Opportunities Create Something Out of Nothing

I don't have answers, although a lot of times I think, plan and act as if I do.  It is ironic that the older I get I gain more experience and wisdom and the more I gain experience and wisdom the more it becomes clear that I neither know a lot nor control anything.

There are things we plan for and there are things that just happen when we are at the right place, at the right time and with the right persons.  What we need to do is recognize the convergence of these circumstances, trust God and act on the opportunity.

I write below three things that remind me of this.  All three pertain to my experience and relationship with a local church that I am not even a member of in our home town Manito, Albay.

I.  A privilege to baptize on a cold morning under the rain.

A baptism I will never forget.  We had to ride a very slim outrigger boat so we could do the baptism on the beach beyond the river.   The old man in blue raincoat is already home with the Lord after years of faithful service.  Photos taken in 2009.

The photos above were taken when I was given the rare privilege of conducting water baptism under a cold monsoon rain one early morning in 2009.  This public expression of the young woman's decision to follow Jesus symbolizes the complete cleansing of her spirit and her life by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I didn't plan that morning.  I was just home in the province to visit my parents.  I am not a pastor.  When the local church leaders learned I was coming they scheduled a water baptism ceremony that I can lead.  It was a cold and rainy morning.  I didn't want to go out and was confident it was going to be cancelled.  Who would get up at 6:00 AM for a water baptism under the rain?  I asked my wife to send them a text message.  A reply immediately arrived:  they were already waiting for us at the pier!  They prepared as early as 5:00 AM.  Something gripped my heart and made me jump out of bed in embarrassment.

When we arrived they were there, happy and excited to see us.  I think it was around 7:00 AM.  We had to ride a small outrigger boat because the bamboo bridge was destroyed by a recent typhoon and because they wanted the baptism to be done on the beach beyond the river.

This office worker from the big city will never forget how the spiritual richness of these financially poor people humbled him on that morning in 2009.

A sunset view of Mayon volcano across the gulf.  This would have been the background of the baptism photos above had it not been raining.  Photo taken in 2010.

The outrigger boats would not be needed to cross  the river whenever this bamboo bridge is undamaged by typhoons.    Just like this bamboo bridge, the church I write about in this blog has had cycles of building and rebuilding.  Photo taken in 2002.

II.  Sending relief goods after typhoon Reming.

In 2006 super typhoon Reming devastated the province.  One could see mountains stripped of almost all the coconut trees' crowns.  Members of the church lost their homes.  One family had to live in a pig pen as their house was already blown by the strong winds. They said 60 % of houses in the town were either destroyed or heavily damaged.

Distributing a some relief goods to members of the church and a few of their neighbors.  2007

Through the help of friends I was able to go home and minister by distributing relief goods to the members of the church.   Looking at these pictures again, I can only thank God for the privilege to bridge those in need and those who can give.

III.  A place for local church building and an opportunity for a rural college campus ministry.

This church is composed of people living in a predominantly agricultural community and is among the poorest municipalities in one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.  All economic activities are based on small scale farming and fishing.  Commerce is limited to a handful of stores.  The town center itself is only comparable to mere barangays (small villages) in other municipalities.

Two years ago God gave us the opportunity to allot space for a small church building  through my brother and mother's encouragement and efforts.  This would help the church eliminate monthly rents as they can even barely support their pastor who has to drive his tricycle (on a 3-year amortization) every week from Legazpi City.

This was an opportunity God gave especially since the municipality itself built a community college just two years earlier on the adjoining lot.  By faith we are currently working and paying for the legal processes to make title to the lot official.

The church now has a place to worship and a possible base for a rural college campus ministry.  The college currently has a single course (Education) but I heard they will be linking up with TESDA soon.  Imagine how much this college is helping students who cannot afford to live and study in Legazpi City, 40 kilometers away.  (Click to read my sentiment about this particular community college in a separate blog entitled "Love Ko 'To".)

The Community College just beside the lot we allotted for the local church.  On the right beyond the fence is 1 of 2 community college buildings.  Dec. 2010.

Church posts and beams.  Construction spear-headed by one of the leaders of the church.  On the left is the additional (3rd) community college building under construction.  Sept. 2011.  

The church building with thatched roof and a nipa hut in front for children's Sunday School.  On the left is the (3rd) community college building shown under construction in preceding photo.  Dec. 2012.

I am not a member of this church but they have esteemed me and our family by the grace of God.  I was not excited during that early morning baptism.  The relief goods for Reming did not come out of my own pocket.  The lot on which the church building now stands did not come out of my own sweat and tears. Neither did I plan nor anticipate that a community college will be built in this remote, unknown and poor municipality; and that this community college will stand right next to a lot that we already have.

Two more major Church needs:  sustained Livelihood and Leadership (two "Ls").

Just like the bamboo bridge in the second photo above, the church I write about in this blog has had cycles of building and rebuilding.  It has had its ups and downs.

I think among the top reasons for this cycle are the very low income that the members earn as farmers, vendors and fisher folk despite the natural wealth surrounding them.  Another reason is the lack of leadership training and mentoring among the leaders and members that can support a sustainable ministry.  This is one need that the leaders of the church are recognizing and we are praying for God to bring people who can help them in this area of church life.  I am still praying and hoping to help answer both these "Ls".  By God's grace these will also soon be addressed.

If forced to summarize this long post in one sentence I think all I'm trying to write and picture here is:

I believe I am nothing but in some areas of my life I have been given opportunities to avail of resources -- both human and divine -- by the One who created the glorious universe out of nothing.

I am the vineyou are the branchesThe one who remains  in me – and I in him – bears  much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish  nothing."  -- John 15:5 NET Bible 

 "But by the grace of God I am what I amand his grace to me has not been in vain..."  1 Corinthians 15:10  NET Bible

Do help us pray for God to continue creating opportunities that can create something out of nothing  in this particular corner of the world.



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