Testimony & Thanksgiving: Living for More

by Sheila Fong 

It wasn’t like from the beginning when people asked “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” and I would reply, “A youth coordinator!!”. In those days, there weren’t such things as youth coordinators; at least, not to my knowledge. In fact, I was very clear about what I wanted to be – a pilot. Nothing else.

As a Catholic, in lower secondary, I couldn’t wait to get confirmed and leave the church and just go for Sunday Eucharist if I’d be free. However, when I was 15, things changed. Fr Terence Pereira came to our parish as our new parish priest. He made a lot of changes and one of the things he introduced me to was Confirmation camps. So in Secondary 3, I had my first confirmation camp.

That was when I was first exposed to eucharistic adoration and experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was mind-blowing! I couldn’t fathom this depth of love that I was experiencing. I had no idea about who or what the Holy Spirit was. Sure, we sang about Him in the hymns but that was it. I came away from that experience with deep conviction that this God that everyone was talking about was REAL. Not only was He real, He loves me! It wasn’t a generic “God loves you” kinda thing, but a deep, personal and intimate love. A love that encompassed all that I am including the not so good parts. I had to have more. It was like an addiction, now that I’d tasted Him, I wanted to know Him and experience Him more. Coupled with that, I wanted to do things for Him, to serve Him. And so, when Fr Pereira said that he wanted to start a youth group, I jumped straight in. That was when I began my ministerial work in the youth scene; when I was 15.

However, as far as my ambitions went, I was still very clear; I wanted to be a pilot. I worked towards it in terms of education but slowly, the doors closed one by one. I saw my dream crumbling down around me. I was dejected. Just imagine, working toward something for 13 years and realizing that it would not come to pass! That was when I thought in resignation, “I guess maybe this is not God’s plan”. And so, I went to university.

In the middle of my university life, the announcement for a youth coordinator suddenly popped up in my parish. I was upset and annoyed. It was a very selfish reaction because I felt that this would be the perfect job, a new dream job and yet it didn’t seem like God’s plan once again since I was still studying. Strangely enough, the post remained open until I was in my final semester. I was going to finish my final semester in the States, and I also went for a silent retreat in Chiang Mai just before that. And so, I used that time during both to discern my future.

I only had one question for the Lord, 
“What do you want me to do after I graduate?”
He only had one word for me
“wait.” God can be so annoying that way!

I argued that I couldn’t wait any longer because it was only 4 months away! I felt that I needed to prepared for whatever it is He wanted me to do. I had to write my resume, and search for a job and so on but noooo! All I got in response was the word “wait”. And so, I waited. Just before coming back to Singapore, I asked a few people from church to pray and discern with me about my next step forward. I really wanted to be a youth coordinator but I was afraid that that was just what I wanted and not what He wanted for me.

After a few weeks, an auntie who was praying for me came back to me about my discernment and I shared my worry with her. She told me this. “Go ahead and apply for it. if God doesn’t want you to have it, you’re not gonna get it”. So, I did and here I am, 4 years later, still a youth coordinator.

In the past years, of course things haven’t been easy. In considering the theme “living for more”, what stands out the most is my lack of material wealth. I have these two friends from CHIJ, whom I’m really close to. We hang out a lot and they are really accommodating because I work on the weekends. so we meet up on weekdays instead. As such, they’d be dressed up in office wear; dresses, work suits, accessories, nice bags and heels. Basically, the works la. And there I’ll be in between the both of them; a hobbit in my berms and tee. We always joke that it looks like they’re bringing their child out for a play date. HAHA.

Once, they were having a conversation about bags. I was part of the convo I guess, but I don’t really care about bags so I was just half listening to them throw out numbers like 5, 6, 7 and I blurted out “Why would you pay $700 for a bag?!!? It seems so excessive!!”

They both stared at me.,“Seven THOUSAND, Sheila Fong. Seven thousand.”In my heart I thought,”What!?! 
Seriously, why would you pay four digits for a bag that cannot even fit my sweater in it??!?!!?!?!!?” At that moment, I realized that the chasm between my friends and I in terms of our standard of living, was HUGE.

Sure I may not want a $7k bag but I still have material wants. I hope to have a car (I seriously don’t think I’ll ever be able to have one), maybe get my own place, or at least renovate my room! I have material desires too but then I realized (through another moment with my friends) that I am content.

I’m not only content, I’m amazed at what God gives me. When there’s an event and there are a hundred youths attending. And if one, even if only one youth comes back to me and tells me about how he encountered God, or experienced the Holy Spirit, that feeling is indescribable. The joy and the wonderment is beyond any bag or car than I can ever have!

Sometimes it’s funny when I tell people I work in church. I can see in their eyes the question of how I live life without “sufficient” income. They think that I live for less and sometimes I find it hard to put into words how I actually live for so much more. They think I’m crazy and I am! We are crazy for being catholic, crazy for following the cross. The cost is high, but the rewards, are so much more. HE is the more that I live for.

I forgot to share this during Nox Gaudii, but this scripture passage from Matthew 6 always strikes me about how God feeds the birds in the air (even though they don’t work for a living), and clothed the flowers and grass. That’s just how He cares for the plants and animals. He clothes them in more splendour than even King Solomon! What more would He provide for me? A creature whom He created in His image, a creature that He breathed His life into? He’ll definitely give me more than what the world can ever give and more than I can ever imagine.