By Arlene Casilihan as told to the Testimonial Ministry
I used to think life is like gambling. Win some, lose some. It’s all about risks and luck. Until the tables were turned against me and I found myself losing something more valuable – the place I call home and the unit I call family.
I was 21 years old when I got married soon after finishing college to a man whom I had known for quite some time. Barely a fortnight after our wedding, I got a job offer to work as an industrial sewer in Japan which I eventually accepted. I worked as an OFW for one year, then decided to go back home to start our life as a couple. A year later my eldest son was born and two years thereafter, my daughter. Being a full-time mom and wife was both fulfilling and frustrating. As a diversion, after doing domestic chores and during nap times of my kids, I played tong-its. What was an occasional card game progressed into a hidden addiction.
I tried to veer away from it when I got a job as a security guard at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). However, the lure of playing cards pulled me back. I used to play straight from work up to 2am on workdays and almost non-stop on weekends and holidays. I failed to see that I was hooked. My relationship with my husband was the most affected. We had frequent arguments which oftentimes intensified into a fiery fight. Around this time, I observed his physical and behavioral changes. I later found out he was using shabu. Fortunately, he cleaned up well when his application to work in Riyadh was accepted.
Two years later, his communication with us faltered along with our monthly allowance. I was worried and desperate. It worsened over the years until he abandoned us completely and left me with the sole responsibility of raising the kids! I was an emotional wreck but had to be strong for my children who were already affected by the detachment and irresponsibility of their father. I resolve to let go and give up on him.
The following year, I discovered photos of him with another woman showing their sweet moments together. To make matters worse, I got into a motorcycle accident which rendered me bedridden for a while. I also found out my son had gotten his girlfriend pregnant.
It was a constant struggle for me to make both ends meet. A lawyer friend advised me to fight for my legal rights. Thus, in 2012, I submitted my petition for support. He faced his charges and agreed to my demands, otherwise he cannot leave the country anymore. When my son went to visit his grandparents, he came home intoxicated bearing news his father and mistress were already co-habiting. I was disappointed my in-laws consented to that.
On the positive side, my daughter, started attending the Feast and later served with the Music Ministry. She relentlessly urged me to join her. It was a humbling experience to be led my youngest child back to the arms of God. I was a lost sheep who hadn’t been in a church or any religious gathering since my mother died. The Feast gave me new hope. A year later, I volunteered to serve as warmth minister and joined solo parents retreats and seminars. I learned valuable spiritual and practical lessons like repentance, surrender and forgiveness.
My prayers and those of my Feast family worked wonders and miracles. I decided to withdraw the court case against my ex-spouse since he had failed on many occasions to honor our deal. Secondly, my son and his live-in girlfriend broke-up and agreed on an amicable child visitation arrangement.
The timing could not have been more perfect when God also answered my bold prayer for a permanent appointment in BuCor on the same year I passed the criminology training and exam. This gave me a boost to continue serving the Lord by joining the Security Ministry, by becoming a Light Group head and a consistent tither. Windfall of blessings poured in unexpectedly when my daughter finally made it as a flight attendant with Philippine Airlines after failing the first try a year before. My son also graduated from college with good grades and awards.
Above all else my perspective in life changed. I stopped gambling ever since I joined the Feast. I had made so many mistakes in the past that broke the foundation of our home. We lost the head of our family when I prioritized my pursuit of winning the prize from a deck of cards. But, I won the JACKPOT when I let God fix the broken pieces of my life and those of my loved ones.