Picture: Dani, 2nd from right, together with the first batch of Pinoy nurses sent to Libya
I didn’t quite expect that when I escaped the unrest in Libya, I shall be facing another battle against my own plans as opposed to God’s plans. My parents told me that the least I could do to thank the Lord for bringing me whole (body and soul) is to share in the BCBP Breakfast Meeting. I had pre-meditated a lot of excuses, very valid at that, but God’s plan prevailed.
Let me start my sharing with passages from Romans chapter 8 verses 28-30. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.
I am the youngest and the only boy among four children. My mother told me that although I was quite unexpected, she took the chance of asking the Lord to give her a son since she has three daughters already (in short— gipangayo jud). But it was not for free—I guess. Because at the 7th month of her pregnancy, the Lord revealed to her that the child in her womb is a boy— and here is the twist— the Lord said: “palakihin mo siyang nagsisilbi sa akin.”
Unconsciously, this “plan” posed some pressure on my part. My mother told me that when I was yet four years old, I discreetly approached her one time and to her surprise I told her—“ Mommy, dili lang ko magpari!” (I thought then that it was what God meant when he says “palakihin mo siyang nagsisilbi sa akin”. My mother laughed it off and said: “ it’s ok darling—there are so many ways to serve the Lord”).
I grew up surrounded by love from my parents, siblings and relatives. My parents instilled in me the love for the Lord—and I witnessed them serving Him with all their hearts, minds and strengths. Ang feeling ko, ang laka-lakas ng pamilya namin kay Lord. Pag may sakit kami, my dad will only have to lay his hands on us, or my mom will simply ask the Lord to heal us—para kaming may family doctor who is available 7/24, anywhere we are. We never had real major major problems, and when we had, my dad and mom will lead us to prayers and parang magic— the major major problem is not a problem anymore.
Soon I had my own family— quite unexpected din— (mahirap talagang maging pogi katulad ng Daddy ko!) My family ran to my rescue, shielding me from the growing pains of raising a young family. But slowly, I started to plan for my own life—and for my own family. I realized I had wanted to be a doctor but since I had decided to change course from engineering to nursing so that I can work and live abroad—pinangatawanan ko na lang ang aking desisyon. I worked as Operating Room Nurse and after completing a masteral degree in Nursing I became a Nursing Reviewer in a prestigious review school. On the side, I helped out my Dad in his crab farm.
But I had other plans. I wanted to migrate abroad, earn dollars and become rich. Thus, when opportunity came, I applied for a job in Libya. Initially, my parents disagreed (sabi ng Daddy ko: “kahit saan Noy, wag lang sa Middle East”—this he said with conviction due to his experience working in Saudi Arabia). But I would not listen. For me then, that was a chance to gather experience; and a first step to the realization of my plans. My mom, although reluctant to give her blessing acceded, having prayed and been assured by the Lord that He will be there to protect me.
To make the long story short— I went to Libya, excited at first but barely two months afterwards realized that it was not the life I planned for myself and my family. As written in Proverbs chapter 16 verse 9: “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”. I confided to my family and we prayed hard for the Lord to help me out so that I can go home without hassles from my employer. At that time, it was almost impossible for me to come home— I didn’t have my passport, my employer took it from me allegedly for safekeeping. I didn’t have a contract— my employer found many ways to delay its issuance (we arrived there 2010 April and it was issued only four months after.) My contract stated that renewal is every year—but it was not clear whether they will pay for my fare or release my last month’s salary.
With this situation, even if I have money to pay for my fare, I simply could not go home. I was helpless and my only hope was to wait until my one year contract has elapsed— and even this is uncertain as I had my written contract only four months after my arrival in Libya. The earliest I could come home then is April, but the more realistic expectation would be August because it was the time my written contract was issued.
My mom told me to keep on praying—and we collectively petitioned the Lord to let me come home. How? We really didn’t know, but my faith told me that there is nothing impossible with the Lord. In Isaiah chapter 58 verse 11, the prophet wrote: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass … Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”
Then the unrest in Libya broke out in (2011) February after the successful yet violent uprising in Egypt last January. I didn’t know it could be a way for me to come home. We were operating on the dying and the wounded so my longing to come home was somewhat put aside. Limbs and heads detached from the bodies were a common sight. I was in the midst of the action as I was assigned as Operating Room Nurse.
My strength was drained by the number and morbidity of the cases but my libido was raised to the highest level. (You know) I had wanted to be a soldier when I was a young boy and there I was— in the middle of a war situation.
Spiritually, the Lord guided me, too. There was not a moment that I was agitated knowing that God is always there to protect me. The knowledge that my parents, siblings, relatives and BCBP members were all praying for me also kept me at peace. Never did I entertain the thought that I would be harmed.
In Jeremiah chapter 29 verses 10-14 God unconditionally assured us. He said: “…I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out– plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” This is God’s decree: “I’ll turn things around for you…”
True indeed! God turned around everything and carried out his plans beyond my expectations! I was finally back to my family in Gensan last 2011 March 8. I could not believe God would bring me home earlier than I had expected without breaking my contract; all-expenses-paid pa! Contrary to others who had experienced hunger and uncertainties, my God led me safe, well provided and unharmed. We even stayed at a 4-star hotel in Greece and were afforded a 2-day holiday vacation— compliments of the Philippine Government.
On hindsight, I realized that my chaotic but meaningful stay in Libya had actually realized God’s purpose for me when He told my mother: “Palakihin mo siyang nagsisilbi sa akin”. Amidst anxieties and uncertainties, God led me to be a source of strength and guidance among Pinoy nurses there. I led them in the Rosary and other prayers. I was their “kuya” in those trying times. Such spiritual victory amidst trying moments is foretold by St. Paul in Romans chapter 5 verses 3 to 6. He said: There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”
I still have not abandoned my plan to migrate abroad— I know God will use me again to serve Him wherever He would bring me (wala nang Middle East, siguro sa Canada). But I will use every opportunity that God will give me here (including this Breakfast Testimony) to thank Him and praise Him for what He has done for me and my family. Now I know better. God’s plan is bigger and much better than my plans. In fact His plans for me are the best I could ever have.
My advice to you, brothers and sisters in Christ, make plans, but understand that we live by God’s grace. May the Lord bless all our plans and show us the way to let our plans be compatible with His Will. And may we be able to obey His Plan no matter how difficult at first we perceive them to be. Praise be to God; may the Lord be glorified!