I was baptized when I was a kid and I attended a Christian Catholic School. I was technically Christian and Catholic my whole life, but my faith was never relevant until 2009 when I encountered God in a powerful way.
Before 2009 I thought that I had a contract with Jesus. The contract said that if I was a good man and never hurt anybody I would have the key to heaven and eternal life. I never considered the fact that only my signature was on the contract. I started what I thought was the pursuit of my happiness, which at the moment was a big mountain far away in the horizon. I decided to get there my own way. However, my way was a country road, full of pot holes. I was too proud and I wanted to do it all on my own. My pride would not let me see beyond my own road. I now realize that Jesus was inviting me to try his way. His road was much smoother and a road that I could travel without anxiety. I ended up lost on my bumpy road.
October 2009 was the conclusion of 10 years of hard work learning English, saving money and, fulfilling requirements to be accepted into one of the most recognized universities in Canada. I thought to myself, “I did it, I am here in Canada, I am finally living my dream, I knew you could do it Roberto, you always do it. I have reached the summit of the mountain.” As I ran that last thought through my mind, I had a sudden realization; “I am completely empty.” Something was missing. I broke to pieces as I realized the sad truth of my life; I had everything on the outside- family, friends, a girlfriend – I was living my dream. I had everything I wanted and at the same time I had nothing. I believed family, friends, work, gifts, parties, alcohol, and girlfriends would fulfill the emptiness I felt. In that moment I understood that I could get everything that I wanted in a material world but not real happiness. In that moment I was standing alone in my kitchen, crying like I had never cried before in my life. I cried out to God “I surrender to you Lord, take my life, it has always been yours, I put the rest of my life in your hands.”
Just by doing that, I felt that a huge weight was taken from my shoulders. I felt free and lighter. For the first time I knew somebody was watching over me, over my future and decisions. It was one of the most relaxing feelings that I had ever experienced. I knew then that I needed help to better understand my Catholic faith. I remembered that for two years I had been receiving weekly emails about CCO events. God seemed to tell me it was time to stop playing the game on my own. I have been able to strengthen my relationship with God through Christian fellowship, going to Mass, prayer and reading the bible.
Since my decision to follow Jesus, I am no longer alone, the whole world is amazing. It does not matter where I am going to be for the rest of my life. I no longer fear death and I have confidence in Eternity. I want to focus the next years of my life on doing what He expects me to do during my time on Earth. There is no fear of moving forward to a new place. The world is the same everywhere when you have Christ in your life. People, places, friends and everything change; but God is steadfast and he is always with you. I think the greatest thing that God did in my life was take away my anxiety and give me a peace that the world cannot give. Those anxieties that make you worry every single day in your life. The thoughts that bully you with question such as; “Am I going to fail? Am I doing right? Is this the life that I want? Is this the right thing to do? Is this the pursuit to happiness? Am I happy?” I finally can say that I understand happiness because I believe in Jesus and I know that He is with me every single second of my life.
Roberto Forte, who was born and raised in Panama, a small country in Central America, recently shared a powerful experience of God with other students at CCO’s monthly speaker event “The Hub”. He shares how he connected with CCO after this experience and how he continued to grow and live out his faith. He is a former graduate student from Dalhousie and has moved back to Panama. Currently Roberto is working as a Executive Director of the Panama Green Building Council, a non-profit organization.