Terri Heng

Testimony for the Conversion Experience Retreat Outreach

I attended the recent Conversion Experience Retreat in Sep 2008. Perhaps like many of you, I too resisted the notion of attending a conversion retreat. A very good friend had been urging me to attend one for a long time. I had many excuses and was gleeful that my baby was the best excuse.

Deep within, I did not think that I needed conversion – I was in my own eyes, a good Catholic. I reasoned – I do not kill or steal, I do not do drugs, I do not prostitute myself and I am intrinsically a good person. When my firstborn was diagnosed with a terminal illness and subsequently left us, I did not raise my fist at God and ask, “Why me?” I was proud that I was able to praise God in all those difficult moments. I was also going for Praise and Worship sessions, and attending daily mass. To my friends, I was holy, good and loving. So why would I need conversion?

To stop my friend from badgering me repeatedly and she would do so every three months, especially before the early bird specials end, I finally signed up for the Sep 2008 session.
In my email to a close friend a day before the retreat, I wrote to tell her: “I am not quite sure what to expect. In fact, I have been thinking what it is that I want to be touched by. I always feel that people who attend such retreats have some immense brokenness that they want the Lord to heal them of, and I kept thinking that I am not angsty enough, not pained enough, for this. So it will be interesting to see what God will open my eyes and heart to.”

And what a beautiful retreat it was! The presence of the Holy Spirit was immense.

Over the next few days, God showed me my life in its entirety. It finally dawned on me why I had been going to confession again and again for the same sins – especially that of being an unloving, impatient wife and mother. Because we girls like to get together and complain about our husbands and how tough it is to care for the kids, I thought it was normal – all women rant and snap at their husbands and kids. But I was also exasperated all the time, and because I expected others to live up to my expectations, I was often frustrated and irritable. And you can guess that it made me a very unloving person. Fr William made me realize that my unloving nature was rooted in Pride. And I finally saw how broken I was, why I was finding fault with everyone and everything. I realize how I too was responsible for nailing Jesus to the cross.

For so long, I had compared myself with the sins of the world, and that made me think that my own sins are minor transgressions that would do no harm. But my sisters and brothers, we are not called to compare ourselves with the world – we are called to compare ourselves with Jesus. I cannot claim to love Jesus if I am accepting sin in my life, sin that will grow if left unattended and take over my whole being. I was reminded that sin and holiness are absolutely incompatible. I was trying to be holy on my own – I need to acknowledge that I am a sinner, and I need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly.

And the Lord spoke to me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In my utter brokenness and total surrender, I heard Him say, “God loves you. You must remember this.” And like the prodigal son in the parable, I felt God’s unconditional, inexhaustible love and mercy and a enveloping embrace that reached the deepest parts of my soul. It was the affirmation of a love I was seeking for for so long. I felt fully healed, with the knowledge that I am able to start anew on a clean slate.

I often describe the retreat to my friends as the awesome feeling of falling in love, head over heels for the first time. And when that happens, you want to share the excitement with others. I hope and pray that you will be much more open to attending the retreat than I was. Sometimes, we search many places to look for God, and to hear Him. But He is just right next to us, waiting for us to say yes to inviting Him into our lives.

Terri Heng
Conversion Experience Retreat #10