Monthly Archives: April 2013

Lessons in Mega Church Seating Dynamics (or MCSD)

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I was in Manila about three weeks ago, and as is my custom whenever I go there, I attended Sunday Service at a mega church with a friend.

It was for a variety of reasons, but we ended up late. But only 10 minutes late. Now, I’m not justifying myself or debating the wrongness of being late — late is late and it’s irresponsible and wrong, but holey moley the place was filled up and we had nowhere else to sit!

That morning I learned the first valuable lesson of Mega Church Seating Dynamics (MCSD):

Every minute late corresponds to a hundred seats taken (Lesson 1), and yes, I know that’s an assumption with no scientific or statistical basis, but let’s just go with it.

So anyway, that means a thousand seats taken for the ten minutes we were late. And when it’s this kind of mega mega church, the ushers really are — bless their volunteering hearts — no help at all. Not that I blame them. You can hardly expect them to find seats for everyone in this crowd.

So there we were, looking abroad and beyond at the rows and rows of seats, looking for any free seats we might squeeze ourselves into…

Then! Lo and behold, an entire row of seats with NO ONE IN IT! An entire row! All to ourselves!

My friend was ecstatic and relieved, but I, whose mega church navigation sense is a little more honed, smelled something suspicious. Why isn’t this row occupied? Still, we settled in.

Five minutes later, my suspicions were confirmed. And I learned a second valuable lesson in MCSD:

There is a reason a row is free: A free row is a portal row (Lesson 2). I was five minutes into praise and worship, with my eyes blissfully closed, trying to tune in and get my holy groove in, if you get what I mean, when I felt something brush my nose and my elbows. Rather, someone. It was someone passing through our row. Then there was another someone passing. And another, and another. And another.

It dawned on me: that row was a passageway to the other seats in the more western part of the church building! And we had unwittingly set ourselves as hindrances, like boulders, to the stream of people coming in and passing by.

When you’re a boulder to this stream, give up all hopes of being able to “worship” (Lesson 3). I mean, worship as in “sing with the praise and worship team” (of course I know what worship is and that whole thing, I’m a missionary! Duh.). Kinda hard to “worship” with people nudging my nose every 2 to 5 minutes.

It was irritating. Really, REALLY annoying. There I was trying to worship, but these late people! Ugh. (Real spiritual, I know. Yes, I have my moments.)

I tell you, those remaining minutes of praise and worship were the longest, most patience-trying minutes ever. But just as I was getting out my judge’s robe and about to sentence all these people to mild damnation, the Holy Spirit spoke and rebuked me. Thank God.

ANYWAY.

Since I identify myself as a progressive learner, I’ve decided to take these valuable lessons to heart so I can “grow” from these experiences, and so, in application:

1) Not take those portal row of seats again. Ever. And,

2)  Find free seats elsewhere, no matter where it is, EVEN if it’s in the middle of an already filled row. I will risk the ire and irritation of the people and get to that seat no matter what. We can even make a game out of it! The objective: See how many feet you can manage not  to step on getting  to that coveted seat. Very exciting.

Or, I could just arrive early.

But where’s the excitement in that?

And you? Any crazy mega church experience you got?

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Dear Fresh Grad, Be a Goer

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I think congratulations are in order before anything else.

You made it! I know the feeling. You feel excited, nervous, probably a little apprehensive and fearful too. Still, you can’t deny the fact that you’re finished! After All. Those. YEARS! I’m sure more than one of you are thinking along the lines of “…parang kailan lang…”. Oh, and doesn’t that sablay, or that toga, suddenly look so majestic and… meaningful?

Again, congratulations. I sincerely, truly, with a joyful heart rejoice with you.

I think you know, however, that this blog post is more than a celebratory post. 🙂 I’m here to give you a proposal, dear fresh grad: Volunteer with us!

And since you know I work with CCC, and since you probably know where this is going anyway, let me qualify that a little more: Join us in CCC!

WHY?

Campus Ministry

Volunteering with us is one of the best avenues to be obedient to the Great Commission. It couldn’t get better than that, could it? As students involved with CCC, we’ve seen how our “ates” and “kuyas” have helped fulfill The GC, and been part of helping students come to know and love God. Most of us have probably even been on the receiving end of this!

You’d have the opportunity to be used by God in seeing spiritual movements, changed lives and helping fulfill the Great Commission.

 

Going is probably the best thing you can offer NOW. Oh, it’s so tempting to hide behind the “I wanna be a Giver” kind of reason. Of course we want and need Givers – desperately, I assure you – but reality check, kid: you’re a fresh grad. You’re most likely poor. 😀 heh. At least, now.

And there is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a Giver later, but right now, the best thing you can offer is your youth and your time.

 

Being a Goer now will make you a better Giver later. Being in the actual field, experiencing the nitty gritties and challenges of ministry, will give you much, much more understanding and empathy towards missionaries and workers.

Believe me, this will matter IMMENSELY a few or many years down the road when you’re finally in the marketplace and you get (as you will be prone to be) swamped by your many responsibilities.

 

My own application form back in 2011.

My own application form back in 2011.

The experiences and trainings you get with CCC will make you invaluable wherever you end up in the future. You know it too, right? We have the best trainings. 🙂 More than that, our emphasis on God’s sovereignty, the Lordship of Christ and emphasis on the Holy Spirit, as well as our cutting edge strategies will help you whether you decide to go to full time or work in the marketplace.

 

The Community. You will also have tons and TONS of opportunities to be exposed to Spirit-filled Christians who love the Lord and are dedicated not only to seeing spiritual movements happen everywhere, but to helping their co-laborers grow in the Lord.

As a volunteer / intern, you will have a natural kinship and affinity with such people. I say this out of personal experience — there is nothing sweeter and more growth-inducing than having fellowship and real accountability with godly, devoted people. Steel sharpens steel.

 

So, what do you think, dear fresh grad? What’s stopping you?

Or if you’re a missionary yourself, do you agree with me? What did I miss?

For more info on the awesome things we do, visit our website: movementlife.org.

Innocent youngsters and a Snot-filled Easter Service

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Yes, this is my unofficial Operation Jabez Bicol update.

Sigh, Bicol.

If initially I sensed that attending OJ was the right thing to do, now I know it was. I know because even now, my heart rejoices at what happened and anticipates how God will grow the seeds planted in Manito, Albay.

I just finished my official Operation Jabez Newsletter update and so memories are refreshed. A lot has happened during that week, but my personal highlights were teenage kids and our last day, which coincidentally was Easter Service.

True Love Waits

This was on Day 5 of OJ.

We had two events in church: the adult T4T trainers of the church kept busy with a Leadership Training.

We also invited college and high school kids to the church for a True Love Waits seminar. For sure, ate Feye is the perfect quirky speaker for such a topic.

I sat in and listened in the girls’ group. These kids… so young, so innocent. They had lots of honest, searching questions. They stir a longing in my heart to protect them, to shield them from whatever danger that can befall them.

Still, we could not shy away from reality. In these rural areas, I am told, it is almost the norm for a girl to get pregnant and marry early. It struck me that the best we could do is to inform them and pray for them. Our team intended this TLW seminar be a bridging event for a campus ministry, and so at the end of the seminar we invited them to another meeting in church.

Easter Service

Day 7 of OJ, and also the last day.

Because it was the last day, the pastor called on the church members (specifically our trainees) to come up and say some things.

And so we had the best snot-filled, tear-stained, heart-inspiring Easter Service I have ever experienced. Literally everyone — well, almost — everyone burst into tears right before, during, and /or after giving their testimonies.

There was the woman whose husband finally got saved.

And stories of personal victories in sharing their faith.

There were, of course,  the customary “Thank yous”, then the pastor said:

“We prayed and fasted for your everyday for 40 days until your scheduled arrival here in Manito.”

Now THAT stunned me.

Such devotion and commitment… all I could muse was how beautiful is the Body of Christ! The Holy Spirit so obviously was and is working in the church.

Didn’t I pray that God show me great and might things in Manito?

In a week, the Church members we trained were able to learn principles of Church planting, evangelism and discipleship, and were able to apply this immediately.

How beautiful is the Body of Christ.

One Step at a Time: I Conquered Mount Mayon!

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Yes, I endured days of swollen legs and feet. Every step was torture (from over-exhaustion I’m told, a syndrome called DOMS or something).

Sure, my shoulder muscles still cringe.

My skin now has an uneven tan (I actually have a tan line in the middle of my arm. I look like I’m wearing a brown, skin-tanned glove).

And yes, my wallet’s a little more lighter from the expenses.

BUT!

I FREAKIN’ CONQUERED MOUNT MAYON!

Oh yeah I did!

I’m back from Bicol, from our Operation Jabez (OJ) local mission trip (which I promise I’ll be writing about very, very soon, promise). And I don’t know what came about me, but I suddenly had the crazy idea to join the Mount Mayon hike with some of my OJ teammates.

The hike from jump off point to Camp 1 and Camp 2 was manageable, almost like Mount Pulag, except a little longer. We arrived at Camp 2 after several hours of hiking, where we set up camp and had early dinner.

The real challenge was the Summit Assault.

The average Filipino would know from basic Philippine geography lessons that Mount Mayon is known for its “perfect cone”. We immediately recognized it… we were practically climbing a steep 45-degree wall. Would’ve been fine, except that it went on for hours.

The view from Manito, Albay. What we dared to climb.

The view from Manito, Albay. What we dared to climb.

We started the Summit Assault at around 2am. Very dark, but in retrospect I guess it was better that way. Every once in a while I kept flashing my flashlight up to see how much longer we still had to climb. There, as far as my flashlight beam could reach, were still rocks. Rock, rock, rock. And more rock. Seriously, it seemed to go on FOREVER.

We wanted to reach the summit in time for the sunrise, but with our pace sunrise came about 3/4ths to the summit. It was still a majestic view, though.

Watching the sunrise hundreds of feet above the ground. My point and shoot camera couldn't give it justice, for sure.

Watching the sunrise hundreds of feet above the ground. My point and shoot camera couldn’t give it justice, for sure.

Up and up we go. Brings to mind Frodo. Oh, how Frodo suffered. I'm much more sympathetic now.

Up and up we go. Brings to mind Frodo. Oh, how Frodo suffered. And he climbed for days! I’m much more sympathetic now.

Four hours later, we finally detected the distinct smell of sulfur. We are told to prepare gas masks or any cloth we could wrap around our faces to keep out the smell.

“The crater’s 15 minutes away!”, Bayron Cepria, our head tour guide, says.

And finally, what we hiked hours for…

What we hiked hours for.

What we hiked hours for.

Mayon Crater 2

Then, it was time for the dreaded descent.

I never knew how smooth, slippery and uneven weathered lava rocks could be. Nor how cruel they could be to our already battered knee caps.

I am EVER grateful to kuya Ronald,one of our guides, who literally held my hand going down and went ahead of me, scouring for “easier”, less slippery paths. This is also the part where I put in a word for kuya Bayron Cepria, our head tour guide.

He and his team were very meticulous in ensuring our safety, and at times, our convenience. When going to Mayon, he’s the man to call. I actually tried googling him, and was quite surprised that he has made a name for himself with regards to Bicol / Mount Mayon tours.

One word to describe this climb: CRAZY. Wait, maybe you didn’t get it. IT WAS CRAZY!

And finally, my very poignant reflection from this experience:

As in all difficult experiences in life, it helps when you have with you someone who has already been through the circumstance.

Deep, right? Heh.

I actually prefer ate Kerren’s reflection:

Going up, I felt like Frodo.  Going down I felt like Gollum. 

Tonight I have lost, and I have found.

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This afternoon, I lost my bag.

It’s not the most expensive bag in the world, but it contained my wallet, which contained my ATM card, and several hundred pesos.

Also, in that bag was my beloved two-year old purple umbrella, which I take pride in lasting this long (I’ve always lost my umbrellas). My cellphone, which in itself is actually cheap, but the information! How in the world will I re-collect all that information?! What else? Hmm, my clothes, which I was supposed to change out of this pretty, but scratchy Filipiniana costume.

When my mind first clocked the fact that my bag is freakin’ gone, I immediately did a mental check list of the all the other things I packed in it… or (thankfully) did not pack.

I felt this weird, sinking feeling in the gut. 

I have NEVER lost anything of this value before. Sure, I’ve lost phones, but what’s several phones compared to all this? The fact that I could have prevented this (why, oh why did I leave it there?!) irks me the most. Stupid, stupid.

Oh, and all this happened while I was busy Stage Manager-ing in a program my organization held.

So there I was, trying to hold in my tears at the end of the program while people milled about, wanting to get others’ and their own photos. I know it’s petty, but it struck me that others’ oblivion to one’s plight adds to the devastation of it all. Well, it definitely added to my devastation.

Not everyone though. Several people learned about it, and were very empathetic.

So I went home to the Headquarters (where I’m currently staying in Metro Manila), sad but having accepted everything.

THEN SUDDENLY.

Wonder of wonders, ate Jeng calls and tells me that kuya Carlo HAS MY BAG!

SO. I gained a renewed appreciation for my colleagues. They blessed me with sympathy and cash.

Tonight I have lost, and I have found. It all gave me a much, MUCH better appreciation (though a fraction it may be) of what God must have felt.

This… feeling of finding. It must be one of the most incomparably amazing feelings in the world!

What could possibly compare to it?

I can’t imagine how sunk God must have felt (and still feels) to lose what was rightfully His. No wonder He so actively reaches out to get them all back. Get us all back.

And how much joy could God possibly feel when what is His is returned.

I think I know the tiniest, tiniest fraction of what it might feel.