HYC Testimony: Live Like It’s HYC Every Day
by Cambrie Vergeire | HYC 2017 Delegate
Hope Youth Corps Philippines was the most memorable and life-changing trip I’ve ever experienced. I was able to travel with my dad and during this trip, we were able to build houses and extend stores, repair and paint the fishermen’s boats, and celebrate Christmas with the kids in the communities that we got to serve in. We laughed, sweat, swam and danced together, but while these moments were temporary, the impact that the people and experiences left on me will last forever.
Coming home was hard. I dreaded returning to my mundane schedule. School and other responsibilities began to sound much less fulfilling compared to serving in a foreign country alongside other disciples, sharing the love of Christ and the message of hope. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay back in the Philippines and help with the wonderful group of HYC volunteers, but I did realize that I can live like I’m on a HYC trip every day.
Having this mindset is difficult because I tend to view missions overseas to be grander than the influence or reach I have locally. But, my backyard is a mission field, and I need to take advantage of that. Whether it be through small acts of kindness towards my neighbors or service towards the homeless and the environment, everywhere I go, I am on the mission field. We cannot downplay the influence we have in our schools, our fields of work, our friendships and even in our communities. HYC taught me that in order to create a sustainable impact; we need to show men how to fish rather than just giving them fish to eat; helping people change their lives, not just their current struggle, giving them the tools needed to handle the challenges to come. I believe that we can make this kind of lasting impression right here in Colorado by simply changing how we interact with our communities. Needs are everywhere, and while it’s essential to help internationally, we also can’t forget about where we have been planted locally.
Serving the people in the Philippines did not only impact the people I helped but also myself. I had a change in perspective, I grew closer to God and stronger in prayer, and I also made lifelong friendships. It was so encouraging to build relationships on a godly foundation right from the start. As I shook the hands of the different volunteers, I as asked: “So, how did you become a disciple?” They knew me from the beginning based on my relationship with God. Even though the majority of the volunteers were in their 20’s, I still was able to connect and build great relationships with them because Jesus was our common ground. I grew close to the people on my building team, and while we did not spend a bunch of time talking since we were working, just being in their presence and serving with them created a special bond between us. We were able to pray together and share the Word with the family we were serving. This alone helped us to bond in an incredibly rich and lovely way; we got to learn from one another, share the gospel as partners, and see God work miracles in the hearts of the Filipinos. I want to invest in more of these types of relationships in my local church and grow in praying and engaging in the Word more consistently with my friends.
I think serving and interacting with different people and different cultures enhances our lives as disciples and even as non-disciples. We’re called to “go and make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28:19. While we may encounter people of “all nations” here in Colorado, we aren’t entirely immersed in their cultures and lifestyles every day. Because of this, their challenges and struggles are not as apparent, and we may not see the needs that need to be met. Youth Corps provided an environment where we were immersed in unique and unfamiliar situations, along with a group of people we otherwise may have never met. It pushed me to be out of my comfort zone and to be vulnerable to form lifelong relationships. Everyone here wanted to be there, nothing felt like a chore, and our relationships grew from our mutual love for Jesus. The spiritual environment present was amazing, and many of my new friends challenged and pushed me in my convictions and relationship with God.
I especially grew in my love for prayer and realized that I could not have made it through the trip without relying on God. It was physically and mentally challenging, and God softened my heart and revealed to me that I am so blessed. I know and can see that: I have a great family and wonderful friends, I attend a loving church, I have a roof over my head, food on my plate at every meal, and I have access to an education that will help shape my future. However, am I eternally grateful to God for my situation? Am I praising Him for my life rather than taking pride in my hard work for getting myself to the place I am today? The answer is, not always. My trip showed me that I need to make a change in this area of my life and make sure my heart is truly grateful. It also helped me to see where I lack in gratitude. I don’t consider myself entitled to the things I listed above, but I also haven’t been overflowing with gratitude for the blessings I have, even the ones that seem small.
In the Philippines, we had the chance to participate in a Hope Shoebox drive where wewere given a child to buy clothes and toys for Christmas. My dad, Edwyn, was paired with alittle boy who was also named Edwin. We had no background in Edwin’s story, only a name,age, and a few clothing sizes. On Christmas Eve, we were able to meet the families of thechildren we had bought presents for. My heart broke when my dad told me about little Edwin’shome-life. He has eight other siblings, the dad walked out on their family, and the mom recentlypassed away. The oldest is only 16, and she’s caring for herself and seven others ranging in agesfrom newborn to preteen. I can’t imagine ever losing my parents and having to care for my sister.It would be so hard, and I only have her—not seven others! This convicted my heart as I saw thatthis family was overflowing with joy despite their challenging situation and grief. Little Edwinwas so encouraged with all of the gifts my dad had bought him, and the family expressed greatgratitude.
I forget that being born and living in America is a true blessing. I could’ve grown upliving a very different life, and it challenged me to be grateful for my life despite the lows that may come. My challenges are so small compared to even those that Edwin and his family are currently facing. I need to work on rejoicing in my hard times and being grateful that I have the challenges that I have, as I know they will produce what James 1:2-4 talks about when it says “...testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”. This scripture reflects the exact heart I saw in Edwin’s family and so many others.
While I have been exposed to the poverty and culture present in the Philippines before, I hadn’t been fully engaged in it until my youth corps. For my past trips, I merely saw the hard situations and served for only a small portion of each trip. I was an outsider looking in on the community, and instead of attempting to build relationships with the people I was serving and empathizing with them, my heart towards them stopped at merely just pitying them, my softened heart and humbled attitude didn’t stick. For my youth corps, on the other hand, the entirety of the trip was focused on serving. My dad and I even broke away from the trip to visit our Filipino family for the holidays, and I didn’t want to go! I not only became lifelong friends with the other volunteers but also the families within the communities. I became close with some of the younger kids, teens, and even grandparents; I quickly realized that all they wanted was for me to listen and be present with them. As a disciple, I was able to see the trip through a different lens, and it was clear how God was working through the Filipino people and me.
At the beginning of the trip, I feel like my heart was clay that was ready to be molded. Then, God squeezed, shaped, and poked holes in my character, revealing where I needed to grow. By the end of the trip, He had pulled out beautiful pieces from that brown lump of clay, and He created the beginnings of a masterpiece: a new heart ready to serve him anywhere and go anywhere for him. I am so inspired and plan to engage more with my community, to work on being more grateful for all the blessings God’s given me, and to rely solely on Him for and in everything I do. I hope that every one of you can have the opportunity to experience this same transformation someday.
Are you planning to have a life-changing journey of your life this Christmas? Check out the next HYC destination (Aklan) and make a lasting impact to your life and the life of the people that you are going to touch! To register, please visit HOPE Volunteer Corps page.