Act of Random Kindness

My younger sister invited me to eat at Krung Thai today. It’s the best Thai place in Marikina, and probably in Metro Manila, and I was of course was not gonna say no. We had a great meal and felt so full after eating Tom Ka, Pad Thai and Thai Bagoong Rice.

We couldn’t find a jeepney in front of the restaurant so we had to walk all the way to the terminal to find some mode of transportation. While walking and talking about buying some cake at Red Ribbon, we passed by a homeless man. Just three or four steps after seeing this man, my sister and I surprisingly grabbed each other and exclaimed that we could not ignore the man and had to buy him some food. We turned around, rushed inside the Red Ribbon store, and bought empanada for the homeless man. Upon stepping out, the thing I feared came true. He was gone. We walked back to the corner to check if he was around but did not see him. We decided to go forward and look for him along the way as we knew that he couldn’t have gone far yet as he had crutches. True enough, we found him outside 7-11. Before handing him the food, we thought of what to say and decided to go with: “God bless you and God loves you.” And sure enough, that’s what we did.

This story is in no way to brag about how kind we are. Honestly, we pass by hundreds of homeless people and probably ignore a majority of them–always paralyzed by the fear that they are just some part of a syndicate. This instance was special though, as it came with an inner nudge/push to actually help. I just got reminded about the importance of not ignoring these little signs and signals. Obeying the Spirit to do these acts of random kindness can mean the world to someone else.

Re-Calibration: A Martha Moment

I loved the fact that we were flying home from Singapore on a Monday night (see: Coldplay weekend story) as it meant that I get to attend church there on a Sunday. While it has its share of controversies, I was decided even while I was still in Manila that I’ll be visiting City Harvest Church. A church friend from Marikina who has already moved to SG goes to the church and is one of the leaders of the Filipino service. When we visited in 2011, she brought us to CHC (see: SG story) and I enjoyed my time there :) I definitely wanted to go back.

I visited alone this time, as I hurriedly excused myself from brunch with Clang, Luigi, Jo and Ate Kitch at Plain Vanilla. I hopped on an Uber and headed to Suntec–making it just in time at 10 am. I was so close to mistakenly entering the hall for the Chinese service. Thanks to some inner prodding, I checked CHC’s website again and found out that I was supposed to enter the hall on the other end. Whew. Me and my awkward moments. I grabbed a seat on the front rows of the bleachers, right beside a friendly Chinese lady and medyo mukhang masungit Singaporean tito.

I loved just sitting there and having a Martha moment–for the first time in quite while, I FINALLY did not have to worry about anything. No technical and design preps. No worrying if the hospitality team is being kind and congenial to the newcomers. No obsession over the temperature–is it too hot or too cold? No annoyance due to the terrible sound system. No pressure to get the lyrics right. No walking around to make sure that the people we need are in their right place at the right time. It was just me going to church to speak to and hear from the Lord. I loved it.

I arrived just in time for praise and worship, and I totally loved singing along with such joy and victory during the fast songs. I especially loved singing In Jesus’ NameGod is fighting for us / Pushing back the darkness / Lighting up the Kingdom / That cannot be shaken / In the Name of Jesus / Enemy’s defeated / And we will shout it out / Shout it out! What a declaration! What really got me though–and by got me, I mean I BAWLED SO HARD–is when we got to the slow songs. When I heard the first notes of the 2nd song, I was floored. It was Jesus At The Center–and the exact same song was sung when I was in the same church 6 years ago. It was my first time hearing the song then, and I remember being so moved by it that I immediately shared it with my worship leader sister upon getting home. Since then, I have also made the lyrics the only detail about me in my Facebook “Details About You” section. Hearing the song again at City Harvest was FOR SURE not just a coincidence.

While I was intensely sobbing as we sang, I also took the time to reflect about what God wanted to tell me through that moment. There was no audible voice from heaven, but in the spirit, I knew that God just wanted me to listen to the words that I sang, and actually mean them.

Nothing else matters,
Nothing in this world will do
‘Cause Jesus You’re the center,
Everything revolves around You

From my heart to the Heavens,
Jesus be the center
It’s all about You,
Yes it’s all about You

Such a simple and straightforward message. It was a call for me to re-calibrate the focus of my life–to move it from myself, from my career, from my crushes, to the REAL CENTER and the TRUE NORTH which is Jesus. I’ve spent so much time busying myself with the affairs of the world when in fact none of those matter apart from Jesus. What a revelation. All the triumphs and tribulations–if not bearing eternal significance–are just petty and temporal.

Before the trip, I wanted a restart (see: SG pre-trip post) and indeed, that is what I got. Thank you Jesus for the re-calibration.

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There’s really so much joy in just basking in God’s presence. I need to have more of these Martha moments.

My Journey with Hillsong

If you want to skip reading my backstory and head straight to my WCC journey, please click here.

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My first ever encounter with Hillsong was, like most of you probably, through their music. I do not recall who “discovered” them among my youth peers, but I remember dancing to Everyday and Here to Eternity for some church stuff, and dancing to Faith and Exceeding Joy for a national youth convention. During the early 2000’s, Hillsong music was a staple at every evangelical church. It was a season that I enjoyed since their songs were just the “right kind of modern” for me. They even ventured into even more youthful music exactly during my teenage years, which I of course loved! Who would forget One Way and the entire Look To You and United We Stand albums?

Fast forward to 2010-2011. I finally saw God beyond the stories in Sunday School and had a personal journey of intimately knowing Him. My new-found maturity in the faith coincided with the release of what I would say is Hillsong United’s best ever album–Aftermath. The album helped put into words what I felt towards Christ during that time, with Search my Heart, Like an Avalanche, Bones, Aftermath and Rhythms of Grace being my favorites.

Whenever I get asked about an album that had a huge impact in my life, I always point to Hillsong United’s Aftermath. I’ve gushed to some friends that I felt how the band was getting closer and closer to the heart of Jesus. Personally, I was also able to look beyond the beats, the riffs, and over-all ‘coolness’ of the songs, and actually munch on the meat of the lyrics.

More than the music, this also kickstarted a journey of faith for me.

Journey.JPG

1) June 4, 2011 – Hillsong United in Manila (Aftermath)

A few days before the concert, one of my friends posts an ad on the Hillsong Concert event page selling one of his VIP tickets. I didn’t have any plans to watch as I was contented with listening and worshiping at home, but the Lord had different plans. I was very stingy during this time, coming fresh out of school, but I got drawn to purchase the ticket. And indeed I did. Not so surprisingly (as I know God was behind this), a family friend who works with a music publishing company also got my sisters 2 Upper Box tickets. We were able to join the worship concert live. Thank you, Jesus!

2) July 2013 – Hillsong Conference via livestream

I didn’t really know about these conferences that Hillsong apparently held until I chanced upon some post on Facebook about it. I ended up participating online, and to this day, that sermon from Judah Smith on God’s love is still etched in my memory. I did not fully comprehend how great this love was that God for us until I heard this preaching. And again, I am pretty sure that it was God-ordained as I was going through a tough season of feeling unloved.

After the conference, a seed was sown in my heart with a desire to go to Australia to attend a Hillsong Conference live. I also started to do some research on other programs Hillsong had, and that is when I chanced upon Hillsong International Leadership College. Upon seeing that their Pastoral Leadership stream had a pathway focused on Events, a desire got stirred in my heart to study there. This was especially because 2013 was a time when I got very much involved in our church’s creative ministries and special events. I knew then that Jesus + creativity was something that I was passionate about and that I wanted to learn more in a setting that would give me hands on and practical experience.

3) June 12, 2014 – Hillsong College Info Session

Taking this from my Facebook post:

During my devotion today, I prayed to the Lord and surrendered my desire to study at Hillsong International Leadership College. This morning, my sister found out that there will be an Info Session here in Manila about Hillsong College. Grabe lang ang timing ni Lord. During the session, my heart was just leaping with joy and excitement! I had so many questions when we had the divided Q&A session with someone who went through the Pastoral Leadership track.

Please include this in your prayers! Hillsong College will give a lot of opportunities for practical ministry experience, something I hope to have. As per the resource person, it’s suggested to do 2 years if I’ll be going through the Pastoral Leadership track. That means I have to save up about Php500,000. I know that nothing is impossible with God and He will allow it to come to pass if He wills this for me.

4) June 14, 2014 – Hillsong United in Manila (Zion)

Praise God for His provisions! I am able to earn enough to treat my sisters to attend this worship concert. We even got to bless one of our close family friends as one of my sisters had an internship stint at Becca Music, which gave her a free pass to Araneta on official business.

I will never forget this worship concert as it coincided with my last day at the NGO. Yes, I was crazy enough in 2013 to resign from my IT job with the hopes of”saving the world”. I only lasted 9 months in the NGO though, as there was much struggle with the people I was working with. Through the “Jesus and Meki getting-to-know-you session” (as what I called the concert on Facebook), I got affirmed that I was taking the right path of resigning from my job and moving back to my IT life.

2014 to 2016 became a rollercoaster ride though for all aspects of my life, including the spiritual. I had bouts of distrust with the Lord and just accepted the fact that my “Australia dreams” were not going to come true anytime soon. I’d visit Hillsong College’s website every now and then, and feel a bout of defeat–knowing that I didn’t have the money to send myself to the school. I’d also be on the look out for Hillsong Conference dates, but eventually resort to defeat as well as I’d see crazily exorbitant prices for flights to Sydney. Friends would actually still give me news on Hillsong College, but I’d usually just reply with a “huhu”. And when asked by anyone on where I can see myself relocating, I’d always answer Australia, but with an inkling in my heart that it was an unreachable dream.

5) November 2017 – Hillsong Worship and Creative Conference

2017 is a different story though. This year has so far been a time of deepening my faith. True to Hillsong United’s song Oceans, my cry has been: Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger.

I heard about Hillsong staging their first ever Worship and Creative Conference (WCC) when it was announced in February. I quickly shared it with my sister, as I knew she shared the same heart for Jesus + creativity as me. We were dead set on attending–talking about listing down visa requirements and the like–but the plan was put on hold with my other sister going to Korea for school and with our house being up for renovation.

For the past few weeks though, I’ve been having some heart-to-heart matters with the Lord as I question my purpose and my ministry. I had a season of loathing my skill set and my passion because I felt lost. There were only a handful of people whom I know appreciated design and organization in our church. I didn’t feel any importance given to the ministry I was in, to the point that I myself questioned if there really was space for creativity in the church or if we should just dial everything down to the basics.

God answered my call though in the following ways:

  • I discovered a Facebook group of other church creative practitioners and it has encouraged me so much to find people who had the same eyes as me
  • Many times during church praise and worship, church preaching or my personal quiet time, I was assured by the Lord that my make and DNA is just as the Lord has planned and that what I had to offer was essential as I am one functioning part of the Body. I found various examples as well of organization, leadership, and creativity in the Bible that I could not dismiss the fact that it was part of being a community.

My major answer from the Lord came through the form of a Cebu Pacific Seat Sale though. I tried to look for flights to other countries, and then ended up remembeing the Hillsong WCC in Sydney. I checked for flights for mid-November and I found a good to-and-fro fare…which totally did not work out as my Internet connection got dropped and I couldn’t enter the site anymore. I was so annoyed at myself for the missed opportunity and decided to just sleep on it. After my quiet time the following day, I visited Cebu Pac’s page to check if the flight I was trying to book was still available for a cheap price. While waiting for the site to load, I uttered a prayer in faith that if God wills it for me to go to the trip, then He will make things available and…surprise! There were still 2 seats left! I rushed to finalize the booking, with just a 2-second pause before clicking on the final confirmation button.

And here I am now, armed with plane tickets to and from Sydney just in time for Hillsong WCC. This is such a leap of faith for me as (1) I will be travelling alone, (2) I don’t have a visa yet, and (3) I am unsure yet about where to get money to pay for my expenses. I am enjoying the uncertainty though, as this is becoming an exercise for me on trusting that God is in control. It’s been quite a while since I had a faith goal that will really require God to come through because I can’t do it on my own.

I would like to do my part though, which is why I am trying to raise some funds to finance my trip. But you have a high-paying job! Why can’t you pay for this trip? First up, my job is not really as high-paying as you probably think it is. Also, I didn’t really have this Australia trip planned so I did not have money allocated for it. I’ve also mentioned earlier that one of my sisters has been relocated to Korea and I took it upon myself (as her favorite sister) to be the one to visit her to provide sustenance (materially, emotionally and financially). I am also helping out my mom for the renovation of our house, which is a quick 20% of my take-home pay.

I am targeting to raise 50,000 pesos (outside my regular income from my IT job) until August/September to meet the following needs:

Expenses

I trust that God will use various ways to meet the need (His will, His bill!) and if you think that YOU are one of His ways to bless me, I will appreciate your help in the following methods:

  1. Hire me as your event planner be it a wedding, a birthday party, a corporate event, a church thing
  2. Hire me to design and print something for you (poster, tarp, invite, etc)
  3. Hire me to organize stuff for you or OC-fy your life (encoding, process improvement, org development, etc)
  4. Refer me to friends and family who are in Australia who may help provide accommodation, transportation, tours, etc.
  5. Pray for me!

I will keep you posted on my day-to-day stories as I prepare for Australia, and I will give a full account of my experience there as well! I am actually thinking of organizing some echo sessions for other churches to share what I’ll be learning.

Thank you in advance as you partner with me in fulfilling this dream! May God bless you!

Oh, also, please please please pray for me as I do not want to give up on my dream of being able to write something about…

6) ??? – Hillsong College