Friday, August 27, 2004

By the River Pasig I Sat and Wept

Singing loudly to Gary V. songs with the sisters as we went about our household chores; receiving gifts and notes from my angel-in-disguise Gabbie; enjoying meals prepared by kitchen goddess Mercy and her angels; waking up at 5:15 a.m. to the soft voice of Leah; morning prayers led by Gay as we saw the sun rising each new day outside our bay window; night prayers in our pajamas to cap each significant day – these are just some of the memories I have kept from my two-week stay at the Lingkod QC First Women’s Household. For each of the women I stayed with, I believe there stayed a thousand memories, made more special by their own beautiful experiences of living, and resting, at Unit 205 Bonaventure Homes, Pililia cor. Osmeña St., Makati City.

It All Started in Quezon City

As to why we ended up renting a condominium in Makati is a story of surrender in itself. I went there with a very personal challenge as well, that of leading a household when I myself had never been part of one. Talk about the blind leading the blind!

The goal of conducting a household, I learned, is to help the women (or men, as it’s given to them as well, separately of course) establish their relationship with God and with one another more deeply by providing a venue and an atmosphere conducive to achieving this. Thus, various teachings and activities are incorporated in the schedule. Women of wisdom and experience in community are invited to give the teachings and facilitate the activities. Household chores are assigned to each participant, and the values of simplicity and responsibility are learned hands-on. Common prayers and meals provide a rich venue for expressing love for the Lord more deeply as well as for building sisterhood. It is hoped that all the women who attend would make resolutions as to God’s will in their lives and their participation in this community.

I read the Household Handbook from cover to cover several times. I interviewed Ate My, Ayie, as well as past and present BWMs in order to familiarize myself with what I was about to lead the sisters into. Knowing that I had a very intelligent and independent group of sisters whom I invited in QC (the ULs, AGLs, and one SeCo member), I wanted to come prepared. As the household opening day approached, however, I realized that I was still clueless as to what was in store for us.

We prayed for a house. God knows that we searched far and wide for a house. Our requirements were basic, and yet not so simple. We needed to fit 12 women, translated into two toilet/bathrooms and sufficient sleeping space. We likewise needed to find a place accessible to our respective workplaces. Simple living was encouraged but we knew we needed at least two parking spaces. Add to that the temporariness of staying for only two weeks, with a very, very tight budget, and we had a headache. I personally approached all my friends and was totally bewildered that nobody could help me find a suitable house.

It took us more than a year to finally settle to the idea of living in Makati. Some household participants started to complain about the distance, but after prayer we all came back to the Lord and obeyed His will. Household was about stepping out of our comfort zone, we were told. So we took that first step.

Several weeks before Opening Day, the UL’s and I came together to pray for the household. We sought the Lord’s message for us and came up with our household theme. It was clear that the Lord was calling His daughters to rest; to be still; to listen; to receive. He wanted us to stop striving. He led us to Psalm 46.

Based only on what I read and heard, I started to draft the tentative schedule, incorporating as much “rest” into it as I could. I presented it to Ate My, who then asked me about the profile of the household participants. I said that we had women leaders who serve all out for the Lord but who sometimes experience tiredness and who were longing to surrender control to God. Since this was a first in the branch, the Lingkod National Office had to take a more active participation in the household to make sure, at least to my mind, that we did it right. Ate My said that she thought we needed to be surprised a little bit. So for two weeks she tweaked, bended, and even changed the schedule so that we would stop striving and thus would become still before the Lord. Surprisingly, it did not drive the QC sisters crazy, as we welcomed each change and the loving promise that the Lord had in mind behind it.

First Night with Bantay

Some habits were hard to break. Worrying what the household would take from me, I wanted to make a head start. Even if nobody could stay with me on Saturday night at the house, I decided to move in already, thanks to the help of the Sikats and Johanna, who helped me carry my sleeping mat, clothes, pots, and pans up the rickety elevator into Unit 205. The house looked lived-in as in fact, another household, from Ligaya, had just moved out a week before that. I discovered each room and opened the windows to let the air in. I was surprised to see a grand view of the Pasig River which shimmered under the moonlight. There was a huge stuffed animal, a gray dog, which kept me company the whole night. I found it sitting on the sofa, as if guarding the living room, which was to become my bedroom.

I prayed for wisdom, fortitude, compassion, patience, self-control, gentleness, and a very long list of qualities I knew I did not have but figured I would need for the household. I barely slept that night as I adjusted to my surroundings. I woke up as night gave in to day and I watched the beauty of the changing colors of the sky. Along with it came the transformation of the Pasig River, which looked as beautiful as a princess the night before, but which turned into a brown, polluted body of water as daylight revealed its true nature. Looking down on it, I was dismayed. I looked up instead and enjoyed the morning sky which I rarely saw, if ever, as I seldom woke up in time to appreciate the glory that it revealed.

Busyness, Tiredness, Sickness, Where was the Rest?

As Gay, Arlene, Mirac, Leah, Mercy, Ria, Karreen, Sheila, and Jhing arrived, we started to “build” a house, room by room. We put up curtains, mopped the floor, scrubbed the tiles, and set the table. We each brought appliances, cookware and dinnerware that our mothers could spare for two weeks. It was a fun but a very tiring day. Ate My asked us about our expectations, and they were as varied as the spellings of our names.

On that first week, we just did what we thought a household should do. We prayed, cooked, ate, cleaned, talked, listened, and slept. Slowly, however, each one of us started to ask the Lord why we were called to that house in the first place. We knew we were in for a very personal surprise from the Lord. We heard talks from Ate My, Riza Fortuna (xBWM of Cavite), Joyce Viñas (former Lingkod Office staffer), and Beth Melchor (Gay’s leader at the Jerusalem House, living single for the Lord, a woman of wisdom and substance if we ever saw one) about Love, Brokenness, Sisterhood, and Priorities. We invited our AG members, the GovTeam and SeCo brothers, to join us in some activities. We had very personal sharings during dinner. We served one another as angels-in-disguise. We went to work together and got home together. We had night sharing partners and chore partners.

In all these, we suffered from sleeplessness. We thanked God that our bosses were not so demanding that week because we could hardly focus at work. Our bodies needed adjusting to the schedule and the distance. We also battled with thoughts and emotions that surfaced from the household. I got sick and had to take a day off to recover. We went home on Sunday, but had to go back on Monday, because we knew God was not done with us yet. He could not have placed us in one house and not have a grand plan, could He?

Changes That Made Changes

On our second week, Kristine arrived from Singapore and Karreen had to fly to Singapore. It was no coincidence, just a part of some divine plan. We found out that Cherry could not join us anymore because of her parents’ health. We got more used to singing the night prayers; waking up at daybreak; taking a shower for a few minutes; and having chore assignments.

Jackie Blanco, xBWM of Makati, talked to us about Being Christian Single Women. Ayie Santos, the Regional Women’s Moderator for GMMACQ, emphasized to us the call to Servanthood. Finally, Riza Carasig, xBWM of Greenhills, led us into a time of meditation on the whole of Psalm 23. At that point we could no longer hide from God for He made us sit down and face Him in our hearts. Some of us felt peace and calm; others recognized their brokenness for the first time. We learned that we were as helpless, as stupid, and as loved as little sheep before our Shepherd. The answers to our questions started to form in our hearts, but we could not speak them out yet. Jesus’ voice, however, started to come out clearly amidst the noise and haste of our minds. He was calling us, but we were nowhere near stillness.

GMA declared August 21 a holiday so we had complete attendance, and a lot of time, for morning worship. Ate My and Pepot (current BWM of Makati) joined us in ministering to one another. There, the Lord spoke to us individually. He sat down with each of us and whispered words of love and assurance. To some, He verbalized His commands and wishes. We could not escape His voice anymore, and we welcomed the Rest in His open arms.
Be Still and Know that I Am God.

Having gone through all that, we were reluctant to let go, however, the rest of our lives were waiting for us. Arlene had to go to her vacation in Hong Kong; Kristine’s new job demanded her full attention; Ria’s nephews and nieces were waiting for her. We came together one last time to worship and to pray. God told us that He would equip us to face mountains and storms; wars and famines; by these words from Psalm 46:11 “Be still and know that I am God!” It was no longer a whisper, but a strong voice heard throughout the vastness of our fears and anxieties. Could we love, serve, give, and pray without the household? Did we meet God’s expectations of us? Would we still be this close even if we no longer stayed in the same house? God’s Word cut through our minds and pierced our hearts with its truth, and we claimed it together in faith.

Ate My told me on the first week that the Lingkod QC household sisters were so easy to love and magaan dalhin. She was so confident with us that she stayed only one night in the house, occasionally checking through cellphone how we were doing. I told her that we needed a lot more – to listen with our hearts; to open our minds – but on the Closing Day she was so proud of how far each sister had come in terms of embracing God’s message of love and rest. She said that throughout her term, she could say that this was the easiest household to handle. We no longer disputed that, casting out thoughts of our difficulties, dramas, misunderstandings, and accepting that in the greater scheme of things, perhaps our household experience was indeed a blessed one.

I was not afraid to weep openly during the talks. The household forced me to face conversations with God that I had walked out on in the past. I trusted the Lord with the little faith I had, and He delivered! I praise and thank Him not only for the wonders that He brought into my prayer life, but also for the growth that I saw in each and every sister. The assistant household heads Gay, Mirac and Mercy, who were like the three branches of the government, supreme in their respective fields yet interacting and supporting one another, allowed me to concentrate on the pastoral and overall concerns of the house. Ria, my angel-in-disguise Gabbie, gave me a Russian doll, a Babushka, straight from my Sesame Street days, that brought laughter to us at the end of each working day. Kristine not only brought donuts but her willing heart as well. Sheila, a sister we could not help loving, was such a joy to be with, night after late night that she arrived from La Salle. Arlene gave her best to every aspect of the household, duty demands and travel worries notwithstanding (sis, da best yung Wacky Night mo). Jhing, whose sharing pinched my heart, renewed my desire to be faithful and to entrust my future into God’s hands. Karreen, although her stay with us was cut short, gave so much that built the foundations of love and service in that house. Leah, my sister with the surgical gloves for cleaning, has taught me about humility and true service.

I have to end this sharing sometime or it would not be read at all. As in all days at the household, let me end with the night prayers (sung with Mirac):

Praise the sisters ng Household Batch No. 1
Both now and forever
The Crying Ladies by the River Pasig
They sat and wept.

Mutya ng Pasig No. 1 si Manang Mercy
Napilay kaya nagpa-MRI
Ngunit kahit pilay, kusina’y gamay
Instant trainer ng mga walang alam sa bahay.

Mutya ng Pasig #2 ang Maribeth Bichara ng QC
Isang linggo lang dahil nag-Singapore
Buti na lang at siya’y nag-hosehold
Kundi ala tayong CD player.

Umalis si Karreen, dumating si Sister Donut
Dala-dala’y puro tsokolate at donut
Tatlong beses lang naming nakasama sa kainan
Dahil puro OT ang kanyang beauty.

Mutya ng Pasgi #4 ang chocolate-hater na si Ria
Pagsapit ng morning prayers ay bangag
Pagkatapos magdasal sa kama ay laglag
Kaya Suspect No. 1 bilang Angel Gabbie.

Mutya ng Pasig #5 ang small banyo Queen
May potensiyal maging Dancing BWM
Naglaba’t nagplantsa ng kanyang uniform
Noise barrage sa umaga with the kaldero’t kaserola.

Mutya ng Pasig # 6 si Mini-Beth Melchor
Well done talaga siya bilang worship servant
Pag siya’y nag-lead ng night at morning prayers
Darna powers gamit niya pati paglinis ng big CR…

Mutya ng Pasig # 7 isa sa Robinson’s Girls
Kahit panay ang duty sige pa rin ang serve
‘Yan si Arlene baluktot kung matulog
Ngunit nung Lord’s Day siya’y masarap magluto…

Mutya ng Pasig # 8 ang OC na si Leah
4 hours lagi kanyang tulog every single day
Kinareer pagwawalis at paglalampaso
Kaya spotless ang sahig with her surgical gloves.

Mutya ng Pasig #9 model ng Efficascent Oil
200 sit-ups sa umaga, sa gabi ay photo-finish
Natuto magluto baka inspired kasi
It’s OK to hope daw but guard your heart…

LORD, save them while they are awake
Protect them while they sleep
And Angel Gabbie who watches over,
Them pa pala,
Will guard their souls in peace.

Now Lord, you will let the household go in peace
According to your Word
For Our eyes have seen their wacky deeds
Which we performed without the men
Ang daming revelations by the sisters
At andaming baon naming pag-uwi…


May the almighty and merciful Lord
Grant the desires of their hearts
And be still, and know
That I AM….

No comments: