Recapturing Our Sense of Wonder

During our trip to the Holy Land, I was amazed at the excitement and sense of wonder of one of our participants. Lawrence would really just say “Wow!” and wonder at all the beautiful places he saw.

While climbing down Mt. Arbel, he marveled at the wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee flanked by mountains, and of the town of Magdala below.

He reminded me and the group about the importance of our sense of wonder.

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Don’t Submit Documents Unless Asked For: Lesson Learned from our Ongoing Green Card Application

Back in October 2018, we applied for Permanent Residence (Green Card) in the USA. We initially did not include the medical examination (Form I-693). The form said that we can submit it at a later time, which, I thought, made sense.

So in June 2019, I sent our Forms I-693 to the USCIS. It had a cover letter and included the receipt numbers for our application, as well as our A numbers.

As it turned out, we should not have done that.

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On People Skills

My chosen career is in church ministry, particularly in the area of ministry with young people. I had been asked many times not IF but when I was going to enter “full time ministry” as a pastor.

I often answered, half-jokingly, that I am already in full-time ministry. Just not as a pastor.

Why have I not decided to be a pastor?

In my late teens and early twenties, I came to understand myself as an introvert. I literally cringed at the prospect of being a pastor, meeting people and engaging with them every Sunday and everyday.

Pastors, at least in our faith tradition in the Philippines, tend to be very visible. They officiate weddings, baptisms, and funerals. They pray a lot for people on their birthdays, when they have a new house or car, when they are about to take an exam, and when they are going through tough times.

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Should You Fight Your Battles on Facebook?

Back in the day, social media was more of a place to find long lost friends and socialize online. These days, though, social media seems to be more about debates and ugly conversations, especially when it comes to religion and politics.

We all know of friends who stopped talking with each other because of intense disagreement on social media. I personally know of former friends and neighbors who got their circle of friends all caught up in their online feud.

Maybe, social media is making us unsocial and we’re just too deep into it to notice. The TedX video below says as much.

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Must Have Food and Beverage in the Holy Land

While visiting the market in the Old City of Jerusalem, you’d notice the pretty strong smell of spices. It is quite the experience.

This experience is similar to entering a public market in the Philippines, except that there are no “wet goods” in the Jerusalem Old City market.

Thanks to our tour guides, we were able to try several food and drinks in the Old City. I recommend at least one must have food and two beverages in the Holy Land.

Knafeh/Kunafa/Kanafeh and Arabic Coffee

This is a dessert made out of fine semolina dough, which is soaked in a sweet, sugar-based syrup. It is layered with cheese! Yum!

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Tel – The Layers of History

People in Israel cannot just excavate to build structures and building–even in their own property. There is so much lying under the ground that the Antiquities Department of Israel should issue permits.

If a property owner digs and uncovers something with archaeological significance, they need to stop digging and the government will have to intervene. That can delay whatever building project they have planned.

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Back to the Holy Land

I am visiting the Holy Land again beginning August 4th. I am co-leading a small group of 13 people–mostly United Methodist young adults. These young people came from around the world.

One thing I noticed is that traffic feels like Manila. Not quite like EDSA but close enough. The taxi that took us from the airport to the hotel earlier today considered lanes as suggestions in the same way that Filipino jeepney and taxi drivers did.

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Why should Socks Match anyway?

While waiting in line for security at the Nashville International Airport, I noticed something unusual.

You need to take your laptop out of your bag, empty your pockets out, remove your shoes, and try to be patient as you go through security.

For a lot of us, we don’t want to be caught dead doing anything out of the ordinary.

But there is this one guy who had mismatched socks.

It got me thinking about all the possible back story of why he picked the wrong pair of socks.

Maybe he didn’t get enough sleep last night. I certainly did not. My flight was at 7:20 am and airports recommend arriving there 2 hours before the flight. On top of that, our 8-month baby was awake between 1-2 am so I definitely got little sleep.

But I still got a proper pair of socks–matching brown ones!

I didn’t get a chance to ask him. But maybe it is a statement. It’s just a way for him to deviate from the norm.

Who said that socks needed to match anyway?

What it was like managing a Million Pesos

I was 24 years old when I realized that I managed a million pesos. No, it wasn’t my money. It belonged to the United Methodist Youth Fellowship in the Philippines, of which I was the National President from 2006-2008. 

That was a lot of money! My fellow officers and I joked that we could have gone to Jollibee for months and months! 

But then again, it wasn’t our money. 

We received several grants for projects that we wrote grant requests for. So for two years, we held meetings, we planned for events and programs, we wrote materials, we published guide books.

We even produced an album composed of 10 songs composed by young people. One was written by a pillar of Filipino Christian music, but the song was still for the youth of our organization.

I may have handled PhP 250,000 in cash. I withdrew the money from the organization’s bank account in Manila, put it in the deepest pocket of my backpack, and traveled 9 hours by bus to the venue of our conference. It probably helped that I didn’t look “rich” by any stretch. I probably looked like an ordinary, skinny young guy, who doesn’t have much to eat! Ha!

Looking back, a million pesos was a large sum of money for my younger self. The people around me were as passionate about the work we did. And we held each other accountable for how we managed ourselves and the money entrusted to our care.

To manage reporting, I kept careful track of expenses and receipts. I’m not exactly a spreadsheet ninja, but I’m still using the skills I learned from managing that million-peso budget.

I have managed bigger budgets since then. But as scriptures remind us: if we are faithful with the small things, we can be faithful in the bigger things.