Today is our last day here in Manila. We leave tomorrow Monday morning for home. What a trip this has been! I want to share some of my thoughts and observations.
On the final day I just caught up with my work while staying at the hotel here in Manila
In the evening we capped off our trip with a gathering of several families at the home of Bong and Grace Remo who live in the Metro Manila area in the Cavite District. Twenty of so people arrived as the evening progressed. A family style buffet meal was served featuring Filipino specialties such as fish soup, ox tail in peanut sauce, rambutan and other fruits, banana flower various variations of oriental chicken, sweet/sour fish and much much more. It was nice to pick on all these items without having to look out for squid, octopus, shrimp and other such creatures. When on the flight over from the United States to Tokyo I noticed a octopus suckers in my salad.....arghh....
We talked for quite a while before Rey and Cynthia Evasco drove us back to the hotel. In the Macaraeg family there were four representatives at the meal. Delores Macaraeg is the mother of three daughters here plus the pastor of Mindanao, Ed Macaraeg. The sisters are Grace Remo, Rowena and Decima. The Lorenzo's and Malendez's came by came by later. We had three "seatings" for the wonderful meal served for us. The best part was the conversation and positive outlook for the United Church of God in the Philippines.
I feel that you really can't fully understand the Philippines, its people and geography without visiting first-hand. I have heard reports, seen photos, but really didn't understand as I did until after this trip.
The people are lovely. That's perhaps the best single word that I can use to describe them. From those in the Church to those on the street there is a beauty and calmness that is part of their makeup. I never saw angry impatient drivers (which there MUST be some, somewhere, I'd imagine). The bond in the families is very strong and obvious. A Filipino that comes to conversion is truly a gem of a person in beauty outwardly and inwardly.
From the start of the trip in Mindanao in the south and seeing the Macaraeg family work and relate to one another was beholding. Parts of their family are in all parts of the Philippines....from the Mindanao to the Visayas to Manila. Four of them work for the Church in Davao City at the Office holding jobs in pastoring, office management, media and various other responsibilities.
The Church office is very neatly run and pleasant to be in from walking in and being greeting by the receptionist Viel to visiting with all the employees. The media and mailing departments are nicely organized. There is a conference/lunch room to one side of the main work areal. On the other side there is meeting room and then yet another storage room. We held our office meeting there when visiting. I felt it very important to explain how we are organized internationally through the senior pastor structure and the relationship of the churches in the Philippines with the home office.
Roy Gilos who works in the media area traveled with us through all parts of the this journey. He was very attentive and always thinking ahead about what needed to be done. He is really on the ball and helped us with the few travel problems we had travelling between Manila and the Visayas, He was always joyful and fun on the entire journey and I already miss being with him.
Seeing Jed Sy and her brother Jong Pilapil was a heart-rending and challenging event. Two young people in prison for the rest of their lives. I am hopeful that their current appeals will be heard....in the meantime they are like Joseph in Egypt who was an example of responsibility and trust while wrongfully imprisoned. He was ultimately released as I feel these two will be. Our continual prayers are for their release.
I appreciate the maturity, dignity and faithfulness of all the seven elders in the Philippines who take their role seriously. In the wake of the those driven by a dark spirit who have preyed on our people to divide them and take them away to rule over them, our elders have held firm and realized and articulated how wrong and unethical this blatant conscionsless violation of God's people this has been. We have all appreciated what God has done and built in the Philippines and we are building on that platform.
The Philippines has done better in Kingdom of God Bible Seminars than other nation in the world. In the last round of seminars, the seven of the top ten responses in the world was from the Philippines. In a former round from last year, an entirely new church of about 20 has formed on the island of Cebu. They come week after week and look forward to being with one another, The Filipinos have done well with this and we are hopeful that this model will be replicated elsewhere.
I deeply appreciated meeting our elders Raul Villacote and Jose Campos who both live on Leyte. They oversee a number of congregations on Leyte as well as Cebu, including the newly formed one from Kingdom of God seminars. Reuel Campos, son of the elder and his wife Meryl and young leaders stepping up to speaking and pastoral type duties.
In Manila we thoroughly enjoyed being with Rey and Cynthia Evasco, pastor, who has served faithfully in the Church for many years. I enjoyed being with them several times at services and social occasions and the all-day trip to Corregidor, spending a lot of time talking with and sharing thoughts.
It was a joy to meet with and become well acquainted with our new elders Bennie and Gloria Lorenzo and Bong and Grace Remo who live in the Metro Manila area. Also, I enjoyed spending time with former employee Pedro Melendez and his wife Pacifica going back to WCG days. He worked as an elder long ago when the Philippines had about 50 elders and 5000 people in attendance. He filled in a lot of our recent history.
What is needed most in the Philippines? From several of the leaders I heard that it's training of future leaders that's needed most. We are realizing how important that is not only here in the Philippines, but also in other places of the world. We are planning to do just that with multi-day seminars to be held in various parts of the country starting in December.
Finally, I appreciated the time spent with senior pastor Earl Roemer with whom I spent 12 days in travel. He is a close friend whom I have known for nearly 40 years beginning when I was associate pastor for him in the Cape Girardeau/Paducah churches in the United States. I knew his wife and his children when they were little. Now our paths have crossed in a most meaningful way. He is a man of great depth of thought and intense love and service for people he serves, particularly here in the Philippines. They are his love and his mission is to serve them. Earl lost his lovely and deeply converted wife and support Carol to cancer last year and is now devoting his energy to the Filipinos that he loves and generously serves. I appreciate the hours of talk that I had with Earl while travelling.
That's it. I thank God for making this opportunity possible. In the end it's all about people and reaching our potential as sons and daughters of God. How wonderful it is to be a part of that process. We pray that He gives us the will and fortitude to continue to do His Will...and exciting one it is!
Last day of fantastic journey - closing thoughts
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Manila, Luzon, Philippines