June 22, 2012

Summer Sojourns 2012

Though the rainy season has set in, memories of the warmth of summer still linger.

Every summer, for five years now, I live on a suitcase and travel all over the Philippines to conduct equipping seminars and youth camps. I fondly quipped it my summer sojourns, my adventures (and sometimes misadventures) in my travels. For almost two months, I am either on the road, in the air, on the seas, doing what I love most -- teaching and youth ministry. This year has been another blessed opportunity to engage with God's people in the different parts of the archipelago. Indulge me as I reflect back on my summer sojourns 2012.


CBAP Davao Youth Camp
April 10-12, 2012
Hope Mountain, Davao
Upper Photos L-R: (1) Meet my wonderful and competent Davao Team - Matt, Denmarc, Ai, Allan & Jean. (2) Youth leaders pray for each other during one of the sessions.
Lower Photos L-R: (3) Ptr. Erwin Pasco, with wife Cathy, leads the candle ceremony during the last night, symbolic of keeping the fire of making disciples aflame in Davao. (4) Youth of Davao blindfolded during team building activity. (5) Campers gather around the gazebo in Hope Mountain to pray for unity among the churches of CBAP Davao.

It was my second time in Davao. But this year, I was the team leader, a challenge I was excited to take on, knowing God is taking me to greater heights. With bated breath, I flew to Davao with my team, some of them I'm working with for the first time. Perhaps, I am most grateful for my time with the leaders. I have never seen such thirst for equipping. It was not hampered by the inconvenience of our workshop venue (we had to transfer to three different locations - canteen, basketball court, and finally the main hall). I could sense that they were taking in every word from us. Also, I've had special moments with individuals, even having the opportunity to pray for them. Hearing how they've encountered the Lord during the camp, and how their hearts have been convicted to obey God, my heart almost swelled with joy. 

We left Davao knowing that we have something to look forward to in the coming year. The youth leaders' hearts were stirred to make disciples. The youth were excited to be discipled, and to make disciples someday. I will surely remember in prayers Ptr. Erwin and Cathy, both passionate youth workers, who have committed to mentor the youth leaders in the CBAP churches in Davao. We praise God that as a result of the two consecutive camps with the region, monthly fellowships among churches have started last year. This year, the couple is praying to be more intentional to make the fellowships a worthwhile activity, especially serving as accountability for the youth leaders. Truly, the Lord has gone before us. 

(Side note: I missed the youth of CBAP Region 1, whose camp was held on the same week.)

1st CBAP Luzon Youth Leaders Conference
April 21-22, 2012
Word of Life, Calauan, Laguna
Upper Photos (L-R): (1) Ate Jot and Shamira, YouthSENTral team mates, lead the group in an action song. (2) 39 Youth Leaders reaching high for Vision 2025: God is on the move! Let's roll!.
Lower Photos (L-R): (3) Ptr. Noel Pantoja, CBAP General Director, prays for the leaders. (4) I explain a portion of the overview of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ to the youth leaders. (5) Youth leaders go through a maze blindfolded during the team building activity.

When youth workers gather together, something beautiful is bound to happen. 

The conference, with its theme Converge, aimed to cast CBAP's Vision 2025 among the youth leaders of our Luzon churches. More importantly, it emphasized the crucial role of youth ministries in making the vision a reality. The youth leaders were challenged to commit long-term in the youth ministry (at least 5 years) if this was to happen. I praise God to see new friendships formed, and I pray that strategic partnerships will happen, as we commit to help one another in discipling the youth in our respective churches and communities. God is on the move! Let's roll! 

MGC Youth Leaders Training and Youth Retreat
May 7-12, 2012
Balay Indang, Indang, Cavite
Upper Photos (L-R): (1) Youth@111 & MGC CYOUTHGEN leaders lead the campers in a B-A-N-A-N-A action song. (2) CYOUTHGEN leaders brainstorm together as they draft a new mission statement during the leaders training.
Lower Photos (L-R): (3) Ate Jot gives the leaders a QUIZ (insert evil laughter here). (4) Me, being my usual intimidating  self. ;p Stolen shot!

Our good friend, Kuya Jun Go, extended to us the invitation to train his youth leaders. It thrilled me to see AHA! moments in the eyes of the youth leaders whom we spent the first two-and-a-half days training prior the youth retreat. Their victories: drafted a new mission statement for CYOUTHGEN, their youth group; and came up with plans (topics, objectives and all) for their weekly fellowship for the next three months. Most importantly, we guided them into realizing the need to strengthen their relationships and small groups. We praise God for their willingness to pray for individuals to disciple. The following days, 10 of our youth leaders from Youth@111 joined the retreat, as per invitation of Kuya Jun, to help the leaders of CYOUTHGEN. It was a new and interesting experience for our leaders, cross-cultural even, as MGC is a Fil-Chinese church. A blessed experience nevertheless. Youth@111 and CYOUTHGEN, a beautiful bond woven together.

Sta. Maria Evangelical Baptist Church GMYX Youth Retreat
May 14-15, 2012
Sta. Maria, Laguna
Upper Photos (L-R): (1) One of the delegates shares her testimony. (2) GMYX (God Makes You Xtraordinary) Youth pose with their handcrafted Everyday Commission lettering.
Lower Photos (L-R): (3) YouthSENTral team, with Ptr. Mar Abella, Senior Pastor of SMEBC. Also in the photo, Rara, one of the youth ministers I'm coaching; and Geneva, a former SMEBC member, now attending our church in Quezon City. (4) Ptr. Owen Bantoc, one of our key persons in Laguna, co-facilitates the workshop with us. (5) A peaHEN (NOT Peacock, 'coz it's a female.), one of the pets in the campsite.

I don't know what made me more excited, the fact that we drove through off the beaten road through thick jungles to get to Sta. Maria (thanks to the ninja driving skills of Kuya Do) or the idea that we were going to the first church CBAP planted in the Philippines. It was indeed a breath-stopping adventure, the road to Sta. Maria. It was also extra special for me to share the trip with Geneva, one of the young people we were grooming for leadership and who also hailed from that town. Even more a treat, I was actually visiting (and seeing) the youth ministry of Rara, one of the youth ministers I have started to mentor. We praise God to hear the testimonies of the young people, as they shared their God-moments during the retreat. If you could only hear them, you would be amazed how the Lord is mightily moving in the hearts of these young people. As a result, Ptr Alexis, GMYX youth pastor, seeing that other churches need the same equipping, arranged a leadership training with the youth leaders of District 4 of Laguna. Our team is definitely coming back to Laguna in September.

Movement Building & Everyday Commission Seminars with Bread of Life - General Santos City
May 28-30, & June 2, 2012
(Coaching with Gensan Churches, June 1-2, 2012)
Upper Photos (L-R): (1) Movement Building Seminar - Youth & Young Pro Track, which I co-facilitated with Ptr. Raymond Domingo. (2) Movement Building Seminar - Adult Track, with Ptr. Efren Reyes (far right), senior pastor of Bread of Life-Gensan.
Lower Photos (L-R): (3) Gensan Team - Raymond, Ai, Jot & Ptr. Randolph - amidst the pine trees of Kalsangi in Polomolok, South Cotabato. (4) Day-off! We were toured in one of the finest fish port in Saranggani. We posed beside a ginormous tuna harvested from the sea that day. I will never look at tuna the same way again.

A few things I learned from this trip:
  • God is mightily moving among the churches in Gensan. The response to God's kingdom agenda is overwhelmingly positive.
  • Leadership is first passion, and then example. I can confidently say that Bread of Life - Gensan is blessed with a pastor that lives out both. And he is blessed with a team who have a deep respect for his authority and who are willing to follow his lead as he faithfully follows God's leading for the church. It was indeed a privilege to know Ptr. Efren Reyes, and his able partner and wife, Ate Winnie. We are  excited to see what the Lord will be doing in your church, as you obey to make disciples who make disciples...
  • God has prepared a "man of peace". In this case, a "woman of peace". I am blessed to know that Ate Cathy Velasco, one of my students in Movement Building Seminar - Youth Track last year, was so excited with her learnings that she shared it to her fellow leaders in Bread of Life, and eventually to their senior pastor. Then the rest is history how Bread of Life - Gensan prayed to host us this year. We praise God for your faithfulness Ate Cathy.
  • Bread of Life - Gensan loooooooves to eat. My tighter jeans attest to how much weight I gained after this trip. Not that I'm complaining. I still dream of fresh seafood once in a while. And of course, Teppanyaki! Yum yum!
  • Since this was our fifth time back in Gensan, and we are set to go back again and again, I am convinced I need to learn to speak in Bisaya, the local language. Anyone willing to tutor me? :)

Youth@111 Summer Activities
Battlefield Camp in Camp Capinpin, Rizal, May 2-5, 2012
Summer Youth Getaway

Upper Photos (L-R): (1) I strike a pose with my two able workshop co-facilitators, Cheska and Myk, our next generation of speakers. (2) Youth@111 Battlefield Campers proudly give a salute.
Lower Photos (L-R): (3) Last night of camp, tears flooded as leaders prayed for the youth to surrender their lives wholly to God. (4) Cheska shares her testimony as she guides campers how to share their faith story to others. (5) Battlefield camp staff with the soldiers of Camp Capinpin.

Upper Photos (L-R): (1) Debriefing with small group leaders of Battlefield, and the new generation of shepherds/ministry team leaders of Youth@111. (2) Youth shepherds huddle as they pray for the "names on the wall".
Lower Photos (L-R): (3)The unsung heroes of Youth@111... Photos of MT & Core in the youth bulletin board. And the team is growing. Praise God! (4) Battlefield Camp Staff evaluation and prayer time, praising God for the success of the camp.

Upper Photos (L-R): (1) Ate Jean talks in one of the SYGs about belonging to a Circle-of-Care/small group. (2) "Defend the Tower." This is how we have fun in Youth@111.
Lower Photos (L-R): (3) The "Ate's" of Youth@111 with two of my disciples - Abbie, Ate Jean, Rielle, Ate Ai & Ate Jot. (4) "Bromance"- Brotherly love. Young boys bonding and having fun in SYG. (5) Sisterhood happening in small groups. 

Anything can happen during summer. In fact, it can change a young person's life forever.

I would like to believe that this is the summer our young people will actually look back as their turning point in their walk with God. 

For the most part, I felt useless. And I mean that in a good way. Gone were the days when I, together with the older youth workers, need to be hands-on in everything. And so I gladly go to the sidelines with "Tita Mode" on. This was the summer that I've seen our youth leaders taking the lead. More than organizing programs (which they did excellently), they never lose sight of the mission to make disciples, fueled by their love for God and love for others. 

It gave me an opportunity to step back and see the fruits of our (my, together with the other older youth workers) labor. We praise God that we have passed on to our leaders the vision to make disciples who can make disciples who can make disciples... until the nations are reached. And I know it's all God. We just obeyed.

We've taught our young people to plan and organize events with a disciplemaking perspective. Programs were but means to an end -- to disciple the young people. From the camp to the weekly Summer Youth Getaway to the Brotherhood/Sisterhood sleepovers... these were just the beginnings to our goal to usher the youth into disciplemaking small groups eventually. And the youth leaders are intentional in making this happen, building Christlike relationships with the youth they are serving.

Youth organizing events. Youth sold out to God. Youth discipling youth. It can happen. God has been blessing us, as we follow Christ's example. Love God. Love Peers. Make Disciples. 

My Answered Prayers
Upper Photos (L-R): (1) Andrea on a lunch date with the girls she's praying to disciple soon. (2) Rielle giving a talk about relationships during Sisterhood, a sleepover for the young girls for them to discover and learn that they are God's princesses.
Lower Photos (L-R): (3) Abbie with her girls during the Battlefield camp. Her girls are all growing up, as they stepped up to become the squad leaders (small group leaders) during the camp. (4) Cheska blooms as speaker, as she co-facilitates a workshop with me during the camp.
Early this year, I prayed that God would grant me wisdom to help some of my girls to level up by helping them obey the Great Commission to make disciples. And God has been answering those prayers in the lives of Andrea, Cheska and Rielle, who will soon be starting their own small groups. Also, I am blessed to see Abbie with her unwavering commitment to journey with her own disciples. I am looking forward to see some of them joining the ministry team, to share in the work of Youth@111 among the youth of our church, Capitol City Baptist Church.

Selah: Breathing In Between
Upper Photos (L-R): (1) In between my travels, I was able to squeeze in a hosting stint for a book launch. (2) Teddy by the hammock, my escape in our farmhouse in Quezon after working 2 weeks straight.
Lower Photos (L-R): (3) "Tita Mode". I, together with the other older youth workers, were left behind to watch over everyone else's belongings, while the younger ones enjoy a game of Lazer Tag. (4) During the Holy Week, I was able to visit for the first time, Walk Way, the Stations of the Cross in The Fort. It was a wonderful respite for my soul before the start of my summer sojourns.
I am thankful for my Selah moments during my busy summer sojourns. Indeed, there is nothing sweeter than to delight and desire the Presence of the Lord. And these Selah moments allowed me to see what the Lord is doing. And to once again be awed at the work of His hands. 

Greater things are ahead of me... and many more sojourns await me. But one thing I am certain, the Lord has already gone before me.

Until my next sojourn... :) 


Bettina said...

I actually read the whole thing Ate heehee.. Blessed by your stories :)

the midnight muser said...

Thank you Bettina... I am blessed to know you read every word I've written. I look forward to having you join me in my summer sojourns next year. <3

JuAn Esteban said...

Aside from your interesting musings, i sometimes find myself catching some "holy dami envy" moments while reading. TLT (todo lakas tawa)

May your tribe increase, Lone Rangerette! :)

Anonymous said...