Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Road Trip for Christmas 2013 Part 1

This Christmas, I will be going on a road trip up North.

With my blue Vios, I will take a week long journey with my family for a Christmas celebration and fellowship. My wife and the kids, my brother and a friend rides with us. We will be travelling with my sister-in-law who will travel with her family on their car and we will meet up other family members in Nueva Ecija to complete our three vehicle convoy.

Day One - We woke up early. Our call time was 3 AM. After meeting up in McDo, we were able to hit the road at around 3:30 AM. We left early to avoid the expected traffic build up in NLEX.

The travel was smooth. We took the newly opened TPEX. The kids and my rear passengers were asleep during the trip but my wife kept me company to make sure I won't fall asleep while driving. I love long travels because it allows for good chit chats on whatever topic that may pop up. I always believe that a good conversation builds relationships and strengthens old ones.  This is a good way to catch up after being away from my family for two weeks to assist in the rehab efforts in Tacloban.

Our first stop was in Guimba. We took some shortcuts which led us to wrong directions. Good for us we were with "Magta" who helped us ask for directions. We arrived at our first stop in Guimba before 7 AM. We had a hearty breakfast of steamed vegetable and lechon paksiw prepared by the Barrientos family. At around 9 AM, we were back on the road towards Tuguegarao.

Since it was daytime, there were not too many cargo trucks travelling along the highway. This allowed us to have a speedy travel. After racing to the top of Nueve Vizcaya in Sta Fe, we took a short break to enjoy the view in Dalton Pass. It has been quite some time since I took a moment to appreciate nature. For me, mountaintop experiences always gives the perfect setting for a communion with God. Being at the top of Sta Fe, NV, looking up to heaven, it seems that God is closer to us. It is Christmas indeed for it is the time where God came to earth not only to be closer with us but to be with us.

It was now past 11 AM and we decided to have lunch in Cordon. We got there at around 2 PM. This is my favorite pitstop whenever I travel to Tuguegarao. The ambience is so cozy and relaxing. For a moment it makes me forget that I have been taking a long travel. We ordered their specialty of seafood kare-kare, fish fillet, vegetable salad among others. It was a full lunch.

The last leg will be towards Tuguegarao. We took the road via Roxas to save some time. It was already 3 PM and we don't want to be travelling before the sun sets. But the day is shorter and the nights are longer in December. It was only 5 PM but the sky is already getting dusky and dark. I don't have my glasses and I don't want to drive in the dark. Good for me that I am sandwiched in between our convoy. This helped me be guided in the road. We finally arrived at Tuguagarao safely at 8 PM. We were welcomed by my In-Laws and we feasted on seafoods and vegetables they prepared for us.  


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Are you the one who is to come?

Today is the third Sunday of Advent. The Gospel lesson comes from Matthew 11:2-11. This is a timely story to tell for all of us doing relief and rehabilitation in Leyte for the Typhoon Yolanda affected areas.

The story is about the disciples of John who went to ask Jesus if he is the messiah or is it somebody else. They know he is doing great things, helping the people, healing the sick, feeding the hungry and water to the thirsty. Yet, they are not sure if he is the messiah. John was pretty sure that his cousin, Jesus, was the anointed one by the Holy Spirit because he baptized Jesus himself. But, John is now in prison and he has doubts.

John has doubts. Whenever things go wrong, we doubt God. We are Christians, and likeJohn we believe in God. But, when things go wrong we doubt and ask, why would God let it happen to us if he loves us? Why would God let the corrupt suffer if he is just? Why would God allowed destruction if he is powerful?

We are like John, we have also doubts. Especially whenever we are in prison, like John. The bad things that happen to us could be considered our prison. Our prison could be financial burden, failed relationships, unrealized goals and targets and being sick or a love one with poor health. We focus on our situation and we fail to recognize who God is.

Why did John doubt if Jesus was really the messiah? Because John was expecting Jesus as the messiah to be able to help him. John had expectations of Jesus and they were not met. Expectations were big, and when they are not met, they fall big.

We believe in God and expect God to do certain things as our God. When our expectations of what our God should be able to do are not accomplished, we doubt if God and ask why did he allow it to happen?

The strategic targets for our organizations, the cluster targets and other deliverable are not according to our expectations. We are frustrated because we know we are doing this as part of God's ministry to the little children and their families. We doubt God because God is not helping us accomplish our plans.

We forget that God works according to God's own plan and not on our plan. God is expected to do the things God plans to do and not on our expectations and plans. We are blinded by our prison that we could not see the whole picture just as God does.

Whenever we are in doubt because our expectations of God's rewards for our hardwork, God's blessings on our faithfulness, and all the other expectations were not met, let us remember that God remains a God. And God is working according to God's masterplan which is better than ours.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Different Encounter with God this December

December is always unique and special. Yesterday, I had a different encounter with God. We went to the House of Refuge but it was not a church. There were songs of praise and worship but there were also sounds of laughter and joy. There were children all around and some adults too. Anywhere I looked, God was there.

Yesterday, December 8, 2013, we celebrated my sister-in-law's birthday in an orphanage. There were more than 20 boys and girls in that orphanage. We prayed, we sang, they danced, we ate good food and we had fun.

I was amazed by the ministry of this place. There were three house mothers taking care of all these little children, nurturing them and taking care of them. But they said a whole community of faith, the Bread of Life, showers them the love and support that they may grow according to God's plan for them.

The place is three storey's high and has rooms for girls and boys. They provide enough space for them to play. They have enough food for each kid. They can eat nutritious food three times a day. The children go to school. And they get enough school supply for them to do well. The place is amazingly decent considering it is run mostly from charity and donations. I was just blessed how this place can minister to children for decades now with support from the faith community. I can only imagine the dedication and the commitment of the loving people who showed the fruits of their faith.

I reflect back on the many big organized churches scattered around the world, yes, UMC one of them. I know our churches have made great advances in educating children with our pioneering work in kindergarten school. But I know there are people who have hearts to have a ministry with the orphans. I know KKFI ministers with street children. But I have yet to encounter a single local church who has a ministry for orphaned kids. I have yet to see a SEC recognized institution ministering to children supported by a single local church. I know there must be one out there. If not, will your church have the heart to start one?