Yesterday (May 20th ) was the closing of the Summer Enrichment Program. 102 teary-eyed campers were waiting for me to give the final devotional that morning.

Within those very short minutes, my thoughts were racing to all the things I wanted to share with them for the last time.  Thoughts I may never be able to share with them anymore once they board their cars back to their respective areas.

I wanted to talk about a lot of things – but the only thing I felt that mattered most in those precious minutes was the reality of who GOD IS.

I ended the devotional by highlighting Ephesians 3: 20 – 21 ” Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

AMEN.

I played a video entitled “THE GREATEST DAD” about this awesome father and son www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRHxHapwirw

and the powerful song ” I can only Imagine ” by Bart Millard

Lyrics:

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by Your side.
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When Your face is before me.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence?
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

I can only imagine when that day comes,
When I find myself standing in the son,
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence?
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence?
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You . . .
I can only imagine.

I wanted to leave them with a lot of things – but Ephesians 3: 20 – 21 would more than suffice.  Imagine GOD. Imagine Him doing beyond what you can measure. Imagine him doing immeasurably more than I can ask.  Imagine God doing more that what I could even imagine Him doing….

And all these things are according to His power that is at work, within us.

No words are enough.

I can only imagine……

Thank you Lord for an awesome SEP camp in Silang, Cavite. It was definitely beyond what I could ever ask or imagine.  You are the God who blows away our imaginations.

Thank you. I can only imagine what will be next.

In Jesus’ name

AMEN

laying-on-of-hands.pngIt was about 3 in the afternoon and the young man in front of me was shaking as he fought back the tears. I looked into his eyes and waited for any confirmation if I should continue. In between the muffled sobs, he nodded his head as he formed a fist with his right hand and lightly pounded it on his left chest. He was trying to be brave. So was I. I continued, “Joseph, in front of all these witnesses, have you repented of your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord?” “Yes…” he quietly said as tears ran down his cheeks. “Because of your repentance and acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, I now baptize you into the Body of Christ….” In a matter of seconds, we immersed him into the water and he rose from the watery grave to become one of the many who returned to the Father that day.

I have done many baptisms since I entered the ministry ten years ago, but I can honestly say that the baptisms of the young people in the summer camps have always been far more special to me. Counseling them and presenting the gospel to them, seeing how they respond in tears as the Scripture is read, are things I always cherish as part of the camp experience. In my local church in Sta. Rosa, there were five of them who accepted Christ and were baptized. My heart swelled with so much love and pride for all of them as they were immersed into the water.

There are many times when the preparation for the camp saps all our energies. Sometimes the financial aspect of the camp preparation can make one feel a little more desperate. Sometimes the behavior of the campers and some of the staff members could make the camp experience a little more challenging than usual. But whenever I am approached by a camper for baptismal counseling, I am always gently reminded that this is what we all work hard for. The stress of the camp preparation is made all worth it whenever I look into the eyes of the young people searching for answers that can only be found in the saving grace of the Lord. Some of the campers would approach me and ask for private counseling while most would prefer the comfort of being part of a group. It is not uncommon to be counseling 15 – 20 young people at the same time, answering their questions, praying for them as they realize their need for the saving grace of our Lord. It is always a humbling experience. Sharing the Gospel is a privilege that the Lord, in His compassionate mercy, has given us to do. And in the sharing of His life, death and resurrection, something inside of us is always changed by the experience. The privilege of performing their water baptism is something I regard as special. I will not forget this young man who drove all the way to Laguna with his school friends to be baptized where I reside. There was another young man, who is now part of the Clayground Ministry who really requested that he be baptized as the sun was setting in the afternoon. It had been raining that day, but we joined him in that request – and soon enough the sky cleared up and at 5:45 PM, we rushed to the water as God gave him one of the most beautiful sunsets for his water baptism in the beaches of Calatagan, Batangas.

But there are times when it seems that the hearts of the young people have been hardened too much by the circumstances they are in . I remember a summer camp in Palawan where majority of the boys in one of the dorms I handled for a dorm chat, admitted using shabu even before getting there. There were many nights when I wrestled in prayer with God asking for Him to convict them in their hearts. I remember waking up at 5 in the morning asking God to present Himself to the campers; otherwise our labor would have been in vain. I did not see anyone of them get baptized, but before I left that camp to set up the one in Luzon, I was handed a note surreptitiously written on a small piece of paper saying, “ Kuya Rex, ipagdasal mo ako, gusto ko na talagang magbago at labanan ang droga… maraming salamat na may kagaya mo na nagpapakilala sa amin kay Hesus kahit pakiramdam ko hindi nya ako tatanggapin…” I was deep in my prayers for that anonymous young man as we rode the van for our 2-hour drive back to Puerto Princesa on our way to Manila.

This year, a total of 128 youth baptisms took place in our summer camps. It was quite a harvest. Many of them are back in their local congregations diligently attending discipleship classes, being mentored by significant adults who deeply care for the spiritual growth of the young people. I know that some of them are back in their challenging situations and god-less environments where their young faith may be overwhelmed. But I trust that the Lord will lift them up, protect and care for them, defend and nurture them whenever they feel isolated and conquered by their circumstances.

Someone asked me recently why it is easier for the young people to commit their lives to Christ than those who are a lot older. I struggled for an answer to that question but the reality of the Scripture explains this to us in a more profound way. “Unless we become like little children, we will never enter the Kingdom in Heaven …” (Matthew 18: 1 – 5).

Two things would help characterize the attitudes of the young people: their dependence and their trust. When they finally realize that our Father is the only one they can solely depend on and trust, these young people, who are oftentimes in need of someone they can totally rely on, can easily put their trust in our loving Father whose love for them is both unconditional and eternal. This is a big contrast to some of us older people who may have the resources, creativity and network of friends to rely on.

Joseph’s baptism was God’s gift to me. When I first saw him after my college years, he was only 2 years old. I loved him at first sight and I anxiously counted the years when I could take him to summer camp so he could also experience the love from new friends and mentors. I was ecstatic when he attended camp with three cousins and they all experienced what SEP was all about.

close-up-of-laying-on-of-hands.png

The night before his baptism, I asked Joseph again why he is committing his life to the Lord. A part of me wanted to be sure. I still feel the lump on my throat whenever I picture him as he responded to my question. With a sincere, boyish and squeamish look, he put his one arm around my shoulder and said “Uncle… I need Jesus, too…”

– written May 2004. Now Joseph will be entering his senior year in highschool. Lord , always draw him close to you. You are his father. Despite all the challenges he encounters as a young man, I pray that he will find his joy and peace in his communion with You.