In July 2021, I committed myself to being a volunteer pastoral counselor at St. Clement’s Pastoral Care and Counseling Ministry. I knew about this program from the ministry’s Facebook page. I am happy knowing that counselors whom I know (since we are from the same university) are volunteers of this program. It caught my attention, and I felt a bit of interest in being part of this worthwhile community service.
God truly knows my heart’s desires, so when one of the inspiring people, one of the people behind this program, Dr. Baby Rose Robles, invited me to join their group, I was overjoyed. And this is it! I never hesitated, and I said, “Sure, I want to.”
It was still in the midst of the pandemic, and we counselors were grappling with this alternative mode of counseling, which is tele/cyber/online counseling. God prepared me for this when, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, professionally all I could do was attend webinars in this mode of counseling.
There came my first client in the ministry in August, then another, and several more. Because He prepared me for this, I was able to trust my competence. I fervently prayed and hoped that I would be able to help them, help themselves.
Now, my two Sundays every month are dedicated to this service to the community. I loved going to St. Clement’s Church and, more so, to the Pastoral Care and Counseling Ministry Office with its homey atmosphere for face-to-face sessions. In spite of the exhausting weekly tasks that I attend to, I eagerly look forward to seeing clients, listening to them, and probing together for solutions to the circumstances they experience. How good it is to have this rewarding feeling at the end of the session, hearing how they have been relieved of the heavy emotions that have tormented them for some time.
Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolate; you never know what you’re going to get.” Yes, it’s true; every time I enter the center, I know that I will hear issues, concerns, dilemmas, challenges, traumas, and emotional wounds, but it is still for me to find out how deep those are.
For almost all of them, circumstances have threatened to be overwhelming. In the respite of silence during my sessions with them, I feel a tickle of hope. How I thank you, Lord, our Emmanuel, for showing them the way to our ministry. I see You in the various faces and pitches of pain. As much as I am able to help them, I have been helped as well, as I have come to many realizations about life and suffering. How, despite everything, knowing You’re with us makes everything bearable.
“God is like our leader; we do our tasks as members, and we do not worry if there is more to do, and if we fall short of our abilities; trust our leader; He is in control,” I always tell my clients. Then, I saw a grin, and, sharing the same confidence, we both smiled. My faith in God has been my protective factor, as I personally affirm what the studies say: that people who trust in His faithfulness can easily cope with stressful life circumstances and are able to find meaning and see hope.
From the various faces of suffering that we are facing today—emotional and psychological wounds, traumatic pasts, and haunting guilt, among others—God, who is with us, is inviting us to the safest space where we can run—to His arms. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3). His arms hold security and affection. Who doesn’t want to belong, then?
He is telling us to further trust the process. What we endure right now can be very challenging and at times very exhausting, but haven’t we been assured of the outcome? How can we be afraid of the battles that we are currently in when we know that ultimately we will win them? God has assured us of strength, wisdom, and redemption. Let us let go and have faith that things will work out as they were intended to in their ripe and perfect timing. Although this process is lengthy and rigorous, it renews our attitude and character to be pleasing to Him.
Lastly, He invites us to surrender and commit our lives to Him. Remembering His promise in Isaiah 40:29–31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”
Moreover, our kindergarten days would let us recall, the childlike faith that we have, through this song,
“ Ang mga pispis nga nagalupad, gin- atipan sang Diyos
Ang mga isda nga nagalangoy, gin-atipan sang Diyos
Ang mga kahoy nga nagasanga, gin-atipan sang Diyos
Madamo ang bunga…
Ang mga subay nga nagkubay, gin-atipan sang Diyos
Labaw kita sa ila kay larawan kita sang tagtuga
Indi magkasubo, mga utod ko …”
My childhood days are indeed the best days of my life. It’s where I am so carefree, happy, and peaceful because my mother and father are there to oversee my needs. Well then, God’s invitation brings us to this state; who would want to refuse serenity and contentment?
Thank you for lending me your ears as I share with you my reflections as a volunteer pastoral counsellor in this momentous occasion. My gratitude Father Jomil Baring for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts.