It’s hard to imagine that 7 months has gone by already. And now it’s time to come home. As I finish out my term here in the Philippines, I cant help think about all the things I’m going to miss and all things I wish I could take with me when I go. I also think about all the things I will be so happy to leave here! I know that I will have to adjust again to my own culture and that I might even feel uncertain about my decision to resume my studies… but I know God will get me through it. Its hard telling my Filipino friends that I’m leaving. Even though I try to assure them that I will come back and see them… that assurance really doesnt exist. I have had to say goodbye to dear friends before and it’s never easy. Its painful to say the least. I pray and hope that God makes a way for us all to be together again one day. I really would like to fulfill my promises and to share more of my life with these wonderful souls.
Well, this past month has been one to remember. My time here has definitely ended on a high note. I was anticipating being busy, but I truly didnt understand just HOW busy I was actually going to be. The month started with one of the most amazing experiences of my life as I got to join all of the foreign missionaries on their yearly retreat on the island of Bohol. It was literally “paradise”. No longer was I seeing the beauty of God’s wonderful earth from the pages of a magazine or on the travel channel, but it was right in front of my face and all around me. All I had to do was reach out and touch it. It was seriously a dream come true to walk along the white sand beach, go snorkeling in the crystal clear water, nap in a hammock suspended in between 2 palm trees, and to see exotic animals and landscapes with some of the finest people on earth. God really must love me or something because I dont deserve to be treated so well!!
The day after we got back from Bohol, the first missionary team from the USA arrived. Pastor Bruce Kinabrew, his family, and a team of 16 others joined us for a couple days of ministry in Manila. We visited a new church in Tondo where the team sang a song and Pastor Bruce brought a great word about sharing the faith. Bruce’s team wasnt here very long but as soon as they left I continued preparing for our next guest to arrive. Pastor Steve Edwards (a.k.a. Papa Steve) crashed the party here at BBC for a few days before he had to lead a team for One Hope for 2 weeks. It was so good just to get to hang out and talk with him. At the same time that Pastor Steve was visiting, our second team of missionaries from the USA arrived. This was a team of 9 missionary interns who signed up for a summer internship. It was up to me to make sure they got a truthful impression of what it’s like to be a missionary. I was really blessed by their hard work and their willingness to do the things I was asking them to do. We woke up early, painted, broke up concrete, prayed for people, sang songs, preached, gave testimonies, and served the Lord with all we had. I say we because I worked and served right along side them the whole week. Im not seeking glory, just stating the facts. I learned one thing… hosting a team is EXHAUSTING work. I am still worn out and they have been gone for 2 days!
Anyways, thats not all. My second favorite part of this month, next to the trip to Bohol, is what God has been doing with Breakthrough Student Center. (I know it should be my first favorite, but I’m just being honest.) We opened the student center on June 21st and from the first day until now, we have had a great response. I dont think that any of us knew just how big of a need this would be for the students. In our first week, we ended up printing over 300 membership applications. By the end of the first week, we had almost 20 students signed up. After the second week we had over 50 students signed up. And now in our 3rd week of operation, we have over 150 students signed up! Today was our first real day of tutoring and we were able to serve 16 students. Glory to God! Here are some pictures of whats been going on…
I am sad to be leaving this ministry just as it’s starting but I know that God has big plans and that He will accomplish what He wants to with or without me in the picture. For now, I will just pray for His provision and for the students to get the help they need.
I want to end this blog by saying thank you again to all of you who have supported me this year in prayer and in financial giving. I am blessed to be able to share with you what God has been doing here and I hope that your heart has grown fonder of the call to missions that God intends for all of us to hear. You have my love. God bless.
Did you know that butterflies can fly in the rain? I’m not talking about a light rain, mist, or sprinkle. I’m talking about the kind of rain that will leave you soaking wet in 3 seconds flat. Did you know that? Well, I just found out. It was only a few days ago that I was sitting outside my apartment having my lunch when it began to rain… i mean, pour. I was contemplating relocating to the kitchen when I noticed 2 butterflies flying around in the rain. It was so amazing to me. I thought, “How does the rain not hit their wings and wash off their butterfly wing dust? How is it that they are so light and fragile, yet not effected by the wind or rain?” I sat and finished my BBQ pork on a stick and just watched them for a while. When I asked how it is possible, some one replied, “It is to show us that we can do much even in great adversity.” For me, I have been facing some personal rain storms recently, and to be reminded that I can do much even in the face of great adversity was a great encouragement to me.
Well, June is here and there is so much that is about to happen. First, I would like to introduce to you a very special project that I have been working on…
BREAKthrough Student Center is a ministry of Jesus Cares Assembly of God church. Pastor Tony Cornel, the senior pastor, elected me to be the director of the student center ministry. Together with a committee of 6 people from the church, we have designed a program for students who need extra help in their subjects to find the help they need. We are offering math, science, and english tutoring… counseling… computer research lab… and some recreational mind building games. I have never done anything like this and it has taken me many long hours of planning and research to finally come up with something that I feel comfortable presenting to the congregation. Our goal is to create a neutral atmosphere for any student to come and feel welcome. We pray that the students will feel the love of Christ from the staff of volunteers and that the relationships we build with the students will open the door for discipleship. Although we will not force any kind of Christian agenda on anyone, it is our prayer that the Holy Spirit have His will in the lives of those who come to us for help. We are only planting seeds. The student center will have its opening day on June 21st. Please help us in praying for this ministry.
That isn’t the only thing happening in June. I will also be hosting 3 short term missions teams that will be coming to do ministry and get some missions exposure. The first team will only be with me for 2 days. They are making a short stop here to minister at a new church in Manila. The second team I am especially excited about because they are coming from my home church! They will be here for 11 days doing everything from campus improvement projects to helping me at the student center, childrens ministry at smokey mountain, youth ministry here in Valenzuela, and more. It is going to be a very busy and blessed 11 days. However, we are in the rainy season now and a lot can change in just a short time. Rain or shine, we will bless the Lord… and speaking of blessing… I will have a very special visitor coming at the same time as my home church. Pastor Steve Edwards will be coming to town for a visit! Its like Christmas. He is coming to lead a team for Book of Hope and has scheduled a few days with the team and me for some filipino style fun. Finally, the last team will be here the last week of June and into the first week of July. They are a team of college age missionary interns who are doing an intensive training with several different missionaries here in the philippines. They will be staying here at BBC for a week before moving on. We are going to be pouring into them a vision for missions that they will hopefully never forget. They will get a well rounded view of everything we do here and also ministries that are going on outside of BBC. All in all, its going to be a very long and tiring month. But a very wonderful and memorable one.
I just fee like I could really use your prayers at this time. Please pray that the weather is good while the teams are here and that all of their travel is smooth and safe. There will be enough adversity to face without the weather getting in our way too. But thanks to God because He can make something as gentle as a butterfly survive and overcome in the face of great adversity.
In the night hours I go walking. Down the city streets I roam. It is hot out and I am thirsty. I go looking for something cool and clean. Mighty Mart always has what Im looking for and the guard at the door knows why I have come. There is an understanding between us now. I dont even need to say anything. He and I just know. Im thirsty and I have come to make a purchase. Something cool. Something clean. I always say, “salamat po.” They always say, “thank you, sir.”
I make a clean getaway and make my way back home but I dont always make it back in one try. Sometimes I stop by to see how my friends are. Sometimes I stop to buy something tasty to eat. My friends know why I have come. I am thirsty. They know this and they dont even care. We sit and talk about nothing. I ask questions and they give me shy answers. They are not shy though. Their answers are shy. One of my friends is named Marie. They call her Ahyie. One of my other friends is named Leo. I forgot his full name but he is “a gay”. That means he is gay. One of my other friends is named Baldo. They call him Lowl. I dont know why, they just do. Lowl is gay too. One of my other friends is named Pepay. I think Pepay is a boy dressed like a girl. If not, then Pepay has a really deep voice for a girl. I have other friends there too, but there are too many names that I dont remember.
When I leave, my friends say goodbye but they know I will be back. They know this because it is hot outside. When its hot I get thirsty. When I get thirsty, I go looking for something cool and clean. And I know where to find it. Mighty Mart always has what Im looking for and the guard at the door knows why I have come. He knows.
The night is full of sounds. The cat is always meowing. The dogs are always barking. The mangos are always falling on the tin roof. The bats are always clicking. The frogs are always croaking. The lizards are always chirping. The thunder is always rolling. The tricycles are always throttling. The jeepneys are always running to and fro. My fan is always blowing. Sometimes I stay up all night listening to the music. And when dawn breaks, a whole new band takes the stage. Birds singing, people talking, doors opening and shutting, someone watering the plants, someone sweeping the driveway, traffic outside getting heavier and heavier, and if you listen closely enough…. you can even hear the temperature rising. But the cat is always meowing.
Sleeping isnt easy. Not like it used to be. Staying awake is what is easy now. I dont even have to try. I just am. Awake. I walk and I pray. I walk and I think. Sometimes I just walk. Sometimes I just think. Sometimes I just pray. From when the sky is black until its orange. When I sleep, I dream. I dream of being cold. I dream of the rain and wind. I dream of the ocean and the sand and the waves. When I wake up, Im covered in sweat. My bed is wet. It is HOT.
There is more to talk about than just how hot it is and how thirsty I get. There are things I could say. But why ruin the ending? Why spoil the plot? I will say this, however… my ancestors are from Iceland.
Have you ever been convicted with the thought, “I’m not living my life to the fullest.”? Have you ever overcome your nagging thoughts long enough to actually live? Such a thought can literally change your life in an instant and it might never be the same again. I am extremely blessed to be able to say that I truly love the life that God has given me. The sum total of all the sensational moments I have accumulated cannot be numbered. The combination of family and friends along with the experiences and love that I share with them make living this life more than fulfilling. Why is it then, that I ask such a question of myself? Am I living my life to the fullest?
If I am only doing the things that I know I comfortable doing, then I might not be living life as fully as I could. I may have the rare blessing of incredibly loving/supportive family and friends but I like how Mark Twain puts it, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I encourage you, the reader, to discover new moments in which to change your life forever. Instead of walking, try skipping. Instead of talking, try singing. Instead of saying nothing, SAY SOMETHING!! But do make the most of your life. You only have the one. ^_^
I digress. And onto lighter things. The rainy season is upon us! Thunder, lightning, and torrential rain makes me happy. It has been a very long time since I have been in a thunderstorm. I dont know why, I just really like thunder and lightning.
I just remembered that in my last entry, I said that I would give an update as to what all is going on. Well, like I said before… I am a very busy man. Every evening for the next week I will be assisting Pastor Bill with his class on world religions. I am responsible for the powerpoint and for any thing he needs. If it didnt take so much time to fight traffic getting to the extension and back, we could probably accomplish a lot more, but what can you do?
Besides that, the youth group from Jesus Cares AG has organized a youth rally for this weekend and I will be one of the guest speakers. I will be challenging the youth with a message on Christian entertainment Vs. secular entertainment. We are expecting over 50 students and teens from Valenzuela to come join us for the rally. Afterwards, we will invite them to come be a part of the Jesus Cares family. The purpose of the rally is to create an awareness among the teenagers that WE CARE ABOUT THEM and we want to get to know them. I am definitely excited about it.
On top of preparing powerpoint presentations for Pastor Bill and myself, working on my message for the youth rally, and participating in the usual church ministries, I am also organizing ministry for 2 short term missions teams coming in June. One of the teams is from my very own church in Lake Elsinore and you know that I cannot WAIT to see them. I am very excited about that. The ministry they will be doing here is going to be intense and extremely fulfilling. The 2nd team coming, which will actually be here before the team from my church, will only be here for a few days but the planning and preparation is all the same. It is a lot to do and a lot of responsibility… but thats not all.
The biggest part of what I am doing lately is a special project that the pastor from Jesus Cares AG has put me in charge of. Pastor Tony has had a vision for a long time of opening a student center for the students of the local high school to come get council, tutoring, and fellowship from people who love the Lord. And now is the time. I have been elected as the director of the student center and will be spearheading the project. Our target date for operation is June 21st. (which is right when the missions team from my church in California will be here) So, as you can imagine, I have a lot of planning, promoting, and organizing to do before then so that we can open this thing up! I am so blessed to be working with such a wonderful church that has such a heart to reach out to the community. Please pray that God will bless this project and that many students will come and receive the help they need to do better in school, life, and in their walk with God.
My schedule might be full, but I still have to ask myself, “Am I living my life to the fullest?”
In other news, I miss my bug-free room at home. I also miss the ocean and driving with loud music. I miss hearing sermons in english and my church family. I miss a lot of things and I just thought I would mention it. Not to gain pity or sympathy, but just incase you were wondering, “does he miss anything?” The answer is yes.
I was riding the bus home from the mall yesterday, looking out the window at all the people and buildings, and thinking about so many things… and what I saw when I looked out my window was a world determined to move ahead, with progress as its goal, but with no actual destination. Is there any real purpose for all of these inventions other than to make some one wealthier than everyone else? Are we like the ants who run back and forth from the colony, collecting nutrients and material things, working hard all day long? Is this God’s plan that we live like this? I sit and think about these things and try to make sense of what I see, but I am usually left without any resolution. Then I wonder what the guy sitting next to me is thinking about. But you know, all of the questions… all of the worries seem to vanish in an instant when I see the beauty behind it all. When I see people smiling, laughing, or playing…. when I see a sunset, a sunrise, or a cat sleeping in a funny position, I think about how blessed I am to be alive. The questions cease for a moment and I am left in a state of blissful appreciation for all that God has created.
At the end of last month, I had the most unique privilege of being the best man in a filipino wedding. My friend, Ken Amante, was getting married and (unfortunately for him but fortunately for me) was having a hard time getting people to RSVP. So I was honored to be asked to participate. Filipino weddings are not completely different from American weddings… a few minor differences but nothing shocking. We all walked down the isle, the couple said their vows, the minister made them repeat after him, we sang, we danced, we ate…. it was definitely a wedding and a beautiful one to boot. Afterwards, the wedding party all went to the beach to swim, to play volleyball, and of course to play basketball. What a blessing it was for me. I definitely wont forget it anytime soon.
Speaking of memorable experiences, I got the chance of a life time this April to experience a Filipino tradition that most Americans and especially Christians would question the sanity of. On Good Friday, my friend ken and I traveled to the city of Pampanga to witness the crucifixions. We rode a bus for an hour and arrived a couple hours before the procession took place. There were many people taking pictures of the penitence which are men beating themselves with whips in order to cleanse their sins or to make an oath to God. Eventually the “actors” (as they were called) made their way to the crucifixion site. The Hesu Kristo was escorted by roman guards to the top of the hill. Once he was there, they nailed him to the cross and hung for all to see. I learned later that the Catholic church has forbidden this practice but the Filipino people continue this tradition because it has become very profitable. Its really sad to find out that something that appears to have such deep cultural significance is just another way of making a buck. Im sure for some, its actually a time of deep reflection on the suffering of Christ but I doubt that the little boy who stole my wallet was doing any deep reflection… haha!
April has been an eventful month indeed. Besides the wedding and my trip to Pampanga, I have been on 2 missions trips with Jesus Cares Assembly of God to the provincial town of Pantabangan where efforts are being made to plant a church. Each time I have gone with the team from JCAG to Pantabangan, we have left at the ungodly hour of 4 AM. Since Pantabangan is almost 5 hours away, we have to leave that early in order to have enough to time to set up, to cook lunch for everyone, and to practice the lessons for the childrens ministry. Both trips have been very successful to the glory of God. The first trip I went on, we had almost 200 kids which is a LOT of kids for such a small town. I mean, you look at the size of the town and then look at how many kids showed up for the activities and it really boggles the mind.
Anyways, April isnt over yet. This saturday, I will be accompanying Pastor Bill to Baguio City and staying there for a week while Pastor Bill teaches a class about world religions at APTS (Asia Pacific Theological Seminary). I will be his assistant helping him with the powerpoint presentation and whatever else he needs me to do. Baguio is a beautiful place AND its a heck of a lot cooler than Manila. Thank you, Jesus. And once we get back, I will be assisting Pastor Bill again as he teaches the same course for one of the Bethel Bible College Extension schools in Cubao. Sorry for all the unfamiliar city names that I have mentioned in this blog… I realize that they are meaningless to all of you reading. haha. My apologies.
Well, that just about does it. From this point on, I am going to be a very busy man but I will tell you all about that in the next blog. Thanks be to God because without Him, none of this would be possible or meaningful at all. And thanks to all of you who read this blog and to those of you who have supported me with your prayers and financial giving. We share in the harvest together and I thank you. God bless.
p.s. the pictures in the post below are from the missions trip to Pantabangan. enjoy.
My new closest friends….. REALLY close. ^_^
Our missions trip to Pantabangan. Bringing Jesus to the province.
My thoughts are on strings tied to baloons. drifting through the space in my head. guided by the winds of eternity. forged in the flame of my eye. onward and upward! gravity cannot defeat you, though it may try. think lightly and rise!
My eyes are constantly being entertained by what I see here in the philippines. I wanted to take a few moments to share with you some of the amusing, precious, and peculiar observations I have made so far. Depending on what time of day you are walking down the street will depend on what activity you might observe going on in the community. For example: at any time of day, you can usually find some one sitting against a wall or inside their tricycle napping. Sleeping on the job is a common practice and I like it!
Walking down the street in the morning is most enjoyable. Everyone is out running errands, working, buying groceries, etc… It is almost certain that I will run into some I know. If I dont run into any friends, there is always an opportunity to make new ones.
After lunch time, the streets are almost empty. The markets all but shut down with the exception of a few stores. Everyone is sleeping. Well…. not everyone. And in the evening, the streets are full again. The street food is abundant with everything from BBQ chicken intestines, to balut, to all different kinds of sweet sticky rice treats. The smiles that greet you are often missing teeth or are accompanied by, “HEY JOE!” or “HEY BRO!”. Depending on the day of the week you might find a gathering of filipinos under a makeshift canopy gambling. As I was walking past the catholic church last sunday night, the entrance to the church was almost completely blocked off by gambling tables. Im not sure if any of the clergy was gambling but a whole lot of the congregation was.
Now that it is summer, there are some added bonuses to life. MANGOS! Its mango season and they are beyond delicious. Plus, the tree outside my apartment is FULL of them! Here on campus there are many trees that have blossomed with tiny golden flowers and at the slightest breeze a shower of little yellow flowers comes raining down. I love it.
In other news… I am sleeping much better. I dont remember if I wrote about the lack of sleep I had been experiencing, but I was having quite a lot of trouble falling asleep for a while there. Also, I continue to embrace this season of spiritual dryness and I trust God to comfort me, to answer my questions, and to bring the rain when the season is right. Your prayers are always appreciated. That is all for now.
There once was a man who lived a long time ago. This man was blessed by the Lord and he became the wisest man who had ever lived and who would ever live. This man lived his live objectively so that he might discover the true purpose for all life. He was so wise that he wrote proverbs and parables about life that gave men great insight in their everyday dealings. He designed great gardens and courts that were most beautiful to behold. He observed that man’s appetite is never satisfied. His desire to see, to hear, to taste, ect., is never fulfilled. This man observed that all of man’s work and toil is to try to fill these unfulfillable appetites. This wise man decided that he would try to find purpose in life by pleasing his every desire and to do everything that he wanted to do, but he found it ultimately unprofitable. So, this wise man decided he would live life righteously instead but again he found it to be ultimately unprofitable. All of man’s efforts proved to be unprofitable to him. He found great joy in all he had done and accomplished, but what had it profited him that if when he died, it was all to be forgotten? Ultimately the wise and the foolish are served the same fate. Both animal and human alike share the same fate. We all die and are soon forgotten… no matter how noble they were in life. This is a sobering story to read. This wise man’s advice was to enjoy your youth. To eat, drink, and be merry. His wise advice was simply to enjoy the life God has given you because it is short lived. But that’s not all… Throughout this man’s life, one conclusion he made time and time again was that the greatest fulfillment in life came from being in a right relationship with God. Even the joy you receive from eating and drinking is given to you by God. In fact, one might conclude from this wise man’s observations that having a right relationship with God is the ONLY meaningful and fulfilling thing that one can do while alive on earth. I can relate to this man’s thoughts and observations. Why work so hard to gain something that will just be given to someone who hasn’t worked for it when I die? Please, Im not being cynical or pessimistic. Im not trying to discourage anyone reading this. I believe that it is crucial for us to question things in life and to even question life itself. My beliefs and faith have been handed down to me just like they have been handed down to most everyone in the world as we know it and I intend to QUESTION WHAT I THINK I KNOW! The thoughts and emotions in this blog come from what I would call, “a spiritual dry time” in my life. Let me be honest and tell you that I have felt distant in my prayers both private and public. I have become distant in times of worship. If you have experienced any of these things at any point in your life, you know that it is not easy. For me it is not easy especially since for the past year and a half I had been experiencing a “spritual high”. Do not let this alarm you. I am writing this so that you know that I am just as human as you are… and not only do I sin, but I also struggle spiritually. For everything there is a season and a time for everyone purpose under heaven. I am not sad or depressed, even though this blog is rather melancholy. I am actually quite content with the state I am in and Im looking forward to what comes of this season in life. Your prayers are always appreciated. That is all for now.