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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Evolving

Source: Evolving

Here’s the first in a series of posts in my new blog “Press Unreleased“. This is to give you an idea on what had been going on in my head the past few years which led me to a hiatus from blogging. 😛

I have become less certain of what I already know or believe in (particularly in faith), but the wondrous thing is, I’m all okay with it–of not being always sure, of not being always right, or not having to know all the answers all the time. I have to tell you, it’s very humbling, and liberating in all sense.

View the entire post here.

Stay humble.

stay humble

The stars are definitely bigger than your pride. Stay humble. You are not the center of the universe.

#RaiseYourVoice for the Lumad

LumadI do not know any of them personally; I haven’t had any encounter with them in the past. But when I heard the news about the gruesome killing of some of their men, mixed grief and anger were enough to tell me that same blood rushes through our veins, that I belong with them and they with with me; and that compels me to raise my voice and shout #StopLumadKillings.

They are the Lumad–an indigenous group of people in Surigao del Sur, Mindanao in the Philippines. They are not slaves. They are a free people. They are the Lumad–my kapwa Pilipino, my kapwa tao. 

Three of the Lumad leaders were recently killed for refusing to give up their ancestral lands to those who wanted to build coal mining plants in their place. The alleged killers were identified as the paramilitary “Mahagat-Bagani”.

Michelle, one of the eyewitnesses of the incident recalls: ““…armed men forced everyone to go out. In front of all those gathered at the basketball court, sat my father (Dionil Campos). They began shouting– because you believe this man and refuse the mines coming here we remain poor, we could all have better lives! Drop down!– they shouted to everyone and began shooting over our heads. Then the gun was turned on to my father, and at close range he was shot in the head…”

In one of the statements released by the Diocese of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, the diocese said, “One can see and understand that only those community of [lumads] who firmly stand to protect the forest and reject mining activities and anything that destroys nature were obviously the ones being hounded and intimidated supposedly by the aforementioned notorious group.”

In the militarization of Lumad schools, one man stood up to fight for a noble cause, and that is to provide a learning center for the Lumad children. He was Emerito Samarca or known as Tatay Emok, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development. He was found dead in that same school where he devoted his life, with stab wounds in his neck, and a slit across his throat.

Manobo elder, Datu Juvillo Sinzo, was also not able to escape the evil hands of Mahagat-Bagani. He was “pulled to the tub. He was beaten, his arm broken, and shot” as told by another eyewitness.

(c) Loi Manalansan
(c) Loi Manalansan

All these three Lumad fought for what they know is right, and for what they know their people deserve–a land and natural resources of their own, a decent and peaceful life. But because of the capitalists’ greedy pursuit of profit, wealth, and power, they were robbed of the chance to provide this kind of life to their families and their community.

BUT THEY HAVE US–their fellow Filipinos, their fellow humans. Their fight would be declared ‘defeated’ if we refuse to continue their battle and if no single person would at least try to do so. If we do, then the fight goes on.

Currently, Lumads are still being forced to leave their lands caused by corporate mining interests. There are about 680 Lumad displaced through their neighboring cities, looking for refuge and safe haven. While there is still one of the last remaining intact rainforests of the Pantaron Mountain Ranges inhabited by the Lumads, the mountain range is threatened by mining concessionaires set to exploit 9000 hectares for coal mining, 2000 hectares of which is already in operation, and 6000 hectares for gold mining.

This is a form of modern day slavery, as what also occurs in many parts of indigenous lands across the globe. Lumads are free; but they are being oppressed and enslaved by heartless people who prefer to put profit over humans and the planet.

But let us remember this: we are much greater in number than these greedy oppressors. They may have strong connections with the higher ups; they may have the amount of wealth that can buy them resources and manpower. But on our end, we have our voices. If only we, in solidarity, would shout and cry out for justice, our collective voice would surely drown theirs. We would surely win this fight. So then, let us keep going to put an end to modern day slavery and other forms of social injustices.

The campaign on #StopLumadKillings will be hyped on October 26–on this day, over 700 Lumad will arrive in the Philippine capital, Manila, from a 1,500-km walk starting from Mindanao, to assert their right to life, land, and justice. Their struggles are our struggles. Let us join together and stand with the Lumad.

You can also help amplify their voices by joining us on Twitter in demanding PH president Noynoy Aquino to #StopLumadKillings.

Michelle (center) with the Lumad communities protesting against the killings in Mindanao. (c) Pinoy Weekly
Michelle (center) with the Lumad communities protesting against the killings in Mindanao. (c) Pinoy Weekly

This is my personal contribution to the Blog Action Day 2015 themed, #RaiseYourVoice

Sources:

350.org – People Over Profits: #StopLumadKillings

walkfree.org – Blog Action Day 2015

Lumad killings ‘extensively planned’ says Tandag diocese

SDGs and You

It is 2015 and many people are still perhaps somewhat clueless as to whether we have achieved or have in any way come closer to attaining the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

While nations may not have met all targets, the goals are a work in progress.

Now the world has adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) or known as the #GlobalGoals which breaks down the 8 MDGs into more specific goals. These are:

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1 no poverty2 hunger3 good health4 education5 gender6 clean water7 energy8 work9 industry10 inequality11 sustainable cities12 consumption13 climate action14 water life15 land life16 peace17 partnerships Image source: www.un.org | Know more about each goal here.

17 goals with 169 targets can be quite overwhelming to meet for an organization or even a nation. But if we take one step at a time and work collectively, we can meet these goals.

While we act in our own little way, we should demand more from our governments. They need to prioritize the SDGs, put into place well researched policies and programs and ensure they are implemented.

There is no other way as if we don’t act now, we endanger our future. This is our hope for humanity.

Last September, I, together with other members of various civil society and non-government organizations and climate activists, was privileged to see the world premiere screening of “This Changes Everything”, a film adaptation of the same titled book by Naomi Klein. It is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change and poses the question, “What if confronting the climate crisis is the best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world?” Towards the end of the film, Klein said that those who are up there, drunk with greed and selfish desires in pursuit of the fraud ‘economic growth’, cannot be stopped unless they see a strong force of resistance from below—that’s us.

A similar idea was shared by Michelle Brown, a British academic and historian and a contributor for You’re History: How People Make a Difference, who said, “Once ordinary people become more socially and politically aware and active, it can become harder for their governments to be wantonly exploitative and corrupt – unless society becomes so cynical and blase about its politicians and their motives that it leaves them to get on with it without demanding better.”

I hope that cynicism won’t drown us, Filipinos. Instead, let hope arise and let our frustrations be converted into actions. We have much to offer and much to take care of, as we progress on several fronts.

Now we need to take the time to understand these SDGs and think of small ways on how we can contribute to the attainment of each goal. We must also try to think of innovative ways we can urge governments to implement the SDGs. It is through our actions, what is done at the grassroots level, that can bring about the achievements of the SDGs.

Be inspired by this video and join the people from all over the world to push for the #GlobalGoals.

What do you think about this? 🙂

A Confession of Salvation

I have been a church kid for so many years and I thought back then that since I am of a Christian family, my salvation would automatically follow. So I got involved in various ministries not really knowing if I did it on purpose, for self-gain, or for other vain reasons.

So how did God find me and call me?

Here’s my confession of salvation. (published on SAVED App)


Read more Christian life testimonies, and access Christian songs on SAVED App!

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