Monthly Archives: August 2013

When the Roof Crashes Over Your Head

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This morning, as in, in the wee hours of the morning, at around 2am, I was contentedly finishing some chick flick movie when I heard a dull thud coming from outside my door.

Now, had I been NOT wearing earphones, I would’ve heard a terrific crash, but I didn’t.

About thirty minutes later, I went out of the room… and found out what the commotion was all about. The ceiling in ate Jenny’s room had literally CRASHED DOWN, creating a nasty, uneven hole.

The first things that came to mind were:

-Oh man, this is the most exciting thing that’s happened since Monday (we were trapped indoors because of Typhoon Maring).

-Good thing ate Jenny didn’t get hurt. How did she dodge all that ceiling?!

-Tsk tsk tsk, poor craftsmanship. Poor materials.

-Oh NO. Ate Jenny is just plain pissed. Understandably so. You would if you were sleeping soundly and the roof suddenly crashed over your head.

-I must have had the volume turned up really loud. How could I have not heard all the commotion outside?

-I wonder what’ll happen now.

-We still have a lot to thank God for. We have food, and water, and at least we still have most of our roof intact. Others don’t even have a roof.

 

But just this evening, when I went home, I arrived to find the older adults (which is, all of them) seriously discussing whether or not to move out and find another house. Sigh, but I like it here. 😦 Easy for me to say, of course, didn’t have the ceiling fall down on me.

Tomorrow we shall have a household meeting and decide the next steps. I’m kinda nervous.

I wasn’t a happy UP graduate.

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Recently I had a confrontation with myself. 

In this country, studying in and graduating from the University of the Philippines is given such honor and gravity.

In this country, studying in and graduating from the University of the Philippines is given such honor and gravity.

I went and looked at me, and aired everything out in the open.

Hasn’t my UP education always been a source of pride for me? Didn’t I bask in my privilege of being part of an academic community that stood out, being one of those who blatantly labeled themselves as non-conformists and free-thinkers, who boasted in our ability to critically think? I would not be like the others, I thought. I am privileged. I am above them. Extremely arrogant? Guilty. Still, though I rarely explicitly express it, I believed it.

When I look back to my college life, do I not pride myself in the fact that I joined and involved in organizations and pursuits I believed were of higher importance?

“I just wanted to improve my speaking abilities,” is what I told people when they asked me about my application to the Debate Society. The truth is, I exulted in being a member of one of the academic elitists in campus.

Didn’t I volunteer myself as a Peer Facilitator (PF), offering my time and efforts for free to “shepherd” or aid those new freshies? At least that’s what I tell people, and that’s what they think. People see the moral and sacrificial side to it, and I exploit this view they have by never correcting it. For indeed, there is also an ulterior and rather base side to this: didn’t I join because I wanted to be known? I wanted influence. And being a PF, I thought, was a good start.

How about joining Program for Indigenous Cultures (PIC)? I prided myself for being involved in a politically-inclined organization that placed its importance on ethnicity. Wasn’t I better than most – supporting a cause obviously more important than the rest of the school orgs, like that  org, for instance, who seemed to do nothing but read mangas together and catch attention by dressing up as animes in school.

And then there’s that Choir. Oh, how I fought with my parents for this. They’re the best, I told them. All those late nights, going home at midnight just for the practices… my parents naturally worried. But I held my ground because this Choir was the best in the City, and is affiliated with what is easily the best Choir in the country. “Imagine the connections and opportunities!” I told my parents.

Yes, secretly, in the deepest, darkest, most hidden place of my heart, I harbor these things – and fall back on them and draw my worth from them, and prove to myself that because of these, I matter.

What is it like to be completely humble? Truly, I did not know. Nor do I fully know even now.

Now let me interrupt myself at this point and get one thing across: even before entering UP, I was already a Christian. At least, I called myself one. I sat under the banner of my parents’ long-time and solid affiliation with this religion they called Christianity.

I found my real purpose when I decided to follow Christ.

I found my real purpose when I decided to follow Christ.

This is not to say my Christianity was entirely meaningless. There were occasions when I knew for sure that my faith was real, but those instances came too few, and too far apart. I quickly fell into the trap of religious routine, my relationship with God was reduced to the impersonal, and my heart became calloused with pride.

Then it happened.

The Debate Society got disbanded.

The Peer Facilitators student arm was dissolved.

I lost in all my singing competitions (not even placing!).

More painfully, I got kicked out of the Choir. And because a lot of the Choir members are also PIC members, I slowly distanced myself from PIC.

But the biggest and most painful blow was when I realized I was NOT graduating with honors.

I remember when the list of Honor students first came out, and I did not see my name on the list… I was in a daze the entire month since the Honors list came out until the date of graduation.

 I think I was the most miserable UP graduate of our batch.

It is pathetic that everything that gave me worth were taken away, so I could finally see that He is my worth.

Well, it had to happen. In retrospect, my entire college life was a process of peeling away all that thick, ugly membrane so wrapped up in my heart, preventing me to see and truly know God.

I thought my purposes back then were noble. With all my heart, I tried to justify everything I did with “honorable” excuses, when in reality I was doing everything for my sake, my influence, myself.

My purpose, I now realize, is far more wonderful, far greater, than to do everything for my own little, selfish self.  

 

HOW ABOUT YOU? Ever felt the same way in college, or when you graduated? If so, how did you handle it?

If not, why do you think your college experience was as it was / is what it is?

Death and Peace

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 [Missionartist’s Note: I am privileged to write this amazing true story of my colleague and fellow missionary, Katrinna. As can be observed, I wrote it in the first person in an effort to stay true to Katrinna’s voice.]

I started dreaming of death when I was fifteen.

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It happened several times a week… I would drift off to sleep, and then the screaming would begin. Women screaming. I would feel someone, or something pulling my legs… someone, or something strangling my neck. And all around me I could see evil spirits, phantoms of huge ominous shapes.

No fifteen year-old should have to fear going to bed, but I did. For years, I experienced these nightmares and sensations.

I tried to tell my mom about this, but when she replied, “Oh, you’re just tired. Drink more water. Sleep earlier”, I realized telling her would not help.

So I tried to help myself.

I tried to muster all the powers on earth available to me by praying hard to my gods. I learned certain enchantments, oral mantras I was instructed to chant before bed. I wore an amulet  and kept it with me everywhere I went. I acquired a written charm from a friend and put it under my pillow, hoping against hope that it would help me sleep.

None of these worked.

It was one of those nights – I was so tired, my body inevitably exhausted from the psychological trauma and the lack of sleep. My mind desperately tried to grab on to any happy, peaceful memory I had, and a single memory from my earlier childhood flickered.

It was a memory from my happier days as a child, almost seemingly random. I was in grade school, and we were singing a song…

A song! It was a simple tune, and as I recalled it, I realized I still had the lyrics memorized.

“As the deer panteth for the waters, so my soul longeth after Thee.

You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship Thee.”

THEN the most amazing thing happened — I fell asleep.

Without any nightmares, with no hint of death. No women screaming, no strangling. Just sweet, restful sleep. And I was aware of a great steady peace embracing me. I felt secure, as if someone almighty and trustworthy was giving the peace I so coveted.

heavenly light

I wondered then about this song. That songs and chants are written and dedicated to gods, I knew as much. All I knew about this song was that it was written and dedicated to the Christian God.

Then I went to college.

It was in my first year in UKM when I met a senior who happened to be a Christian. Because of my previous experience with the song, I listened intently when she shared to me about this God, and about this God’s love and salvation.

For three months, I struggled with the concept of other gods. See, I believed in a lot of things, like incarnation and karma—concepts obviously incompatible with Christianity.

I researched and compared – this Christian God seemed insufficient compared to all my other gods combined. Why should I give them up?

Still, I kept one foot in Christianity because I had experienced, first hand, the power of their God. When I mentioned the name “Jesus”, I felt peace; His name literally was the source of my peace.

And so my curiosity of this God kept growing and nagging at me that I was forced to look back at Christianity and this time, really look. What I found out astounded me… And finally, I decided to trust this Jesus Christ and let Him take control of my life.

After receiving Christ, a great, wonderful, peace came over me.

This peace was slightly familiar – I had a taste of it when I first sang the song, but this? This was at a whole new level, as if a banquet was now opened to me, whereas I was only allowed a spoonful of it before. It was the most satisfying thing in the world.

I have never regretted my decision since.

And to this day, none of these spiritual attacks have happened again.

“Ate, can’t I just witness with my life and not with words?”

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Do I find it odd that three disciples I decided to challenge for higher involvement in discipleship ALL expressed to me, in separate occasions, that they feel feel discomfort at the mere idea of witnessing?

No, not really. I actually kind of expected it.

You’d think these girls would think differently, after seeing me model it and having actual experiences in witnessing (praise God, they actually do their homework!).

But yes, there they were, trying to tell me, as nicely as possible how scared they are and how the other Christian orgs in campus now seem more attractive, because they —  well, they don’t give them “Evangelism homework”.

“Ate, can’t I just witness with my life? Why not with words?”

“My friend is feeling the same pressure and discomfort, and is actually thinking of joining <insert other Christian org here>.”

I PRAISE GOD because asking these questions gives me more opportunity to emphasize the importance of obeying God’s Word, more avenues to vision-cast, and more occasion to encourage them to build Biblical convictions by prioritizing their personal time and study of the Word.

So what did I tell them?

A LOT.

Which can be summed up thus (almost in this order):

-The Bible is our authority.

-The Bible says <The Great Commission>. It’s active, not passive.

-You know God has already been speaking to you about this, right? You KNOW the right thing to do. (My girls affirmed this, thankfully)

– Maturity comes when we take faith-steps to obey. Because God is committed to us, He lets us do uncomfortable stuff, like witnessing.

-If “skills” are the issue, I will gladly equip and train you!

-Like I said when you first me, I am committed to helping you grow in your Christian life. As long as you let me, I promise to help you foster this kind of growth by letting you do this uncomfortable stuff.

Well, I told them to think more and really pray about it.

I guess next week is the moment of truth.