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An inspiring journey

It’s already one month since my discharge from the hospital due to intense abdominal pain. I was supposed to undergo gallbladder surgery based on the ultra sound result. Since there was a cyst in the tail end of pancreas, my doctor recommended CT scan in order  to be included  in the operation should there be a mass. However, result of the CT scan revealed no gallstones, only sludge and the mass measuring 5 x 4 cm is found in the pancreatic head not tail with nodules and cysts in liver and intestine.

sickOther findings were atherosclerotic aorta, prostatomegaly and hypertrophic degenerative osteoarthritis, lumbar spine. The doctor tried to make us understand these medical terms with the advise for exploratory laparotomy – a diagnostic surgery also to determine if the mass is malignant and the recommendation for subsequent chemotherapy. After discussing pros and cons and the possible costs, I decided to go home to rest for awhile as I already feel drained in all aspects after 5 day stay in hospital. Had it not been for social worker friends and masteral students who volunteered to facilitate with the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the City Congressman’s office for some assistance, my family would have incurred again debt for my hospitalization and laboratories. Gifts from colleagues in the academe, pastors, social work masteral students,classmate in high school and townmates plus contribution from my siblings and my wife’s family have also helped us in cashing out for the bills.Some well meaning friends and colleagues continue to send gifts which we appreciate.

family

Yes, finances affected my decision. After weighing all things including the worst i.e. my case is terminal and days are already numbered. I have said to myself, if ever I die, I would no longer burden my family for the debts to be incurred for the chemotherapy. Our experience in 2009, when I was seriously ill forcing us to loan from various sources, is more than enough. I cannot bear the thought of my family especially the children to suffer deprivation again because of me. Relatively, my wife and I have already lived our lives. But our kids are just starting to live their own lives. And they have their struggles, too. I consoled myself with the thought that in 1975-1976 during my first critical condition, I bargained to God for only one year to live so that I could serve him well since I was still in the seminary and too young to die. Indeed, upon recovery right after graduation I worked full time in a church, giving my all, thinking for only one year. And God has extended it for over 30 years already.

Of course, like any other human being, I wish to live longer because I have many unfinished tasks yet. I still want to see my children finished their respective courses and establish their family. I want to put in place the distance education program of the department before my retirement. And to publish the dream book– consolidation of our life’s experiences in life highlighting God’s faithfulness, mercy and grace in transforming my life into a productive one. How God has helped me survived more than 3 serious illnesses , accidents and threats to my life and security especially when I joined the people’s struggle during the dark years of dictatorial rule in the Philippines. And probably write other inspirational books and references that can be used in the academe and ministry.

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Thus my one month journey is a mixture of ambivalence greatly affected by my health condition. When I feel good my spirit is high, contented with my decision. But when the abdominal pain/inconvenience recurs, I am tempted to reconsider my decision. More so, when I read the Discharge Summary  indicating in the Final Diagnosis: Advanced intraabdominal malignancy; Etiology undetermined. I tried to search the web on pancreatic disease, cyst, or cancer and alternative medicines and their consequences. I started using some of those herbs/vegetables that are familiar to me like the turmeric, ginger, lemon grass, babana. Until a friend, whom I helped formulated the vision-mission-goals of his Dreamers Valley some years, invited me in one thanksgiving of the success of his ministry.

dreameRS.

The place has been wonderfully developed,  according to the brochure I made for him. It can accommodate now 300 participants for seminar using organic products for food. He let me try his fermented 3 C composed of carrots, cucumber and celery which are believed to kill cancer cells. These are my natural resources in faith journey, taken daily with faith and prayers that they come from God and the power of God works through them, at times trying imagery as culled from the testimony of some survivors. Of course, with the hundreds prayer partners who signified their commitment to join me in prayers for healing. Yes, throughout the month’s journey, I internalized the acrostics I used in my sermon on THANKSgiving.

Prayer

So far, my faith journey works well and has been inspiring. Except for some days of inconveniences, especially when I consumed sea foods and weeds for my viand for consecutive days, the intensity of abdominal pain did not occur. I become cautious with my food intake. Admittedly, I do not know the real happening inside my body –whether medically the situation has minimized or worsened, whether the mass is malignant or not, whether the cancer cells were eliminated or compounded. But deep within me is a peace of mind, a healthy disposition, an undying hope and faith that I will survive, a resolve that whatever happens, I will continue to internalize THANKS: Trust God, Hope that never ends, Accept realities, Never give up, Keep the faith and Shift the focus. I discipline my self to look for good things my illness or each day brings rather than entertaining pain, suffering, fear and negative thoughts. The journey goes on. Hope you will continue to be our prayer partner in this journey towards healing.

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Do I have to move mountains to prove my faith?

Article first published  March 22, 2011 on Faith Journey. This is first of the series of transfer of selected posts from my other blogs.

My sickness has given me sufficient time to rest, pray, meditate, read the bible, reflect and write. All the wonderful experiences my previous hectic schedule deprived me. Among other things, I have been grateful to God for the subsequent inner renewal taking place in my life. My faith has been strengthened every day.

During those extreme moments when I was bed ridden, the bible became my constant companion. It continues to be, providing new insights and inspiration, no matter how many times I go over the books, chapters and verses. Literally or symbolically, the scripture has provided me relief, guidance, assurance, and strength.

I cannot count the times I revisit the Gospel. So much so, at times, I find myself on the actual scene of the encounters of Jesus with harsh realities of life. It is not difficult for me to realize his frustration with established, exclusivist religious structure and leadership and the skirmishes that follow. Likewise, the consequent effect of stirring the hornet of exploitative system which takes its toll on his life and ministry. I understand the jubilation of his followers and the tensions created by the triumphant entry leading to his crucifixion. The inevitable price of advocating and standing for the way, the truth and the life. I can easily identify with his concern for the poor, the deprived, the oppressed. My social work experience and involvement in the people’s struggle during the dark years of dictatorial rule in our country make me sensitive to the situation.

Literally, I follow his teachings on forgiveness and love even the enemies. Though difficult it may be, I enjoy its soothing effect to my soul. Even his exhortation concerning worries about the cares of the world including the daily needs is feasible. Although the expected provision does not always come on time, still I continue to follow his teachings. Whereas before, skipping daily maintenance due to lack of resources made me panic. Now, I take it as part of my healing process. Of course, at times my heart complains when deprived for weeks of the medicine. But I have to assure it that all things will work together for good and wait for the provision.

Yes, I can attest that the teachings of Jesus are relevant, feasible and worthwhile. But I stumbled on some things. Foremost, is his teachings on faith as recorded in Mark 11:22-24.’’Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Its realization appears to be elusive. Many times, I try but fail. I cannot not even move my health condition into another level, no matter how I apply suggestions on the power of faith or power of mind or a combination of both. But always, I find refuge on the belief that the fullness of time will soon come. The delay is part of God’s preparation for ministry. At times, I reflect: Do I have to move mountains to prove my faith?

The fullness of time has come for us to organize

Thank you for coming and congratulations for taking part in this historic gathering today. Its significance may not be felt immediately but some years from now, after our consistent commitment, we can look back to this gathering and the people who are here as the key players in bringing the change many have longed for.

This is the reason why I decided to print my message so that you can keep it for reference 3-5 years from now. Not to mention the obvious, that I cannot speak too long, having not fully recovered yet from my ailment. But the urgency of organizing this movement cannot wait for my full recovery. Being personally present is enough for me.

The need for change in the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) has long been felt. Many have been calling for it, some even taking initiatives towards this end. This is one of the important lessons I have learned in my stint as President of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA) for two terms in my interaction with pastors in the mainstream. By trying to know the actual situation and improve the life of pastors, I have learned that problems do not only involve personal ones but the system itself. And we can only attain the development of pastors if we change the system, to complement the changes in individual lives.

Let me cite concrete example of defect in the system. We were made to believe before that CPBC is basically for churches and not for pastors, which should be the concern of the CBMA. But when I joined the CPBC Board, I have discovered that foremost of the tripartite intentions of the CPBC is the leadership development of pastors and lay. This was inscribed in the Declaration of CPBC Principles during its founding in 1935. There is an observable trend, however, of the lopsided development in terms of fulfilling its intentions. For so long, the development of ministers was not given much emphasis in programs and services and in the budget.

Similarly, record shows that in 2000, a Ten Year Strategic Plan was formulated which included the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns as a separate program specifically for the development of pastors. This however was not given emphasis and sufficient budget and particular staff.

Why such historical document that is very valuable to pastors not given attention and emphasis reflects the problem in system of leadership and CPBC politics. Indeed, since the time CPBC elections have been highly politicized, the trend in leadership position has drastically changed. Results of elections always favored organized groups that have established and strengthened their mass base and machinery to perpetrate their leadership control and set the direction of the CPBC and related institutions. As such, the CPBC and related institutions have been captive of various interest groups/cliques as the focus shifted to control of leadership and not service and giving direction in implementation of the avowed intentions and purpose of the Convention as chartered by the founders.

Some opined that the development of pastors was not given emphasis to maintain their dependence and loyalty on particular person and group that support them. Because if this has been deliberately undertaken by the CPBC, then the loyalty of pastors will be on the organization not on person.

It has become a perennial problem, criticized, scorned and condemned by some. But oftentimes forgotten in the course of time. Then when the problems manifest, the concerns are revived. There appears to be no deliberate and concerted effort to put an end to this obvious and condemnable activities. Rev. Rustom Ola has rightly described this as form of bondage.

The systemic problem has created a culture of traditional politics of patronage – that one cannot be in the leadership position unless he/she submits to a particular patron/group. Leadership is no longer a matter of capability, ability and skills and tract record but on what has been programmed by the group. Those who do not toe the line or fail to consult the patron are left by their own in their leadership survival. Such approach forces those dreamers of leadership position to establish tactical alliances and trade offs in order to get and subsequently cling to the desired position.

Because of this, the CPBC has been deprived of other qualified and good leaders who cannot win in the elections because of the systemic problem. The trend will continue unless we make a move to form a network of principled individuals and groups to change the system and revive the noble purposes of our pioneer leaders.

MOVEMENT FOR CHANGE INITIATIVES

Our gathering today is not the first effort for change. There has been attempts in the past mostly initiated by younger ones. Unfortunately, seldom has been sustained. I could still recall there was movement of progressive pastors in 1980’s, some seminarians in Panay in 2000. In Negros, a movement of young pastors showed their consolidated strength by daring to challenge the veteran leadership in Negros and foretasted success when they captured the leadership in Kasapulanan in 2006.

After the CPBC election in 2006, kasapulanan presidents also organized themselves to protest the fraudulent election practices. Even the whole assembly has made resolutions to review, redefine, reorganize the CPBC structure, relationship, programs and services as contained in the 2005, 2006 Assembly Resolutions. However, while there are few who patiently continued, many were either coopted of gave up due to the hassles encountered, being vulnerable to institutionalized repression, retaliation and black propaganda from the notorious Dirty Tricks Department used by various groups.

Personally and through the CBMA, I attempted to present the agenda for change entitled IMPROVED MINISTERS: DEVELOPED CPBC (I’M D CPBC) during the CPBC Board of Trustees (BOT) Meeting in 2006 but it was laid on the table. Revised, presented and subsequently endorsed by the CBMA BOT, it was presented again during the February 2009 meeting for CPBC BOT action. Part of the document was also used during the Round table discussion during the 69th CBMA Assembly. But two CPBC administrations have gone, the documents are still kept in the archive.

The situation calls for a deliberate and sustained organizing effort to consolidate the gains and coordinate/synchronize other initiatives for change and set the principled direction to break the cyclic bondage. There is a need for revival of the original purpose and focus of the CPBC. The call to Reclaim the Visionary Intentions and Value system (REVIVAL) represents the aspiration of pastors, as well as lay leaders and youth. The direction is to reclaim the inherent CPBC avowed purposes chartered by our founders.

THE CALL FOR SOLID ORGANIZING AND COORDINATED NETWORK

The REVIVAL Network will advocate to reclaim these as priority concerns for the CPBC, as well as the value system based on Jesus declaration in John 14:6 – His being “the way, truth and the life.” This value system was exemplified by our forefathers/mothers in faith and pioneer leaders who have the spirit of missionaries not mercenaries, truthful and transparent in their service not for personal gain or profit. They served as shepherds, not hirelings, that are concerned with life and not destruction. Truly, they were leaders not dealers who led properly and in right way, not by manipulation. By reclaiming this value system, we will put an end to patronage politics, as those in the leadership positions will truly serve to attain the CPBC tripartite avowed intentions. These are (1) train the Filipino ministers and lay leaders in Christian leadership; (2)organize and establish more Baptist churches of good standing; (3) establish charitable and religious institutions such as schools, hospitals and Christian centers.

Apparently, the CPBC was organized not only for the work of churches but also for the development of ministers and lay leaders, as well as for the establishment of other institutions. Let us emphasis the seemingly neglected CPBC purpose (Article II, Section 1e): “To work with member churches and related institutions in securing the well-being of all its ministers for strengthening of the pastoral ministry and missionary work.”

However, we know that this is not an easy task. The system has been perpetrated for decades. It will take probably equally same length of time to change the system. Hence, the network will be known as REVIVAL 1020 to emphasize a decade of protracted struggle. But we should not forget that successful movements worldwide started small but with sustained commitment. Our Christian faith is a concrete example of this. Moreover, to be specific, we have also experienced success story through the Katipan Hall in Camp Higher Ground. At the start only few believed the possibility to finish the project while more had reservations. But in the process of campaign and construction, the participants have experienced God’s power and provision as church leaders, members and even the public gave their support. Also we realized the beauty of restoring trust and confidence and the power and strength in unity.

With these experiences and many more, we know we can if we will. Because our motives are not selfish. Our basis of unity is in line with God’s will and purpose for the CPBC.

REVIVAL 1020 Network is basically an advocacy network to consistently push for the REVIVAL agenda thru the following: CPBC

Consciousness raising thru information-dissemination of Revival Network’s existence, thrusts and direction, as well as the significant historical role of pastors, lay and youth in the life of CPBC and related institutions and the current realities and trends in CPBC.

Prayer and participation in various groups and CPBC related activities including electoral exercises to support principled leaders for the CPBC Board and Corporation of related institutions who subscribe the principles of the REVIVAL Network

Building of network to coordinate various initiatives for change and development and provide support system for the Network members and others who are persecuted for truth and advocacy work.

Call for transparency and participatory governance in CPBC and related institutions/organizations.

From here, we will take action, strengthen our network, expand our reach and expect REVIVAL in the CPBC. “For if God is with us, who can be against us?”

*Opening Statement during the Organizational Meeting of REVIVAL 1020 Network, April 19, 2010 at Central Philippine University.