“I came to Christ three years ago. My parents were from different faiths and I considered myself an atheist. I had lots of questions growing up in the Philippines, but the people around me weren’t open to having those kinds of discussions. The culture was very much about doing what was expected – to act with respect and out of religious obligation. Even at school, when I asked about how I could know God, I was told to go and find my own way. I ended up in an unhealthy place and battling with depression. I tried other faiths, but I discovered that only Christianity offers a person – a real person who has suffered and a person who forgives.
A couple of years ago, I came across OCCA and I started praying that I would have an opportunity to study there. When I saw the new online course I was excited that I could join remotely from the Philippines, but the fees would have cost me all my savings. I applied for a bursary and you can just imagine how happy I was when it came through! My heartfelt thank you to all the donors who made it possible for me to study with OCCA. It has been a wonderful experience!
Initially I was concerned that the course would be too philosophical and that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I also wasn’t sure how applicable the content would be to Eastern culture, but I found it very accessible and relevant. Even the time difference, which meant that the live meetings were between 2am and 5am, wasn’t a hindrance. I enjoyed the sessions so much that I felt fully alive and spiritually awakened!
One of the best parts of the course was meeting people from all over the world and hearing their stories. There was so much depth and wisdom to be gained from engaging with different perspectives. I really appreciated the focus on character formation and accountability. In the future, I hope to study further with OCCA. I’m a freelance musician, so my goal is to give half my time to work and the rest to equipping others.
Recently, I spoke at a prison for the first time. I hadn’t prepared anything, but I was asked to share on the spur of the moment, so I just went for it and drew on what I had learned from my time at OCCA. It was very emotional to see big, tattooed inmates crying as they heard about Jesus. These people are broken and it’s so important that we reach them with Christ’s message, because no one else is going to while they’re in there.
I’ve also started engaging with some of the homeless children nearby, and I’ve joined a ministry that serves a youth recovery programme. We speak about meaning and where their hopes lie. I want to support young people’s faith journeys by answering their questions because I know from personal experience how important that is.”
Ace Gonzales – Philippines
(Foundational Apologetics, Spring 2022)