2015 Angeles City – Stella Lee

A Love So Deep

I wasn’t too sure what I was going to experience in the Philippines, but I had a few expectations, nothing too dramatic or impossible: witness healing, see God work, meet people of different cultures, have an adventure. And while my expectations were indeed met, God had a personal journey in store for me as well. As soon as we landed in the field, I was struck with anxiety and a fear of being incompetent as the youngest member. I was tempted to strive to oversome. But in the midst of the spiritual battle occurring in my mind, the Lord whispered something to me.

“I am here with you, always. I love you, always.”

Those words followed me for the entire trip, as though God was repeating them to me every chance He had. Whenever I prayed, whenever I thought about Him, even when I was simply in a daze, these words kept on resounding in my heart. They were nearly shouted to me during the first night of ministering at a church in Capas. After the altar call, Pastor Ibay (our local ministry contact) surprised the team by calling us up to the altar to be blessed, and it would be the very first time I would be baptized by the Holy Spirit.

My legs refused to obey me, and I found myself floored. It would have been a terrifying experience for me, as someone who desires self-control, if it weren’t for the presence of something unfathomably powerful yet excruciatingly gentle cloaking me. That encounter with the Holy Spirit shattered my striving mentality, and He reminded me of an identity He gave me during the Autumn Emmaus retreat of 2014. In Him, I am satisfied. I had been trying to satisfy myself by assuring myself that I wasn’t a liability to this team, but God told me, “I am pleased with you. So why can’t you be pleased with yourself? I am here because I love you, and I will love you forever. So I’ll forever be with you. You are royalty. You are more. Be satisfied.”

That was only the first night of a very long journey in the Philippines.

His words and the promises He continually repeated were also shown through the people He assembled for this team. Supernatural unity was given to our team, and I remember being told by Sean Norton (who had his own mission in Japan) that this team will be my “family.” To be honest, I had been skeptical, for my own family was rather distant and at times aloof. While I was proud and honored to be on a team where we harmonized with such surreal synchronization, I had treaded carefully upon the idea of our team being a “family.” But, in the span of a week, God made it impossible for me to tread those uncharted waters. Because the amount of love, affirmation, and sheer affection poured into me by the team, I could no longer tread. I was forced to swim.

In my walk with God, ever since receiving healing and deliverance and becoming an official member of New Philadelphia Church, I have more or less embraced many steps. I have embraced obedience to spiritual authority, attending services, and participating in small groups. However, there was one vital step that I seemed to have difficulty going over simply because I was afraid. Through the entirety of this mission trip, while I gave much into the toil of working for the Lord, what was more of a challenge was the love being given to me. The connection I began to form with my team members and a handful of the native people unnerved me. It was ironic, for I have been affirmed that I have a great ability to GIVE love, yet when it was given to me, when it came to receiving, I felt like an awkward animal pawing and sniffing at an alien object. Yet God continued to pour out love into me especially through the people around me. Whether it was a sincere good morning and a genuine desire to love on me with physical touch (which was not a love language in which I was very adept), or by holding my quivering hands to protect me from my nervous habit of digging my nails into my skin whenever I felt emotionally compromised. In the span of a week, God made possible what I thought was not very possible for me. My cautious heart softened, and I grew to sincerely love a handful of people as though they were a part of me, as though we knew each other for months or even years, as though we were born from the same flesh.

My philosophy in life was to say “thank you and goodbye” to all the good things that came my way, like happiness, affection, and love. While I received it with a grateful heart, I had to prepare myself for it to leave, especially when it came to love. Unconditional love was an alien concept to me. I believed that unconditional love was an illusion- a fantasy conjured up by the desire of people like unicorns or dragons because unicorns and dragons are too awesome to be true.

In my philosophical way, I didn’t realize I had an aversion to receiving love. I could never truly accept given to me because of my own cowardice. I was afraid of saying goodbye to it, because I knew something as wonderful as love, should there ever come a time where I would be forced to say goodbye to it, would leave me with an insufferable emptiness.

But what I gained from this mission trip, if I could put something profound into a few words, would be assurance and a greater courage. For through the unity of our team, the love given to me, the time spent serving the Lord, I was reminded that Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, the founder of Love, did indeed love me endlessly, and Him and His endless love was here to stay.

Romans 8 :37-39 says that, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As the VBS said, nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing can separate me from the Heavenly Father, and that truth changes everything from here on out in my journey with God.

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