Spending Holy Week at Damires Hills, Janiuay

In Victory Iloilo, we had our Young Professionals camp ('YP camp') in Damires Hills, Janiuay. Since I had no plans for the Holy Week anyway, I went even if I just know two people. Around 40 adults and young adults attended. I expected games, activities, times for sermons and prayer. I'm not one for these things, but I need other activities and new places to keep my mind off... my mind.

First, the games. There was a game which involved catching and hitting the opponent team with a ball. I was lucky to catch and hit the ball once, I lose every time in these games since grade school that I just don't bother to join anymore. But I just went along my team. There was a very exhausting and physical Amazing Race with obstacles through scary hanging bridges, diving in swimming pools, and generally running around in a tiring way. I have no endurance for these things but thank God I survived and thanks to my group mates too. Out of the four teams, we were 4th place! I can't say that I totally enjoyed it (because I'm not so comfortable with the grinning, shuffling, pushing, and general cluelessness during presentations). But as a diversion, 'something else to do', it sure was effective. Its always good to see and meet other Christians in the same age group.

Left: Norma's Coffee Shop greets you right away once you enter Damires Hills Tierra Verde. They have coffee, souvenirs, and various delicacies from Janiuay. Right: The view of the Hills.
In the three sessions, the leaders and pastors talked about topics relevant to young professionals today. We talked about boredom, burnout, depression, other dreams, and our work as Christians with the Great Commission.

Love for the self. We hear a lot nowadays about loving yourself. But what is the true essence of loving the self, and what is the difference between healthy self-love with selfishness and narcissism? Selfishness is when we love ourselves more than we love God. When asked about the best commandment to follow, Jesus boiled down all the laws and commandments into two: 1) Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and 2) Love your neighbor as you love yourself. 

We need to see ourselves in the way God sees and values us. The pastor said that worry is the enemy of loving the self. Jesus himself said that worrying is a waste of time ("Will worry add one hour to your life?"), and that in our everyday lives we should rely on him to provide for us. In moments of fear and anxiety, we must still remember that we need to let go, and as the cliche goes, Let God.

Love for work. Work is a big part of our life. We find our fulfillment, vocation, and our means of making a living and being secure through our work. The pastor who spoke advised that in work, we should try our best to give 90% and expect that we will only get 10%. The modern mindset of most employees is what benefits the job can give, and how it can satisfy us. This leads to many people moving from one job to another.

God is also the boss of our workplace. As Jesus said, we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But who are our neighbors in the first place? To some, they only show love to those who do good to them, their friends, family, and other people who like them. Jesus himself commanded to love your enemies, because even the pagans love those who love them. But we Christians are called to love and forgive those who hate us, as Jesus died for everyone, regardless of whether they hate or love him.

In the end, it is not our success that God will look at, but our faithfulness.

Love for others. The best expression of love for our neighbors is to also care for their spiritual growth, and to know Christ. Our colleagues and the people we interact with in our jobs are our neighbors, and we must also love them as God commanded. We are called to a specific job and place for God's mission as well. In this light, we should think and ask ourselves, how can I make a difference? How can I be part of this mission?

Campfire. We were prepared with barbecue sticks and marshmallows but didn't expect the tall bamboos they used for the bonfire which looked like we were going to conduct a witch-burning (kidding). There were a few explosions in the wood and we waited for the burning bamboo to collapse and the fire to diminish before we enjoyed our marshmallow BBQ.

One moment struck me in particular, the pastor laid gentle hands on my shoulder (and uttered a short prayer while speaking in tongues). Then he spoke in front and said that he had a 'vision' of a hamster stuck forever in a wheel. We are all in the 'rat race' of work, but the image of a hamster in a wheel gave me new insight on one consistent problem in my mind. It hit me. Its the perfect illustration of a very personal suffering and a senseless problem I haven't told anyone yet (due to how absurd it is), but I have a choice to get out of that wheel. I had believed that the problem was so powerful that its beyond God's reach. But I can get out of the wheel through God's help.

Other than the lessons learned, Damires is a good place for a short vacation. I had deep, dreamless and relaxing sleep, with the fresh air and all the green. Sometimes its nice to go somewhere else that isn't home to break the routine. I hope that the people I met will continue into great friendships after the camp.

Though, my favorite moment of all (I like it more than meeting all the new people though they are all lovely too) is treating myself to a silent moment alone with God while enjoying coffee. Its been a long time since I hung out in a cafe alone, because one of my hobbies is just to write some pages of non-sense with the chatter of everyone else in the background and the smell of caffeine. I just love being alone, and a book is better than any companion (sorry, friends reading this!).

Strawberry cheesecake, and one of the best lattes I've tasted.
Let us remember Christ, his sacrifice, death, and resurrection this Holy Week.

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