“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life”. Proverbs 4:23 NLT
I was born into a Christian family. My grandfather founded our family church in Hawaii, Filipino United Church of Christ, and my father pastored here for a short period as well. My oldest brother is also a pastor. I grew up in church, every Sunday I would attend Sunday school and participate in every church event. My childhood looked like the typical Christian upbringings. God allows me to only remember a few events in my younger years. When I was 9, I was struck with asthma. One night, I woke up gasping for air. It was then my family rushed me to the hospital where I stayed for a week. I had to learn to take medicines, something I hate doing; and educated myself on my sickness to help control my episodes. At the age of 11, I was sent to live with my older sister, Sheila in Alaska. When I got sick I hated school because my illness caused me to miss many school days. I would get teased and fell way behind.
Moving to Alaska was a clean slate for me. I was now in Jr. High. The air was fresh and my asthma was non-existent. I made a lot of new friends and I excelled in school. By my sophomore year, my friends were more daring, willing to try new things. We would go out drinking, cruzing, stealing, and curse a lot. They would have boyfriends, and I would be in the same room with them while they would be doing "stuff". I always wanted a bf but i told myself that my first bf would be the one I would marry. One night a friend of mine, Zorah, knocked at my window telling me she had her mom’s car and we were going to drive around town. After driving around for some time, my friends and I stopped in front of our high school to switch drivers. Amber did not know how to drive so we were there awhile. To our horror, there were cops with their bright blue lights knocking at our window. Since we were underage and it was way past our curfew, our families were called to pick us up. Apparently, Zorah’s mom had called in a stolen vehicle. My sister was upset so she grounded me for two weeks. At the end of my two weeks, I got to hang out with my friends all day, it would be the last I would see them. Sheila was sending me home to Hawaii.
Being back in Hawaii was bittersweet. I liked being in Hawaii but I missed my friends and grew close to my sister’s family. She had a two year old son. At the age of 16, I attended a youth event that changed my spiritual life. It challenged me, did I really know God? Do I have a “relationship” or was I just playing church? It was then; I made a commitment to want to be used by God, whatever it would be like.
My brother invited me to a Pentecostal service and I truly felt God’s presence. I would go every Sunday and be “spiritually filled” but still not know what it really means to have a “relationship”.
My Jr. and Senior year was not that memorable. The main thing I took away from high school is my economic teacher’s lesson on “personal responsibility”; I had meet Velma; and now I had a best friend.
It was after high school that I learned that people, even in church can hurt you. I fell away from the church and moved to San Diego. At the age of 18, I fell in love and married Joshua Paul Mattero. Church was something I’ve always valued and knew that my husband had to have the same religious ties that I had. He would attend Pentecostal services with me and I had an opportunity to see him speak in tongues. Josh joined the Army, a decision based on him needing to support his wife; a year later, we moved to Germany. Once again, I was far from the church. My husband chose a job where he was always away. I made friends and bad decisions. Five years into our marriage, I gave my husband an ultimatum: it was his army career or me. I would have nightmares about men coming to my door with horrible news. I told him I didn’t want to be the one answering the door when that happens. He chose his army career. I moved back to San Diego.
At the age of 24, I became self-reliant. I went back to school, had a sweet job at a credit union, had great friends, and a loving boyfriend. Church was not even on my mind.
On July 24, 2007, my life changed forever. I received MySpace message from Josh’s sister. I saw the words “dead” and my heart broke. I called Rich, my boyfriend, with the news and drove to Chula Vista to be with his family.
He had a beautiful funeral. A military entourage and American flags draped the scene. It was at his service that I heard the most beautiful words about him. His youth pastor shared how Josh had come back to find him to tell him that “he found God”; he had a relationship with God. Josh’s service to the Army was sacrificial. Before he left for this second deployment to Iraq, I asked him “why do you have to go?” I knew he volunteered for this tour. He told me about his first deployment, how these men (his brothers), would be out there so long. He replied “I’m going out there so someone can come home.” He was a Staff Sergeant for an EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) unit based in Maryland. He was on a midnight mission and he was unable to detonate the third IED. He saved many lives and is a True Hero. I know because of him, others got to go home and unfortunately, he came home to his final resting place.
Up to this point in my life, there was so much pain and hurt. I couldn’t see past it or understand any of it. My sister Levy invited me to a church called The Rock. It was at this rock I found what it truly means to have a “relationship” with God. My whole life I was breaking up and leaving Him. I renewed my vows; the one I made when I was 16 and started making steps into His “redeeming love”. I dedicated my time in serving the church: Hospitality (greeting) ministry, military ministry, altar call, and pebbles (children’s church). I also became a part of a women’s small group near where I lived. In my small group, Jen had started attending a school called Horizon School of Evangelism. As the days went past I would see changes in her, the changes I wanted to see in myself.
In September 2009, I too, became a student at HSE. I dedicated 5 months just for God. During these months, God performed “heart surgery” and it no longer beats at its own drum. The first week God told me I’ll be coming home to Hawaii. At the time, I refused; I didn’t want to come back. I loved San Diego. Now, almost two years later, I am humbled by God. Trying to live a holy and righteous life is a difficult, scary, but a sweet time. Having to depend solely on God’s provisions everyday tests and challenges me in every way.
And so, it brings me to this current day. I don’t do anything on my own. I do the impossible by my own hands, but with my Father, I can do all things.
10 hours ago