The war veterans are dying…

February 27, 2009

I settled into my nice and comfortable chair at a local coffee joint, and started to peruse the newspaper recently, when an article jolted me to some harsh realities that our veterans are going through.

One section featured several haunting pictures of the Filipino World War II veterans.  The pictures were taken last February 23rd right inside the Veterans Memorial Hospital.  Their names and birthdays were displayed as their pictures were taken (similar to a mug shot) as many of them were hooked up on tubes and hospital machines.

Many of them are in their 80’s – and are still waiting for any of the promised WWII war veteran benefits.  They stand to receive $9,0000 in cash if they are already based here – and those veterans who are already based in the US, according to the news article, stand to receive $15,000 each.

That is a big amount when converted to Philippine pesos.  Money that these war veterans need right now to cover their medical and hospital expenses.

I pray that these benefits will be given to them soon.

Many of them could hardly attend to participate in ceremonies honoring their fallen comrades because of old age and health conditions.

I pray that our government would help expedite the whole process so that the benefits will still reach the withered hands of those who fought for our freedom more than 60 years ago.

“I pray that I would still see my Dad…” she started sharing some of personal things that were going on in their family but tears overwhelmed her.  She grabbed a handkerchief but was too slow to cover her eyes as tears went streaming down her cheeks.  We were all quiet as a friend who sat next to her tried to comfort her.

This was just one of the things that was shared during a youth leadership session with 21 young people from our outreach in Norzagaray Hills Village.  Due to the Advisory Council meeting that day, we planned for these young people to come to the office for the meeting in the afternoon.

We went through some initial materials on group dynamics and after our break, proceeded to talk about some more serious stuff.  These young men and women have very difficult backgrounds and I thought it would be more appropriate to begin by addressing the intra-personal issues they may have in relation to how they think God perceives their situations to be.

We went through the material that I had used so many times with the young people in recent years.  It is entitled “Our Thinking Vs  God’s.”  This scripturally-based comparison would help a person understand what he is going through and have a glimpse of how God is looking at the same picture but with His divine perspective.  Many of us are going through our daily grind wondering if God really cares or understands what we go through.  And if He does, why is it that help is so slow in coming?

We went through those individual points and I shared some of my personal testimonies highlighting some of the scriptures.  Then I asked them “how about you?  Which of these thoughts are you entertaining right now?  Where do you need God’s word to be made manifest in your life?”

“I can’t manage..” said one young person.

“I have little faith…” another at the back said

” I am afraid…”

And the rest shared.  I asked some of them to share more according to the level of their comfort, and this young person said “I pray that I would still see my Dad…”

I challenged them to start telling themselves the words of God in their lives. I challenged them to look past the physical things and through the eyes of faith, look at how God is looking at them – not with the strict, let-me-measure-how-right-you-are-doing-your-life kind of a look, but rather, a very compassionate Father who desires to lift us from where we are and take us to where He wants us to be.

When the tears of that young person had subsided, I gathered them in a circle.  We prayed and I lifted their some of the concerns they mentioned:

– a job interview for one of the leaders

– forgiveness and reconciliation between family members for another young person

– provision for the mother of a young person whose health condition seems to be deteriorating

– provision for a medical check-up for one of the leaders

– money for tuition fee for those who will be graduating from highschool

– for all of them to do well in their studies

– for the NHV youth group to really come to an intimate relationship with the Lord.

We sang “Ang Tanging Alay” as our closing prayer.

Thank you Lord for the opportunity to minister to them.  The burdens they carry are too heavy for their young hearts to fully understand.  Give them hope. Give them your peace and your joy.  Let them see Your perspective in the light of Your goodness and grace. Let them all come to Jesus and believe.  Let them know how much You have loved them from the very foundations of this world.  Thank you for taking care of them.   I know that they are special in your sight.  They may be going through difficult times now – but they are like a bruised reed, that you would not break.

I commit all of them in the precious hands of Jesus, who loves them more than anyone else would, and could.

AMEN

May Jean Lacaba, dep Gov. Sahidulla, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter

International Red Cross workers: May Jean Lacaba, dep Gov. Sahidulla, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter

They have been held captive for 33 days and still counting.  When they were kidnapped last January 15th after inspecting a humanitarian project in the town of Patikul, it sent a powerful message that, the the southern Philippines is really an un-controlled haven of extremist and terrorists.  That not even a very recognizable group of humanitarian workers, namely the International Red Cross, is safe from the claws of Abu Sayyaf.

The Abu Sayyaf infamously known for their kidnappings, has not indicated any demand for any ransom YET.  They do not want to negotiate with anyone so long as there are military activities surrounding their locations.

In a very short telephone interview, Swiss National Andreas Notter highlighted the tight dilemma they are in.  They have been running through the jungles, even in the middle of the night to escape the firefightings between the terrorist group and the military.  Notter affirmed that the Italian national, 62 year old Vagni is really in dire need of medical attention.

Let us pray for the 3 International Red Cross volunteers.

Let us pray for their protection and for their immediate release.  Pray for the comfort of their loved ones.  Mindanao has already seen so many hostages and countless number of violence against humanity throughout its bloodied history.

Let us pray for them.  They are somewhere out there deep in the jungles of Sulu.  Let our prayers cover them tonight and may the loving and gentle arms  of Jesus embraced them in the midst of this very arduous ordeal.

See you Lolo Eli…

February 17, 2009

Last Sunday at 11AM, my wife’s grandpa was cremated at Loyola Guadalupe.  His children and grandchildren were all there – except for those who did not make it from overseas.  Mama, Wifey’s mom was the eldest among the siblings.  I could still remember some of the Lolo Eli anecdotes she shared with us when she was still alive.

The cremation took close to two hours and we whiled away the time talking to the younger cousins from the second family Lolo had during his younger days.

It was my second time to be inside a crematorium.  The first one was wayback when I was a ministerial trainee for a church in Manila.  The lady who died was the secretary of our small group for the elderly.  When she was cremated, I was requested to help put her inside the machine.  It was something I was not totally prepared to do, and the image of which, stayed with me for a long time.

When the cremains were presented to all of us, many were surprised that the cremains were white in color.  People naturally assumed that the cremains would have a black color – but the body being cremated is not exposed to the flames but to the intense heat, approx 1600 degrees that easily reduce the body to the bones.

There was something strangely comforting when I saw Lolo’s cremains.  I told my wifey at breakfast that it was more positive for me rather than seeing a casket being hoisted down the hole.  While funeral gives the whole experience a sense of finality, I sensed a stronger sense of acceptance and finality when I saw Lolo’s cremains.

We proceeeded to the old Makati Cemetery, where we learned that body funerals were no longer being done there.  But his cremains were allowed to be buried because it would only occupy a box measuring 14 X 14 inches on top of his older relative’s grave.

While seeing the cremains made it strangely comfortable, the sight, smell of the old Makati Cemetery was downright depressing.  Bordered by the International School on one side and a new set of condos being built on the other, the MAKATI cemetery looked very forgotten.  There was even a growing community of people who made permanent residence of the graves and other small mausoleums of the deceased.

I did not even wait for the whole cementing of the box to be finished. I made my way back to the car where wifey, Lola and Tito Al were waiting. I earlier discouraged them to go inside the cemetery for hygiene and sanitary reasons.  I slowly felt my spirit getting overwhelmed by the sadness of the place where Lolo’s cremains were placed. I am not at any liberty to explain but it was not the intended place to become Lolo’s final resting place.

Here in the Philippines, they have started discouraging the spreading of the cremains.  Unlike in the US where designated spots have been allowed for cremains to be spread.  That would have been ideal for Lolo Eli.

It would have been better if we were allowed to spread his cremains at some poignant spot, where the serenity of the place, could magnify the beauty of the life of the dearly departed.

Lolo Eli, we will be seeing you.

Now you know, as you have always been,  loved and known by Christ

He captured the hearts of millions worldwide when he swam to Olympic history last August.  He achieved a phenomenon that will not be repeated maybe in several decades.  Young, hip, affluent now because of his lucrative endorsements, Michael Phelps is on top of his game.

Then this week saw  that horrific image of him taken at a party somewhere.  The sports hero sniffing marijuana.

A picture of a well-loved and well-admired athlete hurting millions of people who adored him.

But the world is in so much pain to really make a big fuzz about Michael’s error in judgment.  While Kellogg removed his endorsements, others  are simply waiting for the whole issue to die down, especially since the stimulus package of Barrack Obama is grabbing the headlines these days.

We have seen this many times. Our heroic athletes “betray” our perception of them when they commit mistakes that make us cringe and ask what in the world were they thinking?!

One of the things that athletes have not fully considered is the fact that they are being admired not just for some special talents or abilities. The admiration they are receiving comes from the humanity that is elated at the possibilities of someone just doing it brighter, someone doing it higher, faster and stronger….

Yes they are already this generation’s icons.

Michael Phelps need to understand that world-class athletes like him are admired for who he is – and not just some dissociated parts of what he is.

I have been involved with the youth ministry for the past 22 years. It has been a very educational experience, to say the least.

I have been wanting to gather my thoughts and put them in one place so that it would be easily accessible to youth leaders and significant adults who are given the burden to mentor the next generation.

If you feel the call to invest your life on a younger person’s life, then feel free to visit the blog specifically designed for youth mentors and ministry leaders.

Feel free to visit this blog:

http://mentoringjoshua.blogspot.com

See you!  Together let us make an eternal investment by investing our lives on the next generation.

Wildfires in Australia

February 10, 2009

The fires are still blazing and 141 people have died.  Many of them still trapped in their cars as they were trying to escape.

Very horrendous and suspicions have been raised as to the real cause of these fires.  Firefighters were really stunned to discover that some of the fires already put out weeks ago were again ablazed by arsonists.

It is expected that there will be more casualties when this tragedy is over.

Please save the people.  Lord God please send a powerful rain to douse the fire in Australia.  They are going through the hot summer months and everything within miles are so dry that it could just literally flare up.

Please comfort the families who tragically lost their loved ones.

Lord God, have mercy and rescue those who are still very much threatened by the spreading bush fires.