Also known as: My first SFC ICON experience
It was during a sort-of impromptu meet-up with my Europe friends that it all happened. We were talking about possible missions for 2012 when we started talking about the upcoming SFC International Conference (ICON). It was about two weeks to the conference but I have long accepted that I wouldn’t be going. For one thing, I couldn’t take a leave from work. Another, I already had an event lined up for that week.
So we were talking about mission trips, right? Then they told me, “You have to be at the ICON if you want to go on a mission.”
“For real?” I asked, worried.
“Yes! You can’t go to a mission trip if you don’t go there!”
Truth be told, I didn’t really believe it. However, they were all very insistent (and I mean everyone at the table, even the ones who were still in YFC). Even if I can’t file a leave they said I can fly in on Saturday. Whatever argument I give, they have something to say back.
And I really, really wanted to go to a mission trip. Especially if it’s in Europe for this year. So if I want that, I have to go to the ICON, right?
So I finally said yes. Within a few hours, I got to register at the last minute (thanks to my two chapter heads present at the meet-up) and in less than 48 hours, I had my flight booked. At first, I didn’t even know if I would be able to afford it, especially since this was sort of an impulse trip. But like what my friend Dodge said, if the impulse was Spirit led, God will take care of it.
And take care of it He did. If you must know, I found cheap airfare and I actually spent a lot less than what I expected in the entire trip.
But let’s not get ahead.
So there. Before that week ended, it was sure: I will be attending my first SFC International Conference this year.
* * *
It was a weekend of firsts: my first time to fly alone, my first time in Bohol and my first SFC International Conference. Like I mentioned in the previous post, this weekend was some kind of a comeback. I was excited, but being away from community for so long made the anticipation of a conference somewhat of a foreign feeling. I had no idea what to expect, so I decided to just let myself be surprised. I also prayed and told myself not to worry about anything. Whatever happens, I just have to accept it and remember that God wanted me to the in the conference, so He is definitely going to take care of me.
The flight was peaceful, and I was able to appreciate being on my own in an airport and in the airplane. I arrived safely in Bohol, too, and I didn’t really get too confused with the hotel and the directions and getting around. By lunch time, I met with En to have lunch, and took the chance to try the (cheap!) movie in Bohol before heading back to the conference site for the mass.
One of the many things I was looking forward to for the weekend was seeing my WYD friends again. It’s almost like we can’t get enough of each other. :P And whenever we see each other, there are always photo ops:
I found it funny that some of them were all amused that it was my first time to attend an SFC ICON. But I also felt their excitement for me — and it helped me to be excited for myself. It’s a strange feeling to not know what to expect, really, especially for someone who is so used to having things planned and all that. Some time during the day, I thought of what would have happened if I didn’t go. Where would I be at that time of the day if I decided to stay in Manila instead?
But not once did I regret choosing to go to the conference for the weekend especially when the evening sessions started. When the worship started, it brought me back to those YFC days when I would look forward to every single worship session in the conference, knowing that I will be blessed every time. Just like how I felt back in Live Loud last month, the worship felt a little bit like I needed more practice, but it was easy to feel the Spirit when everyone else was on high. :)
I’ve been gone in community for so long, so I was really constantly amazed at how different everything was. Five years ago, some friends and I would wish that we had what this particular Catholic group also had. Being in the conference now (and even back in Live Loud), I felt like all our wishes all came true. Look at that.
Which would lead me now into a little plug: if you’re on Facebook, I invite you to go like SFC Global. Especially if you’re an SFC member who wasn’t there during the ICON, or a YFC member, or a part of the community who’s been away for a while (you know, like me). Go, like it.
Two things I loved about the night’s sessions: I loved that one of the speakers was a part of the clergy (and I had a great time laughing so much during Fr. Rap-rap’s talk too!), and I loved that both talks used Mama Mary as an example of a deep relationship with God. I guess it’s just appropriate since the theme of the conference was taken from the first line of the Magnificat. I don’t exactly have a deep devotion to Mary like my mom does, but hearing these talks made me appreciate her existence in my faith.
My biggest takeway for the night’s sessions is about how real, inner beauty just radiates, just like how anyone who truly loved God is beautiful. I never really gave it much thought about how Mary is really the first follower of Christ. Her yes is already proof enough of that. I liked how they talked about Mary’s inclusive love. She loved everyone, just as her Son also did. I liked how Fr. Rap rap pointed out that Mary remained standing at the foot of the cross even if her Son was dying on the cross above her. In fact, she even accepted to be our mother, and we’re the people who hurt her Son. I’d like to believe that she knows what love really is — that it’s never meant to exclude anybody.
I also liked how the speakers said that if there’s anyone who knew how hard it was to follow Christ all the time and still be human, it’s her. It made sense — even if she was born without sin, it didn’t make her less human. It didn’t make following her Son easier. I guess that’s what makes her such a good mother to everyone. She knows how hard it was, and still she chose to follow, all the way to the end.
By the end of the night, we were all asked to write our own prayers to the same God who called and was faithful to Mary. I loved this part of the night, for so many reasons but mostly because I got to really talk to God while writing my prayer. Lord, help me to keep my eyes clearer, my love stronger and my faith deeper.
And then, there were the lanterns:
The next day was bright and sunny and perfect for the final talk. It was here I understood why I needed to be at the ICON if I wanted to go to a mission — the last talk was all about proclaiming God’s greatness. There you go. Hearing Kuya Shok talking reminded me of all those times I heard him talk before, and truth be told, it was almost like I was back in YFC. Everyone was encouraged to live out the Magnificat in our everyday lives. My favorite part of the session was when he shared the SFC battle cry for 2012: LIVE LOVED. Because God is great. “If you know you are loved, everything is possible.” Amen.
The ICON ended with everyone worshiping under the heat of the sun. Talk about really basking in God’s warmth. ;)
* * *
I remember this one time during one of the first few SFC events I attended a few months after I got back from Europe. I got to talk to someone who said that he got to experience the ICON soon after he joined SFC and that was what got him to stay in community. He told me to join too, because it was so much fun. I didn’t really think about it then, and like I said, the conference wasn’t in my top priorities even when the year started.
But I guess when God wants you somewhere, He will really get you there if you’re open enough to His voice. I came home with a full heart after last weekend, and it’s been a long time since I felt that. While I know I would’ve done something else equally good if I hadn’t been at the ICON, I truly believe that being in Bohol for the weekend was exactly where I was supposed to be. I know this doesn’t make the rest of the year and all the challenges in front of me easier, but I’m comforted by the reminder that I have a great God. And because He loves me, I know I can find the strength to proclaim this greatness in my everyday life.
My first ICON will definitely not be my last. :) See you in Manila for the 20th SFC ICON in 2013!