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Small Place, Big Growth
By: Peter H. Cariaga

2004 has been a year to remember. International affairs have had a prominent place in our news and daily life this year. Nations held their breath as elections worldwide raged across the headlines. Tens of millions across the globe cheered on their teams at the Olympics in Athens. Leaders from countries around the world mourned the loss of former US president Ronald Reagan. It's been a year of change for all of us, and it's been especially full of it for me. Here's my perspective on the year, a look into the year of a missionary kid in the Philippines.

Growth came by necessity early on in the year. On our first Sunday back in Mactan (our home congregation in the province of Cebu) I was asked to lead singing. Apparently I did something right because they haven't asked me to stop; I've been the worship leader at Mactan almost every Sunday from then until now.

One of the things I looked forward to coming back to was the youth group here in Mactan. I'd been involved when we were here in 2002 and had learned a lot from my youth group in the US. I was happy to find that many of the faces I knew were still there, along with several new ones that have become like family. Over the summer we hung out together, went swimming and mall hopping and made it a point to do as much with each other as we could. We went to Negros (central Philippines) for an annual summer camp; we participated in weekly inter-congregational devos; and we were involved in a big area-wide church overnight at the end of the summer. In that time I got to know my friends even better and learned a lot about ministry in the process.

By June (when classes start here) I was transitioning to a new role that needed playing: that of a full-time student. I've been home schooled most of my life, so the transition was difficult at first. My first few months at Marie Ernestine Science High School were a bit tumultuous. From adjusting to the 8-5 daily schedule, to trying to decipher physics class to being elected to the student council, to landing a lead role in the school play, it's been challenging but fulfilling balancing act of life.

One of the things I've grown in and enjoyed the most has been in the area of my life skills and leadership. I've been a reader of leadership expert John Maxwell's books since I was fourteen and have done my best to apply what I learn. I can say I've seen firsthand what a raised "lid" of leadership can do. In August I had the opportunity to go to Baguio City for a nationwide leadership training seminar for student council members. Because of that I was awarded a scholarship to attend a leadership conference with John Maxwell himself as a speaker. Before the end of September I had attended another seminar and befriended the two influential organizers, Adrian Ding and Marnelli Abatayo.

In November Marnelli asked me to be a host of a parenting seminar our school was hosting. The speakers were celebrity-turned-businessman Anthony Pangilinan and his wife Maricel Laxa. The invitation floored me; I had heard Anthony speak in Baguio and at the Maxwell conference, as well as at the seminar in September. Maricel is a successful movie actress and motivational speaker-in short, I felt in over my head. However, the seminar turned out wonderfully. My co-host and I had a lot of fun and I got to talk with the Pangilinans for a bit afterward.

It's been a year full of change and growth for me. From taking over what I could when our youth minister had to move to the US, to learning what a hypotenuse is, to interacting with high-profile individuals, to realizing the value of leadership, it has been like the seedling planted young that suddenly springs up and starts bearing fruit. These days I'm concentrating on certain subjects in school and preparing for college. However, I'm still going to speak at a youth fellowship later this month and will attend another seminar in January (Anthony Pangilinan will be speaking at that one, too). My motto has become, "Never shrink at a chance to grow."

A particular lesson has impacted me a lot this year: the fact that today-every day-matters.
Just for today I can take care of my health.
Just for today I can live out my faith.
Just for today I can act on my priorities.
Just for today I can reach for an opportunity to grow.
The Philippines is a small country but experiences here have allowed me to grow a hundredfold. I look forward to the opportunities of the coming year and hope you will join me in making the most of each, one day at a time.

Click the URL below for more of Peter's article.
Medical Mission

Finding a Mentor in John Maxwell
Achieving What You Really Want by Peter Cariaga

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