On the other hand, I could look at it as two weeks’ worth of blog material, for I saw and experienced God’s love, generosity and power amidst the flurry of activities. I may not be able to find words to capture everything that has happened, but I feel obliged, in grateful response to God’s goodness, to write about what He has done in and through me.
I did not have internet access for that long period of time, but that did not hinder me from blogging or e-mailing before. I used to be able to find an internet shop or a friend who could lend me a few minutes’ online time anywhere. My prolonged absence here just goes to show that I was where I had to be and I did not have the urge to bend my schedule or impose upon others just to be able to blog. I had to live moment by moment in order to have something worthwhile to write about.
More than Wonderful
"What no eye has seen,
nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him," -- 1 Cor. 2:9 (RSV).
I saw these words coming to life before my eyes.
Not to complain but just to state a fact, I was a bag of nerves for several weeks leading into the NLTC 2005. I was thankful to be finally doing my share of service in this worthwhile activity (an annual gathering of Lingkod leaders that consists of common worship, prayer rooms, informative talks, skills tracks, daily masses, buzz groups for 24 hours in seven weeks – see the website), but I was also very apprehensive regarding what I was doing. I served with very generous and approachable people but my own sense of perfectionism clouded my joy – I wanted more than mediocre service, I wanted to have a smooth, glitch-free conference. I wanted the impossible.
Prior to the NLTC, the Board of Trustees had its bi-monthly meeting at the Lingkod Office and I had to help out in the preparations and in the taking down of minutes. The dedication of Lingkod’s trustees is very inspiring and encouraging, as they willingly shared their expertise from their respective professions (we have businessmen, lawyers, and missionaries, among others) in order to see to it that God’s purpose for Lingkod was fulfilled.
A couple of days after that, I assisted in the Lingkod Executive Committee (LEXCOM) meeting held at My Father’s House, Lazo Farm, Cabuyao (a place familiar to me as LingkodQC goes there at least once a year for our Way of Life Weekend and Integration Days). The National Director and National Women’s Moderator met with the Regional Directors for four days to come up with a Lingkod structure that’s consistent with the direction that the movement is taking. I got to know the leaders of Lingkod from all over the country and learned from their wisdom in handling our concerns. It was tiring, yes, but they made sure that we had time to fellowship with the CYA National Council. We went swimming and shared meals with them. We said our morning prayers and celebrated the Lord’s Day together, living out the call for the Partners-in-Mission to form a seamless garment to bring more people into a life of discipleship. It was an honor to be there, despite all my panic and apprehension about how I was going to serve. During the LEXCOM there was only room for gratitude and openness in my heart, and I know that was due to God’s grace at work.
My Baptism of Fire
The most challenging service for me was coordinating the transportation and travel of delegates to the NLTC. I did not know what that service entailed and found myself groping in the dark as to what steps to take and how to address the members’ concerns from Aparri to Jolo. Coming from the National Office, they thought I knew what I was doing, but God knows I did not, and relied on grace to meet the expectations one day at a time. I’m thankful to Clark Coronado and the Los Banos volunteers; Ate My and the GMMACQ volunteers; my officemates Dexter, Regine, Byong, Jobaqs, Jopeng, and Bheng; for all their help in this service. It was through their perseverance and compassion that the delegates were safely brought into and out of the NLTC venue. When you come to serve the Lord, you are never alone, and I’m living proof of that.
For the NLTC itself I was part of the staff, and as one we tried to help one another in the events, just making ourselves available for the service. I was not a delegate anymore so I had to think of service first before my own interests – whether fellowship, rest, sleep, or food. There was enough time for that anyway when the dust finally settled.
Monday was my busiest day as I had to give a talk on Branch Administration and Strategic Planning. I enjoyed that service immensely, for even with the little time I had to prepare for it (less than what I would have wanted, but time was really limited and I had to make do), the Lord provided my talk outline and the Holy Spirit gave me the words when I finally faced the participants. The compact and much-appreciated members’ kit also helped me as the Lingkod Primer was part of my talk.
Installation Night of Mon Samson (Natoinal Director) and Nerry Gool (National Women’s Moderator) was beautiful and touching, and even if I was at the sidelines watching and waiting, I saw God’s hand moving in Lingkod. I serve as one of the assistants of our leaders and my heart went out to them as they were prayed over, as Mon was jokingly asked to accept his cross and Nerry, her crown of thorns. To see them joyfully and humbly offer their lives to the Lord, as witnessed by the Lingkod trustees, alumni, Servants of the Word, CYA NC, NLTC delegates, and GMMACQ brothers and sisters, was enough for me. I’m thankful to have witnessed their installation into a life of service, as it obviously flowed from their love for the Lord.
The launching of Lingkod's newest books was something to be grateful for. I know all the hard work that went into the books and the limited resources that we had in terms of money, time, and manpower. I contributed to both of them - Seasons of Grace and "Good Roots... Good Fruits". Please e-mail me if you want to order your copies.
A Jealous God
There were a lot of things to do during the NLTC and I planned to shut out emotions and reflections for the time being. I wanted to place efficiency above anything else; as I figured I could always go on retreat or spiritual direction afterwards, away from the madding crowd.
We received foundational teachings on Christian morality and sexuality from Dr. Jake Yap of the Loyola School of Theology. It was a mind-blowing three days for us in terms of intellectual input. Then, we separated the men and the women. The sisters listened as Luz Morales talked to us about the Joy, the Essence and the Strength of being a Woman. It was during the second session given by Luz that I felt questions being formed in my heart. I chose to ignore them.
The afternoon skills tracks provided input on Worship, Pastoring, Evangelization, and Administration, given by a myriad of speakers from within Lingkod’s Partners-in-Mission. Daily Mass was celebrated by Fr. Steve Tynan, MGL and concelebrated by Fr. Ramil. Stubborn hearts like mine who refused to take time to meditate further on what God was saying in the NLTC could not escape the homilies that were delivered by Fr. Steve. He drove home each day’s point and the further the NLTC went, the deeper his homilies were. Mass was also a time to listen to senses and prophecies. On Monday, we heard these words: “I will break you this week.” I was first to run for cover. I thought, no breaking for me this NLTC, Lord, I shed enough tears last year. Let this year about harvest. My harvest.
On the second day, a brother shared this word from the Lord: “I am a jealous God.” I was pierced on the spot. I felt God’s eyes locked on mine – He saw my other gods. He saw me striving to please once more, exerting every effort to perfect service, judging other people without expressing it, wanting to protect my own comfort and standards all the time. I had to bend my knees in prayer to ask for forgiveness for setting aside the Lord of the service in the guise of focusing on the service of the Lord.
So finally I faced Him. I allowed Him to show me that His great love and His plans were beyond what my human eyes could see. He was after my heart. He wanted to hear me ask for Him for strength instead of relying on my own. He wanted me to love Him above anything and anyone else. He wanted me to trust in Him and to hope in Him. The truth came out when I talked it out – I had given up hope on some issues and the NLTC’s content was bringing them all out into the fore. I resisted His invitation towards healing. I had built a fortress and thought I had moved on by ignoring my own pain. But he was as gentle and patient as I was stubborn and resistant.
A Time to Rest
Guilt had been my middle name for a very long time and it’s taking longer for me to let it go than I wanted. For as long as my friends/ officemates/ leaders were busy with service, I thought I had to keep in step with them. A concrete instance occurred when I had to come to terms with my own limitations, and so I was forced to take time to rest. Within the NLTC, therefore, I found myself sleeping, praying, and fellowshipping. I spent time with the QT’s (brothers and sisters from my home branch of QC). I stayed behind during Outing Day and just had a lazy lunch with other like-minded staffers. I went on retreat on Friday and listened to a God who was waiting for me to tell Him what was going on. I’m always being told by my elders that God loves me even if I don’t do anything. It’s not easy for me to digest that.
On Thursday Night, we were free to spend it anytime we wished. The Lingkod QT’s went out for dinner as a breather from the fasting-conducive food of La Vista (I’m being nice here, you should have heard Fr. Ramil’s quip about the food during Saturday’s homily) and to update one another on how we were all doing. It turned out that more than one branch decided to have dinner at nearby Max’s. We ate to our heart’s delight and then drove all the way to South Luzon Expressway for our Starbucks fix. It wasn’t the coffee that we were after, but the ambience. God provided us transportation for which we would forever be grateful.
What awaited us at Starbucks was something nobody expected. BL Ted invited the first-timers to share, and they did – Abby, Maye, Imee, Bambi, Vlad, and Daniel. Each one had a special experience and the rest of us could only nod in appreciation and comprehension. Then, the old-timers were encouraged to share as well, so we heard from Arlene, Gay, Ted, Rommel, Paul, Nick, Marlon, Jun, Ria. I was at home so I also shared about my triumphs and struggles during the week. We closed the night with a prayer that was so peaceful, knowing that the Lord walked among us that night. Starbucks gave us the space we needed in order to have a chance to share about God’s goodness to those with whom we were most comfortable with. It provided a beautiful first step towards our own retreat. I even felt God’s words as I sat there at the Starbucks couch, because after listening to music played on a piano, I remembered the music of my childhood years and my forgotten gift of piano-playing. God said, “There is so much beauty in you, my daughter.” I didn’t share that word and kept it to myself, because it brought more questions than answers. Somewhere during that night also, I felt an embrace from an unseen God, He who seemed to affirm me that He saw me all week and was pleased with me. That was an unforgettable moment.
A Feast for His Servants
The rest of the NLTC went by but I had Thursday night to go back to when I faced difficulties as I battled with my own self-image issues during the retreat and my tiredness. We honored Ate My Romero who stepped down as NWM on Saturday’s closing and during the women’s retreat. I enjoyed Closing Night where the QT’s were asked to perform again our E-Night number “Iba’t Ibang Pagdarasal”. In the Unity Dance, all the sisters performed, with the national staffers dancing “Follow the Leadah” with Nerry. Then I stayed up chatting with brothers and sisters, packing my stuff (a trunkload of it), and sending off the provincial delegates together with LB’s dedicated Transpo Team.
Sunday was a day full of blessings. We had lunch at Manny Manuel’s house and we seemed to compensate for the week of fasting (here I go again) by the amount of food laid on the table. Then Mon drove us to Liliw to see their affordable shoes and slippers, unfortunately, the road was closed due to a parade. So close and yet so far! We then proceeded to his family’s farm at Victoria where we prepared for a dinner/honoring for the LB brothers and sisters for a job well done. It was a night of fellowship, a beautiful meal, and music both from the LB servants and the National Office staff.
I got home almost midnight after 10 days in Laguna – from Cabuyao to Calamba to Los Banos to Victoria. I was deeply enriched and forever grateful for what I had seen, tasted, heard, felt and experienced.
The theme for the NLTC becomes easier to live out now. After the past two weeks, I have more basis to respond YES to this call:
“Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” – Romans 12:1
I am home now and back to reality. There is still pressure around me, memories that bother me, and anxieties that paralyze me. I have people making demands on me once again, people I love who don’t know any better, I guess, and I don’t have the luxury of explaining to them that I am slave to no one except my God. It would take longer than two weeks to process what I have learned. It is a lesson in waiting, and I pray I could proceed with the patience that could only be mine through grace.