My name is Javier Francisco Kovacs Benitez. I’m 32 years old, and I’m a pride Paraguayan! I was raised as a Catholic since I was a kid and although my family broke up when I was a child, I became quite involved with the church while attending school, but this dramatically changed when I was about 18 years old.
When I started the University, I completely turned away from God, the Church and all that comes with it. I began to make my life and taking my decisions by letting the world influence me, completely ignoring what God had for me and what He wanted from me. I was like any other young man in search of happiness throughout professional fulfilment, addictions, parties, friends, and especially “financial success.”
It came to a point in my life when I hit the bottom, I felt unsuccessful, empty, hurt and nothing made sense to me, even though I had what every youngster desires: apartment, car, good income, etc. But God, who does not let be defeated in mercy and never surrenders, gave me the tools I needed to be rescued.
In 2014, when I was 29, by God’s will, the Shalom Catholic Community “got in my way” when I was forced to accommodate a missionary in my apartment. I remember my cousin’s words when she called me and said “Javi, I’m desperate!” because she needed a place to accommodate the last missionary who came to establish the mission in Asunción. Today I see this passage of my life as God himself hidden in my cousin’s words saying “listen to me!”, “pay attention!”. That night I welcomed a Brazilian missionary in my home, who did not speak Spanish, whom I did not know, and who probably realized that I was not “so happy” to having him around, but I can say today that this situation was one of the greatest blessings in my life, which I did not deserved, but which also testifies that the mercy of God reaches us all.
Pedro, the missionary, and I slowly became friends, and then through him, I became close to the other missionaries of Shalom, all Brazilians, who were initiating the work of God in my country. We travelled to many places in Paraguay. I took them to places that are beautiful for me. I showed them my country, my customs, and my culture. We shared many unforgettable moments, and I felt that I won priceless friends.
After about 2 months my new missionary friends moved into their home and they had a plan for me. One night they invited me to hang out with them, but what really was going to happen that night was a Baptism of the Holy Spirit. What happened in that Baptism would completely change my life, because I felt that God was there, He spoke to me, filled my emptiness and loved me personally. I also felt his calling, that there was something for me in that place. That night the first thing I had to modify in my life was my agenda, since I would spend more time with my friends in the community and start to get involved in activities. I began a journey within the community, reached by God through the work of evangelization.
From this moment, I felt that my life did not belong to me anymore. For this reason, and in a contradictory way, inside me, I wanted to resist, because I did not want to lose “control” of my life. Even though, God worked and began to break down my interior. I began a personal journey where I saw what once had a lot of value to me now it doesn’t or got replaced by Christian values, some of them were very radical to me at that time.
At the same time, I learned a new way of praying, a new way to praise the Lord and a new evangelization way. I felt identified with this new charisma and I knew I belong there. I began to see a face of God I did not know before, a face of infinite mercy, and a totally different Catholic Church than I had in mind, a young, happy, profound, committed, radical Church. I met young people like me, who search happiness and who wanted to see God in their lives, who were trying to be different from everybody else in this world that drags you away from the truth, and that felt fullness in their hearts.
I wanted to give more and more, but contradictorily I resisted, I did not know why, but I think it was the “old man” that had grown up in my interior for so many years, away from God. Because of this desire to resist, I decided to go to the United States to visit my family who lives there, and stayed a few months. During this time, I lived a desert in which God showed me how could life be without Him again, empty, meaningless, etc. As a result of this desert, and forced by circumstances I decided to return to Paraguay, and once there I was able to attend to the Shalom Youth Congress in Asuncion.
It was when I saw the play “The Song of the Irias” that once again God showed me who I was without Him, I could see a path of perdition since I felt identified with the Man in this play: it was me!
From this moment, my decision got stronger and I became very involved in the community. I participated in the activities, I let myself be shaped by God through the community’s orientation meetings, I contributed to the kerygmatic events like Camps, concerts, etc. And I was part of the music ministry of the Asunción mission. Then at the Holy Week retreat I had the opportunity and privilege to perform (nothing less than as Jesus!), I also participated and served in retreats, Life in the Spirit Seminars, Christian festivals, etc., where I felt fully happy to see how other people had a personal experience with Jesus Christ, the Risen who passed through the cross.
The following year, 2016, I took the vocational journey for the first time. It was a way to deeply know the charisma, where I was able to really know the community in all its aspects and I realized this is a path to salvation, which it’s not easy, it has challenges, but at the end it makes you fully happy. I realized that living in community our brothers and sisters can help you following Christ, in a world that teaches you to think only of yourself, and to take advantage of others to get what you want.
Today, after a really hard discernment, I moved to the USA leaving all behind and letting everything in God’s hands. I met the mission in Boston and the people that takes part of it; they welcomed me with open arms and joy.
I suffered a life threading health problem; I even had to fight for my life. This showed me again how extraordinary and incomparable God’s mercy can be. I could perceive how the prayer of all my brothers in the community had effect on me, and how God has given me brothers and friends all over the world.
Once again, I am taking the vocational journey (this time in Boston). I totally feel that I’m in God’s hands because in this journey I am discovering, day by day, what is God’s will for my life, and in spite of all the struggles with the “old man” I can feel a deep peace that only God can give you. I can also see how God makes all things new in my life, because literally He builds and destroys anything He wants, so that I can grow in holiness.
Under His grace, I want Him to allow me to continue on this journey, supported by those who had made a difference in my life, those who showed me the face of God. So many people are part of my life and somehow, they have helped me to become who I am, some of them more than others.
I thank God for this community because it saves me as well as others. I believe that God gave Shalom to the world so many young people get to know Him and live by His words; to have Him close to their hearts and become fully happy. The missionary life to which God calls us, demand us to evangelize in a new, young, radical way, strongly supported in the arts; I believe that this is the way to convert today’s world.