TWENTY-FIVE years ago, in April 16, 1985, the Bukas Loob sa Diyos was established in Bacolod City. Twenty-five years has passed and it just seemed like yesterday when Gigi Campos invited Toots and me to join the first marriage encounter in Bacolod.

We both spontaneously consented but when the appointed day came, I was running a fever of 40 and only became a member as a Solo Parent around 3 years ago. The LORD always has different plans for us.

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What is the Mission and Vision of the BLD (its acronym)? BLD is a communion of families and a community of persons called together as one people through the moment of encounter and a process of renewal to a relationship of faith, hope, and love with God. We are reconciled with the Father by our saving faith in Jesus Christ, renewing trust in the Holy Spirit, and by our uniting compassion with one another. We are blessed with personal gifts - spiritual and natural, innate or acquired - which we yield to the Word and the Spirit. We give freely and fully of ourselves, love and serve one another as we seek and proclaim God's Kingdom. We commit, as disciples of Jesus, to speak the words and do the deeds of Christ among the Roman Catholics and among others to whom we are called by the Lord.

BLD's Charisma is that we are the Lord's under-shepherds. We will be witnesses to the Word that others may hear and understand. We will be counselors with the Spirit, that others may have healing and wholeness. We will be defenders in Christ of those who suffer injustice and oppression.

As a communion of encountered families, we are called by the LORD to build communities of disciples of Jesus Christ who, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will renew and strengthen our Christian faithful through programs of Christian Encounter (Marriage, Family, Solo/Single Parent, Singles and Youth Encounters, and Life in the Spirit Seminars) of Spiritual Growth, of Pastoral Care and of Poverty Alleviation.

"Bukas Loob Sa Diyos" is a Filipino name; in English, it is "Open In Spirit To God." The original name reflects BLD's country of origin, The Philippines. Today, however, members of the Community live throughout the world. A large number of members are to be found in North America, and call Canada and the United States home.

The community is Roman Catholic in its essence, charismatic in its activities and faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. Each BLD District is under the ecclesial authority of the local Archdiocese. This ensures that all activities and teachings of BLD Districts are in accordance with official doctrines and dogmas of the Church.

Communities are born, grow and give life...it is always good for communities to remember that their present situation is the result of the thousands of gestures of love. This obliges members to remember that the community of tomorrow is being born of our fidelity to the present. A Council of Elders (COE) formed the community with intention of conducting Marriage Encounters (ME), Life in the Spirit Seminars (LSS) and basic formation programs. The Council of Elders chose Matt.10:8b as the community's mission "The gift you have received, give as a gift." A prayer group was established in different locations. The prayer groups grew in membership and requested the community make available its programs. All this began in 1989, and was the birth of District development. To date, there are 51 districts.

Whether it's the weekly prayer meetings, the monthly healing mass, Life in the Spirit Seminars, teachings and workshops round the clock, those who spend time in BLD's Service Ministry are there with a smile, ready to go to work in the service of the Lord. There are many different ministries in BLD, and since members are assigned to serve the Community based on their gifts, it's inevitable that most will never serve in all of them. The exceptions are Service and Intercessory, which are familiar to all members because they are the two points of entry to ministerial work in BLD. To qualify, one must have finished a Life in the Spirit Seminar and a Growth in the Spirit Seminar. There are two things that the community cannot grow and thrive without and that is a heart in love with the Lord and a commitment to the service of our brothers and sisters.

For the 25th anniversary, the special guest was Most Reverend Angel Lagdameo, Archbishop of Jaro. In a conversation with Jimmy Golez, the question arose if life has really improved because of the BLD, the answer would be is that if yours has not improved, you can be sure, others' lives have improved. Why? Because it is a gift that you have received, and definitely you have selflessly also given it wholehearted to others likewise as a gift. With 5000 active covenanted disciples and 5000 members, indeed life must have truly improved.

Archbishop Lagdameo states with the example of decision of Christ to give up HIS life for us, discipleship in BLD comes with freely giving up all security and subordinating everything to evangelization. It is moving forward and facing the future and forgetting the past and always, always thanking GOD in anything and everything.

BLD members came in droves from all the different ministries whether families, couples, singles, solo parents and youth to give praise, worship and thanksgiving for keeping alive the 25 years that the Bukas Loob sa DIYOS has thrived and successfully multiplied in Negros because of gestures of selfless love!!!