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!

How then should you love your neighbor?

From last week’s post (Who is my neighbor?), let’s now take a look at how then we should love our neighbors.

ChristianBlessings

Last time, we were able to identify our neighbor in the commandment, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”.  In this post, let us take a look at the weight of love that we ought to give our neighbors by looking again to the very words of Jesus.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

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Who is my neighbor?

“Love your neighbor as yourself”…so who is my neighbor?

Sequel to “Revisiting the Two Greatest Commandments

ChristianBlessings

To recap last week’s introductory post for our “love talk” series, here’s a photo verse that says it all:

1 John 4:20-21 Illustration by Lara Harwood – www.laraharwood.co.uk

36 “Teacher,” he asked, “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and the most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22:36-40

In marketing, you cannot meet your goals if you do not know your target market.  As Christians, our goal is to obey God’s commandments.  So he said, love the Lord, and love your neighbor.  In the first command, it’s quite easy to point who should be the…

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Stupid for You by Marie Digby (cover)

Drawing
Drawing (Photo credit: Wikipedia) – Marie Digby

My cover of Marie Digby’s Stupid for You

Marie Digbie’s “Stupid For You” got covered…by me 🙂

*Please click the link title*  Hope you’ll enjoy it!

-Moon

Hiding My Heart by Adele (cover)

The cover for Adele's single Make You Feel My Love
(Photo credit: Wikipedia) – Adele

Hiding my Heart by Adele (cover)

…because I’d love to share with you some of my music and talent 🙂 Did a cover of Adele’s “Hiding My Heart”.  Hope you’ll like it. 🙂  *please click link title*

-Moon