I’m okay staying Single… forever.


sarah in pma

I have recently decided I don’t mind being single forever and not getting married.

Actually, I decided that last week.

Consider an episode I had with a friend last Sunday. I was talking to one of my Professors, someone I really respect, and whose insights I value. When he asked me, “What are your plans after seminary?”, I thought I was in for some free counseling time.

So I answered him.

I told him I was really keen on doing cross-cultural missions, evangelism and discipleship, and maybe humanitarian works.

I told him I was very much interested in Christian Apologetics, and that I desire to do further studies in that area.

I told him I was passionate about the arts, especially music and literature, and would very much like to study more formally and increase my platform.

I told him that while I plan all of these, I have no idea how to accomplish them, or how to combine them (or if I should), and that I just don’t know what to do next.

He affirmed my desires, then he said, “The key is to find a man with the same passions as you do…”

I have to admit I didn’t hear anything else after hearing the “The key is to find a man…” part of his statement. Because why does everything have to depend on me finding a man?! (Do I have issues with men? Maybe. No. Not really. Am I a – *gasp* – a feminist? NO!)

So I answered Professor, “Oh, but I’ve decided that I’m okay being single forever.”

I admitted that I think do like the idea of being in love, and getting married. I like the idea. 

But! There is a lot that needs to be done in the world, a lot of needs to be filled, and a lot I want to do. 

Between all my plans of cross-cultural missions, humanitarian works, higher studies and personal artistic development, not to mention my short-term goals of writing a book, publishing a book, traveling widely, and starring in a Broadway show (Joke! Or maybe not), where, I ask, WHERE WILL I FIND THE TIME TO EVEN DATE?!

So I decided, last week, that if I were to date and marry, he would have to share my dreams, and he would have to be absolutely, hundred-percent convicted that he is to be God’s agent to help me fulfill my dreams and help me blossom, just as I am fully convicted that I will support him and encourage him to greater heights with all my heart, mind and soul.

He would have to be that kind of man. If not, then I’d rather stay single.


At this point, you, dear reader, are probably either smiling, laughing, or scoffing at my naivete… the same way the Professor at the beginning of this post reacted to my “declaration.”

This professor incredulously, and I think maybe even exasperatingly, asked me, “How old are you?!”

“Twenty-three,” I replied.


Who knows? Maybe at twenty-six, or even twenty-five, I would change my mind. Maybe I’d change my mind next week! (Lol joke, I don’t think so.)

But to be honest, deciding to be single actually felt liberating. Really, really!

Also, just to get it out of the way, yes, I am aware that there may have been things I have not considered, or flaws in my logic or reasoning. (If you think so, please tell me how I erred in a nice way, down in the comments section.)

I’ll let time and life affirm or rebuke me, but for now, I’m enjoying this freedom of choice.


My Rookie Moment is Now: What to do when you’re the Rookie in the Room


You must have both rookie smarts and veteran savvy.” 

–Liz Wiseman, Global Leadership Summit 2015

sarah abscbn ddo 01

The book project intimated me. I have never written a feature story of this type, for such a project.

When the editor gathers all the writers, she tells us graciously, but firmly, that she would remove from the book project anyone she deems unskilled enough. I look around the room, noting that the guy sitting across me has worked as a journalist for years. Everyone in the room probably has much more writing experience than I.

I am the rookie.


All four of us are gathered around a table, and we begin the meeting.

And I marvel at the fact that I am part of this group. All the other three are pastors, all have at least about a decade of ministry under their belt. One has an MDiv and working on his MA in Philosophy, and another has an MA in Biblical Studies with vast connections and training experience.

And there am I, the rookie.


I loved every bit of today’s Global Leadership Summit Philippines (GLS) Manila, but something struck me from Liz Wiseman’s session Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing. 

Rookies, she says, are inexperienced, but their advantage is that they tend to be more creative and more open to learning opportunities. She encourages the audience to think back to when they were rookies, how they struggled, but tended to be more resourceful.

“Think back to your rookie moments,” Wiseman says. And that’s when she goes on to say, “You must have both rookie smarts and veteran savvy.”

And it Just. Hit. Me. My rookie moment is NOW! 

In the last couple of years I believe I have heard from the Heavens and finally identified several things I am passionate about and fields I would like to pursue: missions, apologetics, and arts, generally speaking. And as I identified these fields, God actually gave me opportunities actually for me to actually venture into these fields!

I am a rookie in all these fields, no expertise to show. I hope to be able to make significant contributions and give provide meaningful leadership in these areas in the future, but I am not there yet. I say this with no self-pity attached, but simply as an honest self-assessment: I am undeniably inexperienced, and lacking in savvy in these areas.

So what must a rookie do? I picked up some things from Wiseman’s (and some of Bill Hybels’) talk:

-See this period of inexperience and lack of knowledge as an opportunity to learn. “Knowing the least can draw out the best.” As they say, when you’re at the bottom, there is nowhere to go but up.

-At this season, one must ask questions! Ask questions and take responsibility to learn and discover.

-Take this opportunity to develop “grit” – a passion and perseverance for the long haul.

-Be with veterans who have “rookie smarts,” experts and leaders who are teachable, creative, and love to discover. These traits “…can actually rub off.” Seek these leaders, and seek to be in their company. Be mentored by them.

-When challenges come, see it as an opportunity to learn and move forward.

-Learn and move forward, because a rookie has no other choice. No, wait, actually there is another choice – and that is to move backward, regress, refuse to grow.

-Develop self-awareness. Work through your character issues. Get help from people close to you. Get professional help if necessary. We all have our issues, and getting help should be seen as a favour we do to ourselves and to the people we will eventually lead (and relate with).

-Invest in relationships. Not the user-friendly kind for building platforms, but real, honest relationships where you could be both vulnerable and affirmed.

-Affirm your purpose. Affirm the purpose that made you start out in the first place. Affirm your “why,” otherwise you’d be lost. Or, if you haven’t found your “White-hot Why,” as Bill Hybels calls it, then discover it. Discover your priority.

So to my fellow dear beginners, rookies who are starting out but wish to accelerate in their companies, who wish to contribute to their organizations, who want to advance in their respective fields, who want to change the world… we are at a special phase.

Let’s take this as an opportunity to grow and learn.

We will eventually develop our savvy, but for now, let’s be smart. And when we finally do develop our savvy, hopefully we also retain our rookie smarts.

Four Lessons My Broken Heart Taught Me


[GUEST POST: This is by my dear, awesome kuya Mark Andrew Rivera. He is a former Intern staff of Philippine CCC. Graduating as an MDiv-Biblical Studies major this year. A guitar-slinging Baguio boy trying to survive the harsh environment of Manila. Phlegmatic, eccentric, A slave of Christ.]

After being single for so long, I felt she was the one. I wanted to be extra-careful, because she was an invaluable ministry partner. I’ve prayed about her for more than a year, took advices from spiritual mentors, and read Christian materials about courtship. Confident that it was the wise decision, I decided to give-up considering other candidates and began pursuing her… What resulted was a rejection leaving me unable to continue the pursuit. Despite being hurt, I made effort wanting to fix the damaged friendship. Yet in the end I was left with no choice, but give her the space she wants away from me.

“How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand…there is no going back?” – Frodo Baggins (“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”, 2003)

Perhaps you are like me, who in some form experienced heartaches of a love lost, and you are left confronted with this question. How do you go on, Frodo asked. How, indeed? This is a part of the journey where we feel hurt, lost, trap. Worst of all, God seems silent. We have our own unique paths, so how one survives may not work on another. Each path is a unique, customized learning curriculum designed by God, and being brokenhearted is a prerequisite. But our story is not our own; it is God’s. We have to share His story in us, so let me share four things I have learned so far.  

  1. I’ve learned of wisdom’s limitation.

I have never understood the book of Ecclesiastes until I was rejected. I did everything to feel assured she was the one, and desired to know the wisest, godliest way to love her. And yet it still left me brokenhearted, realizing this gift of wisdom from God is not enough to know if “she’s the one”, and what I believed was the wisest, godliest way to pursue her was lacking to be effective.

The Teacher in Ecclesiastes lamented on how there is no end to acquiring wisdom, but its infinite amount is still insufficient to understand and answer the desired questions in life (v. 8:16-17; 12:12). No amount of Christian principles for courtship would assure you of getting the girl, or spare you from the inevitable heartbreak. To add whipped cream to the injury someone else gets what you longed without much difficulty (ref. v. 9:11)! Still, with sufficient wisdom the Teacher gives an answer for wisdom’s limitation, and the answer is beautiful.

God has made everything beautiful in its appropriate time, but he has also placed ignorance in the human heart so that people cannot discover what God has ordained, from the beginning to the end of their lives. -Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NET)

  1. I’ve learned about His faithfulness

Spiritual pride can make us believe we are invulnerable to sin, yet being brokenhearted can make us the most vulnerable. What I thought would never happen to me happened. In my heartaches I‘ve longed for alcohol and have taken my drinks. Though my Christian friends were unable to fully stop me from drinking, they at least made sure it would not lead to drunkenness. Without the care of sinning, I turned to pornography to satisfy my longings. Thankfully, spiritual mentors (without me telling them of my pornographic addiction, but knew my heartbrokenness) challenged me to attend Living Waters.

There the walls built from my hurts from God were slowly removed, and my relationship with the Father moved towards restoration. When non-Christian women expressed their desire to go out with me, I gave them the chance I never had from Christian women, who rejected me. Upon hearing this, Christian friends expressed their sorrow and continuously prayed for me. Eventually Jesus became so central in my life that I had to let them go.

I am thankfully to God for sending friends being more of an Elihu, rather than Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They were not “miserable comforters”, but comforters that protected me from my foolishness. Through them, God showed His faithfulness, and I’m sure He has done much more than I’m aware of.

“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” – Aslan (C.S. Lewis, “The Horse And His Boy”)

  1. I’ve learned to pray honestly

I would have to say that telling God how I honestly felt was very uncomfortable, but very necessary. Like David, I held my tongue, and, like David, the thoughts boiled up inside and I found myself spewing my disappointment against God (Psalm 39:1-7).

I didn’t blame the women, who rejected me; I blamed God for not being clear enough for me to understand why she wasn’t the one, why my “wisest” decisions now seems the most stupidest, or why I wasn’t someone she wants to love. Obviously, before the foundations of the earth, He knew and planned it all to happen. But just like David, I have nowhere to turn to, but to God, for mercy for what is happening and for forgiveness for speaking out of line (v.8-14). I cried for answers and was ready to be corrected. I wanted closure.

I will stand at my watch post; I will remain stationed on the city wall. I will keep watching, so I can see what he says to me, and can know how I should answer when he counters my argument. -Habakkuk 2:1 (NET)

The lesson I’ve learned about praying during my heartbrokenness wasn’t much about how to express the words properly. Rather, it is learning that God will always be loving and wise no matter how sweet or bitter we’ve talked to Him.   

  1. I’ve learned to hope again

Faith is hoping on the promises of God; my problem is hoping on things that the Bible does not specifically promise, specifically having a wife. I became traumatized in hoping in God and practicing wisdom, after it led me to rejection and hurt. My lesson on wisdom’s limitation has left me unbalanced and hopeless. So God used my academic studies to bring me to a short book in the Bible.

The book of Ruth is a love story with the main character, who is actually Naomi, changing her name to Mara (bitter), because of what God has done (Ruth 1:20). In the Jewish arrangement of the Old Testament, Ruth was placed after Proverbs as juxtaposition, to give an example of men and women of faith who have practiced wisdom. In fact the Hebrew adjective, khayil, used to describe the woman in Proverbs 31:10 is the same adjective used for Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 2:1; 3:11).

Ruth reinforces Proverbs to balance Ecclesiastes. Now I could explain more in detail how the book restored my hope on God and practicing His gift of wisdom to love again, but it would be too long and technical. I encourage you to study it yourself, and find hope directly from their story.

Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.” – Walt Disney (“Saving Mr. Banks”, 2013)

What is most amazing is that the Bible is not from imagination. The stories really happened, and they are there to balance the seemingly hopeless reality of our story. We can find our hope in God again and again and again.

If you have noticed, the Bible was the key in making me aware of God’s lessons. These were passages I’ve read and even studied, but somehow failed to appreciate. It was only when I was brokenhearted that I’ve understood and kept them to heart. God is not silent as we seem to feel; in fact He is eager to speak to us through His Word. I still have more things to learn from my experience, I’m sure, but they are still brewing inside me.

But what about you?

What are your stories and the lessons God taught you when He allowed your heart to be broken?


Weeping for the Fallen 44


Sundays are supposed to be peaceful.

Filipinos go to church, or mass, or sleep in. But last Sunday, news broke out about the forty-four who got killed in a brutal 11-hour clash. Forty-four. That means fourty-four lives ended. Forty-four families grieving.

I’m not sure what I feel. I am a mere observer, located safely in the opposite side of the country from where the incident happened, and yet the impact and grief I feel is real. I cannot imagine what pain the families may feel. At least one of them, we know now, was engaged to be married… fiancés widowed way too soon. How many other fiancés are now widowed? How many children will now have to live with the absence of their father? How many wives are now widowed?

In this week since the news broke out, I’ve felt raw emotions well up, and I’ve had a variety of thoughts.


JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO taken from http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/669066/dead-safs-kin-ask-why-how

I’m praying that I would be able to respond to all this in a way that honors God.

This includes how I feel about PNoy and the government. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about PNoy.

I refuse to slander him, or question his leadership. Just… I feel… disappointed. This is a critical time when his presence would have made an impact.

I’m praying against hatred.

Events like these easily create fear and hostility. I’m praying against that. I want to be a source of grace and love. The MILF… they are people too, and they are lost too, and yes, Jesus died for them too.

Thinking about it… I may not be as distant an observer as I think I am. And maybe we are not as distant as we think we are.

The incident feels personal, because two years ago I lost a soldier friend at a clash in the South. I met that friend in Baguio, when he was still a cadet at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Owing to connections, and friends of friends, my world was exposed, a little bit, to PMA, and to military life.

Very recently, my parents, who are based in Baguio, “adopted” four fourth-class cadets. Thus my world has inevitably been exposed even more to PMA. I got to know these cadets last Christmas break. It doesn’t matter that the time I spent with these new foster brothers was so short – I love those boys. I can’t think of anything more devastating than hearing them lose their lives in such a way.

We may not personally know any of the forty-four, or may not be remotely linked to the military, but we are inevitably affected by these events.

I am moved, again, to really pray for my country.

Events like these have always made me wonder if peace really is possible. I was disturbed hearing about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and other similar news in other countries. Consequently, my prayers have been about these overseas events.

The Mamasapano incident, happening right here at home, reminded me to pray for my country.

I’m reminding myself that God is still in all this.

A friend based in France wrote something recently, regarding the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I quote her: “As a believer of the Bible, I have known that things will get worse in this fallen world, but that also gives the best things the opportunity to stand out. ‘You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.’”

God is weeping for all the precious lives lost. This is comforting to me, even just a little bit, at the moment – to know that God understands loss, and hurt, and pain.

After this incident, I am reminded of the great need for personal change.

We all long for peace, but as a Christian, I believe that real change must begin from within, and true change can only come from Jesus. I echo my friend’s sentiments again, “This [incident] is a very personal encounter of how ‘belief in a god’ can either lead you to your fullest potential of being good or your fullest potential of being bad. That truly depends on the kind of god you believe in. And in the end I am so sure we will see that there is only one true God!”

I am well aware of my own tendencies towards evil!

After this incident, I am reminded that there is hope.

There is hope.

I weep for the Fallen 44, but I do so knowing that there is hope.

We are not okay, but we will be.


Picture not mine.


How my parents have gone global by starting local.


The last time I saw tito Hector and tita Dae was about 15 years ago, in the Philippines. 

Back then, both of them were young, skinny students studying Engineering at the Cagayan State University (CSU). I was even younger and skinnier. I was about 5 or 6 years old.

Hector and Dae were part of a bunch of other CSU students whom my parents led in Bible studies (girls and boys were separate). These students would often hang out at our house, eating our food, watching our television, or just doing whatever. Most of them babysat me, I believe.

Their presence was a normal occurrence at our house. In my good days, I saw them as playmates. In my not-so-good tantrum-y days, I hated their presence — it meant them hogging the television when my favorite show was on.

With this awesome, brainy couple with their two adorable boys. They are so cute and cuddly!

With this awesome, brainy couple with their two adorable boys. They are so cute and cuddly!

This week I saw them again… in Thailand of all places!

Both of them are currently finishing up their PhD’s at Thammasat University (yes, they are really brilliant people) and they both have teaching loads. Their current position allows them to teach, meet, and engage a lot of Thai students. And because Thammasat caters to many other international students from all over Asia and the West, they are able to engage a lot of other students as well. They are, essentially, reaching nations while in Thailand!

Meeting tito Hector and tita Dae was such a powerful thing to me.

It was powerful because, well… these were the people who used to hang out at our house! And now here they are, with all their influence and undiminished passion for the Great Commission, always seeking ways and opportunities to witness to people about Christ.

It was also powerful for me because here, I see, the “fruit of my parent’s labor.” Here is a couple, people who I think are an excellent example of people whose lives are completely surrendered to God and whose hearts are completely captured by the Great Commission… and my parents played an instrumental role in influencing them.

Now that I am a campus missionary myself, and now that I know the challenges involved in campus ministry, I definitely have more respect for my parents now than ever before (I know you’re reading this, mom and dad).

In the campus movement at the University of the Philippines, we champion the idea of “Going Global, Starting Local”. If God wills it, and according to His perfect timing, it is my dearest prayer and wish that I be sent to places where the message of Jesus is not yet heard.

It is also my dearest wish, however, that I be given the privilege to influence other people and bring them closer and closer to Jesus.

Just as my parents did with tito Hector and tita Dae.

And that is how my parents are reaching nations, even though they have never, and will likely never, move out of the Philippines — by investing in young people and leading them to be true disciples of Jesus. This is how my parents have gone global — by starting local. 


My parents, Ben and Connie. As an expression of their obedience to God and their commitment to helping fulfill the Great Commission, they joined Philippine Campus Crusade for Christ in 1993. They have since left PCCC, but are still committed to the ministry. This picture was taken after their Missionary training with PCCC. Oh, and I love my mom’s hair in this picture (she’s the shorter woman). What do you call that kind of hairstyle?

The lost don’t feel lost at all.


You know when sometimes you have experiences, and then later you realize how much that experience comes in handy as a teaching illustration? This was one of those times.

Yesterday I was at SM Megamall with Windy, attending a seminar. We just had lunch at the Food Court and were making our way back to the Megatrade Center at the fifth floor.

Then we saw Ramila. She was crying, running around in circles. She was evidently, undeniably lost.

Windy and I approached her. Did you lose your mom? She tearfully nodded yes. (Just a side-comment: it surprised me that none of the other adults took responsibility. She was so obviously in distress I can’t imagine how they could possibly ignore her! Not judging, just an observation.)

Thankfully a security guard was walking by, and he immediately led us to the Costumer Service area. They will broadcast a memo to the entire building, he said. Just wait here, he said.

“So what do we do?” I asked Windy. I was actually thinking, maybe I’d just stay with the kid until her mom arrives.

“Well, we have a seminar to attend to, and we’re already late,” Windy said. “And anyway, this place is safe. There are guards all around.”

So we both turned to Ramila and gave her one final reassurance. “Don’t be afraid, your mom will come.”

Then we left. Later, when I exited the Megatrade Center, I returned to the Costumer Service area just to check if Ramila’s mom finally picked her up. Affirmative. Phew.


I was tasked to facilitate today’s lesson for our discipleship group on the topic of Witnessing. I was preparing for the lesson and I was reflecting specifically on “the lost”, and I suddenly remembered lost little Ramila…

Then I had a sudden eureka moment: My experience with her is the perfect illustration of pre-evangelism or of being a Cojourner! Because Pre-evangelism / Cojourner is bringing people one step closer to Christ. I brought Ramila one step closer to her mom. I didn’t actually physically bring her to her mom, but I helped her get to her mom. Gets? Well, maybe not a perfect illustration.

But here are more thoughts about the experience.

We call non-Christians lost people. But the truth is: a lot of them don’t feel lost. They just don’t. They go happily about, perfectly content (or so it seems) with what they have and the path and place they are in.

Most Christians are only equipped to deal with lost little Ramilas, those people crying and acutely aware of their lostness. Most Christians actually only expect lost little Ramilas. But again, how about those who don’t know or feel they are lost? There are a lot of them out there.

So, as a Christian with a firm, unwavering belief and confidence in the Bible and what it says, how do you deal with that? We know God commissioned us to preach the Gospel and make disciples. But they won’t even listen! Deal with it. No, seriously, if we are to be effective witnesses, we HAVE to Deal. With. It.

And we can deal with it. And we are dealing with it, at least little by little.

The matter of how we can deal with it would require a far lengthier blog post than this one. Perhaps I’ll try writing one someday, or make a series of posts, but there are numerous excellent books out there on the topic, particularly Norman Geisler and David Geisler’s Conversational Evangelism book. Here in the Philippines, OMF Lit just recently reprinted it, and you can also buy it online.

Anyway, yes. We need to reach the lost, even if they don’t feel they are, even if they don’t think they are. Especially if they don’t think they are.

Everyone is moving to or away from God.

Writing Stories from the Mission Field Encourages me to Go to the Mission Field


“Our desire is to send more workers to the harvest field. We have a lot of young people in our church right now, and we are encouraging them to go. But we are also encouraging the older people to go. Wasn’t Moses very old when he started his ministry?” –Ptr. Andy Parco

In the last two days I have interviewed people for some stories I am writing for CBN Asia (a freelance job).

It wasn’t an accident that when the list of stories were sent, I chose the stories related to overseas missions. That was not a random choice. I wanted to hear stories from the field, talk to different people, and listen to how God is actively working in their lives.

I was not disappointed.

Power in Declaration

I am blown away – blown away – by the intensity of their passion, the way they owned their ministry, and the systematic, organized way (at least from what they told me) in which they go to see things through. As a writer, these are some of the things that top my “Things I love to write about” list.

In some small way, I hope that my stories would be able to communicate the profoundness of their ministry, the love and devotion they put into it, and the hopes and dreams they have.

There is power in sharing, declaring the mighty works of God. Sharing how God’s power worked in our lives does something, both to the messenger and the listeners — whatever the medium may be, whether it is through the spoken or written word, even through music.

As I talked to these people on the phone, I wanted to say, “I don’t know you, ma’am / sir, and this is the first time I’ve spoken with you, but I want you to know, you are family because of our Heavenly Father. And I love you with the love of the Lord.

God is at Work in the Philippine Church

This morning, I concluded my last interview. I put my phone down, and opened a new Word document and tried to start writing.

I couldn’t write. Not yet.

I couldn’t understand – a sudden wave of emotion had gripped me, and I had to pause for a moment. I wanted to cry. I wanted to yell. I was overwhelmed with… something.

I was overwhelmed with amazement. Amazement at what God is doing in the Philippines. The people I interviewed are from Lucena and Ilocos, and they both had something in common: ownership. Ownership and an intense desire to mobilize their own kababayans to “go to the nations”.

And I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratefulness to God. For using the brothers and sisters I just talked to, to further His kingdom.

I don’t know you, ma’am / sir, but God is using you greatly. Your work is important, and I believe God is honored with your sacrifice.”

Writing their Stories Encourages me to Go

Listening and writing these stories is an awesome job.

It humbles me and gratifies me that in some small way, I am able to declare what God is doing through my stories.

But writing these things does something else in me: it stirs up a long-held desire to go. Writing their stories encourages me to go.

I don’t know you, but God is using you to speak to me. And if I ever get the privilege of meeting you in person, know that you are one of the long line of special people God has used and is using to nourish this passion I have to serve Him. Thank you.”

hyrbid 2012

A picture with my teammates in my first overseas mission trip back in 2012.