Giving back: a response to Matthew 9:35-38

“Sorry, God, if it took me so long to get your message. The signal must have been very bad.” 

This one I wrote in the opening description of my Facebook album which contains photos on my birthday celebration last July…not actually birthday, but birth month celebration. So obviously, it’s some sort of a #latepost blog content. Sorry for that, but I cannot not post it here on my official blog because I’d like all of you to still be part of it, even though the activities were all over…because the truth is, I guess the Lord’s not yet done with me. The celebration, and the works are not yet over.

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So this is the FB Event and album cover photo: Wheat fields.

Wheat fields reflect harvest. It shows us a glimpse of abundance, of peace, and security. It also reminds us of how God brings forth life from the earth, to and for the earth.

While some of us experience a life in abundance (financial, emotional, spiritual), peace, and security, many still live in hunger, distress, and vulnerability. They are the people who hardly taste an abundant harvest from God’s own creation. They are the people who scarcely feel the abundant love of our Father in heaven, simply because men on earth have built prerequisites in experiencing His affection.

I have always believed that in the verse “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,” (Matthew 9:37), ‘harvest’ simply refers to people who have not yet been evangelized or who have not yet ‘heard’ of Jesus. But as I became more aware of the reality of humanity, I began to doubt my interpretation, or rather, the interpretation handed down to us in traditional Sunday schools and sermons.

Beggars, homeless elderly, tambays, and street children form part of the ensemble cast in our daily lives, but never have they been more visible to me than in the past two or three years.

I wrestled with God on this. I asked, “If the harvest would only mean verbal evangelism of salvation from hell and getting a ticket to heaven through Christ, what do we do with these people who pray to be saved from daily hunger and oppression?” I thought, the least thing these people would need is to hear another Bible story about God’s love while enduring the day without a single bread on their table, or without someone whom they can share their fears and struggles with, receiving no condemnation or a solid one-verse-is-all-you-need answer.

I struggled, and I thank some of my friends who struggled with me and bore patience with me as I kept on asking the hard questions. And slowly, it dawned on me that, maybe Jesus was referring to a harvest of good works and compassion, and in a way, a harvest of laborers for such purposes, a harvest of people who are so ripe and so eagerly yearning to taste and see God’s kingdom here on earth. The passage paints this scenario:
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

I may be wrong, or right, or somewhere in between, given my shy knowledge and experience on exegesis (or whatever you call that in the seminary). But it has stuck to me, like an LSS.

For some time, I prayed to God to reveal more of His heart to me. I remember myself earnestly praying that bridge line from the song “Hosanna”—break my heart for what breaks Yours; everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause

I should’ve been more careful with what I have prayed for. Now, I guess I’m beginning to experience just that.

It’s overwhelming, frustrating, depressing, inspiring, and challenging, all at the same time. And this year, I guess my heart just wanted to burst out open, pour out my all and make up for all the years I’ve been waiting for the Lord to send me out to His harvest—no, I guess I myself was causing the delay. I can picture God standing from afar (or beside me, or elsewhere), waiting for me to utter Isaiah’s words “Here I am. Send me.” 

Birth month for a cause

I decided to celebrate by giving back to the community through various activities:

  • Burgers on wheels – give away free burgers to street children and homeless families (a sort of corporate social responsibility of our burger business, GEEX Burger House, which is now closed, but we’re planning to reopen)
  • Outreach program for kids in my community
  • Road to Damascus – I learned about the Damascus Foundation in Bulacan, and I included it in my line-up of activities. It’s a rehabilitation center which is now more focused on shaping character/values of out-of-school youth, and has a Day Care center.

I created an FB Event for this, and invited some of my closest friends and contacts to celebrate with me, either by physically joining the activities, or by extending monetary support, or giving donations in kind. I was really surprised on how it all turned out! God is so amazing, He let us all realize that we can create chains of goodness, because He is good, because we are created in His image. If someone would just provide a venue or an opportunity for others to extend love and kindness, they would be willing to do so.

Here’s a rough photo essay of what happened in my month-long celebration. 🙂 (Photos by Jim Bryan Ducusin) 

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July 7 – So this is the GEEX Burger team. 🙂 Sorry, I got no photos of us giving food to street children, I didn’t want to spoil the real moments. The above photos were captured after the activity. We biked around Almar, Zabarte, and Novaliches Bayan and gave away free burgers to street children/homeless families. It was dead tiring, yet fulfilling! The recipients of the free burgers are more human than me. They taught me lessons I could treasure in my heart for a lifetime.

 

From upper left (clockwise): (1) Kids listen to others’ self-introductions; (2 and 3) sharing a modified version of the ‘Good Samaritan’ lesson, in the context of school bullying; (4) Our lesson, from Luke 10:27 and Matthew 7:12; (5) Kids flash their smiles after the outreach program  

View more photos here.

July 22 – We originally planned to conduct this in a half-court area near these kids’ community in Palmera Springs Subdivision, Camarin, Caloocan City. Yung tipong mararamdaman nila na tayo yung umaabot sa kanila, kaysa sa maramdaman nila na we are just inviting them to the church. However, due to the construction of a tower (National Power Corporation) on that same spot, we held the event in our church instead. I let them introduce themselves first, and share their dreams. Then I shared with them Jesus’ dream for all of us: that we’ll be able to love one another, through the modified story of the Good Samaritan. We ate our snacks (pizza and hotdog), then enjoyed the games. We distributed to each kid a pack of school supplies containing a pencil, notebook, drawing pad, crayons, school snacks, and a storybook from Adarna House and Hiyas by OMF Literature. In the following Sundays, some of these kids returned and attended Sunday school. I hope and pray that they learn more about Jesus here, and elsewhere.

 

Aug. 5 – Ang Damascus Foundation ay naitayo ni Sir Robert Tiangco para magsilbing isang rehabilitation center para sa mga kabataan na biktima ng ipinagbabawal na gamot. Pero ngayon, naka-focus sila sa character building ng mga kabataang lalaki na wala ng pamilyang inuuwian, yung iba naman kakalaya lang sa kulungan pero walang kumpanyang tumatanggap sa kanila. Bukod dito, may Day Care Center din ang Damascus.

I met Sir Robert in a radio program episode of our organization in DZRB, featuring some of the country’s outstanding volunteers. He was one of our guests. He shared his story–a life that reflects God’s mercy and love. He was a former substance user and pusher, but God saved him from his then miserable life. When he became a President of a Rotary Club chapter, he began to live a double-life: active in outreach programs in the morning, and taking illegal substance in the evening. He wanted to change. He underwent rehabilitation and spiritual development with the help of a Catholic priest, until he was cleansed (physically and spiritually). His experience urged him to put up a foundation that would cater to those who were like him. He put up the Damascus Foundation Inc. in Angat, Bulacan.

It was an ecstatic day for me. My closest friends in high school, Jan, Rara, and Garet, joined the activity (aside from donating some goods). Mama, who also celebrated her 60th birthday last July 28, enjoyed the experience. My cousin, Ate Jing, and her husband were the ones who supplied the food for us. My partner, Jikjik, and Bryan (one of the GEEX Burger dude, and pro photographer) listened to the stories of the Damascus boys. We had fun watching the performances prepared by the Damascus community. Kids handed me thoughtful letters. One of the Day Care teachers gave me a handcrafted bag, one of the products in their livelihood programs for mothers.

These people are authentic. I am grateful to God that once in my life, I met them, and was loved by them. The experience was indeed overwhelming.

After our outreach program in Damascus, Sir Robert gave some words of wisdom and encouragement. He said (non-verbatim), “Masarap magbigay lalo na sa mga taong alam mong hindi ka masusuklian. Ang pagbibigay ay tanda ng pagmamahal sa atin ng Panginoon, at tulad ng pagmamahal niya, alam naman nating hindi natin iyon masusuklian. Gayunpaman, hinihimok tayo na ibalik ang ating pasasalamat sa pagbibigay o paglilingkod din sa iba sa anumang kaparaanan na kaya natin. The chains of goodness must never stop.”


In a debriefing session, Jikjik told me that while he was reflecting on “giving back”, he realized that we can look at it this way: that we can’t really give back directly to God, but only through and to our fellow humans (with whom Jesus dwelt, and became God-incarnate himself).

And so I guess my birth month celebration won’t be the last. Jesus was right when he said that “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”. There’s so much work to be done in God’s kingdom. No, I won’t do this alone, because I believe that there are many people out there, like me, who want to give back, to respond to God’s calling. Therefore, let us pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

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Reprise: Do all your work in love

Love talk series continues in ChristianBlessings blog, Christian Tagalog Talk section. I hope that my posts there inspire you in your everyday walk of life. In case you missed the last post (Do all your work in love), you may view it here. In line with that, I thought of sharing something with you today which I stumbled upon the internet last week.  I must admit it provoked me to reflect and ask myself how to do the similar act of love with the gifts God has given me.

I am talking about no other than the admirable deed of a Filipino hair stylist, Mark Bustos, who is now residing at the New York City.  I know this is not among the latest news features today; it actually circulated through social media and dailies around August of this year.  I’m pretty sure some of you might have had already heard about him offering his haircut service for free to homeless people within the vicinity.

You may view full articles and look at the transformation photos in the following links:

Mark Bustos cuts hair of a homeless New Yorker. (photo credit: Devin Masga)
Filipino haristylist, Mark Bustos, cuts hair of a homeless New Yorker. (photo credit: Devin Masga)

Now, I do not know if he’s a Christian or not. But setting religion aside, what he has done and has been doing until the present time is indeed commendable.  He shows a concrete example of sharing love to others, even to people we do not personally know.

We need not be rich to extend some help to those who are in need or to give our contributions for the betterment of our society.  I have always believed that part of God’s plan in humankind is that each one of us should participate in building up each other in love and in good faith according to the gifts God has given us.

In the case of Mark Bustos, he knows he has a talent in hair styling/hair cutting, and he took advantage of this gift to give back to the society by offering his service to the homeless for free.  This way, he gives hope to these people.  If you read the articles, the transformation story and feel-good effect of the people are tear-jerking.  One even asked him right after his haircut, “Do you know someone who’s hiring?” cause he once again felt that he looks good enough to search for a job.

Bustos said he intentionally cuts hair for the homeless in open, well-traveled spaces like street corners and sidewalks so that the public can watch — “not to see me,” he notes, but so that others can find inspiration in the good deed, and be kind to those less unfortunate as well. “Even a simple smile can go a long way,” Bustos told HuffPost.

Simple acts of love can result to great stories of transformation in people’s lives.

Christians, where are we now? What are we contributing for the wellness of the world God has created? What cause are we living for in the name of God’s love?


1 Corinthians 16:14 "Do all your work in love."
1 Corinthians 16:14 “Do all your work in love.”

Let's stay connected!

Guilt, Grace : Driving wheels of Gratitude

Let’s talk about 3G connection. (Guilt, Grace, Gratitude)
Here’s my Saturday post on ChristianBlessings – Christian Filipino Blog. 🙂
God bless!

ChristianBlessings

Last Saturday, we talked about practicing the attitude of Gratitude, and one of the tips we can apply is to keep a gratitude list (see previous post).  This time, let us look back and find out what motivates us to give thanks, or the reason for living our lives full of gratefulness to our Lord.  Again, this is not new to us I’m sure.  You most probably know this, primarily because you have gone through it all.  It’s just that, maybe to some, it hasn’t been presented with this easy outline: 3G (Guilt, Grace, Gratitude).

Guilt, Grace, Gratitude image source: gratisography.com

I first heard this concept in one of the session of Doctrines of Grace in our church.  Then eventually, as our pastor embeds this outline once in a while in his sermons, and now in our sessions of Heidelberg Catechism, my understanding of it has grown deeper.  I come to appreciate it more and…

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In retrospect: My life’s landmarks

I remember our pastor’s advice in one of his sermons: keep track of our life’s landmarks – these might be some major decisions that we made, life’s turning points, or some really good, unexpected stuffs that the Lord brought in to our lives.  He said, it would help us remember how good the Lord has been, and see that from the beginning, He has been orchestrating things to happen in our lives to shape us into the people He wants us be.

That Sunday, I began recalling past events which I think, are the wheels that drove me to what I am now.  I have to say there are many.  But let me share with you 3 major things I saw, which I guess were very vital in transforming me and enabling me to do what I am presently doing for the Kingdom of God.

Course in College: Mass Communication

I can still remember how pressured I was in deciding what to write on my college freshmen application form: BS Nursing as my first choice, or AB Mass Communication.  My parents wanted me to take up Nursing, like my sister did.  But I wasn’t really inclined to any medical stuffs then.  It was clearly stated in my aptitude assessment in highschool that my strength is in communications and liberal arts.  I am well aware of it.  I love reading, writing, speaking.  I love communications.  So I took the courage to tell them what I want to study.  Thankfully, with my sister’s support too, they agreed to let me take AB Mass Communication.  I excelled in my studies.  Every subject included in my curriculum, I took seriously (media, communication, advertising, public relations, film,theater, journalism, etc.) With the Lord’s guidance, I graduated with honors.  And now, he provided me with a job that’s related to my course (Media Production Specialist, which mostly entails writing tasks).

In our church, I can apply my learnings in worship leading.  How? The way I craft my exhortation pieces, and my confidence to stand in front of many people (though of course, we know that our ultimate confidence comes from the Lord).  I am also an occasional actor, sometimes for kids’ program, or special illustration.  And now, I write/blog about #Christians #Christianity #inspiration etc. 🙂 Specifically, I write for ChristianBlessings blog now! Gratefully, I find peace in what I am doing.  I am planning to delve into another study of Communication which I’m sure will help me better use my gift in communications for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

My Music Journey:  Moon as a chorister

In college, I did not confine myself to academics only.  I explored and searched for an organization that would suit me.  Then I saw the university chorale.  I love singing, whether in church or outside, but I want to learn more about singing, and I thought that joining the choir was really a good way to enhance my musicality.  It is! I learned a lot from our conductor.  I learned the art of singing in a group.  I learned different techniques and other technicalities of singing.  But, eventually, I got too excited and got so immersed into chorale music and to our gigs outside that I could only give God my spare time—shame on me.  But His grace never let me go.  Just when I was about to start my last year with the choir, accompanied by a full cultural scholarship, and the prestige of singing in the graduation rites, the Lord poked me and called me back into His ministry.  It was a divine intervention, that no matter how appealing the idea of staying with the choir was, I did not hesitate to give it all up and returned to God’s calling. And from then on, blessings upon blessings dawned upon me.  Because my Saturday and Sunday schedules were cleared when I left the choir, I was able to attend session on the Doctrines of Grace (what our church believes in) and was revived in bible studies.  Now, I am still able to use the skills I got from the choir to the Praise and Worship ministry.  I teach kids voice lessons and I also trained worship leaders from another church.  We are now planning to conduct more similar trainings for other churches.

First Job: Property Specialist / Real Estate Agent

Before I got my job as a Media Production Specialist, I took risk in entering the challenging world of sales in the field of real estate.  I must admit I was easily attracted by my friend who was then an agent to the real estate company I applied for and of course, by the financial reward she gets with the job.  Who doesn’t find money appealing? But at the back of my mind, the reason why I want the job is for me to extend instant help to my family, and to our church which at that time, wasn’t getting enough collections to compensate to its monthly expenses, plus its plans of expanding the church building.  So I got the job (that was in 2012), and I excelled too! During my first contracts, I exceeded my quotas.  But since my clients would always get the ‘no downpayment’ scheme, commissions were coming a long way from the next 2 to 3 years.  I had to wait.  Then during my stint as a Property Specialist, something went wrong with my Christian calendar.  Sometimes (or should I say, often times?) I would give up Sundays to meet with clients whose only free time was Sunday.  Then I remembered how that same thing happened when I entered the choir back in college.  And I said to myself, “This can’t be.  There’s something wrong.” Another thing which I think God caused to happen was, my parents started advising me to look for a job with security of tenure and where there’s career growth (because as we know, sales agents are contractual, and bound by quota).  You know, even though they wouldn’t tell me upfront, I know I disappointed them the moment I decided to work as a real estate agent.  They don’t regard the job as something reputable, or simply put, they didn’t think it’s for me.  And again, even if they didn’t complain in front of me, I would feel their embarrassment whenever I’d ask them to help me tap their friends to invest or to invite to our showroom. They mentioned this vacancy in a government agency (where I am currently working) which is very much related to my finished course.  I prayed for it and God immediately answered my prayer.  I passed the test and series of interview, and eventually got hired.

So what happened to my commissions for my previous sales?  Just recently, my father reminded me to follow-up on it, telling me “Asikasuhin mo. Sayang naman. Kung alam mo alam, mamatay-matay kami ng mama mo nung pasukin mo yan.” (Work on it.  You have no idea how your mom and I almost died when you decided to enter that kind of job) He confirmed that I didn’t make them proud for that decision.  But thank God, He made a way to stop my parents’ pain for that job.  But I would never regret it.  Now, God is pouring out the blessing of that job on me.  I’m starting to reap my commission.  And it couldn’t come in a more opportune time than this.  Our Praise and Worship Team is about to have its retreat next week and we don’t have enough budget at hand to make it happen.  But thankfully, the Lord’s just in time.  I got my first check last week. Now I am praying that the Lord would give me wisdom on how to manage these blessing wisely, as there will be more to come.

Indeed, God moves in mysterious ways.  Even what the enemy means for evil, God turns it for the good of those who loves Him.  He is in full control.  He is sovereign.  He is the architect and engineer of our lives.  He orchestrates things to happen in order to shape us.  We just have to pray for the Holy Spirit to give us discernment and wisdom on what God wants to teach us on a particular life circumstance.

And we know that for those who love God

I believe more landmarks await me on the road.  I just have to trust and obey Him because He knows what is best for me.  God’s plans are always for the best!

How about you? What are your life landmarks?

Tagalog Talk for Filipinos everywhere

See you every Saturday on ChristianBlessings site – Tagalog Talk (not actually purely Tagalog, but crafted our of a true-blooded Filipina’s heart). This section is intended to encourage our Filipino brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe. Let us grow together in God’s loving presence as we share our experiences, struggles, and inspirations over this blog site.
Salamat sa Panginoon! Ingat po kayo lagi kung saan man kayo naroroon! 🙂

ChristianBlessings

 ChristianBlessings has a new Lead on our Tagalog Talk.

Tagalog Talk Tagalog Talk

Calling Filipinos from everywhere, the north, the south, the east and the west

Workers on land and on the cruise ships at sea,

The Lord is where you are – so be reminded on Tagalog Talk that He is near and interested in you.

MoonMoon our Lead on Tagalog Talk  is your new friend on the blog. Let’s hear what she is about

Do support as she endeavors to bring all her compatriots together on the Tagalog Talk , having fun, sharing struggles, encouraging, empathizing and above all raising Christ Jesus for all to see, hear,  trust and obey.

Join her every Saturday .

Enjoy and be encouraged with shared blessings from above with just a bit of home away from home.

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Tagalog Talk – MN 1 – Keep a Gratitude List

Thank God for letting me be a part of ChristianBlessings blog (through Ms. Evelyn Goh), specifically for the section dedication for Filipino expats/overseas workers. He has given me this another opportunity to share my gift for His kingdom. Another venue to work with God’s people. I am so grateful! Here’s my first post. More to come!

ChristianBlessings

What is the first thing you do in the morning?  And what is the last thing you do before going to bed? For Christians, I guess it is pretty obvious that we’d mention ‘morning prayer’ and ‘evening prayer’, but the question is, do we really-truly-genuinely-faithfully do it on a daily basis?  Regardless of how tiring the day might be or no matter how late we’re running for work or school?

The  psalmist in Psalm 92:2 said, “It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening…” and in 136:6, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.”

Thank you
Sa isang araw, may libo-libong paraan ang Panginoon para ipadama sa atin ang kanyang pag-ibig at katapatanIlan dito ay mga bagay na marahil hindi natin napapansin, seemingly too small for us to notice,

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