My name is Sunshine C. Ellevera but everyone knows me by my nickname ‘Chin’ or ‘Chin-Chin.’ I am 24 years old. I was born in 1998, April 18, in Carmen, Cagayan De Oro City, Mindanao, Philippines. I am the only child of the family. I was an Adventist by birth, since both of my parents’ family were Adventists. During my grade school years, I spent my studies in an Adventist school in Lower, Lilingayon, Valencia City, Bukidnon. I look back over my time there fondly. Somehow my experience there lay deep roots in me that have led to where I am now as a missionary.
My home was simple like a cabin in the woods. It was a soothing location where I enjoyed the music of nature; the leaves swaying in the wind together with the melodious sound of birds chirping. I have never forgotten how pious my Adventist grandparents were, and as a family we worshipped together early in the morning and before we would sleep. We had a simple life back then; my dad was a farmer. I went to school with my cousin. We would walk a mile since it was so far from home and sometimes we took a shortcut where we crossed a stream so get there or back home faster. On the seventh day we always had a rest day. That was the beginning of my spiritual journey, which I never appreciated much, not until I learned the hard way.
Life was hard in the country for my mom and dad. That is why they moved to the city. I understood that they only wanted the best for me. But we didn’t realize that we had taken the wrong path. My mom and dad were so busy seeking their livelihood, while I was busy with my studies and my own dreams. During high school days, I was in a Special Program in Journalism class and was so aggressive with studies, especially extracurricular activities. I saw how my parents worked hard to send me to school and thus I studied hard so I could repay them. I joined a lot of competitions for them to also notice that I did great in my studies. I joined competitions in a School Press Conference for Radio Broadcasting, as well as a famous TV Network in the Philippines that was shut down just a year ago where I participated in a Regional Network of ABS-CBN TV Broadcasting and a National TV Broadcasting held in Makati during the National Festival of Talents. While I was so busy with my studies and school activities, I couldn’t ascertain that my family had been ruined. My parents divorced. I lost a home. I lost a parent.
My life flipped upside down. Yet even when the home I considered as my refuge was totally wrecked, I continued my studies just for my own sake. I really had a passion to study because I considered it an investment. I tried to be strong and told myself I won’t cry. I comforted myself to not be agitated. Months after, when I had a summer vacation, I stayed at my uncle Gil’s who did mission work in Valencia City, Bukidnon. He knew about the separation of my mom and dad, so he offered to send me to college, but I refused his offer because of I had higher a dream and ambition. I believed that it was a better challenge if I were to study in Manila rather than in Mindanao.
So, I went to Manila and stayed with my dad’s new family. The road I journeyed was so rough, but I trusted myself so much. I pursued my study in a College of Liberal Arts and took up a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. However, it really came to the point where I lost the last piece I was holding on to, the one that was closest to my heart: my dream of an education. I had to drop out of school because my parents couldn’t pay for it. That was the lowest point of my life where everything was just gone with the wind. I blamed my dad and mom for what had happened in my life. I told them that they were worthless parents. They had me as their child, but they couldn’t even raise me well and couldn’t even provide what I needed.
Still I trusted myself and tried to be strong again, though in actuality I was almost depleted of strength. I looked for a job and became a Promo Officer in CocoLife Insurance Company. I was so proud of myself that I had a job, that I could provide for myself and didn’t need anyone else’s support. My mind revolted against what I was taught. I drunk, I smoked and joined the night life with my friends I made in the company. I wasted the money I earned and gratified myself with so much pleasure, satisfaction, and delight in the world but deep down in my heart there was an emptiness. I became unhappy and depressed.
My dad then reached out to me and encouraged me to continue my study and promised me his support (his financial situation had improved). I told him that it was no use because I had lost confidence in him, but he insisted. So, I continued my study, I shifted to a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. I lost the passion to learn anymore, like how someone loses their appetite. I was so upset at how disorderly my life had become. I longed for the love of a family; I wanted them to know what I felt about them, but they were all gone, and each had their own new family. We had no chance to communicate as a family about our problems and why it came to the point where they (my parents) separated. I just wanted to end my life because I felt like I was all alone in my journey. I blamed God for the messed-up life I had… and then I met a guy.
He worked in a computer shop, as an overseer at the counter, and that was where we met. The next day he messaged me. I didn’t know that it was the guy in the shop. During the long conversation we had, he told me that he was that guy. Two months afterward, he asked for a date with me and then we had a relationship together. Yes. That was too fast! He first asked me for a kiss and when I hesitated, he forced a kiss upon me. He disrespected me! I wasn’t happy and pushed him away, but I thought it was just a kiss… I didn’t realize it would set the tone for the rest of our relationship.
I felt something was wrong, but I didn’t listen to the still small voice. I trusted and shared my life story to him and thought that he cared and understood me. After four months he invited me to have sex with him but not in a direct way of asking for it. He taught me to watch pornography. The guilt of this penetrated my inner being. I heard the still small voice again that whispered in my ear, “No don’t do it!” It felt like a burning coal deep in my conscience. I knew that it was a sin. I tried to resist his invitation, but I was already in a trap and then he compelled me. I burst into tears that ran down my face. I couldn’t escape anymore. What ran in my head that moment was: “All my life has been miserable and what can I do about it? I am helpless, so I’ll let my life be more ruined. No one cares about me. My family doesn’t even care about me. No one has been asking me what I have been doing anyways.” Thus, I afflicted myself so much because of the hatred I had for my parents. Then I became a ‘Sex Slave.’
I thought it was love. I thought that the submission I did to him was love. I thought I could see him as being a kind, caring, and thoughtful person. He helped me a lot with school projects. But every favor he did had to have something in return - some form of physical gratification. He forced me all the time and I just submitted to him because I thought that was love. It came to the point where I abandoned my studies and my world just revolved all around him. I got poor grades, I had was falling behind on my subjects and credits, and everything I did in college was doomed to misery.
My dad would sometimes visit me in my apartment to give me some money and bring me some food. On one occasion he came, but I was not there. I lied to my dad and told him that I was doing some projects with my schoolmates, where in reality I was in bed at that guy’s house. I told the guy that I must meet my dad, but he withheld me. My dad waited for me, but I never came up to see him. The guilt from this was extremely painful! I sobbed out of grief and my depression deepened.
There came a time I thought I was pregnant. I was so depressed that even when I went to school I was like a dumb mute. I knew that I had sinned against God. I was afraid that I might be punished by God for what I had done and He would kill me if I didn’t repent. I avoided sex with the guy. I wouldn’t go to his house anymore. I focused back on my studies and participated in the National Franchising Plan Competition, and the University team that I was involved with became the champion. I was so proud again. I also tried to find an Adventist church because I want to ask for forgiveness and repent from all my sins.
One day I was with the guy and I was telling him that I was looking for an Adventist church. In that moment I pictured myself like a distressed dog being walked by its owner, so desperate to be freed, and then the guy was like: “Why do you want to look for an Adventist church? Maybe you just want to be recognized by some other guys? You could just come to my house every Saturday so that when Sunday comes we could attend church together.” I was so helpless, and so I just conformed to his idea and hoped that we could restart our relationship right. He was a Born-Again Christian, and his mother liked me a lot. That was the first time that his mother had seen him go to church. I wanted to help her son and acted as a savior, but I was the one drowning in the quagmire of sin. My ‘Sabbath Day’ became a burning fire of hell. I was again held captive emotionally and physically to him.
Thereafter, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration majoring in Marketing Management. I was so proud of myself, but behind the smile was a depressed woman who relied on herself as a source of power, who tried to be strong but had a traumatic experience that left her scarred. I tried to find my way out; I wanted to be freed from my reliance on this relationship. I had a desperate need to escape from what felt to me like quicksand. Thankfully, I had the courage of my own to escape.
It so happened that my mom and her new husband settled in Manila for good. I stayed with them to avoid the guy, even though I didn’t want to because I had a bad relationship with my mom’s new husband. But I still felt like there was a chain that bound the guy and me, a chain that was choking me. His mother wanted me to settle the relationship with his son, and told me that his son was preparing for our wedding. I was shocked when the guy told me that he wanted to have a child soon. I reasoned that I still had dreams for the future; I didn’t want to have a family at a young age; and I was convicted that the relationship was not according to God’s will.
So, I decided to put his love to the test, and see if it was true love. I told him that we must end our relationship, and I cut off my connection with him. I saw that he tried to fix the relationship a little bit, as he did message my mom about me. I was hoping that he would come and visit me, so he could talk with my mom, but he never did. Instead of the begging for us to get back together that I expected, he disappeared out of my life.
The only relationship I had ever had was over. For four years, I thought he heard my weeping and understood the depth of pain I had with my family, but he didn’t. A year later I saw him with another girl. Therefore, I concluded that it was not true love that he had with me but lust-filled ‘Erotic Love’. He was just after my body, not my life story.
Fast forward, now I was living with my mom’s new family. I faced more difficult circumstances, particularly regarding the living situation with my mom and my two little half-siblings. I was not happy seeing my mom being shouted at by her husband. I was about to explode, but I just endured everything on my own. I was not happy that I served them; it felt beneath me as I was a graduate with a bachelor’s degree. That was because I judged myself by my own qualifications and my own good works, thinking that I could please God with my own righteousness. I murmured and started to question God: “I must not be here! I am a College Graduate, I should be in an office! Why did you bring me here?” I blamed God once more.
I was overthinking a lot again about how I could escape from my life of emotional distress. I relied on my own wisdom to try to look for a job even though ‘Covid’ was rampant. I planned to go abroad and my passport was ready. But covid had a really direct message to me, something in my inner core stopped me from going. The still small voice came to me and reminded me: “Aren’t you drained of strength and energy to prove that you can handle situations on your own? Aren’t you sick and tired of imagining new things to want and hoping that it would happen? Look, you are so depressed! Don’t you see?” Then I saw myself that I was alone in my room, sobbing out of grief. And so, I looked for something that could uplift me spiritually. I looked for a book that I could read to ease the agony that was crushing my soul. I didn’t know that in just the blink of an eye, a book would change the entire perspective of my life.
Chin Chin sharing the gospel of our worth as children of God as seen in Jesus
I discovered the book ‘Identity Wars’, found on the website fatheroflove.info, through a post my uncle Gil made on his Facebook wall. I was intrigued by the post because it was just the cover photo of the book without any caption. So, I researched the title of the book in google and there I found it. It was the year 2021 when I downloaded the book on to my phone as a pdf file. I was convicted of sin and thankfully the still small voice, who was Christ by His spirit, led me to read the book. It was the perfect time for God to intervene.
I was blessed by the book ‘Identity Wars’, which taught me to trust in Christ rather than self. I realized that it was not my parents nor God that must be blamed, but myself because every time God reached out to me through my experiences I rejected Him; I was ignoring and running away from His “Still Small Voice”. I was trying to prove my worth to the world, that I could handle circumstances through my own wisdom. I realized that all of my depression and pride was the consequences of my own choices that disconnected me from God.
There were many times that God invited me to enter His rest and peace, but I rejected Him and chose to live on my own ideas that brought me to sorrow and destruction. I figured out that when we relied on ourselves as the ‘Source of Power’ we tend to be arrogant and aggressive, and when we failed we became depressed, fearful and worthless. Thus, I admit that I have many times been so proud of myself. But I realized that ‘Pride’ won’t take me to a good destination. I will always be a failure if I trust myself again and again. It will always be a cycle.
Chin Chin and others at Gil Castor's Missionary Outpost
But the most wonderful gift that I got from the book was the promise and hope of ‘Christ as the Source of Power.’ The book was so liberating in that it helped me to reclaim my identity and value that I am a ‘Beloved Daughter of God’ and have no need to prove anything. The book freed me from confusion, doubts, insecurities and especially of being a slave. Praise our Father in Heaven indeed!
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17).
If I only trusted the gift of God the Father and allowed Him to fulfill His will in my life rather than interfering with His plan, I surely wouldn’t have those painful experiences. But it was not too late for me. I was so blessed that I met and got to know a God that is benevolent, gentle, loving, and that has and will always forgive – rather than the picture I had before, which is God as a tyrant. God’s love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3) and He hath made every thing beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He just let me use the ‘Free Will’ He gave me and that is His ‘Agape’ love, which is the foundation of His Kingdom. He let me go through experiences to make me realize it. It may seem so traumatic, but upon reflecting upon it with God’s eyes of wisdom it became a sweet experience. I was once a ‘Dream Driven Woman’ but God reached me where I was.
I was enormously grateful for Identity Wars and what it did for my spiritual life. I was delivered of ‘Depression’ and truly rested, comforted and delighted that I would no longer have to be worried about how I would accomplish things on my own, but to trust only the Father through Christ who is faithful. I thank God that despite being a stubborn and sinful child, He led me back to Him. Though I blamed Him for what happened in my life and pushed Him away many times, He never gave up on me. He was a ‘Perfect Father’ who waited for His long-lost daughter to come back to Him.
In the end, instead of pursuing a job abroad, I flew back to Mindanao. I know and trust the Father through Christ that my character will be molded in Him. In the end it’s not achieving titles in the world that are the basis of my ‘Identity’ or ‘Value,’ but its about being a ‘Beloved Daughter of God, my Relationship to God, to my Parents and to my Fellow Beings.’ Now, I am currently a Missionary living in the country side and have dedicated myself to Christ in spreading the good tidings to the world.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18
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