I was supposed to be in Makati until evening. She was supposed to have early lunch somewhere else. It was her birthday and her former student’s mom, Mayette, our occasional guest wanted to take Teacher Fe out.
A jumble of uninformed venue change for my seminar, lack of gas, and traffic delay caused us to instead cross paths at my shop where we ended up chatting. Eventual fruit of that meeting is this inspiring story of Teacher Fe Gochuico, Administrative Officer and Registrar of The Learning Tree, who has had a lot of experience in life and gained wisdom to share.
What was your most significant memory about your youth? Studies show that in a Filipino family, one of the children takes on the role of “taga salo” (one who catches); in our family, it was I. Even though I was fifth out of seven siblings, I felt it was my obligation to make sure that things were okay with each of them. I studied hard to be on top of the class because it was important for me to earn my parents’ approval.
Before I turned eighteen, I had a nervous breakdown. I found myself crying in the night, worried sick about my siblings. Often, I felt that the world was coming to an end or someone was running after me. I spent ten months in the hospital in the care of Baguio’s first psychiatrist while my parents looked for ways to pay for my hospital bills.
I knew my father loved us very much but did not know how to show his affection for us. Because of his strictness, I learned to keep my emotions to myself, putting up a brave front even if at times I wanted to cry. In retrospect, this was my way of rebelling against my father’s strictness.
The psychiatrist used hypnosis to get me to talk and electric shocks for when I was restless. Because of the latter, I could not lie down on a flat surface without having flashbacks or nightmares. But when I got out of the hospital, I felt like a new person. All the garbage in had became garbage out. I was not afraid to express my emotions. I cried when I needed to. I was free like a bird. [Now when I counsel people, I encourage them to cry if they have to, for even our tears God is mindful of. ]
I thank the Lord for my parents who went through this journey with me. They themselves sought ways to reach out to us siblings. In the end, they became our friends and pillars of strength through trials.
I met my husband-to-be in UP [University of the Philippines]. He was my knight in shining armor who made me feel important and accepted despite what happened to me. After two years, we tied the knot. We lost our first baby due to a miscarriage and it took two years before I gave birth to our one and only Gema.
What circumstances led you to know the Lord? I had made my husband and daughter the center of my life; After six years of marriage, it started to fall apart. The possibility of separation became a harsh reality. There was unfaithfulness on both sides. My family was afraid that I would have another breakdown so they tried their best to reconcile us… to no avail. I read books about positive thinking, went abroad for a break. Praying the rosary became a refuge but still there was a void in my heart.
What was the turning point that led you to surrender your life to His lordship? Surrender came after guilt, shame, and the weight of sin became heavy on my heart on top of the thought that I let my family down again. I had no one to turn to; my back was against the wall. His Lordship came later in my spiritual life as I was discipled and disciplined by the Lord.
Was there someone who shared God’s Word with you that led you to know Christ? September 3, 1980 was God’s divine appointment for me. I was invited to join a Bible study. I obliged, thinking there was nothing to lose. The Bible leader, Gloria Soriano, shared the gospel. But overcome by guilt, shame and anger, I could not fully understand her. Afterwards, one-on-one, she repeated the gospel and led me to pray. I remember very clearly the words that came out of my mouth: “Lord, hindi ko na kaya (I can’t take this anymore).” Right after, I felt a heavy load taken off my shoulders; then, I experienced such peace and joy I could not describe. After that, I felt I would be able to handle any trial that came my way after all I had gone through. The rest is history… HIS story.
Do you think a person’s relationship with her earthly father affects her view of God? I wanted to depend on myself instead of God mainly because I was a very proud person. I wanted to prove to others that I could handle things by myself and that I did not need anybody. My pride and my silent but rebellious nature controlled me. I did not think of God as a stern person so in my case, my relationship with my earthly father did not affect my view of God.
What changes took place in your life after you received Christ? Immediately after I received Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I had no more desire for green jokes.
The desire to read the Bible became apparent. I would read and read and read and from it oftentimes, words would just pop out as if to say to me – “This is for you”. My spiritual mother discipled me week after week for a year and a half before she and had to leave the country.
Even though I used to be shy, I started sharing the gospel with anyone looking for meaning in life.
Was it a happily-ever-after with Jesus or did trials continue? It was definitely not a happily-ever-after. A year after I met the Lord, my husband left us.
Do you think that the Lord perfectly equipped you for that trial by enabling you to meet him a year prior? Oh yes, indeed. When our pastor and his wife heard of our looming separation, they came to me despite the rain and shared 1Cor 7:15 “But if the unbelieving spouse separates himself, let him be separated, let him go. In circumstances like these, the brother or sister is not enslaved – God has called you to a life of peace”. A week after, my husband left. Difficult as it was, I submitted to the perfect will of God. I would learn to lean on Him alone.
I may have lost a husband but I gained Christ and that is all that matters. This may sound so harsh but this is the truth because our story is not yet complete.
At that time, I was already planted in a church . When I found out that my husband had taken all of his clothes and golf trophies, the first thing I did was go to our church with my daughter and seek counsel. I actually felt very sad for my husband because he did not have the joy and peace I had.
My husband did not support us anymore from the time he left us. I had to raise my daughter by myself, continue working in order to pay for our bills.
I had to deal with comments like “Where is your God?” or “You can go to any church except a Christian church”.
How did you deal with those? I did not argue. I just prayed to God that one day they would understand and see that my God is a great God. For me, obedience to God is what matters.
How did you overcome your challenges? By reading His Word, claiming His promises for me and my daughter and for my husband, going to every Bible class that the church offered. The Lord gave me a group of women who prayed with and for me whenever I was discouraged. He always provided me with a discipler to make sure that I grow spiritually.
Whenever I am faced with a challenge, I ask the Lord to speak to me through His Word and when He does, I say “Okay, Lord. You know what You are doing. Please give me the grace to go through this challenge. I know that this, too, will pass”.
Through life’s challenges, the Lord has taught me to wait on Him no matter how long it takes. For as Dr. Brian Bailey put it so clearly: “ALL YOU ARE INTERESTED IN IS GETTING THROUGH THE TRIAL QUICKLY. BUT GOD WANTS US TO GET THE TREASURES IN DARKNESS.”
You mentioned you “claimed promises for… your husband.” What do you pray for him? When my husband left us, he came to the house, like when Gem was ill. My prayer for him then was salvation, thinking that if he got saved, he would come home for good. This was a wrong motive for praying so. He left for the US and has lived there with his partner for some thirty years now.
I continued to pray for his salvation and that someday my daughter and I would get to see him again. I did not poison my daughter’s mind with negative things about my husband. I prayed she would not harbor ill feelings toward her father. Early in life, she was made to understand that she may not have an earthly father but she has a Heavenly Father. I am sure she struggled with this especially when she saw her friends having fun with their fathers.
Because God is good, Gema’s papa came home after twenty-five years of absence. When they saw each other in the airport, they embraced each other as if nothing had happened. He spent a week in the Philippines and flew back to the US with the promise that he would come back.
He deferred his dialysis procedure so he could came back for Gema’s wedding. During that visit, he told me he received Jesus as His Saviour through his brother.
People ask me, “What if he comes back?” In my finite mind I cannot see this happen but if this is part of God’s agenda for me, so be it.
What impacted you most about being saved? The LORD’s forgiveness, joy, and peace that I experienced when I surrendered my life to Jesus.
How did that impact the rest of your life? Knowing and experiencing God’s forgiveness helped me learn to forgive myself and others.
In the early years of separation, I asked the Lord to spare me from seeing my husband with his partner because I would not be able to handle it. God was so gracious to grant this. In 2004, however, my daughter (on her own accord) thought of writing her Papa’s partner to tell her that she had forgiven her. I also wrote her a letter and eventually, we became friends. When she came to Manila, Gem and I took her out for lunch and even went shopping to get things for Gem’s Papa and stepsister.
Forgiveness and hospitality to the woman who led your husband to leave you and your daughter… why, how, what?
God has a time for everything. When I went to the States, five years after my husband left me, my spiritual mother gave me a book with a chapter on forgiveness. I realized I hadn’t forgiven my husband from the heart. The author suggested I go back to the specific things done to me that hurt me. One by one, cast them out. That spelled the victory. When the thoughts would come back and I was tempted to feel hurt again, I would say, “Sorry Satan, I already forgave him for that.” So the sting was gone and the offenses lost their power to hurt me again.
What were/are the greatest challenges in your work? While I was working in Loyola Life Plan, the company was going through retrenchment. I had to decide whether to stay or resign . I struggled because resigning would mean no money to pay bills plus I would have to look for someone to disciple the women I had shared the gospel with. I knew that the Lord wanted me to know Him as my provider. After prayer and seeking counsel, even amidst negative comments, I resigned. The Lord provided for our needs for the next year through the early retirement pay the company offered for the first time.
I did not work for one year thereafter. I spent time with my daughter. Being at home when she came home from school helped stabilize her emotions and give her a sense of security despite her father’s absence.
What would be your encouragement for single moms and children of single parent families? Know Jesus as Lord and Saviour: Remember you are complete in Jesus. Trust that the Lord will take care of your needs (emotional and material). He is your Provider and Husband. Continue to read His Word; have a group of women who can pray for and with you. Do not talk to others about your husband but talk to God about him. “Your beauty should not consist in externals such as fancy hairstyles, gold jewelry or what you wear; rather, let it be the inner character of your heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit. In God’s sight this is of great value”. (1Pet 3:3 -4)
For children who know Jesus, respect your father even if you feel he does not deserve it. Focus on your studies, be kind to your siblings if you have any, stick close to one another, support one another in prayer.
For those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Saviour: This may be the time for you to surrender your life to the Lord. It is God’s desire that all will turn to Him and away from sins.
What are the most fulfilling aspects of your work? I asked the Lord to give me a verse that would give me direction. Then our pastor told me, “Fe, you have a way with children. You should have more”. How was this possible when my husband was gone? May 1984, the Lord directed my eyes to Psalm 113:9 “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. As the days went by, it became clear that the Lord wanted me to become part of The Learning Tree, an educational institution for young children. Our school directress, Teacher Francie, dropped by our apartment to deliver fliers announcing that she was opening a preschool. The Lord gave me the courage to ask if I could work with her even if I did not have credentials of a teacher. For two years, I assisted her in the classroom, followed her around, observed how she handled young children, asked her all the questions I had regarding children.
I went on to take my Masters in Family Life and Child Development at UP Diliman which I finished in five years.
In the meantime, Teacher Francie had the faith to let me handle my own classes. I taught the 2- and 3- year olds for sixteen years.
When I turned fifty, I was asked to take care of administrative matters since we were opening the Grade School Department. Although I do not teach children in the classroom anymore, I am still involved in their lives. I find fulfillment in being able to impact the lives of these young children who will be future fathers and mothers of families and the leaders of our country.
I thank the Lord for the opportunity and freedom to share the gospel with mothers, who in turn influence their husbands by their changed lives. It is a joy to see families grow in their faith with their children.
What benefit do you see when mothers hear the gospel? When mothers continue to walk in the ways of the Lord, their husbands eventually come to the saving knowledge of Christ. Changed lives of the mothers speak louder to their spouses more than nagging.
How do you avoid getting weary in your Christian walk? I seek to choose my battles and allow the Lord to choose my inheritance. This way, I do not have to elbow my way to earn something, whether material or spiritual. God has a plan for my life, He longs to give me the best. When I allow Him to choose my inheritance, I can be sure this is the best for me and there is nothing else I can ask for.
How is Jesus as a longtime Husband? Jesus is my longtime Husband who will forever be faithful, never leave me nor forsake me; whose love for me will never change. He is my friend – I can tell Him how I feel without fear of being criticized or mocked. He picks me up without condemnation when I fall. What a joy it is to fall deeper and deeper in love with my Husband, Jesus.
What is He teaching you in this season of your life? To make sure that I am faithful to His calling for me. I can be doing things “for Him” but if I am not doing what He has called me to do, all of those will not mean much especially if I want to Hit the Mark and receive my full inheritance. Being faithful to His calling will make me an overcomer even amidst trials and prepare me to be the bride He is coming for.
What do you mean by “things He called you to do?” God has a calling for each of us and He chooses us to fulfill this calling sometime in one’s journey. Looking back, I could say that God called me to be a teacher of young children when I was in Grade School. I liked playing with little children and teaching them. However, He could not choose me then to be a teacher because I did not know Him yet as my Lord and Saviour. God worked out my circumstances so I could consider His calling for me. It was still my choice to follow that path or not. I am thankful that I chose God’s calling for me. It is now my responsibility to be faithful to it.
Can you please explain “the Bride Jesus is coming for?” God is preparing a Bride for Jesus to present to the Father when He returns. The bride is the church which is composed collectively of people who know Jesus as Lord and Saviour and who will walk in obedience to Him until the very end.
What are you most looking forward to? I am looking forward to the the time when Jesus will come back. It is my prayer that I will be qualified to reign with Him in the millennium.
Which verse talks about reigning with Him in the millennium? Revelation 20:4
In the meantime, I look forward to going to Israel whenever I can to be witness to what the Lord is doing to fulfill His promise to the Jews. It is a privilege to be an intercessor for Israel—- its land, and its people.
Why do you intercede for Israel? The Lord birthed in my heart the love for Israel and the Jewish people sometime in 2005. We have a small group of women that meets every Thursday to pray for Israel. It is one way of blessing God’s chosen people. (It is important to pray for Israel because whatever happens to Israel will affect all nations.0
Another way is by supporting the financial needs of the Messianic churches (churches composed of Jews who have come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ).
Genesis 12:1- 3 “Now Adonai said to Abram, ‘Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your Father’s house, and go to the land I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed’”. It is God’s plan to bless all nations and He has chosen Israel to be His means for blessing the nations.
Which of your trials has God been using the most as your greatest ministry? God does not allow anything to happen that will just go to waste. The trials I have been through all help me become a good listener who can empathize with people undergoing challenges or who may have lost hope. The Lord is using me to comfort others. When I get invited by groups to teach, the trials I share are able to touch lives because they are from experience, from the heart. The Lord is using my life as a testament of His faithfulness, love, and forgiveness.
What is your life verse? My life verse is Lam 3: 21 – 24 (CJB) “But in my mind I keep returning to something, something that gives me hope – that the grace of Adonai is not exhausted, that His compassion has not ended. On the contrary, they are new every morning! How great is your faithfulness! “Adonai is all I have,” I say: “therefore I will put my hope in Him”.
What a great God we serve! He alone deserves all the glory and the praise!
Awesome!! Praise the Lord!!!