Looking through the prism of her own life, Beena Manoj lovingly encourages young people to seek God’s big dreams for them.

“I have a dream, a song to sing…” So began a song by ABBA, a pop group that was the rage when I was in school. It was a song I could sing from my heart and I won several prizes singing this song. As a schoolgirl I had two dreams – one to become a singer, touring the world with a huge fan following and another to become a doctor. The first of these sprang from my heart and was my greatest desire; the second dream was my father’s, and I made it my own for the simple reason that I liked the sound of the title ‘Doctor’ before my name!

Having dreams and being hopeful is good and necessary. But very often it puts pressure on young people and can lead to frustration, disappointment and even despair when long cherished and deeply desired dreams are not realised. And that’s exactly what happened to me when I failed the medical entrance examinations and had to live a life devoid of the music I so loved for much of my college life. And then one day as a second year undergraduate student, I stopped dreaming altogether!  It was not out of a sense of hopelessness or despair, though. It was from a deep conviction that I gained following a retreat, that God was truly alive and able to act in my life and that He had created me out of love and for a great purpose – that He had BIG DREAMS for me:  “plans to prosper [me] and not to harm [me], to give [me] a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

It’s now close to 30 years since I made it my life’s mission to live out God’s dream for me by seeking His will and guidance in every step I take and every decision I make and to go wherever he leads me, always listening for His voice.  Looking back on my journey as a Jesus Youth in these 3 decades, I realise how much this movement, which has drawn me close to the heart of the Church, has helped shape my identity as a woman. Stepping gingerly into the unknown waters of Jesus Youth as a young student in college, I was swept away by the current, soon to find myself confidently riding the waves. Such was the liberation and empowerment I experienced as the movement reached out to embrace me, giving me space to grow, the sunshine of fellowship to warm my heart and opportunities galore to put my talents to good use. Across the years, it has also given direction to the way I live out my vocation as wife, as mother and as teacher. It is my journey with Jesus in the Jesus Youth movement that has taught me what it means to be a woman and how to nurture life at home, on the job or in the culture.

The six pillars, is what kept me rooted in Christ and His church. And if it were not for Jesus Youth I might never have adopted an evangelistic lifestyle which is a hallmark of the movement. The prayer meetings, cell groups, fellowship gatherings and programmes in the early years instilled in me a great desire to witness to my faith and lead people to a personal encounter with God particularly in my workplace.  I was convinced from the time I started out, that teaching was a vocation and not merely a profession – that this was something God had called me to; that each student was entrusted to me in a special way. In fact my Principal told me even as she handed me my appointment letter that she was placing the spiritual well-being of the college in my hands – a big mandate for a  junior lecturer – one that I’ve tried to live out in all my years at St. Teresa’s College. Not only has the Lord used me and given me ever so many opportunities to reach out to my students, he has also enabled me to see it bearing fruit in their lives. Often I am astounded by the testimony of students when they come to see me – sometimes several years after their graduation. It is amazing how God uses our words and deeds whether big or small to transform lives. As St Paul says, “We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor. 5:20)

So, then, what became of my dreams as a young girl? Truly, I can only stand in awesome wonder before the greatness of God’s goodness and mercy. As the lead singer of Rexband I have toured 20 countries, sung before thousands of youth from across the world at 6 World Youth Days and even sung before our dear Saint – John Paul II! As for my second dream, I was the a University topper  for BA and MA, got a job in St Teresa’s College where I’m still teaching as the Head of the Department of English; and with the conferring of a Doctoral degree in English Literature, I also got the title ‘Doctor’! God is ever loving, ever giving, ever faithful. When I set aside my dreams for His, and took delight in doing His will, He made my little dreams part of His own big dream for me. And am I glad I stopped dreaming and decided to seek out God’s dream for me! For His dream is way bigger than mine and far more beautiful – with plenty of space to accommodate even my smallest desires. And when at times the going gets tough, as when I lost my first baby, or challenges threaten to crush me, I remind myself to pray: “Lord, in Your will alone is my peace”.

So I would encourage all the youth, particularly young women, to simply go ahead and do as the psalmist says: “Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your ways to the Lord; trust in Him and He will bless your plans” (Ps 37: 4,5).

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