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No Time Like the Present

by Grace Morelos

The clock is ticking as time was running out. In a few days, my visa in Thailand will run out. The day after that, I turn 25.

Then I’ll be 25 and unemployed.

25 with no starting point for a career.

25 with no prospects of a future.

In the world’s eyes, I’m pretty much screwed. On some days such as these, I think so too. These past few days have been tough. I’ve done nothing else but scrambled and looked for opportunities to secure my visa in Thailand. And I’ve started looking months ago. I’ve tried applying to 2 different graduate schools and a job. Just the other day, it seemed as if nothing was going well. I’ve prayed and cried, regretting some life decisions, wondering if I made the right decisions.

I wondered why I chose to stay here in Thailand to take care of two middle school girls when I could’ve taken that full-tuition scholarship to Taiwan. I wondered why I didn’t go home to the Philippines for college and gotten a teacher’s degree. I wondered why I didn’t look for more college scholarships to the United States during high school. Basically I wondered why I didn’t even try harder or whether I’ve done enough. It is at a time of crisis such as this that I have been forced to look back in my life, look back to the past 25 years, and remember how He has never let go.

Like most of Christians, I know Jeremiah 29: 11-13 by heart: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Like any other fresh-faced college graduate, I had big dreams! Work for a big franchise hotel, perhaps. Or maybe I should continue my education with a scholarship to Taiwan. I even considered testing for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. As I said, big dreams! But God had other plans. Needless to say, God threw a curve ball into my life again. This time the curve ball came in the form of two middle school girls, Jenny and Sheshana.

While this is Jenny’s second year back with us, Sheshana had spent the past year living in our home. At first, I figured that I would merely spend this past year with them and spend the next year doing grad school in Taiwan. By January of this year, I was ready with this decision. I was merely waiting for the university applications to be open on February first. By that time, a very close family friend asked my dad to write him a recommendation letter for an application to Asia’s Biblical Theological Seminary (ABTS), one of Cornerstone University’s seminaries that is based here in Asia. ABTS offers a Masters in Religious Education here in Thailand with American accreditation. That week, I had a lot to think about. Throughout August to the New Year, Jenny had been bugging me with questions as to why I was leaving them while Sheshana remained oblivious (she did finally catch on by Christmas).

God literally brought these young girls at my door to minister. Was I really just going to leave them? I knew that Mama and Daddy were more than capable of teaching and mentoring them. I’m sure that they would probably do better at caring for these two without me. But while I was so determined to leave, to be independent, I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that kept on repeating, “You’re pulling a Jonah, you’re pulling a Jonah…” So my question was, “Did I want to pull a Jonah?”

The only answer I got myself for that question was that Jonah got eaten by a whale. And he did end up doing what God wanted him to do in the first place. Ever practical that I was, I did not want to be swallowed by a whale, metaphorically or otherwise. After much thought, I went back to a small decision I made back in 8th grade. While I accepted Jesus in my life when I was very young, I gave my life to Him when I was 14. I meant it. I gave Him the reigns. He was in control. If I was going to run now, He’s just going to bring me back to fulfill the purpose of His glory anyway. And I trusted Him to do that.

Almost sold to the idea of doing the ABTS’ Masters in Religious Education, I filled up the application anyway. As I kept on thinking, I realized that this was a dream come true. My dream was coming true. I always wanted to get an American education, and here I am, getting the education I’ve always wanted. True, the venue’s a continent off, but in the end, it is still the same degree offered in Cornerstone University’s main campus. As the dean of ABTS said, it’s like as if God brought the school to Thailand just for me.

After getting accepted (after a 15 minute-something interview), I was superbly happy and excited with my decision to stay. Now, I’m a practical girl. I had to start thinking of my visa for Thailand. This was mid-February. I thought, I have time; June is months away!

My initial plan was to apply for a Masters in Tourism Development in my old department and just continue on with tourism. However, because they were still developing the curriculum, I learned that they might not open until the next semester. That would then be months too late for my visa. So I decided to apply for the alumni scholarship of my old school, Maejo Universit,y anyway just to continue my education and get a visa, this time studying Human and Social Development.

By April, I was still waiting for an acceptance letter and I started feeling a bit worried. While I was super-excited that we finally had our tickets for the US this July, how was I going to excuse myself from my one-month leave of absence? But I brushed off the concern. I’m following God, I reasoned. This will all work out. Just to be sure, I applied to another university, this time for a Masters in TESOL. I explained to them my dilemma and waited for their reply. I also started looking into different language schools around town just in case.

Around the first week of May, the TESOL program declined my application. The length of my absence was too long. That caught my attention. If this international Christian program was not going to let me take leave for a missions trip, how was I going to explain my situation to a local state school?

By the second week of May, the Human and Social Development closed down because there were not enough applicants. Now, I was stressed. Both graduate schools that would give me a stable visa have shut down. Surprisingly, my old department, the School of Tourism Development, opened up applications the day before I received the call of rejection. I thought, sure, I’ll give my alma mater another shot. I turned in my application, took the test, and did the interview. I was told, however, I might not get the results until June 5.

Because I wasn’t feeling so confident with that application, I applied for an opening in Compassion International Thailand as a Youth Specialist. While I thought I had a pretty good chance as an applicant and the interview seemed to have gone very well, the interviewers told me they couldn’t give me an answer until the following Friday, which was June 7.

My visa would expire by June 8. My birthday is on June 9. That job interview was on Thursday May 30th, 2013. By that evening, I was depressed and angry and helpless. Not only at myself, but at God. Actually, I was really mad at God. I made a decision to serve Him and off He goes, letting all these doors shut down on me. I tried every avenue I could. I tried so hard. That night, as most of my Facebook friends know, I asked for a miracle because let’s be honest, I did everything I could. So I asked for prayers and waited.

The next day, Friday May 31st, nothing happened. Yes, any reasonable individual ought to be more patient, but I was done. I broke down. I cried, my parents cried, and we just prayed. In exactly seven days, my visa would run out and I had no idea what would happen except that I’d be heavily fined. Mama and Dad decided that they would take leave from school the next Monday and ask the School of Tourism Development to give me an answer regarding my application. We thought that if we could at least get them to answer me two days before June 5, we might be able to speed up my visa application process.

Lo and behold, by the afternoon of June 1, I checked the university website, and there it was, my name listed as one of the accepted applicants and I was to report for orientation on Monday. I should’ve been ecstatic. While I was out of my slump, I was still bummed. What good was an acceptance letter when I still had tons of paperwork to request and file? And in my experience with the university’s bureaucrats, they take forever to get their work done! First, I needed to get a student letter of acknowledgement from the Admissions Office. (In the past, it would take at least 3 days!) Then, I needed the proper documents from the school’s international affairs to bring to immigration, which used to take at least a day. I was not feeling optimistic at all!

I got the e-mail to write this testimony on June 2. As I’m sure you can feel from reading this, I was still recovering from my hostile stint with God. Despite repeating Jeremiah 29:11 again and again in my head, I couldn’t feel it. What was I doing with my life? Why did I give up job opportunities to serve two little (sometimes) brats who don’t seem to appreciate what I did or gave up for them most days?

But I started the testimony anyway. I wrote and rewrote, contemplating the events of life. From when the Lord brought my dad and mom (who took us along) to Thailand 17 years ago up until my acceptance to two graduate schools, He has never left my side. While I was started on their ride, God took me on a ride of my own.

Monday June 3 was orientation. It was a long, painstaking, nerve-wracking day, but I pulled through. I even nicely convinced the man at the Admissions Office to have my letter ready by the next day!

By Tuesday afternoon, June 4, the documents from international affairs were done in less than an hour!

June 5, 2013, I got my one-year visa in Thailand! Yes, I even had 3 days to spare!

I know! I know! I should never have doubted our God in the first place. But I guess that fickleness was my sin and that is a part of human nature. And despite it all, despite my anger and my struggle, He never let go. He never gave up on me. Instead, He made my dreams come true and He even gave me more than I deserved. If there was one thing He wanted from me through all of this was to be still.  “Be still, and know that I am God…” He said in Psalm 46:10.

So now the time has passed, and I’m 25.

I maybe 25 and unemployed, but I have a great tutoring position that allows me to minister to others.

I maybe 25 with no starting point for a career, but I’ve had ocountless job experiences to choose from.

And even if I’m only 25 with no idea of what will happen in my future, I am certain of one thing. God is good, all the time. He knows the plan He has for my life. He promised that He will give me a future. He has already given me hope. He has always been faithful to me and my family. The Lord was faithful then, He is faithful now, and I now I am certain, He will be faithful to me until the end of my time here on Earth.

Prayer Request: I still haven’t informed my grad school that I will be gone for a month. Thankfully, God allowed that I will only miss 3 days of each class, thanks to a holiday. Please pray that my professors will be gracious and let me take the month off. And please pray for our ministry in Newport News, Virginia, this July. While daddy and Mama will be leading the Ohana program for the parents and adults, I will be helping with the children’s program. Please pray that I will allow God to continue to work in my life and that I will continue to let him hold the reigns and that He will be glorified in my life. Thank you and God bless po! 😀

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