“A Strong Foundation” by Yelly Romero
At eighteen years old, I didn’t really expect anything more than to graduate from high school, get accepted into a college, and finally feel like I was turning into an adult. In the Church, turning eighteen meant I was turning KADIWA (unmarried members of legal age), and little did I know that at eighteen years old I would experience something that would not only be in my heart forever but from then on shape what I wanted my future to be.
In January 2011, I got accepted to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I applied for the School of Architecture undergraduate program. Even as my acceptance letter came in the mail, I was still unsure that architecture was a path I wanted to take on. My dad introduced the idea to me because he knew I had strengths in art and math, but choosing architecture still felt like a last minute decision just to make my parents happy (without having to agree on their “go-to choice” of nursing). I voiced no other opinions and just hoped it was the right choice for me.
Soon after, my home Local Congregation of Bloomingdale began renovations. For as long as I could remember, the head deacons would always pray for our chapel to be renovated at every worship service and now that it was happening, I admit that I wasn’t sure what it all meant. Then we were notified that our Brother Eduardo V. Manalo would be officiating our chapel dedication—in six weeks. That meant our renovation plans needed to be completed soon. I wondered how fast were chapels usually renovated? There was still a lot to be done in the chapel before our scheduled date of renovation.
I felt such a rush and immediacy to help out as much as possible. I experienced this first hand, through my dad. My dad worked the morning shift at his job as a civil engineer, so he was very familiar with construction work. Each day during those weeks of renovation, he would not come home after his shift at work, but instead he would go straight to the house of worship. Even on worship service weeknights, we would meet him there, with a change of clothes for him in hand, so we could all perform and worship that night.
Everything just felt so right, that my dad and many other members were helping every night. No one was assigned to be there but everyone volunteered their time each of those nights to be sure that the construction would be completed in a timely manner.
For me, there wasn’t much hands-on work I could do until the final stages of renovation. So while all the heavy duty work was still being done, all I could do was watch. On the nights I was able to accompany my dad, I watched what he and many other brothers were doing. They ripped out carpet, measured and cut wood, lifted materials and tools in and out of the main sanctuary, wood frames were put up for walls, steps were being added for an elevated podium… and really, that’s when it all hit me.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. God was the one who tasked those brothers who were knowledgeable in construction to help in our chapel renovation. God was the one who gave my dad the skills and strength he needed every single day he worked during the renovation. And me? Well, I believe God showed me these things to really assure me that architecture was indeed the right path to pursue.
Our house of worship renovation wasn’t only a blessing to our local congregation, but it felt like a personal blessing to me. I went from being so unsure about architecture to having this feeling that God was guiding me this entire time. Sure, I was still clueless as to the kind of work I would need to do in college to become an architect, but suddenly I was excited because I finally knew what I wanted to do. At the end of it all, I knew I wanted to design and help build chapels all around the world. On April 13, 2011, the Local Congregation of Bloomingdale offered a beautiful house of worship to God, and I was so happy to be a part of the process.