(From one of our immigration documents, prepared by Jason:)
The following is, in brief, the story of how I met my fiancé, Mercy Grace Cabural. May it serve as evidence of the genuineness of what has become the deepest and sweetest relationship in my life and hers.
I have always intended to follow the example of my forebears, to find that special person who would match me and love me, to find my love for that person, and to marry her, to establish a union that would not only continue for the rest of our lives, but also grow, strengthen, and become something truly wonderful, both to us and to all whom we would contact, and even to those who would hear of us thereafter evermore. In my heart, I have always believed that a fitting context for such a relationship could only be found within the plan, work, and love of the God of the universe, who promises that all things work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose. His love is, to my observation, a greater, deeper, richer, and higher love than any which humanity can attain apart from Him, and through His word and my life experience, I have come to know that all that is human is finite, mortal, and bound to a definite end sooner or later. So I have always prayed to this God that He would lead me and guide me to find another person who also knew and had tasted this love of His, so that it could be the vital strengthening and establishing factor in my marriage, such as neither I nor any other mere human possesses on our own.
I watched and searched for many years for this person, and I saw many who possessed desirable virtues, from beauty to diligence to temperance to wisdom to kindness and all manner of loveliness, and I took interest in various young women at different times, but over time I began to realize that neither these virtues nor even the possession of a love of God such as I perceived my own to be was enough; I began to realize that my love for Him must override all of these things, for if I would merely use His love for my own purpose—for the attainment of a wonderful marriage and a good life—then I would in so doing demonstrate that I did not truly love Him but myself. I realized that my marriage must also be for Him; it must serve His purpose and even align with His interests in every way; it must be totally under His leading and ruling within the deepest part of my heart. So I prayed that God would guide me to the right person—not to the person of my preference, but to the one whom He had ordained for me, whomever that would be, so that I could serve Him by her side according to His desire.
The result of this prayer has been nothing short of miraculous! I did not meet this person in a way that I ever would have expected or foreseen, but every aspect of my desire has been not only met but greatly exceeded in her.
For years, I resisted becoming involved in online social networking, refusing on the grounds that it was a distraction from school and work to those who did not believe in God as I did, or to those who did believe, that it was a means for the corrupt world to distract us from the love and purpose of our God, who desires to have the first place in our hearts. But as time passed, so many of those I knew, even in the realm of the church, began to use it simply as a normal means of maintaining contact and communication that it seemed to become more a necessity in the maintenance of fellowship with them, and so on February 28, 2016, I finally created a Facebook account and quickly located a number of my real-life friends, particularly fellow believers. The advice I first received matched my feelings on the matter at the time, and I was a little wary of going overboard by spending too much time on it or meeting new people. If I did not recognize a name, I would check their friend lists carefully to find out if they were associated with the right people. Few passed this test, but one person memorably did, one Mercy Grace Cabural.
I saw her name on a friend request very early on. I did not recognize her picture, but her name seemed like that of a child of very genuine believers, and her friend list included several believers I knew well. Perhaps I had met her long ago and just couldn’t remember her, I thought. How embarrassing! So I accepted and went on. I would have forgotten about it too, had she not continually posted pictures and videos of Christians from across the world, remarkable for their earnestness—and for the fact that I recognized not a single one. I was puzzled, but I took no action.
Just after midnight on the morning of April 10, 2016, she sent a message to me without prompting: “Amen, brother Jason!” (She sent a message because she thought I was a new believer in the church and was under the care and shepherding of my aunt, Debbie Villareal). I had made only one post since the one shown above, and it was about my work. What did she mean? I was sure it was well-intentioned, but I did not know who she was, or what she was referring to, so I ignored it in order to escape an awkward situation.
Two more months went by. I saw more of her pictures and became more confused and mystified as to how I could have become connected to her, but I realized due to the nature of her posts that she loved the same Lord and in much the same way as I did.
Then came the sudden, mysterious, and completely unexpected spark that ignited a relationship which today I can only conclude was always meant to be. As strange as it might seem, it was a smiley-face. It came late at night, at 11:13 pm, on Thursday, June 9, 2016 at a time when I should have already been asleep. I saw the previous message, recalled the nature of her posts, and replied. I said, “Amen!” and then went on, “I have seen a lot of your posts, but I recognize very few people. Where are you these days?” I still assumed she was a person I had met long ago and forgotten about. At any rate, she told me that she was “joyfully serving the Lord in Iligan City, Philippines.” I maintained my assumption and reasoned that she must have gone abroad to help the believers in that faraway country after finishing college to work full-time for the spreading of God’s testimony on the earth, so I said, “Praise the Lord! He is establishing His kingdom!” This launched a conversation about God’s purpose and the spreading of His kingdom on the earth, which continued until I admitted that I did not remember where and when I had met her, at which point she told me that we had never indeed met, but by then we were deep enough into the conversation that I had to continue, if only not to be rude, and yet also because I was now intrigued. Our conversation was cut short by the time and my need to go to work in the morning, but both of us expressed an interest in continuing it the next day.
On the next evening, we indeed continued our conversation. I had not been able to forget it for all of the previous day, and it was the first thing I attended to when I got home. When we spoke again, she had surprising news: my childhood friend Timothy Codia’s father, Andrew Codia, was in Iligan City where she lived, visiting the church there! She had heard that he was from Texas and asked if he knew me; the truth of the matter was that he had once lived only a few blocks away, and my father, my sister, and I had frequently gone to visit by bicycle—his house was within walking distance! In all of that time, I had never so much as considered where he could be from, but now he was right there with her? The coincidence was truly amazing!
But even more amazing was the fact that she had known my aunt Debbie for years via chat online. This was how she had met me, in fact. My aunt took care of college students in the church in College Station and had met Mercy online through Facebook and helped her through a very difficult personal struggle when she was in college. When Mercy saw me on my aunt’s friend list with few friends of my own, she had assumed I was another such young college student my aunt was caring for; after all, we do not share a name. We spoke for a time of our family backgrounds and upbringing, which was also so remarkably similar that coincidence no longer seemed possible. But the most precious aspect of it all was that we seemed to have both emerged from it with such a similar outlook on everything, which was continually confirmed at every turn. It was at this point in particular that I began to notice what I can only describe as a mysterious but unmistakable echo between her words and mine, between her story and mine, and even between her heart and mine.
Now Mercy told me about the struggle that my aunt had helped her through. When she was finished telling me her story, I told her that it was only fair that I should tell her my story, and so I told her of a struggle I had when I was in college, one that I had never told anyone in full. Her story and mine matched one another so well that when I was done, she could not help but say, “Why? Why do we have the same story? What are we for one another?”
With that, we spontaneously began to pray—right there over Facebook chat. We prayed that our sovereign Lord, the Head of the Body, would make all things clear and lead us according to His desire. As we prayed, the peace within us grew, and though we had neither seen one another nor heard one another’s voices, we knew. Not only were we attractive to one another; not only did we have the same love for our God, but He, the unique Ruler of the universe, the One who was Lord in both of our hearts, had prepared us for one another from before we were even born, and now He was leading us in this way. The way in which it had happened was far from anything either of us had expected, but we knew that it was His will, and that as it was so, He would see it through. Earlier in the evening, in the context of our struggles, I had quoted a Christian writer who had served the Lord in China during the early-to-mid-20th Century named Watchman Nee, and now his words came back to us again:
“If God leads you to walk a way that you know, it will not benefit you as much as if He would lead you to take the way that you do not know. This forces you to have hundreds and thousands of conversations with Him, resulting in a journey that is an everlasting memorial between you and Him.”
Since that evening, many things have happened, yet through it all, we have never felt an ounce of regret, not even for a moment; on the contrary, our love and appreciation for one another truly grows day by day without fail. Every new experience has deepened our appreciation for one another, strengthened our love, and drawn us closer together, to the point that we have begun to feel that we are ceasing to be two separate people and are becoming one. Those who have been close to each of us, upon being introduced to the other, frequently observe that we are so alike, it is as though we are different manifestations of the same person! I believe that in a very significant way, they are right. At long last, we have each met the one who matches us, the one whom our beloved Lord has prepared for us, so that we, as one, may serve Him, our great Beloved, unto the accomplishment of His purpose.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
This is our testimony. Thank You, Lord!