Cyra Story: sharing the gospel and encouraging others
A teenager stood in front of a small crowd consisting of mothers and children. She started to read a Bible verse. It was about God’s plans and promise. She gripped the bible tightly while her voice trembled. She was nervous.
When she was done reading the verse, she closed the Bible and mustered all her confidence to share her reflection. “You should not worry about your tomorrow because God has a promise and he never fails” she began her speech. After sharing her first statement, her face lightened. It was as if her nervousness disappeared in an instant. And in a span of five minutes, she was able to share her personal insights convincingly.
“That was my first time sharing in front of our support group,” said Cyra. The 14-year-old girl is a Grade 8 student from a far-flung village of Bohol, a province in the Philippines.
In August last year, Cyra and her mother, Geraldine, started a support group where they can read bible verses and share their reflections together. The mother and daughter tandem invited their neighbors. Their group now consists of around 20 mothers and children.
The group, whose members live near each other, meets once a week. They follow health protocols such as meeting with the only allowed number of persons, social distancing and wearing of face masks.
“My mother formed this group to help the youth have an avenue to learn the bible, be productive, and not just spend most of their time with their phones,” the daughter said.
When Cyra was younger, she wasn’t as faithful as she is now. She shared that she would tag along with her mother and grandmother going to church but she remembered that she didn’t have a personal relationship with God.
It was in her support group that she developed a deeper faith and connection with her Creator.
“My knowledge of God and His promises widened and I always feel His grace everywhere I go. For me, it is easier to face challenges in life when you know that God is always with me,” she said.
Cyra also shared that her experience is overwhelming that she started sharing her reflections to her friends online. Eventually, she decided to make her sharing public so she can reach out to more people.
Beyond the care group
After a care group session, Cyra would share her learning and reflection on her social media accounts. “I post the bible verses that we reflect upon on my Facebook and on My Day. My posts are viewed by an average of 100 Facebook friends,” said the young girl.
Cyra wants to reach more people beyond her care group because she wants give hope to them through the Bible verses. “Jeremiah 29:11 is my favorite verse. It said that you should not worry about your tomorrow because God has a promise and He never fails,” she explained.
“To my fellow teens and children who are having a hard time during the pandemic, know that everything has a purpose. After you overcome the challenge you are going through, you will be stronger and more resilient,” Cyra said further.
The young girl also shared that she is concern with children who are exposed to the dangers in the internet.
Since the lockdown periods started in the Philippines in March last year, the children are not allowed to go outside. Physical classes also turned into online or modular classes while interaction with friends are done through social media.
With this set-up, children evidently spend more time online with their gadgets during the pandemic. They are also more exposed with the many dangers that are lurking in the internet such as cyber bullying, pornographic content, and the worse that could happen is Online Sexual Exploitation of Children or OSEC.
OSEC, which involves the production, possession, and distribution of child sexual abuse materials and livestreaming of sexual abuse or exploitation, has been so rampant in the country that it was labeled as the global hotspot for OSEC.
The situation worsened during the pandemic. According to the Department of Justice, the OSEC cases has tripled since the quarantine restrictions were enforced.
World Vision supplements
Child-focused organization, World Vision, supports Cyra’s community through child sponsorship. As a sponsored child, the teenager received school supplies and other gifts from her sponsor. She also participated in many character-building workshops.
The organization also provided reading materials in Cyra’s community to nurture their spiritual life. The teenager also uses these materials to share more interactive content on her social media.
On the rising cases of OSEC in the country, World Vision is deeply concerned with children who are vulnerable from the negative side of the internet. “We call on the parents and caregivers to safeguard their children from online harm. Teaching their kids about online safety and encouraging them to reach out whenever they feel uncomfortable can go a long way. Also, we urge the public to always be vigilant and if there are suspicions of OSEC in the communities, report to proper authorities. Truly it takes all of us to end OSEC,” said Rommel Fuerte, World Vision Philippines National Director.