An Introvert’s Journey to Africa and Beyond

Hello, my friends!  Happy Tuesday!

When I got Sky’s message, inquiring about an interview, I remember being particularly struck by her story.  Almost as if her passion for the work she was doing was coming right through my phone screen.  And when I eventually read her interview, I had the same experience!!

Sky is such a beautiful soul and I feel so honored to share her story, as I am with all the stories that have been featured!!  So, I truly hope that you have the same experiences that I had while reading her story!!

Make sure to check out Sky and her work on her website at skyortigas.com and @skyortigas

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+ For those who haven’t heard of you , please introduce yourself.

Hi everyone!  I’m Sky. I usually introduce myself as an “Artist wannabe turned Missionary.” I am a Catholic missionary, web designer, layout artist, social media manager, and coffee lover.  I am a Filipina, currently based in Manila, Philippines, working as an online editor for Areopagus Communications that handles the news service of the Media Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

+ When did your relationship with Christ first take root in your life?  What brought you to a deeper relationship with God?

I grew up in a Catholic family with lots of “grandmothers” pushing me to attend Catholic events, play as an angel, join the choir, even the Filipino traditional events during the Holy Week.  My parents always make sure that we didn’t miss Sunday mass, first Friday masses, or novenas we are devoted to.  They also made sure, I prayed the rosary every day.  I studied in a Catholic school all throughout college, so in a way, it was easy for me to know Jesus.  It’s provided everywhere.

But when it comes to a deeper relationship with God, when I was around 12 years old,23164186_2079386579054078_9040388103419723776_n my parents “FORCED”.. literally forced me to attend a youth camp of a community called Youth for Christ (a ministry of Couples for Christ).  I just went home from school, found my bags already packed and my parents at the car telling me that they are taking me to the camp.  Since, I am obedient (haha!), I went with them.  Mind you, I am an introvert and totally SHY when it comes to mingling with other people.  I have very few friends back then, I was also bullied in school, and going to this camp gave me a lot of creeps!  For I don’t know anyone.

This camp totally changed my life and, in a way, I slowly found my purpose and calling to become a Catholic fulltime missionary.  I got hooked!  God showed His immense grace every time.  When I graduated from college and was asked if I wanted to be a missionary, the only thing that I can think of was “How could I say No to Jesus?”  And this was a great privilege.  It was like a romantic moment with God.

+ Between the ages of 23 and 25, you spent time in the mission field.  What called/encouraged you to take part in mission work?

BUT to tell you the truth, being on a mission field is not romantic at all!  It was so hard!  Giving up your comforts, being away from your zone, from your loved ones, from everything that you knew, and feeling and being an introvert, it was so, so difficult.  Sometimes you will find yourself crying and asking God, what should I do?

BUT (again!)  this was the moment and the time that I learned more about myself, learned more about surrender, learned more about faith.

22427189_131899160800519_1184591803173568512_nYou know the song “To the ends of the earth” by Hillsong?  I liked that song, but I didn’t want to sing it.  Cuz I just felt in my heart that if ever I sang that song in prayer, something was really going to happen.  And in that moment, when I was totally so deep in one of our worship and the leader sang that song, I just raised my hand telling God “Jesus, I believe in you and I will go to the ends of the earth.”

And that was it, after a month, my community called me and told me, “Hey we are sending you to Kenya and Tanzania, Africa for two years.  Tell you family, and in a few months, you’re leaving.”

I was so excited but at the same time afraid.  Africa was a totally different continent with different culture.  Our mission was to help the Catholic church, open up Couples for Christ and it’s family ministries, be with the sick, the orphan and the abandoned.  Basically, make sure that each and every family member knew Jesus.

It was hard, but it was one of the most fulfilling things I did.  I remember when I was traveling for 14 hrs by myself in a bus from Kenya to Tanzania not knowing who am going to meet when I arrive, not knowing anyone in the bus, I looked outside the window21690076_273057993210084_9189821431670636544_n(1) and just ask God, why me?  And how you can work in me?

My two years in Africa allowed me to know my God-given strengths and my own weaknesses.  I surrendered everything to Him during those moments when I missed my family and when I missed home.  He provided me a home in Africa, a family whom, until now, I still get to talk to and am planning to visit (hopefully this year).

+ Did you go with a group or organization?  If so, how were you connected with this group?  How would you encourage someone to go about finding an organization to do work with?

My community is Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation Inc.  I joined their family ministry, CFC Youth For Christ first when I was 12 (story above), then moved on the CFC Singles for Christ and when I graduated, I decided to work full-time in the community and that’s where I was sent on mission.

If you felt that call to go on mission, go to your parish or your community and ask.  In CFC, I was based here first in my province for a year before I was sent out. I have to 26865278_1756130384693950_7589524038884524032_nundergo a 3-month training and spend a year as a “local” missionary before I was sent out to a different country.

+ How has your experience abroad shaped your perception of the world and the struggles of other societies and peoples?

It made me see the world and people differently.  It made me learn how to accept and adjust to the different culture I am in.  After spending 2 years in Africa, I was also sent on short-term missions (usually 1-3 months) to other countries – from the Europe and other parts of Asia and South America.  And what I realized personally was that God can make a home for you wherever He is placing and taking you.  In all these places I’ve been, I have found a family.  These countries are very different with different struggles from poverty to sickness to population but, with every experience, I get to learn how big our God is.  How each culture can shape you to become a person who can love and can spread more love.

+ What did a typical day on the mission field look like for you?

Hmmm, this is interesting, for each day is different. Haha but well, a day may go like this:

We always have our morning prayers at 7am then we have breakfast as a mission team, meet very shortly for all the events of the day.  We were assign to different areas. After that we would team up who would go with the other.  Usually me and my mission partner would go to my area first (west area of Nairobi), spend the entire morning there talking to the people, teaching catechism, and presenting the community to the different parishes.  Then on the afternoon, I would accompany my mission partner to his area and do the same thing.  On other days, we would go to a remand or a juvenile center and be with the kids there, teaching catechism, praying the rosary with them and planning camps for them.  On weekends, we would have our youth camps or Christian life23160959_1948724602036424_5254391212432949248_n programs and basically these weekends are spent more on giving teachings and talks to different parishes.

+ What are some of the fruits that you saw while ministering to people?

One of the things I love is when I see people grow in their prayer life and in their relationship with Jesus.  When I talk to them and, personally, they share how God has moved in to their life, in their studies and work, my heart is bursting with joy.

+ How has mission work shaped your faith?

That faith of knowing that God is always there even when we feel that He is silent.  That Faith of knowing that God would never ever abandon us as we surrender our all to Him.  That He is generous and will take care of you.  And that He answers prayers!

+ Now, many years later, you are still a missionary at heart!   What are you doing now to continue to spread your faith and love for Christ?

When I was in Africa, I started a blog just to update my family and friends about what was happening to me there.  Never did I know that the Lord would also use this blog to inspire other people and also lead me to web design and layout.  My mission in Africa also prepared me for what I am doing now.  When I got back to the Philippines, I was assigned to the communication department.  Clergy relations of my community and I 25036135_1965509447108922_8500829289216737280_nworked on different websites and met with other communities, and meet bishops and other members of the clergy.  With this, my call of being an online missionary strengthened.  I was then asked to design and start (together with a team) an online website for the youth of the Philippines called youthpinoy.com.  Then, I also design the website of the news service of the bishop’s conference called CBCPnews and helped handle its social media.  And, also, my own personal blog is still up – skyortigas.com.  There, I blog about my life, my  realizations, travels, mission, and reads.  I pray that I can reach a higher audience, not just the practicing Catholics, but also those who doesn’t even know they need Jesus in their lives.

+ You are still traveling and exploring God’s creation!  How has your continual travel helped you to stay in that missionary spirit of life and keep your focus on God?

Yes, from time to time, I am still sent on mission and coverages for work.  Since I work in a church media industry, I consider whenever I am assigned to as my mission area.  That missionary spirit is always strengthened when you always seek that joy that only God can give.  As we continue to seek it in the people we met and places we get to see, we are encouraged to seek more, to inspire more and value our faith more.19367799_141240419783302_2721208282797572096_n

 

+ How would you encourage someone who feels called to be a missionary?

I believe that all of us are called to be missionaries – but in different settings and different roles.  So, if you felt that call to be a missionary, begin active discernment and find out your vocation.  Are you called to go out of the country and serve in that area, or are you called to serve your parish or your community?  Or, like right now, I have this loud voice telling me to be an online missionary.  So, after serving as a fulltime missionary in my community, the Lord led me to the media office of the Bishops’ conference!  Truly, the Lord will guide you and take you there, just let Him.  By active discernment, I mean that as you pray for the right community or setting, attend different conferences, talk to a spiritual director, seek it out, and be sure your heart will lead you there.

I hope you all enjoyed reading Sky’s story!  I’ll see you all on Saturday!!

Maddy

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