On this blessed season of Easter, a long held and deeply felt dream was realised. In a wonderful illustration of God`s lovely grace, Joey Flores, Chris and Chipo Mautsi, Charlie and Erly Estrada, our past and present SFC Couple Coordinators, were there to witness and give thanks for this long prayed, awaited and longed for fulfillment. Now, Jerry Rivera, teary-eyed, told the delegates, “I can die happy.”
What could have moved our Unit Head so?
Nothing less than the first ever CFC Singles for Christ-United Kingdom National Conference, with delegates from many corners of these islands, getting under way at St Augustine`s Catholic Church Hall in Hammersmith, London. Years of fervent prayer and months of planning and preparation were coming together under the watchful eyes of the Lord God and Our Lady in that one blessed moment.
Although this year was just a one day conference, it was, by God`s grace, a day to remember, as many new friends were made and many former friends reunited, as Jerry, Joey and Robert Fabre (now returning as one of our Northwest Europe Mission Volunteers) in turn recalled. The service team - skillfully headed by Felicito Simon and Yek Te, expertly programme directed by Rhoda Rosal - represented many different parts of the UK yet all worked harmoniously together.
Our leaders had discerned to have two inspiring talks to frame the day.
Firstly, Joey proclaimed to us afresh `the God of All Grace` whom we had been celebrating not a week before in the great feast of Easter. He spoke movingly - and the sharers testified powerfully - of the vital importance of prayer, of sanctifying grace, and how the latter is mediated to us in the community - and challenged us about how we respond to pressure.
Secondly, and after lunch, Jerry picked up the conference theme of `Stronghold` and linked it to Joey`s remarks about grace via 1 Peter 5: 10-11,
`10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.`
Strikingly personal and intensely practical throughout, Jerry presented St Peter to us as a model of how completely Jesus, our Stronghold, is able and willing to transform us through the grace and working of his Holy Spirit. He then closed by encouraging us to learn faithfulness to God, as Peter did, through his `various trials.`
In the meantime, we had been blessed by both the MTV competition (star credit: Lilian Lota, who won) and also the praise parade competition, won by SFC London under the inspirational leadership of Nancy Aranas. There were also awards for those SFCs who had been especially commended by our MVs and by our leaders in Christ over the past year. Jeff Galang and Joanne Candido received particular mention, as did Cely Ann Pambid for her Natcon `Early Bird` Award. (Richard Heald was also awarded the ‘Stronghold’ Award for his transformation, openness, willing servanthood and humility amidst all the daily pressures.)
A Spirit-filled day was appropriately rounded off by a photo shoot by Elija Villanueva (results on Facebook, naturally) and food kindly distributed and admired by our ‘titos and titas’ - without whose grace, prayers and support in so many ways, the conference would not have been possible.
Finally, Charlie Estrada announced which lucky region will host the 2nd SFC-UK Natcon in 2013. The exact location is a closely-guarded secret, but here`s a hint: see you next year in the Northeast!