Emmanuel Garcia

Why did you attend the program?

I attended Encuentro primarily due to the recommendation of my Godmother who was familiar with Encuentro. She explained it and I immediately knew it would be perfect for me. I knew this would be a chance for me to express my faith with other high school students, as well as continue to grow spiritually. 

At the time, I was struggling with finding my purpose in life. My mind was taking me in so many directions that I felt I needed help listening to God’s calling. I hoped Encuentro would allow me to talk with others and gain more perspective of His will for me.


How was your experience during Enceuentro? 

I had the best experience of my life during my week at Encuentro. I met so many amazing people that I was able to easily relate to because of my faith and other shared interests. It felt refreshing to be around like-minded people who were going through some of the same struggles I was. 

Having the ability to openly and freely talk and express my feelings to others was something that I longed for, and having that chance helped me feel much better and reassured.


What were some of the changes you noticed after? 

I felt more reassurance and trusting of God’s plan for my life. I also felt re-energized and refreshed spiritually, and was more prepared than ever to go out and spread His word through my faith and actions. Encuentro gave me the foundation to take on a bigger role at my church and help me lead through different ministries around the parish.


What did you learn about yourself, the world, or ministry?

I learned to be a lot more receptive to God’s calling and that maybe not everything required so much looking into and overthinking. If I was meant to do something, I realized that God would make it readily apparent to me. I also learned that I am a fighter and will not let things overwhelm me. 

I was struggling at the time with a major, unknown health issue, and having the opportunity to pray over it and talk about it let me know that I had the support and prayers of others. Those moments taught me to fully trust God and allow Him to lead me through any obstacle, no matter how hard it may seem.


Do you feel better equipped for the future? 

I do feel a lot more prepared for the future after attending Encuentro. I found ways to be more open and trusting to God’s plan. I also felt more sure about what I was doing and that I would be well prepared to face any challenge thrown my way.


What was the best thing about Encuentro?

The best thing about attending was the nights we sat around and shared our stories. After hearing others share their stories, it gave me the confidence and comfort to open up about what had been bothering me for over a year. 

The year before Encuentro, my grandfather had passed away, and during that time, I held on to so much regret for not being able to be there with my grandfather in his last moments. I had so many questions and struggles, and letting it all out took a major weight off my chest. That vulnerability and comfort with the other participants is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. 

We all had a big group hug after sharing our stories, and the love I felt in that room was indescribable. That moment was by far the best moment of Encuentro—and one of the best moments in my life.


How have you engaged in ministry since the program or how do you plan to be engaged in ministry in the future? 

I engaged a lot more in ministry when the program ended. Myself, along with two other Encuentro friends/participants helped to create, organize and carry out a retreat for altar servers at our church. Additionally, I become much more involved with my church’s Life Teen program. I began helping to organize events, lead small group discussions and various other tasks for the program. Encuentro gave me the foundation to go out and more fervently live a servant’s life.


What advice would you give to someone who wanted to attend?

I would tell anybody thinking about attending Encuentro to go ahead and do it. Go in with an open mind and be willing to interact with others. Choosing to attend the program was one the best decisions of my life, and I will forever hold close the memories I made at Encuentro. Choosing to go to the program will be something that you will never regret. Go to Encuentro and be willing to be receptive to God’s word and the words of others. Most of the participants will be in similar situations as you, and the advice and wisdom they can provide will help you get through any situation you face in life.