My Father: Pastor, Farmer, Church-Planter

Today is my father’s 62nd birthday. I decided to write some things about him and his life work. 

My earliest memories were set at the seminary where my father studied for his Master of Divinity in Dasmarinas, Cavite. I must have been 3 or 4 years old then. All my life, he had been a pastor and I daresay a good one at that.

He had never been a district superintendent. But I have seen his leadership skills in the churches where he served.

When we moved from Union Theological Seminary from Cavite to Roxas, Isabela to take on his first assignment after seminary, the church building was pretty small. With the growing number of church-goers, they needed a bigger space.

I grew up as a young boy in that church. That is also where I attended my first Christmas Institute and got connected to this life-giving stream of ministry with youth and young adults.

Although Papa did not oversee the renovation of the church until its completion, he left behind a bigger structure that was on the way to being finished.

My father also organized at least two congregations during his time at Roxas United Methodist Church–one at Dannal, Paracelis, Mountain Province. One can only reach that village by riding motorized boats at Simimbaan, right by the Siffu River dam.

This is my father in front of the church he planted in Asinan, Sta Cruz, San Manuel, Isabela

He brought me and my sister there several times and I remember him trying to teach me swim in the pristine waters of the river in the mountains. I can never forget those times–the sun rising over the mountains, the silent evenings broken by occasional dog barks and cricket sounds; it was as provincial as a provincial barrio could get.

Papa also organized another church, closer to downtown Roxas at San Antonio UMC. I don’t know all the details of how he established his relationships there. But he brought me with him during times that he preached and led worship at the backyard of the houses of the members there.

In my mind is an image of him in his pressed barong, starched wool pants, and shiny black leather shoes. My father was a handsome man. (Who else would I get my looks from? :D) In this snippet of memory, his parishioners, probably 10 or so, sat in wooden benches set on the bare earth under the shadow of a tall, traditional house, and a kaimito tree.

I don’t remember exactly when. But probably within the 6 years that he served at Roxas, right before we left for another church, the congregation procured a lot beside a creek and started building their church. I don’t think it is the same lot where the church is now, but they started that process when my father was a pastor there.

My father was an evangelist, an organizer, and a church planter.

Wherever he was assigned, he found ways to organize Bible Study groups and fledgling congregations. In Cauayan, he had a small congregation in Nagrumbuan (where I donated an old guitar I saved for and bought for P700); and Villa Luna. In San Manuel, he started a ministry at Asinan, a small village about 7 kilometers away from the town center.

Even when he went to Manila for a few years after I finished college, he connected with people and started Bible Study groups at the churches where he was assigned.

What he lacked in city life sophistication, he made up for in relational competence.

Maybe it helped that he was soft-spoken and mild-mannered. People often deferred to him and considered him ‘saintly.’ (I’m just thankful I’m not as soft-spoken as he is. :D)

He retired without much fanfare in the summer of 2016. It was probably a good thing because he has some health issues now–his heart and lungs are not as strong as they used to be. He has maintenance medicines and he gets tired easily.

But that’s the thing about pastors, though, it seems that ministry is just embedded deep in their bones. So it wasn’t a surprise that he still got an appointment at Asinan UMC, the old outreach congregation that he started several years back.

When he went to Manila for a few years, that outreach congregation was largely forgotten, and many of the members started attending a Pentecostal church in their village.

But when my father came back, he visited his former parishioners, and they decided to start meeting again as a congregation.

My father is first and foremost a pastor, which is why he will probably never make it as a good farm businessman.

The church in Asinan has its own lot donated by a committed elderly Methodist woman who trusted my father and his ministries. The church lot is beautiful! It is situated on top of a hill, surrounded by hectares upon hectares of farmlands for banana, corn, and other produce!

Over the past few years, my youngest brother finished college, and our family’s financial situation improved, he and my mother bought a couple of tracts of land near the church in Asinan. They planted bananas, mango trees, and other plants and trees. As my father looked after his own farm, he also managed the farm of the church.

I think, though, that it can be very difficult for a pastor to engage in business and manage people in a farm-business setting. My father’s “pastor self” almost always tend to come through. I’m not saying that he is the kindest person alive, he has his failings. I mean I’m his son so I should know. But he is not very good at letting people borrow money at interest and then calling those borrowed money when they are due. He also tends to be generous with coffee, snacks, and food for the workers that he hires.

In their small backyard, my father has planted all sorts of fruit-bearing trees such as Guayabano, Avocado, and Rambutan; He also has pineapples, camote vine, and a whole lot of other plants that could bear fruit. He grew up in a farm in the foothills of Sierra Madre in our province. He definitely knows how to plant and grow them.

Just look at the slideshow below. Those photos are from his backyard garden, which is about 20 square meters or less.

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Family support

He did not really have much of a salary from the church, although he receives some amount, which he occasionally uses to buy gas for his car.

A former colleague of his from Manila once said: “Pastor Rasing held a lot of big churches  in Manila, it’s amazing he went back to take on a small church in the province!”

Amazing indeed!

My father pursued a lot of projects for the church, but without his family’s support it would not have worked. My mother provided emotional and additional pastoral support. My siblings and I send part of our tithes and offerings to his church to help out some.

His biggest supporter, perhaps, is my mother. Even when he did not get support from other official structures of the church, he persevered in developing the land owned by the church. I’m proud to say that more often than not, it was my mother’s money that made it possible.

My mother and I would oftentimes talk for more than an hour over the phone because my father would just not stop in serving this small community in the hills of our town and it sometimes impacted their monthly budget.

It brought some conflict, friction, and misunderstandings at times. For most couples, money could be a thorny issue. But in my father and mother’s case, personal and family money was also used often, too often, for ministry.

This may sound like ranting. Perhaps it is. But without God’s grace and provisions, my father’s projects would not have prospered. I have repeatedly told him to please retire so he can rest and move away from the stresses of the structures of the church. But I guess he loves God and the ministry so much that he just cannot stop. Maybe we’ll just need to be resigned to this passion of his.

Because of all the toils and ministry efforts of my father, he attracted another financial supporter–a committed United Methodist couple who owns several businesses–Mr. & Mrs. Jun Sermonia. They are residents of our town, but their business takes them to different parts of the Philippines and abroad. Sir Jun and Ma’am Lucy donated materials for the construction of the Asinan UMC church building.

The church building is on top of a nice hill that overlooks the small dam in the barrio. It’s a really beautiful place!

Some hollow blocks for the construction of the church

The following slideshow presents the surrounding landscape of the church.

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I am proud of the work that my father has done over the years. I know that there were times when he was discouraged and felt like his work didn’t matter. But for me who saw his faith and his work, as well as the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people he has worked with in the past 35, maybe close to 40 years or so that he had been in ministry, it matters. It matters a lot.

Although he has ‘officially retired,’ I know that he still has a lot of projects in his mind. God-willing, he may yet see more fruits of his labors.

 

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