|Cherry and Dan Kavanaugh|
I’m a little bit hesitant to share my story. Not because I’m shy—my family and friends know I’m not, even though I don’t talk a lot. I just give all the talking to my husband, which I regret sometimes—kidding! I’m hesitant because I might use poor grammar or my accent might not be understood. Oh, wait, what accent? Then I realized this is a chance
to testify about how God moved in my life. So here goes.
Growing up in the Philippines, I know I’m not a perfect daughter to my mom. She will agree with me on that. I gave her a lot of headaches and high blood pressure and I’m so sorry about it. I’ve never been scared and worried until I found out I’m going to have a baby girl, because I know what my mom went through with me and my sister. I prayed my baby would be healthy. When I found out it’s a girl I prayed so hard and cried to God to take all my worries and leave them to him. Every time she moved in my belly, I just fell in love with her. Now that she is walking and talking, I’m still amazed and so thankful to God she’s my baby.
I was closer to my grandma than to my mom. My mom told me that after I was a year old she brought me to the province so my grandma (my father’s mom) will take care of me. The province was like eight hours from Manila where we lived. My parents worked and it was hard for them having two children. My sister is two years older than me. My parents told me they brought me to the province because I cried a lot and was not a happy baby. My grandma didn’t make me feel I was hard to take care of. She became my mom and I called her Mama Nena. My dad’s sister also lived with Mama Nena and I called her Mama Arlene. We went to church together.
Mama Nena was a brave woman. She took care of her three children alone after my grandpa died from snakebite while he was planting rice. Also, every now and then, the New People’s Army (enemy of the government) passed by her house and they had guns. Her house was in a secluded tribal area. She was not scared of the NPA. She respected them and they respected her. She did not just say the Golden Rule she acted with it.
When I was five years old, my younger brother was born. My parents came to the province to get me so I could go to school in the city. I cried so hard and did not want to let go of my grandma. Maybe that’s why my mom felt bad about me. At that time, I did not speak Filipino language. The province has its own dialect called Buhinon. In Manila, I became a loner and my grades were not good. So, my parents put me in a private Catholic school, which I attended through fourth grade and then attended public school.
My grandma passed away from tuberculosis when I was in the fifth or sixth grade. One of her last words was she wanted to see me, her favorite grandchild, and I did see her. She didn’t care if the other grandchildren heard that, because it was obvious to them. I also had her looks and height; I’m the smallest wherever I go. Height doesn’t matter. It’s what’s in your heart. One of my high school friends said I had a fighting spirit.
My parents and other family members still live in the Philippines. Whenever there are tropical storms and typhoons there, I worry they are safe. We stay in touch by Skype and Facebook, even when there are no storms.
Because I’m still young, I have not had time to have many of life’s problems. I still pray the Holy Spirit to guide me. In America, I grew more in my faith than I expected. I try to be a living testimony with people I meet. I have peace of mind because God answers my prayers. It’s much better to be a believer.
I sing solo at church worship services occasionally, even though I’m not a professional singer. I know my voice is not great. For me, it’s a way of offering God my gratefulness. I also take care of the nursery sometimes.
Although my mother and I did not always get along, I’m thankful she raised me in a Christian home. You probably know this verse. It’s one of my favorites. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.
Cherry has a political science degree from the University of Makati, Manila. She came to the Missouri Ozarks in 2009, married Dan Kavanaugh, and is working to become a U.S. citizen. She read her mini-memoir in her church, Community of Christ Chapel for Peace.
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Photo by Wayne Groner