Thursday, September 8, 2016

Believer's Heritage- Lorna Criss

This is the testimony of a friend of mine who is a missionary's wife in the Philippines. She is a Philipino national that I got to meet when I attended Bible School.
Psalms 107:2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.
I am prompted to write my personal testimony of my conversion from Roman Catholicism to Bible Christianity, because this coming Sunday, August 7, 2016, will be my 30 years since my conversion. I feel led to write out some details, so it's going to be a little bit long. I decided to write portions of it at a time. I hope you all will be patient enough to read this. It's my prayer to all who has never been converted that the Holy Spirit of God will speak to your heart and start searching for the truth. This is how it all started.
I was born in December 6, 1968, raised here in my hometown, Borongan E. Samar. My Mom was an Elementary school teacher and my Dad was a Supervisor for a government Telecommunication. I have two older brothers and one older sister. I am the youngest of four. At an early age I was taught that the Roman Catholic is the only right religion. My parents were very religious, we attended the Mass every Sunday, did confession and communion. My parents would sponsor (hermana/hermano) a certain Catholic Saint (statue) for a month/year at a time. Oftentimes this big statues would be in our living room. I remember looking in their eyes and being very scared. Also, I remember my Mom would wake us up at 4:00am to get ready to attend a procession in town followed by a Mass.
At the age of seven, my Dad decided to work abroad on a Commercial Ship to earn more money, because my oldest brother at that time was to start College. I remember my Mom crying many days and nights thinking of my Dad being so far away. But soon after that my Mom started having some friends over (barkadas) and drinking buddies, I guess, to ease her pain of loneliness. That's when my Mom started to be very close friend with Mano Dinoy. He is a faggot (Bible word for gay or bakla) and a trusted helper at the Priest Convent. My Mom became inseparable with him. Never a day that Mano Dinoy would not come to our house or my Mom would be in the Convent just hanging out or drinking tuba (firmented coconut juice made into liquor). Then the time came that my family became very good friends with the Priests and the Bishop at that time.
The Priest Convent became my second home and the same with a lot of the Priests. On my way home from school it was nothing for me to stop by at the Convent, go to their kitchen, and if I see food on the table, I'd help myself and eat. Many a time the Priest will come to our house to take showers whenever the Convent runs out of their running water. Many a night when the Priests were locked out (certain hours in the evening the gate of the Convent was locked) they would come knocking at our door to spend the night at our house. I'll never forget this one night, a certain man came knocking at my sister's and I bedroom window upstairs, I was scared to death. I ran to my Mom's bedroom when she realized it was one of the Priest who were locked out and wanting to spend the night at our house.
I was about in sixth grade when I had this memory. My Mom, some of her co-teacher friends and Priests would have parties in our house during the evening. It would get so late at night that my sister and I will help ourselves and sleep on the couch in our living room. Note, during those times (1979-1981) there was no electricity in our whole town. We were using oil lamps. My Mom would have parties in our house and late in the evening while sleeping in the couch I'd be awakened with a sweet music in the background (battery operated machine), I'd open my eyes and would see the Priests dancing with my Mom and her friends. Then, I'd just close my eyes again and go back to sleep. During this whole time, my Dad was working abroad and would only come home once a year for a month or so, or the longest I can remember was two years of work contract before I ever saw him again. (Matthew 23:14)
Then the time came I entered High School at St. Joseph's ( later on became St. Mary's College). I was a typical teenager who enjoyed family, friends and life. Everyday in school before the class started we were to recite the Rosary (oftentimes during my first year I lead the prayer). Each student went to confession during the first week of every month, so we can take our communion every first Friday of the month Mass. During my first year in High School for some reason I became the class president. One of my responsibilities were to make sure all my classmates attended the Mass every Sunday. After attending the Sunday Mass I'd be standing outside the Church and my classmates were to approach me so I can sign their card as a proof that they attended the Mass. Back then there were no Middle School. After a person graduated from Elementary, he/she can start four years in High School, then you can start College as early as sixteen years old.
I was about third year (9th grade) in High School when I started asking myself these two important questions in life. My first question was, "I wonder what will happen to me when I die and Where will I go?" Many times I'd close my eyes and be thinking of eternity and all I can see was total darkness. My second question, I always asked myself was, "l wonder when will I can experience a real happiness in my life that will last for a long time?" Every time my Dad comes home from a year or so of working abroad, I thought, I was the happiest girl on earth! Excitement of seeing him again and anxious to see what he has brought me. Two most unforgettable things he had bought me was, a pearl ring and an electric Casio piano keyboard, as his gifts for my High School graduation. I thought to myself, this is it, I am the happiest person on earth! But in a week or so, the excitement wears off and I am back to my old self longing for something that will make me happy again.
I started thinking that the emptiness I've been feeling would be filled with my religion. So, I started getting serious attending the Mass everyday. I started having a devotion with the Lady of Perpetual Help (Mary). I bought me a scapular and I'd wear it around my neck 24 hours a day. As part of my devotion to Mary I was to attend the Mass every Wednesday and after that I'd light a candle to the statue of Mary and recite my special prayer to her (Novena-prayer booklet). But the emptiness was still there, so I joined the devotion to St. Jude. The same thing, I have to attend the Mass every Thursday, light a candle and recite my Novena prayers to him. But the emptiness was still there. Our school was being run by the Catholic Nuns. So, I joined the Mother Ignacia Del Esperito Santo club (MIDES). One obligation to that was to attend the early morning Saturday Mass and afterwards, we would have some kind of a meeting at the Nun Convent. Oftentimes, I'd get in trouble from my Mom whenever I get home, because I have chores to do (laundry, clean the yard/backyard, wax and scrub the floor etc.) that Saturday, and I am no where to be found. But because I was seriously searching for something that would fill up that void in my heart, I did not care if my Mom got mad at me.
During this whole time, the Priests where still in and out of our home. Sometimes I'd come home with my Mom late in the evening from a party at the Priest Convent. Oftentimes, I'd wait outside at the Bishop's office/bedroom door waiting for my Mom to come out, because my Mom was having some kind of counseling. Whenever I'd do a confession, I'd look first who was at the confessional booth, thinking that the Priest might recognize me and tell my Mom the sins I have been doing, so I'd lessen my sins to confess.
As I was growing up I remember those times, three times a year in particular, my parents would have a feast of food on our table. First time was during the town fiesta (Sept. 8-Birthday of Mary). The second time was Christmas Day and the third time were during New Year's Day. No Holidays, Birthdays, Anniversaries celebrated. Except when my Mom was having a party for the Priests and the Bishop in our house. Lots of food on the table and lots of expensive wine and liquor that comes with it, all paid by my Mom.
During my last year in High school, my two older brothers and my older sister were already in the big City of Manila, going to College. During this time, it was just my Mom and I at home, together with a helper. I became very close to my Mom during this time. I'd go with her all the time or we would just hang out a lot.
Then came March 1984 for my High School graduation. I remember that day, I wore my white dress, walked down the isle of the Catholic Church towards the altar where the Bishop was sitting down, knelt down in front of him, bowed our heads and kissed his hand (bless), then he will give us our so called diploma, then walk back down to my assigned seat. Each graduating student were to do the same.
Summer of 1984 (April-May), my Mom brought me to the big City (Manila) to join with my older brother and older sister in College. At this time my older brother was taking Criminology and my older sister was taking College of Dentistry. My oldest brother graduated College already and was in Commercial Ship working abroad, just like my Dad. I had in mind of taking Nursing or be like my Mom, a teacher. When my Dad saw my High School report card that my higher grades were Math, he encouraged me to take some kind of Engineering. I was accepted at National University taking up Industrial Engineering and later on I shifted to Civil Engineering. I was so busy with my school that I did not realize that I had set aside the two most important questions I had in High School. Until I was 18 years old, for the first time, my parents bought us a black and white television. In one of the TV shows, I saw a man being interviewed how he was "saved and born again." This was the very first time I heard these words. The man was saying that he was so bad in sin that he was put in jail and while he was there, someone cared enough for him and showed him from the Bible how he can be "saved and born again." Since then, the Lord had completely change his life and he was now going to a Bible School to become a preacher. After listening to that testimony, I told myself, "I am a good person, I attend Mass, I go to Confession, I have my devotion to Mary and St. Jude, I study hard, I obey my parents, so, I don't need to change to be saved and born again, that man on TV, he really needs to do that, because he was really a bad man, full of sins." I was a very self righteous, religious person at that time.
But the two questions (What will happen to me when I die? And , when will I ever experience a lasting happiness in my life?) kept ringing in my heart and mind. So, to ease my misery I looked for some kind of a Chapel at the Campus and I found one. So, every morning before I started my first class for that day, I made sure I stop by at the School Chapel to say my morning prayers for that day and I'd feel better.
I remember one afternoon, I was by the window in the third floor of our school building and when I looked down, I saw from the next block building, a group of young people were clapping their hands, singing songs, waving their hands up in the air and all the words I could hear from their singing were "Halleluiah, Praise the Lord." Then I thought to myself, maybe they have what I have been looking and longing for, because they seem very happy.
I was in third year college, studying very hard to please my parents for their sacrifices in sending me to school. One morning, an older student, Kuya Dodong, approached me and my friend Erlynda. I recognized him, because he was one of the assistants of our professor in one of our major subjects, Strength of Materials. I was told that if you don't pass this subject, you might as well change your College degree, because most likely you cannot finish Civil Engineering. So when Kuya Dodong approached us, I had the intention to befriend him, so maybe he could help me with my score test in Strength of Materials :) But his purpose in approaching us was totally different. He wanted to invite us to a Bible Study that afternoon at 2:30 held at the old Elementary school building. I found out later on that the school administration were all Catholics and would not allow any Bible study inside the Campus or else you would be expelled. So the Bible study was held in kind of a secret place. Erlynda and I attended the Bible study that afternoon with me having this attitude, ok, what can you teach me? Because I was a very good and religious person. The preacher, Kuya Bernard, started preaching the Bible, when all of a sudden all I can remember thinking, "God is Holy, God is perfect, God is pure, Heaven is Holy, Heaven is perfect, Heaven is pure!!! And here I am sitting in this chair, just the very opposite, I am not holy, I am full of sin, so imperfect, so unpure, that there is no way I can enter that Holy place, whenever I die, therefore because of all my sins the only place I'll go after I die was Hell." I remember Kuya Bernard explaining Hell, how hot it is over there and in my heart (I was in tears during this time) I told the Lord, "Lord, I don't want to go to hell, but I know I am going there, because my sins won't let me enter Heaven, because Heaven will become unholy and unpure, please, Lord do something with my life, I don't know what to do!!!" I didn't know then that it was the Holy Ghost convicting me of all my sins. All I can remember after that was, I went home and told my older sister, "Ate, I attended a Bible study this afternoon and I don't know what happened, but I feel so very happy, I feel like a big load got off my back, I don't feel the emptiness anymore, you have got to come with me and attend this Bible study!!!" At this time I didn't know that my sins were washed away, I was saved and born again, by the precious Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!!! Praise the Lord!!! — with Bob Criss.
Another one snatched from the claws of Satan!