Friday, February 22, 2013

Revelation in the Philippines

I'm just now coming to terms with the fact that I'm no longer in the Philippines. All day Monday I felt completely heartbroken and really had to pray over this heavy complacency that I faced when coming back to Hong Kong. It's nice to be back home in some sense, it's definitely more comfortable here...but what did anyone ever gain from being comfortable? I'm still working through and reflecting on all that I saw and experienced in the Philippines and I suppose that's why I've put off this blog post, in fear that I make a conclusion on something without thorough contemplation. This is a common problem of mine, wanting to think myself to death until answers are unveiled, only to find that with many things in life and faith there simply are no answers. Do we find contentment in that or do we lose ourselves in the constant strive for enlightenment? Either way, I'll include the cautionary statement that these thoughts/conclusions I dialogue on are a mere reflection of Gods revelation in this season and place. Maybe one day they'll serve as a testimony to how naive and ignorant I was, maybe they'll act as evidence to a prophetic moment, or maybe they'll be nothing at all - and I'm okay with that. 

So the Philippines! I'll save you the details or else we'll all be grey and bored to tears by the end of it. The first few days were your typical vacation, r&r kind of days. The Philippines boasts an impressive show for tourists - clear, turquoise waters and white sand beaches. A tropical paradise that quickly transitions to slums, rickety tricycles, and foul smells as soon as you step away from the tourist scene. It's within those slums and the authentic culture of the Philippines that God hit me with revelation after revelation, and since these were my big take aways I'll take this entry from that angle.

Revelation One: Evangelism isn't scary. In ministry, I've always been one to lean more on the deed end of things than the word (surprising I know since I can babble). I've always believed in a relational approach to sharing the Gospel. Through meeting the physical and relational needs of an individual, God will open a door to meet the spiritual need in time. I still agree with this approach on a broader basis, but I realized taking a "one approach only" mentality was a close-minded way of going about things. For a few days, I was blessed to stay with the Bautistas, two national missionaries who lead YWAM Bohol with a focus in mercy ministry. In our initial correspondence, I asked whether there was any way I could prepare for serving with them - but I was given little information and concluded that I would jump in with an open-mind and flexibility. So the first night that I arrive, Ate Nene ("Ate" is a term of respect, addressed to someone like an older sister), sat me down and ran over what we'd be doing. First item on the agenda - evangelizing in the park. Immediately, the image of someone standing on a podium shouting to a crowd that they need Jesus or be eternally damned popped into my mind, and my thoughts began to scheme of any way I might be able to get out of this terrifying situation. By the end of the day, I realized just how silly this immense fear had been. Evangelism really should be called "Talking to People," because really it's as simple as that. Ate Nene would sit next to a girl and watch her kids play with the pigeons, and before you knew it she had struck up a casual conversation. She would invite me over to talk with them, and when introducing her family and life - the Lord would come up, because of course - He is at the center of her life. BOOM, first person we talk to asks if she could visit our church, which led to Ate sharing the Gospel, which led to me praying over her. It was totally natural and I realized that evangelism is nothing but intentionally talking to people. It's not about going out hunting or making an uproar or condemning others, it's simply planting the seed and trusting that God will lead the rest. We talk and talk about being disciples of Christ within the confines of our homes and small groups, but when do we actually go OUT to BE disciples? If we're not spreading the Gospel, then what are we doing? 

Revelation Two - America is a third-world country. No, I haven't gone crazy. America may be materially rich, but it is extremely spiritually poor. It's all about how you define "blessings," and if we are to think in a Heavenly perspective then America is further off than many majority world countries. You see, the most impoverished places like the Philippines, Africa, India, Haiti - seem to have nothing, yet many believers in these nations are overflowing with the joy of the Spirit. Their reward awaits in heaven, while our material possessions will be nothing but dust. I've personally experienced churches that are ON FIRE for Christ while worshiping in a room of a mall, or in a wooden shack, or under a black stretched out garbage bag. I've met indigenous pastors who not only preach, but go out as missionaries, maintain their own farms, and run every single Bible study in the church while they live off a dime. In the Philippines, I got to go to a prayer meeting with the Bautistas at their church. Although the people of the Philippines speak mostly Tagali, they conduct praise & worship in English. I was hit with the power of the Holy Spirit that night as a group of the church youth came together and were literally overflowing with a passion for the Lord. After worship, each student went through their analysis of the passage on being the light of the world and the salt of the Earth - a part of Scripture so appropriate for what I was witnessing. After praying over specific needs within the church, a group of girls approached me. They stood around and asked me intentional questions about who I was and what I liked to do, making me feel genuinely welcomed. It wasn't until after the service that Ate Nene told me that the youth were all orphans. I couldn't believe it! Here I am thinking I was going to come and serve and pour into the local community, but in all actuality they were the ones who were pouring into me. Orphans who had experienced past neglect and abuse were being lights of the world to the foreigner in their midst. America may be "rich" but how powerful is our light, really?

Revelation Three: Suffering is a privilege. This particular line was underlined in the devotional book of Jasmine, one of the youngest kids at the orphanage I stayed at for the remainder of my week. Jasmine sat next to me in church one evening and I couldn't help but peak at her Bible and devotional book that were both marked to the core with underlines and circles. As we split off into prayer partners I stayed with little Jasmine thinking I would take the lead. We had been commissioned to pray over the nations and so I started us, trying to keep things short and simple so she could understand with the language and age difference. I ended with "amen" and immediately Jasmine took off into a passion-filled prayer in Tagali. I didn't understand it all but did catch the words "Ate Sarah," "China," "North Korea" "United States".... I'll admit that I opened my eyes in disbelief as Jasmine squeezed her lids in passion and prayed over the nations in the name of Jesus. It was then that I realized that these kids were being trained to be disciples - and THEY (not you or me) were the ones who would eventually reach the community for Christ. It was a beautiful experience to see the fruit that came from suffering. As me and all the kids piled into the trunk bed for the drive home, they continued to worship the entire ride home. Literally, it was a moving choir driving through the underdeveloped streets of the Philippines. I looked around to find some kids with their eyes closed in praise, others smiling with joy, and others staring outside in reverence. I joined along, so overcome with their contagious passion for the Lord. Halfway home, one of the boys yelled to me "Ate!" "yes?" "I used to live there" (of course I naively ask) "where?" (expecting some specific location to be pointed out) "There" pointing directly to the street. I didn't say anything. I was lost in the testimony of these kids' lives who had been on the streets struggling every day just to survive - yet sat before me with faith that I had never witnessed before. It made Jasmine's devotional come alive - for if suffering leads to the overflow of Christ's love like displayed in the kids of the orphanage - then Lord bring me suffering. 

Revelation Four - Authentic beauty is found WITHIN people. I've had incredible opportunities to experience other cultures. I've seen the Colosseum in Rome, the rolling hills of Tuscany, the jungles of Costa Rica, and the temples of China. Each experience was unique and beautiful but it was the people apart of it that really created each memory. It is so necessary to take a relational approach to everything, including your travels. It would be easy to go somewhere and use the culture for your own gain - to swim in the water, to hike the mountains, to snap photos of historic buildings - but if you limit it to that, you'd be missing out on a lot. It's the people of that culture who can teach you how to see things outside of yourself, to mature you in wisdom and empathy, to reveal the diversity of Gods greatest creation - mankind, made in His very image. 

Like I said in the beginning, there's still a lot of things I'm working through - how to go about ministry to those materially poor, how to love those who do not realize they are poor, how best to do overseas missions, and where the Lord wants to use me. Sometimes I get lost in my thoughts. Okay, maybe more than just "sometimes." I suppose that's the most wonderful part of life though - that in walking each day with the Lord there never fails to be new revelation and growth in understanding, not only of this world but of the character of God. The key is not to give up. Not to feel like there will ever be a time that you will "get it" all. Not to stop exploring and seeking and thirsting for more. Through this holy pursuit - the Lord will guide us on a journey that is better than we could imagine. 

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