Sunday, December 2, 2018

Waiting for Advent?


This article was shared in a Christian magazine. I wanted to share it with you all here online. The message is inspired by the Gospell of Luke 1:26-38. 

Who among you already had their Christmas party? How many of you opened their gifts already? How many of you have their gifts still wrapped? We are teaching our kids to also wait until Christmas. We already gave Christmas gifts to our kids as early as November, but they are not yet opened until now.  This will be the message for us this early morning.

We are on the third week of Advent. Advent is a season of waiting – hopeful waiting. I hate to break the bad news, but in the Christian calendar, it is not yet Christmas. It is still advent, the season of waiting – a time of anticipation and expectation… expecting for the coming of Jesus and anticipating for that day to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas day, and hopeful waiting for the second coming of our Lord.

Our story this morning is about that anticipation period. The time before Mary gave birth. This is the time when Mary became pregnant and had to wait for that first Christmas.  This was about a little teenager girl. Imagine a girl – in a patriarchal society, she is considered a second class citizen. This is a child – in a society, she is innocent and without experience. She was given a task by God and the task is big – to bear a king.

Let us focus as our story tells us that Mary will be pregnant. She will be expecting. She will be waiting for nine months until the boy whom Israel has been waiting to be their messiah will be born. I remember princess Kate and prince William when she got pregnant with her baby two years ago. It was all over the news, people were excited, not only English people. People were waiting and anticipating, they even camped outside the palace and the hospital during the due month. She will be the mother of a future king. People asked, “is it going to be a boy? lalaki kaya? Healthy ba yung baby paglabas? Guapo ba?” How did the Princess feel? Ano kaya yung iniisip niya? Ano kaya yung pressure sa kanya to be expecting a baby king? But that’s for a princess. How about the commoner? Yung ordinary pregnant women?

What is it like to be expecting a baby and waiting for it to be born? I had a patient who became my friend (Gina) who wanted to get pregnant. They were expecting to get pregnant for years. They waited for the baby to be born. They got pregnant after more than 7 years of waiting. While they were waiting, they were also preparing. While waiting for the baby to be born, there needs to be preparation. As doctors, we help the family, the father, especially the mother to prepare for the coming of the newborn baby.  

Pregnancy is a time of preparation. “Nine months of preparation yan.” You need pre-natal care. We make sure the mother is healthy. Regular check up is needed to make sure no infection that will jeopardize the pregnancy. We need to provide nutritious food and vitamins to the mother. Also given is vaccine to the mother to make sure no  infection happens. Then we need to monitor the baby inside that it is healthy. We do an ultrasound. We check the movement of the baby and the position of the baby. We also tell the family to prepare a baby bag ready to be brought during the due date. We ask the mothers to prepare a duster during that day. We ask the father to prepare diapers, ready some medicines that will be necessary during the birth.

Pero hindi ko pa rin maintindihan hanggang ngayon, kapag may nanganganak at dinala sa ospital yung tatay wala pa ring tsinelas. Kapag hiningi mo yung lampin, yung mga gamit, dextrose, gamut wala daw. Wala din daw dalang pera pambili ng gamut sa botika. Emergency daw kasi kaya nakalimutan. Nine months siyang nagbuntis, they were expecting for this day for nine months pero wala pa rin preparation. Emergency pa rin. Hindi napaghandaan.

The Advent season is a time for us to prepare ourselves as we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus. Most of us are unprepared for that coming of Jesus. As Christians we are like Mary, we are made pregnant by the Holy Spirit. That is the good news. The Holy Spirit has filled us. Within us, we bear the image of Christ. But many of us are not ready to give birth to the image of Christ.

We fear and doubt that great things will be accomplished. We cannot do it because we are too small, we are too weak. We are just simple people. The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 winner is the youngest winner. She is a little girl. She is only a teenager, 17 years old. She is Malala Yousafzai. She is a Pakistani. She is advocating for women to be educated. She wrote a blog for this advocacy because the Taliban ban the education of girls in their country. When she became famous because of this advocacy, the Taliban tried to silence her and shoot her in the head. She survived it.

Educating little children and forming them in Christian values is a preparation for these children to become willing instruments of Gods plan. We need to prepare them early and properly to become willing instruments of God. The world will experience the saving grace of Jesus in feeding the hungry, healing the sick, pulling down the wicked, finding the lost, through the body of Christ today.

We join the anticipation of the pregnant Mary. She anticipate the birth of a child who will deliver Israel. Mary was told that his son will be the king who will reign over the house of Jacob forever. We anticipate that day when the hungry will be filled, the rich are sent empty, the sick healed, the humbled lifted. As Christians, we are made pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the image of Christ. We wait with hope, we wait with joy, we wait in solidarity with all who suffer. We wait knowing that it will come. As we wait, we know that God is with us as all of us are pregnant and filled by the Holy Spirit. The challenge for us, are we ready and willing to give birth to Jesus Christ in our life?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Antidote for an Unhealthy Life

I have been asked to write an article about Christmas. As I was browsing some of my notes, I came across this old article I wrote years ago about healthy living. This thought has been formative on my understanding of the relationship of the body and spirit. Let me share it with you again.


We want to be healthy, especially during the “- ber” months. Fever, cough and colds are common during this season and we don’t want to get sick. That is why whenever we don’t feel well, feel weak, have body pains or other symptoms, we immediately take medicines that will help us feel better. It is good that we have access to capsules and syrups that help us get rid of the harmful elements in our physical bodies that make us sick. But, what about our Christian well-being? How can we get rid of the things that makes us spiritually unhealthy? Every day we encounter temptations in this world that leads us to sin. We commit sinful acts that make us live unhealthy lives. Sin poisons our bodies. Is there an antidote for this poison? Is there a medicine that can help rid our bodies of the poisonous effect of sin?
Gregory of Nyssa, one of the early Christian teachers, described the Holy Eucharist as a medicine. The Holy Eucharist, or what we commonly call the Holy Communion, is a medicine that counters the deadly effect of sin. He said that the Holy Eucharist is an antidote that heals us from the poisonous sin that leads to death.
Every day, in our work, in our school, in our offices we are tempted to commit sin. These temptations make our thoughts, words and deeds acts of disobedience to God – we sin. Sin poisons our Christian well-being. Sin leads us to an unhealthy life. We need an antidote against this poison. The antidote must be something that has power to overcome sin and death. That antidote is, of course, the body and blood of Christ. This becomes the antidote because the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate on Christmas overcame death when he resurrected from the dead after three days. That body and blood of Christ is present in the elements of the Holy Communion. Remember, Jesus said, “Eat this bread for this is my body… drink from this cup for this is my blood…” Thus, partaking in the Holy Communion allows our body to assimilate the “healing effect” of the body and blood of Christ. Through the sacrament of the Holy Communion, we receive the outward sign of the inward grace from God. John Wesley emphasized that the Holy Communion is a means of grace. When we drink from the cup and partake of the bread, we are actually receiving the grace from God and the power that gets rid of the poisons of sin in our bodies. Isn’t that great? We actually have a medicine that keeps our Christian well-being healthy. And wouldn’t our bodies be healthier when we get rid of the poisons of sins frequently? Wouldn’t we be healthier if we receive God’s grace through the Holy Communion more often? After all, Jesus invited us to do it frequently when he told us to drink from the cup of the new covenant, “Do this as often as you drink, in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:25)”

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Church Role in Empowering Communities


Faith-based organizations (FBOs) can help empower the community to actively participate in improving the health condition of the society. The Comprehensive Rural Health project in Jamkhed, India is an example of how FBOs and churches can influence the health of a community (Chand & Patterson, 2007). Educating the people and influencing their behavior to choose what is healthy and beneficial to the community are strong contributions of churches and FBOs. One such field in public health is the increasing cases of maternal death around the world where the church can positively contribute to its reduction. This has been the contribution of the FBOs in India where the communities where empowered to choose facility-based deliveries with skilled birth attendants to reduce maternal death (Chand & Patterson, 2007).

It is important to measure the contribution of FBOs and any other agencies in empowering the community. Community empowerment can be measured using the five domains of empowerment including confident, inclusive, organized, cooperative, and influential (Community Development Exchange, 2008). We measure empowerment because it is important to assess if there is real community empowerment that happens in the community after health promotion programs. Real community empowerment needs a shift of power to the people where they are the ones who are able to identify the problem, sort through it, and find solutions to the problem (Lord & Hutchinson, 1993). An example of a strong involvement of the people is the community-based participatory research. This type of involvement allows learning, research finding and dissemination of results through the help of all actors in the community (Thompson, Viswanath, Molina, Warnecke, & Prelip, 2016). We see such kind of participatory research in Gbanko. In this area, community participation in health has dramatically reduced their maternal mortality rate (Gala, Umar, & Dandeebo, 2015).  FBOs are also catalyst of real community empowerment which is important in sustaining the change that takes place in the community. Evidences have shown us that deep community involvement is crucial as it provides the necessary resources to keep the program sustainable over time (Nation Online, 2013).

References

Community Development Exchange. (2008, April). What is Community Empowerment? (CDX, Ed.) Retrieved Octobe 18, 2018, from www.cdx.org.uk: https://myportal.upou.edu.ph/pluginfile.php/219578/mod_folder/content/0/what_is_community_empowerment.pdf?forcedownload=1
Lord, J., & Hutchinson, P. (1993, Spring). The Process of Empowerment: Implications for Theory and Practice. (C. J. Health, Ed.) Retrieved October 18, 2018, from Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health: https://myportal.upou.edu.ph/pluginfile.php/219578/mod_folder/content/0/Process%20of%20Empowerment.pdf?forcedownload=1
Mbuagbaw, L., & Shurik, E. (2011, October 26). Community Particiaption in HIV and AIDS Program. (D. E. Barros, Ed.) Retrieved October 18, 2018, from cde.intechopen.com: http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/22456/InTech-Community_participation_in_hiv_aids_programs.pdf
Thompson, B., Viswanath, K., Molina, Y., Warnecke, R., & Prelip, M. (2016, August 1). Strategies to Empower Communities to Reduce Health Disparities. doi:https://dx.doi.org/10.1377%2Fhlthaff.2015.1364



Friday, October 5, 2018

Universal Health Care

This month is crucial in a paradigm shift on the health care system of the Philippines. We dream to have healthy communities free from preventable diseases. We dream of having an accessible and affordable health care readily available for ALL. We dream of a Universal Health Care anchored on a strong Primary Health Care.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Health Board

I traveled in the morning. I traveled at night. But the whole day was a fruitful day.

The Davao Episcopal Area was able to organize the Health Board that will over see the direction and implementation of the Health Ministry of the Church. Last September, the board elected its set of officers. We were also able to set the direction of the ministry with the identification of the priority health concerns in the area.

Freedom was remembered on the day of the declaration of the Martial Law. The DEA Health Board gave me an insight on the boundaries of freedom that we exercise. Freedom does not allow us to do what we do but rather guides us on the good that we need to do that others may benefit from.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Kadayawan sa Laity Congress

I traveled to Davao to attend the National Laity Congress. We were going to introduce to the national leaders of the different laity organizations the health ministry of the United Methodist Church - the Hulapalooza.


It was also Kadayawan Festival in Davao and so it adds up to the celebration in the area. I miss traveling to places but what I miss the most is the excitement that the destination will be a fun place for fellowship and not just any "work. " Our Christian journey in life should always like that. We must always look forward to the joy we will all have when we reach our destination. We must not only look at the destination as a place where we must arrive but a venue for celebration. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Abundant Health. Abundant Life

Abundant Health Forum in Manila

A reflection shared during the 1st Pan-Asia Methodist Abundant Health Forum held in Manila. 

John 10:10 … “ I came that you may  have life and have it abundantly.”

I am happy to share the good news because often, I bring bad news to the patient.

I always say that, because that is true. The hospital is the darkest and the loneliest place on earth. It is a place where you can see sorrow, anxiety, distress and hopelessness. People are sick and in pain while suffering from cancer, malnourished children dying of preventable death like dehydration or dengue fever. You have stroke patients or heart attack patients in the ICU. You have surgical patient with neoplastic masses if not vehicular accidents. These are just patients, these does not include the family members who are equally worried and hopeless with the condition of their patients.

The parents may be stressed out where to get the finances necessary to pay the bills and to buy the medicines. You have relatives and friends who have lost sleep and tired because they volunteered to watch over their patients. You have loved ones who are worried about the job of their patients. Even their own jobs and business that they need to attend to that was disrupted by this illness. You have children who do not know what to do if their parents will be gone. Then you have the health workers in the facility who are so tired of their work. They not only feel tired but feel abused and unappreciated. They feel like they are overworked but underpaid. They have lost hope because they no other recourse and this is the only option left they have. All they can see probably is darkness. Just like the blind man who was standing in front of the temple. But Jesus did something unexpected. On a Sabbath Day, Jesus healed the blind man. But it did not only bring sight to the blind, it also opened the opportunity for the blind man to believe in the Son of Man and become a follower of Jesus. The blind man was offered a new lease of life… not just life but a life of abundance that only comes from Jesus. Wouldn’t that be nice? If all those who are sick, lonely, hopeless, imprisoned, living in the dark will find a life of abundance in Jesus?

I often see families referred to my service for family counseling. How can I help the parents? I see cases where the father and mother are resigned to the fact that their family is a hopeless case. Some  parents have even contemplated to end their lives because their family was going nowhere and they are dragging their kids with them. They have lost all desires to live because all they have encountered are problems, challenges and all the limitations life can throw at them. They have not seen any signs of abundant grace from God. They need a miracle. Are we expecting that the cloud will open in front of them and a bright white light will come down?

The hospital should be a place of hope because hopeless people go to that place. They need hope. Any place of healing and restoration should be a place of hope and life. Jesus is our hope. Jesus can give us life. And Christians should be able to reflect the hope and the life that comes from Christ. When we minister to the sick and the dying are we just able to address their physical ailments without restoring their mental, spiritual health? We provide holistic healing of the mind, body and spirit just like Jesus did. We offer them life, the life Christ offered. For we are instruments of Christ healing. Simple miracles can happen everyday.

I remember when I was a resident physician in Mary Johnston Hospital. Before we bring the patient to the operating room for a surgical procedure. We talk to the family and the patient and explain what will happen. This helps allay their fears and anxiety. We prepare them mentally. Not only that, together with the nurses, we pray with the patient and the family. The prayer calms their soul. They appreciate that a lot. We do that because we recognize that we are mere instruments of God’s healing ministry – the healing of the body, the mind and the soul.

Jesus promised us life and a life in abundance. That life does not only mean adding more years to it, adding more meaning to it or adding more importance to it. That life becomes abundant because Christ offers us hope, peace and joy. In our healing ministries, we open the door that is Christ for people to see the abundant life. As Christians, we are called to bring this good news that is Jesus Christ to every corners of the world. Let us be faithful in our calling, let us bring healing in this broken world. Let us continue to share the life of abundance that we all have found in Jesus Christ.