Personal Testimony of Catherine "Cathy" Tapia

Spiritual Birth: July 28, 2014

How do I begin to tell the story of God's kindness, mercy and great love?

I was born in a Catholic family. I'm the youngest of 3 children and my mother raised us since my dad went to Saudi Arabia when I was just a month old. My mom taught us how to pray the rosary and we would offer to idols during feast days in our province (Batangas). As the youngest of the family, I just followed what everyone else was doing.

When we moved to Manila, I am not really sure how it happened but we started going to a Pentecostal Church. I knew I enjoyed the Sunday school classes with all the kids and the various activities. I learned about the Bible and different stories. I learned about the creation, God's love, heaven and hell and then I started believing the spirit, soul and life eternal. I thought I believed. It was more having the knowledge of the spiritual realm but lacking understanding.

I think we stayed with that church for a year or two, and then my mom met someone who brought us to a Baptist church in San Pedro. I was already 7 years old by this time. I learned more about the Bible and someone taught me the Romans Road. They told me I was a sinner going to hell and I needed to repent and pray a prayer, accept Jesus as my Lord and personal Savior. I thought I was already saved but there was not any peace in my heart. I got baptized at age 9, but I honestly do not know why, I just followed what everyone else was doing. Going with the flow... Every time something bad would happen or I would feel like I need to repent, I would pray the prayer again. It went on like a vicious cycle. Sin, repent, pray accept and repeat. No peace at all.

In 1993, our family migrated to Saudi Arabia because of my father's job. Being in a Muslim country, we did not have a place to meet and worship God. Every year we would go back to the Philippines for summer vacation.

I finished high school in 1999 and started college in the Philippines. My mom went back to Saudi to work with my dad, then to London and eventually found her way to America.

I felt like I was on my own in college and I thought that was freedom. I first lived with my sister and I got mixed up with an influential crowd. They were intelligent students who could party all night and still pass exams the next day. I could not keep up with the studying and partying. I almost got kicked out of school. I was even required to go through counseling. I remember telling the counselor I just lost my focus because I miss my family very much. I do not really know what was wrong back then.

When I first heard Bro Charlie preach in 2005, my first questions were about heaven and hell. I knew he preached about salvation, but I still thought I was saved so I did not really listen well. Plus I was involved with Gabbie's father at the time and needless to say I chose him over the word of God. Back then, all I wanted was to be loved and love his family. They were so close knit and everyone was fun to be with. Two years later I had Gabbie and before she turned two, I was left to raise her on my own. I was extremely scared for myself and for my daughter. When Bro Charlie returned to the Philippines with Bro Claude, I felt so ashamed of what I did and what happened to me. I was so afraid that they would judge me wrongly. During their stay here we would talk some but I was still so closed off. I remember God stirring me but still not believing.

By this time I felt I was lost. I thought by being saved, it was my key to heaven and I could do whatever I wanted because God will still let me in. I was so wrong in so many levels I cannot even explain it all. I struggled being lost because I could not believe God will save me after all that I have done. I did not really believe He was a merciful God.

The pastors preached about Luke 15 - about the prodigal son, the lost sheep and the lost coin. I saw myself as a lost person but I did not want to do anything about it. I kept asking why, but it all boils down to pride. I did not want any help from the pastors.  I thought “I can do this on my own.”

Weeks before the camp, I started talking to Bro Terry again, asking him about the preaching. He was trying to help me but for some reason I kept refusing his help. School started and we moved to San Pedro with Charry's family because their house is closer to the school and the church. I would still go once a week to my parents' house to look after it. The whole month of June, I barely talked to Bro Terry or Bro Claude. Internet was almost always down and I was being completely stubborn.

I guess a huge factor of my stubbornness was wanting my mom to come home. Liberty is almost 2yrs old and I still did not understand why my mom did not want to come back to the Philippines.

I was a grown woman with child and I still want my family to be whole. I had a mind of a child. Or more like a rebellious teenager. God help me!

I thought if I could go to Camp Liberty, God will save me there. So I applied for visa, together with Gabbie, but I got denied. The consul said I should wait for my mom to get her citizenship. In my mind, all I heard was, this is all my mom's fault. Yes, I am stubborn as goat. I argued with her a whole lot. Little did I know she was praying for me and she talked to Bro Terry and Bro Claude before their visit to the Philippines.

The week before the pastors' Philippine trip, we listened to one of the camp sermons and I talked to Pastor Larry. He told me to let go of the bitterness in my heart so I could open up and let the love in. I was arguing with my mom to come home and be with us. It took me a while to finally understand that she needs to be with her family (Beulah) and she is just obeying and trusting God. And that I should do the same, trust and obey God.

The first Sunday Bro Terry preached about their journey here and why God wants Liberty to stay in Santa Rosa. There are lost sheep here and we need to find them and bring them to God.

It was not until Wednesday that God really talked to me through the preaching and dealing with my salvation. That night I was late for the meeting, I got stuck in traffic but God did not want me to miss the good stuff! Bro Claude preached about Ruth cleaving unto Naomi. God told me to hold on to the truth and he will lead me to rest.

Preaching about Ruth - I remember Bro Terry telling me someone got saved through the story of Ruth. This was also preached last year but like I said I was stubborn and I did not really believe even though I always said I believed. Learning the difference between listening and hearing and the meaning of knowledge, wisdom and understanding has been a very long process for me. Aside from being a slow learner, I am also stubborn and full of pride.

Thursday was another powerful message from the book of Ruth. Bro Terry asked, "Do you want to talk or think about it?" I said I would think about it. By this time I was really struggling. I was hearing and I wanted to believe. I could not sleep and I was so full of regrets.

Friday - Bro Claude was back in the book of Ruth. It was a message to the poor and needy. God has provided for the poor and needy and loves them. I needed God and I wanted God to talk to me and tell me what to do because I was tired of fighting off His goodness and love. I was a sinner praying for God's mercy! Towards the end of the sermon, God told me through Bro Claude that He was not angry with me. Could this mean that God's mercy is upon me? Am I forgiven?

Saturday morning I emailed the pastors feeling sorry for a lot of things and absolutely grateful that they have not given up on me. God has not forsaken me. I have hope. I poured my heart out in that email. I asked Bro Terry about godly sorrow and he said do not force it, it will happen.

On Sunday morning, Bro Terry preached about Ruth and how she gleaned, not letting God's grace to waste. I was so stirred up and I talked to him after the service. I asked what should I do and he said just wait on God and when He talks to you, listen and obey. He also said God was preparing me to reap the good stuff.

Sunday night, Bro Claude preached. I was so ready for salvation to happen, I kept on praying "Lord please tell me what to do, I need to be right with you, oh God! Please have mercy on me, I don't want to hurt the ones I love. These people love me and I want to open my heart for them. More than that I want to be enveloped in your love oh God! I love you, God. Please help me!" And then towards the end of the preaching I kept on looking and waiting on God and I could not explain what happened, it was like the spirit was no longer there. I asked Bro Terry if God is hiding from me and if I was being prideful, he said "No and if you were I will tell you right away but that's not it." He said just wait. I was getting anxious and thinking what is wrong with me?

Monday night - I guess the pastors talked things through and Bro Claude preached directly at me. He took his Bible and stood in front of me saying tonight I am preaching to one person, and that person was me! I was blown away! He said God has prepared everything for you. It was like all the ingredients have been gathered, prepared, cooked and served, all you need to do is come and dine. He said salvation was no longer about you, it is about Him. Everything has been prepared towards this day. The Lord wants this day to be my day, the day He will save me. During the sermon I kept thinking what do I need to do? My mind is on overdrive and my emotions could not be contained. Then God said through Bro Claude "REST" - and suddenly, I knew that's it! Rest in the Lord. That was so unbelievable! All the burden was lifted and I felt so light (figuratively)

Then came the closing verse - Ruth 4:9 ¶  And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi. 10 Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.

What is this feeling? Could it be? Is it really true? God saw me throughout my life and He has prepared everything for me and He loves me! God loves me! We prayed in closing and I talked to Bro Terry. I asked him what happened? He asked me to tell him what happened and what I felt and I told him God lifted my burdens away. And he said "that's what we call salvation, when peace with God comes". I burst out crying and very grateful! Thank you Lord for saving me!

We were all rejoicing! Glory to God!