To Our Seventh-Day Adventist Church Family in Abu Dhabi

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The place of growth has always been where adversity resides. This is true for my spiritual growth as well as my personal growth. I have always been pleasantly surprised about your acceptance of me as me. I have been away from the “normal” church life for four long years, and yet, when I finally found the courage to come back, you have welcomed me with arms wide open. I felt as if I have never been away at all. This gives me a glimpse of the profound reality of God’s unchanging love.

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I faced tremendous challenge in my work there in Abu Dhabi. There were times when I wanted to just give up and walk away from it all. It was always too easy to give up. But then, there was the church family. I found sustaining strength, from the small group that I and my wife attended. I know you, the people who were there. I shall not mention any names but, I shall never forget you all. You were there at the lowest point in my life. And when I found victory or triumph in my spiritual as well as in my everyday life battles you were there to share it with. I know that you faced the same kind of battles that I did and
yet you always found time to encourage a downtrodden brother such as me. You never had to say anything. Just the fact that you accepted me just as I am was enough. The very thought that I knew that I belonged and was accepted was extremely comforting. This was all that I needed. And if you come to think of it, this is exactly what all of us need: to know that we are loved, no matter what or who we are. Jesus accepts us just as we are and He knows that it is what we need most. The small group has been God’s instrument in fulfilling this into reality.

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We had faced many a spiritual battle in our church life together. It made me realize that war is never over until Jesus comes. There is never a time that we can leave our guards down…never. We’ve lost some battles and won some. But, the most difficult ones are those that shattered the relationships among the brethren. Those are the battles that nobody wins or ever will. We must remember that the church is primarily relationship centred and relationship driven. The Word of God is explicit about this; love God above all, and love your neighbour as yourself. That is why if we have fractured our relationships among our brethren, then we have lost our mandate as a church.

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When my family and I left for “greener (or colder) pasture,” we felt like we were leaving behind our family, and rightly so, because, after all we are one big family of God. I was surprised at the thought that people came out of their way to give us a very pleasant farewell. I was even more surprised with the testimonies of some people that showed how much they appreciated the presence of our family. You may never know how much it meant to me. Especially considering that I always thought of myself as a “difficult person” to be friends with. Some of you never said anything much. You never had to. We understand that there are still no words that were invented to verbalize some of our deepest feelings. I find comfort in knowing that when we left, some of the broken relationships have started to find wholeness once again. It is never ever easy to mend broken relationships but it is never impossible. Healing comes only through God’s grace. With God, all things are possible.

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If I have to mention some regrets, it would be that I may have lost some good friends along the way. I am glad for those friends that I have hurt but found time to ask for forgiveness. Your forgiveness meant so much to me. For those that I forgot to ask forgiveness for, I humbly ask them now. I am sorry for those I may have hurt along the way for one reason or another. There is no reason or an excuse to hurt anybody. This is especially true among brethren.

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If there is anything that I am thankful for, it would be that I am truly grateful for spending a slice of my life with you all. I’ve grown much in spirit and in facing life as a whole because of my experience in the church life over there. I left a part of me right there. I may be someone who is never truly misses (or pretends to be), but I know that in the deep recesses of my heart a part of my life is missing because I left it there with you. Being away from each other is not something that we must fret about. This is not much of a tragic situation anymore. There is always the internet and, of course, FB. We may never meet again in person and may never smell each other’s bad breath ever again. But the greatest tragedy of this all is that if we do not see each other in heaven. We must continue to hold on to that blessed hope and hopefully find time to pray for each other’s well-being. My family and I are forever grateful for the prayers offered to God to accompany us in our new life in a strange land. My family and I love you. God will bless us all.

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A Sense of Permanence

114-20130915_2245We love posting pictures of ourselves and our families on social networks to show to our friends and loved ones that we are fine and doing okay. We’d like to have them believe that we have moved on with our lives and that we have started to make a new life here in the new place that we live in. We want to believe that somehow, things will, indeed, be okay and that we will move on. Move on to where, is the question that keeps hanging in my mind. I guess this will never be completely answered, considering that for the past five years, we moved from one place to another at least four times. The sense of permanence is just that; a sense. It is not a reality in the life of my family and me for the past six years. We have longed for a place where we can really settle down and live our lives as if this will be it for us; that finally, we can find a place to call our home.

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Somehow along the way I forgot how it feels like to be home. I don’t mean going home to our house. I mean really finding a place to really call home; a place where I can stay for the rest of my life and not move again and be completely and permanently at home. I am really amazed at knowing some people have stayed in one place their whole life and never moved from their hometown, much less from their home country, except maybe to travel for a vacation. This has not been the reality for me and my family. I am not sure if it is a good thing. I just know that the sense of impermanence in terms of a place to stay has been almost “permanently” hanging in my whole system. We have learned to live with the fact that there are no permanent friends and no permanent communities to take root in. The friends we acquired throughout the years were the people we met along the way who were gracious enough to share a good portion of their lives with us. We do still have and maintain “long-distance” friends. But, it is never the same as having them physically present and sharing a few good talks and laughs. We are definitely grateful for the friendships that still survived through the years despite the distance. It makes you realize who your true friends are. We realize the immense value of time and with whom you spend them with. As much as we can, we try to live in the here and now. We try as much to enjoy and savour the moment. I guess this is one of the side effects of being aware that life is constantly changing. Another side effect is that the plans that we make are usually just short term plans; just enough to serve for a year or two. We have also learned to adjust our lifestyle so that we allow a lot of room for change, especially a change in the place where we live in.

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But, the longing for a home is too strong. We immigrated to a new country believing that this will be the answer to our desire for a permanent place. In the few months that we have “lived” in this new place, the feeling is starting to sink in again that this may not be the case. We know that we can stay here permanently, but can we finally call this place our home? As we look through this situation and try to analyze it; we realize that it is not only permanence that we seek for but we also earnestly long for the sense and feeling of home. We might have achieved the first since we are now permanent residents of this country, but achieving the second may still present as a tremendous challenge. Building a home takes a lot of amount of time. This could amount to building a new life again. This will involve a lot of building of good relationships. There are friends to make, community to try to belong in, the church family to try to be part of, and a job to try to achieve and contribute and be needed in.

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Are we up to the challenge? The answer to that question is not a straight yes or no. It is best answered with an emphatic “we have to.” There is no other way to go but forward even though there is a lot of room for failure. But, as we look back all throughout the years that we have been searching for a sense of permanence and looking for a home, there is One who stands as the Rock in our lives. We always have God as our constant and our anchor in the many times that the sea of temporary challenges of life would threaten to engulf us. Amidst all the temporariness of life, we had always found a permanent home in Jesus. Jesus has always been our guide and we need never fear wherever we may be placed in this world. We have learned to trust the One who knows and controls the future. In this world, we may have been far away from a home for a long time, but with Jesus, we have always been at home anywhere. Even though we earnestly want to settle down and make a home, I do believe that this can only be achieved with Jesus on our side. And if, for whatever reason, this may not be achieved in this lifetime, we can always look forward to the permanent home that Jesus has prepared for those who love Him.

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