One of the benefits of becoming involved in an organization is being able to tap into that organization’s network whenever and wherever you are in the world. For Ricky Cuenca, it was his involvement in Couples for Christ that helped him and his family transition into life in Canada. It was also through his activities with the group that he was able to find his calling in life, that being one of helping the poor, establishing ANCOP Canada, and spreading the love and faith of Christ.
Ricky was born in Manila in 1955 to a father that was a government employee and a mother that was a schoolteacher. His hard-working parents were able to send him to good schools while he was growing up. Ricky graduated from De La Salle University, and upon graduation he found work in a finance company.
After three years, Ricky established his own businesses: a fishing business, and an imported car dealership. He met his wife Irma and got married in 1979. They had two daughters, born in 1979 and 1983. Life was going well for Ricky and his family.
And then one day in 1986, Ricky was invited to join a group called Couples for Christ, and that changed the course of his life.
“I was brought to the Lord when I was invited to join a group called Couples for Christ,” he said.
Couples for Christ is a renewal ministry for the promotion of the enrichment of marriage and family life. Through various activities, the values of family life and marriage are strengthened and nourished.
“Upon joining Couple for Christ my married life and family life improved and became better, and I really started and became dedicated in serving God and the poor,” he said.
Ricky continued with his businesses and his Couples for Christ activities until in 1997, he decided to take his involvement with the group and his faith to another level.
“There was a calling, for me to go to Canada and migrate . . . it was not for greener pastures, because at that time I was not rich but I was in business at that time and life was pretty good for me already,” he said.
So Ricky left his businesses and everything else behind to move to Canada and pursue the calling of the lord, to grow the mission of Couples for Christ in Canada.
“I became full-time for Couples for Christ, so I was no longer selling cars, but then I was selling Christ . . . to really bring more people into it so that they would experience the love of Christ in their marriages and in their families,” he said.
It was Ricky’s connections through Couples for Christ that helped him and his family establish themselves in Canada. CFC members in Canada were there to welcome him and his family upon their arrival. They found an apartment for Ricky and his family to live in, helped with finalizing documents needed to complete the move, and helped with things such as the opening of bank accounts. They helped Ricky get a car to move around, and they helped his wife get a job as a real-estate broker.
“I would say that I was really fortunate and blessed because the members of the Couples for Christ really assisted me in my migration to Canada,” he said.
In 2002, after firmly establishing his family in Canada, Ricky knew he wanted to do more to spread the good work of Couples for Christ, not just to within the families of the members, but also to the less fortunate out there.
“The work of Couples for Christ is not only limited to evangelization, because we were also called to help the poor . . . because we in Couples for Christ would really not only look at the blessings that we received in our marriages and our families, but we were told by the Lord to share our blessings, especially to those that are in need and the less fortunate,” he said.
With that in mind, Ricky and two other people established ANCOP Canada (ANswering the Cry Of the Poor) in 2001.
ANCOP Canada is a registered charitable non-profit organization that was founded in Toronto, and has since expanded to include multiple branches all across Canada. It is part of a much larger network of ANCOP organizations around the world.
ANCOP organizations seek to provide solutions to extreme poverty by targeting the poorest of the poor and responding to their needs, without discriminating on the basis of faith or compelling recipients to accept Christian beliefs. So far, ANCOP Canada and its partners have built over 2500 homes for the poor in the Philippines and sent over 3000 poor children to school.
From 2002 until 2010, Ricky was President of ANCOP Canada, helping see the organization grow and expand across Canada while fulfilling its mission of helping the poor.
In 2010, Ricky was called back to the Philippines, where he became Chairman of Couples for Christ Global Mission, helping CFC grow in places such as Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone, and India. Upon finishing his term in 2014, he came back to Canada and once again resumed his post as President of ANCOP Canada.
“The poor is central to the Gospel, and we cannot live our lives here without helping the poor, so as president of ANCOP it is my desire to really grow the work of the mission by expanding and increasing our revenues so that many poor people will benefit,” he said.
“When we are able to help the poor, what happens to them is that it’s not only the material aspect of their lives that is being changed, it is also the values that they are able to adapt in their lives, it is the behavioral and the attitude change that happens to those that we are giving benefits and help to . . . so what happens really is they become a better person. That is the effect of the program,” he added.
It is clear that Ricky’s involvement with CFC and his work with ANCOP has led to a happy and fulfilling life. Both of his daughters are now grown up and married, and they too are members of CFC. It was through CFC that his family’s transition into Canada was made smooth, and that is why he wants other people to join the group.
“Maybe one of the things that people will consider is joining Couples for Christ, because what we do is sharing and helping and loving together, and that is what community life is all about, that is what our missions is, to be able to really help one another,” he said.
Ricky understands the plight of the new immigrant, having come across many such people during his time in Canada. He gave some advice to those new immigrants who may be facing some difficult times.
“Perseverence. I have a lot of friends now and many in the community that have experienced the same thing. Some would have to take on menial jobs, even if they had good jobs in the Philippines. Many were managers there, had executive positions. But we just move on. Persistence and perseverance, and after a year or two or three they were also able to get the jobs that they wanted,” he said.
“But more important than perseverance and persistence and not giving up, I would say that the best way to overcome all of these challenges is through prayers and faith in God. God will never abandon us, and he will provide for us because he loves us so much and that he will take care of us as long as we remain faithful to him, and we will be all right . . . I am very confident that God is a loving God and that God provides and I know that he’s out there and that he will really take care of us,” he added.
For now, Ricky hopes to continue his work with CFC and ANCOP to expand the organization even further and to help as many poor and unfortunate people as possible.
“My goal right now is to focus on the work of ANCOP, and I can see that there are many opportunities that are available for ANCOP being able to expand and improve and grow and raise our revenues, so that is what I will do in the next couple of years. And as far as Couples for Christ and the foreign missions, there are still millions of people that have to hear the good news of the Lord, and this is my way of being witnesses to them, being a good model, and really being able to share the love of Christ with them,” he said.
“ So with God there and with my spouse and my family and my community, I am so confident that things will be all right.”