Mum was Catholic and Dad was Methodist. He worked most of the year in Saudi Arabia. Growing up in the Philippines, we would sit around in the evenings and have a family discussion. Little did I know it would prepare me for Sabbath School.
When my sister moved to New Zealand, I soon followed her. She eventually started attending Papatoetoe Adventist church in Auckland and was baptised by Pastor Brendan Pratt. If I didn’t have to work, I attended church with them because I lived in their house. When they moved to Australia, I stopped attending.
But without even asking my boss told me, 'Charen, take Saturday off OK?' My heart leapt for joy.
I was working shift work at the airport. In 2008, I decided, with a friend, that I should look around for a church to attend. I even went to a Samoan church for about a month. The pastor had to preach in English because I was there and I felt bad for him.
In 2009, I found a church. Well, it was a building with a cross on it. Inside it was plain, with rows of chairs like an auditorium. There was a drum kit and some instruments up the front. “Now,” I thought, “I love music, this is the church for me!”
It was Tuesday and I stressed all week about asking my supervisor for Sunday off so I could attend church. I prayed, “Lord, I really want to go to that church but I’m scared to tell the boss about skipping Sunday.” On Friday I read something that said, if something doesn’t kill you, just try it. So I asked if I could start at 12pm instead of 9am and the boss said yes.
The church was Baptist. They had questions and answers in the bulletin that you could fill out from the screen. I never brought a Bible but every Sunday it seemed like God was talking to me.
After my parents had some health problems I decided to move to Australia to be with the rest of my family. They were attending Werribee Multicultural Seventh-day Adventist Church. Eventually I started attending and discovered so many things I’d never heard about the Bible, like “Really, there’s a talking donkey in the Bible?”
My family and I were comfortable and regularly attending Werribee. One day before the service, Pastor Hensley Gungadoo came up to me and asked, “So Charen, when are you going to be baptised?” “I’m waiting for the ta-da!” I replied. He explained that there was no ta-da moment but the idea had been planted. A few weeks later my brother-in-law was sharing with me a story in Adventist Record about 50 people who were baptised in crocodile infested waters. That did it, I made up my mind to be baptised and the following week I told my Sabbath School teacher. I was baptised on January 21, 2012, at a beach with my mother!
But it wasn’t necessarily all easy from there. I was glad to be baptised in January because the next month I had to return to NZ for work. I was worried and wanted the armour of God on me. I was afraid of what my friends would say if they discovered I wouldn’t go out on Friday nights or wouldn’t eat pork. I was also worried about what my boss would say if I asked for Saturdays off. I had always worked on Sabbaths in New Zealand previously. But without even asking my boss told me, “Charen, take Saturday off OK?” My heart leapt for joy. I’ve since worked in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin—everywhere I go, my training partner has given me Saturdays off! And every church I visit, I’m invited home for lunch. God is good.