths


Believing it was God’s appointed time, we went home in June 2015.


The Lord indeed continued to bless my career. I first landed a consultancy role, and when it ended, I was offered another regional role which initially, I was led to believe, would be based in Manila. It turned out to be only for a couple of months.


In April of 2016, I became Singapore based again.


This time, the Lord did not call me to uproot my family. Instead, He challenged me to show Him the lengths I would go to pursue Him and my covenant with Him in Ligaya.


That started the weekly commute from Singapore to Manila. I would leave early Monday morning and come back on Friday night.


Weekends were planned really well so as to make precious time with my husband and kids as well as attend community events and MWG meetings which had been lovingly moved to Saturday mornings to accommodate my schedule. It required me to be constantly trying to manage my schedule to minimize absences in Ligaya activities, and would sometimes require costly changes in tickets just so I can make it to important events.


The fight to stay on


I felt we were ready to make the Covenant in 2015, but it did not happen. Not even in 2016. That was when the devil started to hit me. The devil made me miserable and resentful for not being called to the covenant.


First, he used my utmost weakness- pride. I felt I was entitled to make the covenant. I have done the checklist, and more, why wasn’t I being given the recognition?


The devil also used insecurity. I’d get hurt and troubled when well-meaning sisters question my ability to do my roles as a wife and mother when I am away from home on weekdays. This made me defensive.


And of course, the devil will use the lure of the world. Why do I keep fighting to stay on in Manila, when Singapore has much more to offer to my family?


It was agonizing waiting to be called for the covenant. I had conflicting thoughts of just being continuously pruned by God. Maybe Ligaya is really not my call. I prayed hard to be protected from temptations, from the lure of the devil, so I can discern God’s voice and His plan for me.


And God, the great God that He is, answered my prayers. He softened my “all or nothing stand” with the help of my husband who was guided by the Holy Spirit to lead me out of my turmoil.


The Lord allowed me to experience the joy of being in community through life giving assemblies and special women events.  I was also able to be a witness to God’s love and mercy through the love and service given by brothers and sisters to one another.



Called in His own time


Seriously, I am committed to fight on to stay in Ligaya, because it is here where I can best love the Lord.

This is where I can show my obedience to His will. It is here where I can care for His people.


The journey continues. But the Lord has proven that He cannot be outdone in faithfulness. A few weeks before the covenant retreat, I was given the good news that my request to be based in Manila has been approved in principle. Praise be to God who makes the way.


God loved me first and He calls me. In His own time, in His own terms. He does not owe me the covenant. I owe it to Him.


Excerpts from the sharing of Olive Misa at the Feast of the Covenant 2017 at the Aliw Theater, Pasay City. Olive is a newly-covenanted member of LNP North Sector with her husband, Ronald.




Something to Offer

I am grateful to God for calling me to community when I was a university student and forming me at a young age with all our solid teachings and our rich way of life.


It is in community that I have continually seen God's face in the concrete love that my brothers and sisters in community have shown me through the years - in times of celebration and in times of difficulty.



There are so many instances, but I will never forget when my family needed to make our house wheelchair friendly for my father, brothers and sisters were quick to respond. Ken Noecker cut down a huge tree, Jake Yap moved heavy rocks, and Mon Olano took care of the construction. When it was time to lay my father to rest, John Keating literally stood by my side, carrying my father's military cap and sword, ready to answer any need. Brothers and sisters stood around the gravesite singing the Canticle of Simeon. Thinking back over 42 years brings so many images of the many ways I have experienced God's love through the brothers and sisters. And it is an ongoing experience.


Just recently when I attended the Bethany conference with some sisters, one sister took it upon herself, without being asked, to carry my suitcase in and out of vehicles, up & down stairs, to the airport and back - a two hour journey on the public rail system even if she didn't have a flight. Indeed I have been loved in community and it has brought me great joy!


It's a joy that the world cannot give and it's a joy that nothing can take away. Not even suffering can take it away because the joy that is ours in the Lord is deeper than anything we can encounter.


Late last year, after having been cancer free for seven years, I underwent surgery to remove a malignancy. Early this year, some complications emerged, and I began to lose the use of my right hand and experience severe pain in my right elbow extending to my fingers. I asked the Lord if the pain was part of my Lenten journey, but come Easter he would take away the pain. But he only said, "Learn to suffer well."


So I went about my daily life. When I accompanied our sister Lou Sitaca to give the women leaders conference in India, many of the sisters there told me that I didn't need to give a talk, but the mere fact that I came with my pain and disability, already spoke volumes to them.


Recently, when I joined a women's group to share about life in community, some of the sisters were in tears. They couldn't imagine me taking the time to join their women's group in my condition. As I went home that night, the Lord said to me, "Wasn't this what you prayed for? That if you could better witness to me by graciously bearing your illness, it could be better than healing. I have answered your prayer." I could not but smile and I jokingly replied, "When it's just you and me in the room could you lessen the pain." And he replied, "Then your witness would be fake." So I humbly accepted His way.


One time when the pain was severe, I asked if he would take the pain away. Then in prayer I saw him up close, carrying the cross and I didn't have the heart to ask him to take the pain because he was already carrying so much.



As I revisited the story of Fatima in celebration of the 100th anniversary this year, I realized that the pain I was experiencing was actually a gift to me. The children of Fatima looked for ways to suffer as an offering to God for the conversion of sinners, but God was already giving me something to offer. I now have something to offer.


Although God is still teaching me, I'm beginning to learn that not even suffering can take away the deep joy I experience in Him. He is my covenant God.


And the deeper truth is that there is a greater joy if we actually enter into the joy of our master. Once in prayer when I invited the Lord to come into my heart, I felt the Lord inviting me to enter his heart: a heart that is so big and immense that I could not even begin to imagine its height, its breath, its depth. And that is the way it is with God's Joy. God's joy, God's delight in us, is so much bigger than the joy we take in him. We experience just a glimpse of this joy and may only come to know it's fullness when we see him face-to-face.


Excerpts from the sharing of Beth Melchor at the Feast of the Covenant 2017 at Aliw Theater, Pasay City. Beth is a Senior Woman Leader at Ligaya ng Panginoon.




Ligaya ng Panginoon  2018

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Stories & Reflections