By Johara Evangelista de Los Reyes
When my colleague asked me to join the Risale-i Nur Institute Philippines’ 12th Young Women Making A Difference Summer Camp, I refused though indirectly. Except for her, I didn’t know any of the participants and I have had unpleasant experiences with “Muslims” in the past. On second thought, I decided to give it a chance- and I am grateful I did.
On the orientation night, to introduce ourselves, we were asked “If you had only one month to live and only 5 things to do, what would those be?” Immediately, I felt the certainty of hell and paradise. Though I have reverted to Islam a few years back, my faith had gone really low to the point of doubting the existence of paradise and hell, but that question exactly jolted me back to the reality of death and the hereafter, that I felt fear of hell enter my heart and helped me prioritize my life.
Through the first lecture and sharing session, the visit to the orphanage and on the way to the Al-baraqah Center in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, I stayed aloof from the processes, but I could see how the other sisters who were strangers to me just a day before were very easy to be with and that they cared for all of us. Suddenly I wanted to be one of them, never to separate from them, they who are nearer to Allah (SWT) and definitely better than me.
The lectures and workshops and discussions about the names of Allah and the proofs of His unity, brought me to a deep state of reflection such that on the nature trek on the 6th day, all I see with every leaf, tree is how great Allah is! How all His creations are perfect, how All-Powerful He is to administer all of the universe, how each tiny and great thing is under His Dominion! It was fun trying to read the names of Allah in the tall trees and high falls. We understand that they are worshipping Allah by submitting to His will and by being mirrors to His Names.
In our visit to the Mormon Church and the Transfiguration Monastery, I didnt feel any animosity from them. There are so many common things between our beliefs, and even in some aspects like cleanliness and industry they practice these values better than we do. We enjoyed the sisterhood of the only Catholic participant even though she was able to join us only ın the last 3 days; and she too was amazed by how Muslims praise God, she even wore the veil during camp; and I saw the happiness in her eyes as she shared stories and kitchen duties with us. If only those of different religions work together, we will achieve paramount success in proving the existence of God, and in applying our common belief that all humans are created to serve and worship God.
Throughout the activities and interaction in the camp, I was able to reflect on my every action and my character. I learned to control my emotions, for I am impatient, I want everything to happen in the snap of a finger. Also, I got to admit that the only one to be blamed for my lack of faith was nobody but me. I used to blame Allah for my own failures and weaknesses, may He forgive me!
My family usually tells me I am good for nothing, but through the the Purpose of Life Workshop, I learned that every creation of Allah has a purpose, even the things that annoy me, like the fly and the cockroach, are actually microbe absorbers. And me? My purpose is to know and serve my Creator. Even if no one finds me important in this world, I now know that the King of the Universe put the value of the universe in me. He has endowed me with special abilities and emotions that I can utilize to serve Him. I cannot and I do not have to please everyone, I just have to please God. And I am happy that I found the group that made a difference in my life and will help me make a difference in others’ lives.
By Johara Evangelista de Los Reyes