Bro Edito “Dito” dela Cerna, BCBP SoCal, relates how after he had joined the BCBP, not only was his life transformed, but the Lord cleared the seemingly impossible way for him and his family to migrate to Southern California. Now Dito serves as Chapter Head of BCBP SoCal.
I am Edito Pagaspas dela Cerna from the small town of Jasaan, Misamis Oriental, this is about a 45-minute from the prosperous City of Cagayan de Oro. I am 2nd in a brood of 11 children and also the eldest son. We were nominal Catholics as a family with the exception of my beloved mother, may God bless her soul. She was devout and very active in the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the 70’s and 80’s. She would always remind us children of our obligations as Catholics, and that we were all always in her prayers, that the grace of God in our lifetimes would open our hearts to service for the Lord. We were a large family and though we never had too much, we lived quite comfortably.
Being the eldest son I was given the first opportunity to study in Cebu. That meant total freedom. Aside from my studies, I spent a lot of time with my friends, girls and drinking. All these changed when my father met an accident and had to retire early. My studies were cut short and I had to find means to contribute to the family. I was fortunate to find a job in sales in the soft drink company where my father worked. I always known myself to be a survivor even at a young age and this helped me survive and excel in my job as a salesman, which helped my family tremendously. My career continued to flourish (and I enjoyed its perks) and soon I was being given offers from other large companies.
At this stage in my life I met my best friend, and my better-half, the prettiest lady (sabi niya), my wife, Zenaida “Tata” Namalata also a Cagay-anon. Married now for 37 years, we are blessed with 5 children, 3 sons and 2 daughters. Tata and I now have three adorable grandsons, Jacob, Elijah, Grayden and one beautiful granddaughter, Brielle.
Growing bored with my work, in 1984 I left for Hawaii on the advice of my sister who owned a jewelry factory there. However, there I forgot God and experienced indescribable loneliness so finally I returned to the Philippines in 1989 and joined the family business begun by my father. At that time, God remained farthest from my mind.
One day I was handed a BCBP breakfast meeting invitation by one of my friends who was organizing the BCBP in Cagayan de Oro. I shared the invitation with my wife Tata and we were both skeptical. But because we could not turn down our friend, we reluctantly attended our first breakfast meeting.
Looking back, I see the Lord’s power working that very day. That breakfast was the turning point in my life. I felt a new sense of excitement but it was different, it was more of relief. My heavy burden seemed to be lightened and my outlook turned more hopeful and positive. I started to re-examine my life, my actions and thoughts. I realized how close I was toward destruction. I felt guilty, I felt shame. But in spite of this there was a strong feeling of hope and the excitement of starting life again on a clean slate.
I felt I needed to spend more quality time with my wife and children, get to know them more, since I had been an off-and-on father for a long time. I could not even recall any of their birthdays. I felt that I should make right my strained relationships in my family and my relatives. I thought and felt that there was something our business was doing that did not Glorify Him, and that I should do something about it. And I felt compelled to change my old lifestyle.
We officially joined the BCBP Brotherhood after finishing the BCLP, the first batch of BCLP graduates in Cagayan de Oro. My wife Tata and I served in the Music Ministry, then we became action group leaders. I became the first breakfast head in CDO, then was part of the Mission team where I helped in opening Davao, Bukidnon, Iligan and helped in the plans for Sabah, Indonesia. The experience of doing service for God’s sake was so spiritually rewarding. Meantime our business was doing good, and our service to the Lord was uninterrupted.
We were not spared of our share of challenges along the way, but this time we had the Lord by our side. After years of success, our hauling business suffered a severe setback, such that there was no way to recover from it. We lost everything. It was an extreme experience for us as a family. From a comfortable lifestyle to one that could not even afford the things we have already acquired. But we continued with our service with the Lord with everything we had. Sometimes we could not even afford the BCBP breakfast so we made excuses.
I found my consolation in the passage from Psalm 46:1-5: “God is our refuge and strength…” At this point, I knew my new-found faith and trust in the Lord was being tested to the fullest. The Lord had allowed an opportunity to strengthen my faith, and an opportunity to be closer to Him. I continued to discern in which direction the Lord is leading me. Soon the signs appeared during my prayers during Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration and through our children … “Go to the states.”
So against all odds Tata and I started planning our migration as a family to the USA. We scraped whatever we had and borrowed from family and close friends even just for the interview in Manila. After everything I was left with P200.00. We took the boat to Manila just so that we can make ends meet. When we arrived, I went back and forth from the US Embassy to Baclaran Church where I fervently prayed to the Lord to give me one more chance to better my life and the life of my family.
I cannot elaborate enough how the Lord managed to guide us to the immigration maze. To start with, I lined up at the wrong window which turned out to be Divine Providence. I filled up some forms and turned it over to the officer at the window and was told to come back the next day. People behind me were telling me I might be at the wrong window. But I gave all our documents anyway and didn’t give it too much thought. Before I left a guy advised me that if I should be in that window the next time I should know the birthdays of my children. I had to review and confirm all the information with Tata. Next day at the same window, the officer holding a stack of passports, asked while reading information on the passports, “When is the birthday of your daughter Eloisa? Your sons Maxim and Emmanuel?” And after I responded correctly she handed the passports to me one by one.
How this happened I have exhausted all analysis. This was God’s work. My only wish was to bring the whole family to the states, and it was happening before my eyes. My favorite Christian song and singer say it well “God will make a way where there seems no way”. Until now I can’t thank the Lord enough for all He has done for me and my family.
During our first years in America, we didn’t have a hard time in establishing ourselves and our livelihood. I sold phone cards all throughout California. A friend of ours loaned us a car for a price na parang bigay lang. Before long we were ready to purchase a house.
Some BCBP members from Cagayan de Oro also moved to Los Angeles at that time and we decided to have small prayerful reunions which led to bigger gatherings from BCBP members now relocated in the Southern California area. One of the members commented jokingly “Dito, baka kayo pinadala ni Lord dito sa America para mag-open ng BCBP.” I found it funny and farthest from my imagination…until the BCBP International Mission Head visited Southern California and even reconnected more BCBP members who were already in SoCal. His mission, he told me was to plant a seed in California for BCBP to grow and spread anew. I was very skeptical about the idea because of the lifestyle we have here in the US where work gets a big portion of our time and what is left for it is for the family and of course the weekly chores. A lifestyle of work with no time left for spiritual activities. But on the other hand I was thinking to myself, with all that the Lord has blessed me with, isn’t it time for me to serve Him? This was further confirmed after we held a big reunion for all BCBP members in SoCal in September 2003. God gave us all a taste of how rewarding it is to be together again as a small community of brothers and sisters in Christ.
After discernment from our elders, The SoCal Outreach was established with me appointed as the Outreach head. As Outreach Head, I witnessed the wonderful growth of BCBP SoCal which developed from continuous Breakfast meetings, into Christian Life Programs, which led to the formation of Action Groups, each contributing their share in realizing the fullness of spiritual activities and programs than an Outreach is required to undertake.
I also witnessed the hand of the Lord working through the members who assumed leadership positions. As our membership grew in numbers, so did the challenges that came along.
Apparently, my misadventures in Hawaii bore fruit. I had a son from that indiscretion and I had to brave all the consequences of my past actions and bring it all to the light and to accept and not deny that all these had happened, and I was responsible for everything. This passage in Sirach took on a personal meaning for me:
My child, if you are going to serve the LORD, be prepared for times when you will be put to the test. Be sincere and determined. Keep calm when trouble comes. Stay with the LORD; never abandon Him, and you will prosperous at the end of your days. Accept whatever happens to you. Even if you suffer humiliation, be patient. Gold is tested by fire, and human character is tested in the furnace of humiliation. Trust in the LORD and HE will help you. Walk straight in His ways, and put your hope in HIM.
Meantime my service and the services of the members of BCBP SoCal continued to grow. It was not easy at the start but my joys were far more than the burdens. The Lord was always there guiding us in ways that our numbers grew and members have grown in their loving relationships.
And once again God showed us a miracle. There had been delays in the processing of my Permanent Resident status. Our lawyer was not optimistic about this being released soon. Because of this I could not enter into a contract or represent a non-profit group. Without a green card I could not represent the Community and register it at the Department of Corporation. We continued to file the necessary paperwork just the same and we were given a timeframe to sign all documents. I lifted all this up to God trusting that He alone was in control. Much to our amazement the day before I was to sign all the paperwork registering the BCBP in SoCal, our Green Cards arrived in the mail. Again this surpasses all understanding. Friends, He truly is an awesome God!
BCBP SoCal members grew in number and commitment to the mission. I saw firsthand how the God-given talents and resources of our members contributed immensely to the growth of the outreach. Last October 10, 2009, we were installed as a full-fledged Chapter. Now, BCBP SoCal is a bustling community, full of life and enthusiasm to achieve goals for the Lord.
I declare that being with the BCBP is our way of life. My social and spiritual life revolve around the community and the Lord. I could not imagine Tata and myself. . . without the BCBP. And I cannot imagine a life without our Lord as the center of it.
Looking back at all the circumstances and all the incidents leading to the present, I can’t help but believe that the life I live now is for the most part, the answered prayer of my mother, that I serve the Lord at one point in my life. Also, all events leading to the present quite clearly show that the Lord had plans for me in establishing the BCBP in the USA.
GLORY BE TO GOD WHO MADE IT ALL POSSIBLE. GOD BLESS US ALL.