by Julian Lim
I first heard about OYP in December 2016, when a good friend of mine invited me to go for the School of Witness (SOW). Back then I was just a Sunday Catholic, struggling to find reason and meaning to spend just an hour a week in church. At the same time, I was struggling with the workload and pressure in the army. My parents didn’t understand what I was facing and my close friends were very busy and had their own struggles to deal with. As such, I felt that I was alone. After my breakup in 2015, my heart became very cold and hard like stone. I was really angry at God for throwing all these problems to me, especially since I genuinely tried to be a good person, and I did not understand His plans for me. I turned to alcohol, pornography and binge-eating, thinking that these would make me feel better, but they were short-term fixes and I felt horrible. When the invitation to go for SOW came, I took up the offer quite readily as I needed something to fill my time from January to March. Somehow I was also hoping to reconnect my relationship with God or at least spend the time to think about life.
I celebrated my 21st birthday during the second week of SOW. I still remember my fellow participants singing the birthday song to me every 10 minutes, and the love that they poured out to me. That was probably the first time I experienced genuine love in a community. It was a place where I didn’t have to try to be someone else just to fit in, where people were there to love God and for no other reason. I was in a positive, life-giving environment where we were taught and reminded to speak truths to each other, and to love one another as Jesus loves us.
In SOW, I re-experienced God’s love that I had first experienced at the Awaken retreat in 2013 and began to put my trust in Him. I slowly surrendered the different parts of the old me to the Lord, like my past relationship, my hatred toward the people that have hurt me and the bricks of anger, sadness, bitterness and resentment that protected me from getting hurt. Over the weeks, I started to find my heart becoming lighter and more free, and the darkness in my heart began to disappear and be replaced by God’s love and grace.
Post-SOW period was a struggle for me though. I returned to the secular world and had a tough time juggling between my part time job and maintaining my faith and prayer life. I felt lost and tired. Something was missing in my life but I wasn’t too sure what it was. During Nox Gaudii in April, I went for prayer ministry and that was when the Lord prompted me to go back to OYP to volunteer. It wasn’t an easy decision, as my family would rather I work to earn some money, but the Lord was relentless in His pursuit and I eventually ended up back in OYP.
The start of my volunteer term was also the start of OYP’s School of Christian Leadership. That was when my prayer life started to improve, as I constantly went for intercession to pray for the participants of the school. I was also glad I could meet my seniors from NUS who also love Jesus, and I am thankful for their tips and advice for university, and for introducing me to the Catholic community in NUS. Serving in logistics was a humbling experience for me, as I learnt to give back to the Lord for all the love poured out on me since SOW.
Come June and July, I became very busy with orientation camps and church camps and to be honest it was difficult at times to help out at OYP as I would rather rest and chill at home. However, I want to thank the Lord for giving me the strength to head down to OYP during those days for in those months, OYP was the place where I was reminded of the Father’s great love for all of us. Despite all the secularity of the orientation camps, volunteering in OYP and being surrounded by Christ-like people during this period helped to reinstate my identity as a child of God. I am thankful that despite my sinfulness and brokenness, I am still able to help at OYP in many different ways, such as painting the upper room and sweeping off dead leaves, and contribute to helping young adults encounter the Lord through serving at retreats.
Looking back at the year so far, I am immensely grateful to God for calling me back into His loving arms, and thankful to OYP for showering me with an abundance of love and blessings for the best 7 months of the year! I am happy that I have a second home; a family of God-centered brothers and sisters to journey with in my walk of life. Looking forward, I am uncertain of the future ahead, and afraid of the storms in my university life, but I am confident that the Lord will continue to journey with me through the ups and down of my life, and He’ll continue to love me wholeheartedly. Even though I still struggle with my habitual sins and maintaining a healthy prayer life, I praise and thank God for loving me unconditionally, and because of that, I will try to be the person that God desires me to be!
About the author
Julian is a freshmen entering NUS, Faculty of Science (Statistics). He enjoys playing soccer and watching Running Man. When he was a kid, he dreamed of becoming a soccer player. Now, he is asking what God dreamt him to be when He created him.