(Editor’s Note: Below is a sharing from Fran Handoko, a new member of CFC Canberra, who originally comes from Indonesia. It’s a wonderful sharing which affirms how the Holy Spirit touches CLP participants through the things we do in CLPs. May this inspire us to do a lot more CLPs)
Good afternoon my brothers and sisters in Christ. I’d like to share with you my feelings, comments and hopes after participating in this Christian Life Program. However, before Icome to that point I will say a bit about myself and how I came to join this Christian Life Program.
My name is Fran Handoko, Fran which is short for Francisca. I come from Indonesia and I was brought up in a traditional Catholic family in Surabaya. My parents were very active in prayer groups and so were all my brothers and sisters. They all had their shares, and still up to now, in many church activities: be it Bible Study group, Youth group, Bible Camp for kids, Adoration groups, Prayer groups, etc. As for me I was just busy studying and working. Well, yes I did go to mass on Sundays and said my morning and evening prayers but that was all. In 1996 I went to Australia to study and later decided to stay and work here.
In 2001 I joined a charismatic retreat in Melbourne and for the first time I experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit when some people laid their hands on me and prayed over me. After that experience I felt something had changed in me. I am sure God has given me a brand new heart then as I experienced a great sense of peace, profound joy as well as a deep longing for God, a longing to have a more intimate and personal relationship with HIM. I also felt the urge to do something more than just praying and attending masses or prayer groups. I realized then that I wanted to love HIM more deeply by serving HIM and HIS people. To cut a long story short, in October 2008 I got a scholarship to participate in a School of Mission (SOM) run by ICPE Germany. ICPE is a lay catholic organization for pastoral and evangelization and they are acknowledged by the Vatican. That opportunity to participate in the SOM was like a dream came true for me.
During SOM I lived in an international and multicultural community with 30 other people in a big three-storey house in Allerheiligen, South Germany. After a four-month formation, teaching, sharing meals and other communal activities, we, the participants did the outreach at schools, churches, bars, night clubs and also the streets at city centers. It was the best experience I have ever had in my whole life.
In July 2009 I was back in Canberra and I decided to look for a community or else the fire and spirit within me would ebb away and die slowly. Thus, began my search for a community; a community where the members pray and grow spiritually together, share the life experience, affirm, serve each other and much more. For this reason, I have participated in prayer groups, fellowships, prayer meetings, spiritual association, and other similar groups. They are all good but none of them really has everything I am looking for in one package. One group has the teaching and praying together but no fellowship. The other group has only the fun and fellowship but neither teaching, sharing nor praying together. Still, other group has the praying together and fellowship but no teaching. All of them only meet either once a month or once in three or four months. That’s not enough for me. I want to have more frequent and regular meetings and I’d like to have all: praying, studying, fellowship, serving each other, sharing life experiences, as well as having fun, all of them in one community. So far I had been praying and asking God to lead me to such a community.
How I came to join the Christian Life Program (CLP)
As usual on Thursdays and Fridays I go St Benedict’s Church in Narrabundah (in Canberra) for adoration and mass. One day as I was walking out of the church door, a friendly lady greeted me and introduced herself as Nora. We talked for a while and then she invited me to participate in a CLP being held in Calwell. I thought it was another prayer group and I had no idea where Calwell was though I have lived in Canberra for 15 years. Later, at home I googled the suburb where the meeting would take place. It is in the South side of Canberra, a good 35-40 minute drive from where I live. I didn’t know what kind of group it was and the place is a bit too far. I didn’t feel like going. However, out of curiosity I then searched for the website written on the invitation card. I browsed through the information found there and thought ‘Right, it’s clear that it is not for me as I am not from the Philippines. I don’t speak the language and the venue is so far away”. So I decided not to go. The next time I met Nora, she asked me why I didn’t come. I told her that Calwell was a bit too far for me and I was not from the Philippines. She later informed me that everybody was welcome to this program. She then promised to find some information regarding another CLP to be conducted in the North side of Canberra, closer to where I live. True to her promise, she sent me a text message soon after, about CLP held in O’Connor. She also told me that some people would look after me when I arrived. I thought ‘OK, I’ll come and see’. When I arrived at this place I was welcomed by friendly and smiling people who greeted me as if they had known me for ages. I felt, ‘wow”, impressed, and felt very much at home, though I don’t speak any Tagalog except for “Magandang umaga, sige, salamat”.
During the CLP program
On the first session I was refreshed by the topics ‘God’s love’ and “Who is Jesus Christ”. The first day went well. On that first day I made some new lovely friends besides eating great food which were very familiar to my taste buds. I decided to come to the second session and see how things went from there. The second meeting right up to the last ones also went well. All talks, and power point presentation, were great, the topics were carefully chosen, well prepared, and very professionally presented. The sharing provided generously by the sharers were personal, real and often very delicate and profoundly touching. How I love them all, the talks, the people, the group sharing sessions, the food, the fellowship and also the hands-out which were distributed at the end of each session.
I was also amazed by the group facilitators who met and talked to each participant after each module, in an individual sharing session. What a self-sacrifice and commitment! I noticed how the service team, each member actually, always does their best to serve others, the community and all of us the participants. Surely, witnessing all these has left an indelible impression on my heart and mind.
After last week sessions “Growing in the Spirit” and “The Life and Mission of Couples for Christ (CFC)”, I know more about CLP and CFC’s vision and mission, its activities and programs, its international or global network and more importantly its five pillars of growth, its covenants, which consist of prayer, study, service, fellowship, and the sacraments which I believe have supported CFC’s very existence to this very day. WOW!!!!! I was really flabbergasted. IS IT FOR REAL……??? So, at home I prayed and asked God whether this community was for me. I felt good and at peace after saying my prayers.
Personally, I feel I have finally found what I have been searching for so far, a community which provides its members with opportunities for spiritual, and communal growth through praying together, studying, ongoing teaching and formation, fellowship, sharing and living the sacraments daily, a community which meets regularly each week through its cell groups or households. I’m looking forward to joining CFC’s big family and to grow spiritually together. I also hope I can contribute something to this community. Finally, I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you, the service team and all other community members.
PS: Looking back I realize now that it must have been God’s providence, God’s own hands leading me to this community, this FAMILY which soon will be my extended BIG FAMILY. May the Holy name of the Lord be praised and glorified. Amen.