A Gathering of Kindly Souls

“A gathering of kindly souls” is how I best describe the gathering of Christians from the churches of  Makati (Metro South), Marikina, Caloocan (Caloocan church which hosted the affair, and Bagong Silang), Taguig, Antipolo, Las Pinas, Pasay, Quezon City (from such areas as Payatas, Lagro, Diliman, Alejandro Roces), Tondo, Manila, Cavite areas (such as San Jose-Dasmarinas, Imus, Bacoor, Dasmarinas-Bagumbayan and others), Batangas areas (such as Lipa City and Rosario), Calamba, Laguna, Baguio (from Rimando Road, Center Point, Midtown), Pangasinan and Paniqui, Tarlac; Naga City, Camarines Sur; Bacacay, Albay, Cebu City and others. We can’t recall all, but my readers who had attended that gathering remember and know.

Seeing again the brethren you’ve been missing, bonding with classmates and students  (those who sat at one’s feet in one’s bygone Bible college years), fellowshiping with fellow preachers, with brothers and sisters whose faces one remembers but whose names he doesn’t, kindling a relationship with those kindred spirits who have just been ushered into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, is really refreshing, to say the least. This too is a fellowship where Christians’ love for fellow Christians is reaffirmed.

The affair is the National Evangelism Workshop and Seminar (NEWS) facilitated by brother Jun Patricio (preacher of Metro South-Makati church) and brother Randy Macapagal (minister of Caloocan church). Caloocan church building became the venue. The gathering lasted two and half days (morning of December 21 till noon of December 23).

The theme of the seminar is “Benevolence as an Effective Means of Evangelism.”

Typhoon Ondoy and the other typhoon, both equally destructive, are still fresh in our minds; but it was one calamity– no, a double calamity— that brought out the best in our brotherhood.  When God touched the lives of men and women in this country through calamities, His people in the churches both here and abroad also found a common chord by which they could be one with the sufferers: shelter, clothing and food for their bodies, and spiritual food for their souls. Visiting the needy and the suffering when they are at the lowest ebbs of their lives, taking a bag or two of food assistance, speaks a lot about what makes all men brothers and sisters. But taking a Bible and counseling them from God’s Word, explaining to them God’s purpose and plans, brings their minds to the right focus and speaks great things about the great family-hood that we could have in the great beyond. The NEWS seminar only serves to affirm what we believe all along: That our lives, our days, our energies and our wealth are always, and should be, at the disposal of the great God who cares for all and wants His people to perfect their love for Him by sharing their worldly goods to those who need help (1 John 4:12; 3:17).

We have posted here some pictures from that event, courtesy of brother Jun Patricio. Click here to see…

Benevolence as a means of evangelizing. You may click here to download and read>>>

Jun Patricio and his wife Chona, and the congregation of Metro South. Photo from Ed's files.

The congregation at Metro South-Makati one Sunday morning. Photo from Ed's files.

Brother Randy Macapagal, preacher of Kalookan church, and the rescue team. Photo borrowed from his Facebook account.


Advertisements

Rising Above Humanness

Factor forgiveness into your system, even if you’re not a theologian, even if you’re not religious. As a believer you’ll tremendously need that in these days when brotherhood falling outs have become as common as common colds, when domestic estrangements become ordinary fares on TV, on the internet, at the breakfast table.  If you’re church-less, you’ll need forgiveness—-you too need to forgive or be forgiven—- in order to move on with life.

Forgiveness, as the song goes, is like seeing a bunch of yellow ribbons tied to the old oak tree: The people you had offended and sinned against are welcoming you back. Welcoming arms. It is a symbol too great to ignore. Not seeing that, you don’t get down from the bus of your life, you  just roll on, you go find yourself a hide-away where you can start a life, perhaps incognito.

They who have not forgiven you, you who have not been forgiven, are still entwined in that human fault that characterizes most men and women. To sin is a fault; to not forgive is also a fault.

Man is made to forgive and be forgiven. The fault of humanness is as old as Eden. When humanity left that garden, they never turned back. Their sinfulness made it next to impossible to turn back. To go back to that garden of God’s fellowship, we need the refreshing of the soul, even a little nod and a smile from heaven, telling us everything now is all right.

Some cannot forgive because they have a difficulty deleting the memories of the pains and hurts in their system; it takes a while, if not a long while, to forget them.  Maybe you have the resolve of an Elin Nordegren, and I cannot fault you. In fact I empathize.  If you had a spouse like Tiger Woods, who could in an interview still say “family comes first,” and keep on having trysts with 14 women of different stripes, I understand why you are Elin Nordegren. That pretty model turned celebrity wife, descendant of the Vikings, had in her system that iron will to not take things sitting down. Already she had consulted a lawyer about renegotiating the prenuptial agreement with Tiger Woods. Already she had arranged for one or two movers to haul their things. Already she and her billionaire golfer husband slept and ate separately. Divorce papers, to be filed in court as soon as the ink gets dry, will formalize their status: estranged  now, divorced forever.

That is why I can never be a spiritual advisor to an Elin Nordegren. There’s this family, four of whom I had the joy of seeing being admitted into the kingdom of Jesus years ago: The husband and his wife, his mother-in-law, and his sister-in-law. Five years into their spiritual journey they found themselves in a storm. Some winds blew with a great blast into their lives bringing with it problems that tried their strength and mettle: Husband’s joblessness, his vices, his fornication. The wife alone was the bread-winner. One night fresh from tutoring a Chinese lad, hungry and tired, she caught her husband and her sister doing their thing on their bed. Rage flew, plates and kettles found their targets. To escape the furor that arose over the scandal, the husband left home that night with his sister-in-law in tow, his partner in the crime so called.

Months, perhaps years later the husband came back. The wife could not forgive. No amount of scripture could turn her mind around. I was told the husband did not deserve any forgiveness because he never changed, he did not turn a new leaf.

I can’t blame you if you admire Elin Nordegren and seek to imitate her resolve to teach a lesson to a husband unyielding in his resolve to keep on sinning.

Not many seem to understand that forgiveness benefits more the one doing the act of forgiving than the one being forgiven: “If you will not forgive other people their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your trespasses.” For that reason, to be forgiving is to be spiritual.  It is to rise above our humanness.

You may forgive or you may not. It is your choice. Heaven, this you must know, shall be filled by people who made the right choices in this life.

When Moving On Means Moving Out

Last Sunday, December the 13th, I preached to a congregation of teary-eyed Christians. I spoke slowly, weighing every word.

My topic was about Paul’s farewell to Ephesian elders, Acts 20:17-38. Not a difficult passage to “exegete” (this word is a noun but I am using it here as a verb for want of a word that properly conveys what I have in mind!). The difficulty lies in the emotions. In the heart.

It is not because after nine years of laboring with them, we now have seen the end of our days as a missionary; it is because the times have called us to move on, and the only recourse open to us is to move out. Out of the place of labors we have come to appreciate for its serendipity and excitement. Out of the sight of brethren we love so dearly.

As they read the passage, as they listened to me, brethren could not help but be touched, even as they recalled the hardships of my labors among them, which they all knew too well. They recalled how I walked the long distance from Cebu Trans-Central Highway to the mountains of Babag, with its unpaved road slippery and muddy even after a slight rain, on days when I had no motorcycle. They saw the dangers I had gone through preaching to their violent neighbors who would not listen, but who would even threaten me; they heard of one who almost chopped me with a machete, not because of religious disagreements but because I caught him in his sin (in his sin against me) and I confronted him. They saw my patience, as I read to them the Will of the Lord in His Word, motivating them to obey their King, which resulted to their becoming children of God. They recalled seeing me soaking wet and shivering after being caught under a storm when my motorcycle wouldn’t run. But they saw that I was happy doing what I had been doing.

Ahh… What a great fulfillment that was.

My sermon took an hour, punctuated by pauses. I even had a hard time finding the right words to say.

This afternoon, everyone looked at me as I spoke. The sun was about to say goodbye, and teardrops began to fall. I told them it would be a long time before they would see my face again.

They knew and understood. But if they have accepted what the fates offer them, what logic and practicality give them as an option, I’d say I am not sure.

At the conclusion I hugged each of them, both the ladies and the men; and they all wept profusely on my shoulder.

They asked me for prayers, and that’s what I did. After we’re done, the men left hurriedly—they could not contain their emotions.

The women? They lingered a little longer at the door of the meeting place. For one more time, I hugged them and left.

Today I preached to a congregation of teary-eyed Christians.

I spoke slowly, weighing every word.

My topic was about Paul’s farewell to Ephesian elders, Acts 20:17-38. As they read the passage, as they listened to me, brethren could not help but be touched, even as they recalled the hardships of my labors among them, which they all knew too well. They recalled how I walked the long distance from Cebu Trans-Central Highway to the mountains of Babag, with its unpaved road slippery and muddy even after a slight rain, on days when I had no motorcycle. They saw the dangers I had gone through preaching to their violent neighbors who would not listen, but who would even threaten me. They saw my patience, as I read to them the Will of the Lord in His Word, motivating them to obey their King, which resulted to their becoming children of God. They recalled seeing me wet after being caught under a storm when my motorcycle wouldn’t run. But they saw that I was happy doing what I have been doing.

Ahh… What a great fulfillment that was.

My sermon took an hour, punctuated by pauses. I even had a hard time finding the right words to use.

This afternoon, everyone looked at me. The sun was about to say goodbye, and teardrops began to fall.

At the conclusion I hugged each of them, both the ladies and the men; and they all wept profusely on my shoulder.

I told them it would be a long time before they would see my face again.

It is my first time to deliver a sermon that made the congregation cry.

%d bloggers like this: