Saturday, October 8, 2005
NOTE: Below is a testimony I shared at a men's retreat on October 2005. It's the first testimony that I've ever shared with an audience.
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Good evening, my name is Juan Bondad III. On August 2002, my family and the company I worked with have prepared for my transfer to another company office in Paris, France. It was a dream come true for me, since I've always cherished the thought of establishing my family outside the country. But something happened - despite the completeness of my application, the closeness of the French embassy and the company I worked with, the good record I had in my previous travels, and despite having passed the consul interview, my family and I were not given our appropriate French visas. Having that trip cancelled was the turning point in my life, for immediately after, my wife and I attended the Biblical Foundation I study series at CCF - St. Francis. It was during this period that I came to know Christ, His gift of salvation, His love for me, and His gift of eternal life. It was on August 2002, that I fully surrendered myself to the lordship of Jesus.
The following months moved fast, and my hunger to learn more about God grew. I was devouring His Word on a daily basis, and I couldn't explain the joy and peace I felt for the first time in my life. I felt weird, thinking that I was probably the only person in the world who sang songs of praise while doing just about anything. Being a very private person, the only person I could discuss these feelings, were with my wife. That was, until I attended a marriage encounter and was surprised to meet other couples who felt as strongly about God as I did.
In October 2002, after coming home from a 3-week foreign assignment, I attended a bible study session on the Holy Spirit. During the break out portion of that session, I got to meet the two men who had the most influence on my Christian life thus far - Pastor Danny Perez, our bible study teacher at that time, and my good friend, Ronald Domingo. Soon after, my wife and I joined a small group of men and women that met regularly under the leadership of Pastor Danny and his wife, Grace. After yet another foreign assignment, I came home to find out that our mixed group has split up, and that I now belonged to a group of about a dozen or so men. Being the youngest in that group, and not to mention one of the youngest Christians as well, I felt that my spiritual growth was being fast tracked. The spiritual feeding I got from this group of godly, albeit-sometimes-crazy men was invaluable. When our group participated in the Purpose Driven Life campaign on August 2003, I joined in as well; I handled a group at ABS-CBN and facilitated two groups in the company I worked with. Personally, this was not easy for me to do. As an introvert, relating to people does not come naturally for me. From feedback I got from long time friends, I was pretty much better at writing more than I was at relating to others. Each session I facilitated was a struggle, but I was somehow encouraged from the weekly feeding I got from attending our weekly disciple group meetings. Joining this campaign allowed me to learn a lot about facilitation, and for the first time, I was worshipping God by doing something that took me beyond my comfort zone.
As far as I can remember, it was during this PDL campaign that Pastor Danny communicated to our group the vision of the d12 ministry. He continually reminded us about the d12 being CCF's primary ministry; discussing this at every opportunity. He pursued this topic passionately, relentlessly, never tiring, again and again until I know that some of us in our group felt that it was being rammed down our throats. For me though, I've always felt that the d12 vision could be my personal vision and I viewed it not as some kind of ministry pressure imposed by my discipler, but as a way for me to have a direction in my spiritual growth.
BUT, I had one major hurdle. As a consultant in the information technology industry, I've been out of the country on foreign assignments, several weeks at a time. Since year 2000, I had been out of the country for a total of 4 to 7 months per year. Travel for me was a love - hate relationship; I loved it for it afforded me the opportunity to visit places and earn more, and at the same time, I loathed it since on the occasions that I didn't bring my family, I would miss them terribly. Not to mention that being alone led me to be tripped repeatedly in a favorite sin, a sin that has held me captive for a long time since my teenage years. As I confided to our d12 in our first meeting of 2005, being in the country allowed me to grow spiritually; but for each step forward that I took in my spiritual walk, I would walk two steps backward whenever I left the country. I faced a dilemma. Much as I wanted to start my own group, how could I do so if I was always away? How could I lead a group when I wasn’t maturing the way God was telling me to?
In hindsight, it was this year that by the grace of God, I got over this hurdle. In January, I was offered three different projects in France and in the US, but I turned them all down choosing a project that allowed me to be based in this country. It wasn't an easy decision, particularly since we moved out of a house where we didn't pay rent, and moved into a rented apartment also in January this year. Yet, I yearned and prayed for the opportunity to handle a dgroup. Two men in our d12, who started a group by partnering together in the middle of last year, encouraged me to pair up with another young Christian in our d12 - his name is Ronald, my long time accountability partner and the good friend whom I mentioned earlier. Ronald got five names from the discipleship management group, and together with our wives, we decided to handle our first dgroup session on January 31, 2005. Of the five invited, only 3 turned out in our first meeting. Our first months were nowhere close to smooth sailing. Ronald and I both prepare long and hard for each of our sessions, and we would be frustrated if all members wouldn't be present. There was a particular session when there were only 3 people who attended, Ronald, myself, and another person. Even our wives were absent. I checked my heart repeatedly, why am I doing this? Was it to prove something to myself? Was it to impress others? Through different means, I was gently reminded that it was Jesus, and Jesus alone that I should serve.
God's faithfulness has allowed our dgroup to grow just recently. On September 2-4, 2005, I was part of the organizing committee of a men and women's weekend encounter held at the Legend Villas. As a facilitator and a speaker in that retreat, God dealt with several personal issues on my part, and I left that retreat spiritually renewed and stronger in the faith. The day after the retreat, we held our first dgroup meeting for September and I was surprised to have three people from the retreat attend our meeting. For the past five weeks, my wife and I have been handling 9 to 12 people in our dgroup meetings. Our format is simple, I would share a devotion, and we have separate breakout groups for the ladies and the men.
I’ve only been handling a group for the past 9 months, but I’ve been learning a lot. It takes time; it entails certain sacrifices, and could invite the enemy from attacking me relentlessly. On the other hand, and I'm continually learning this, it also provides a way to be fully dependent on God, to put myself to death daily, and to embrace the cross as a way of life. Our group mates have confided how blessed they are in attending our meetings, I, in turn, humbly admit that by handling a dgroup, I am the one who’s growing and learning more. On my decision to stay in the country, God has not only provided for my family, but my relationship with my wife and kids are at an all time high. Plus, I have also been provided with challenging career opportunities, much better than the growth I would have had, had I been sent abroad. And these are just the earthly blessings; I can't even start to think about the eternal ones.
In our first meeting since the retreat, our group reviewed the d12 vision that is in the discipler's handbook. I find myself, from time to time, reminding the people in our group about the d12 vision. I pray that I shall never stop to remind them of this vision, as my discipler has never ceased from reminding me. All of us are called to make disciples of all nations. I don’t see this as a command; for me, it is yet another undeserved privilege.
I give all the glory to God. Thank you.