Last Monday, I flew to Jakarta with Dan Monterde, our LifeBox Regional Director over Central Luzon, to train and plan with a few churches here in campus ministry. This is my fourth visit to Indonesia and every time it feels like visiting a relative from whom I was separated at birth. We have so many similarities in culture, geography, language, and even demographics. We joked with a singer at a restaurant, asking for a Filipino song, and they promptly responded with Freddie Aguilar’s Anak. (video at the bottom)
Our church there, Morning Star International, is really doing an amazing job reaching out to their community
Here are some highlights from our trip:
Meeting with Students
For a campus missionary, there’s nothing more energizing than meeting with students face to face. And meeting these young people in Jakarta was no different. There were many similarities between Filipinos and Indonesian students – in fact, with students we’ve met around the world. Primary concerns are with school, parents, and friends, are excited and curious about love life, and they respond well to encouragement.
When we weren’t meeting students at universities, we were staff and volunteers who work in campuses in six cities around Indonesia. Dan and I took this time to share principles we’ve learned and developed in campus ministry and the Philippines. This is one of the most exciting parts because each leader represents more than just themselves – leader can disciple students, leaders can pioneer new work or deepen existing work, and leaders raise other leaders. If you want to reach the campus effectively, train leaders.
Pastors and Leaders of Jakarta
We were also privileged to meet some really great pastors and volunteer leaders of our church in Jakarta. It was great seeing them minister on stage and in person. But more than their stage persona, it was nice to get to know them better and spend time. You know that someone really lives what they proclaim when you see the truth translated to their families and everyday lives.
This was a nice treat. It's like a crepe stuffed with this delicious fresh avocado cream thing. They also had it in durian flavor but we passed.
There is so much to enjoy from the diverse culinary heritage of Indonesia – similarities to Malay cuisine, Chinese influence, Dutch influence and the rich flavors from Asia. Tahu telur (tofu omelette with bean sprouts, lettuce, peanuts, and a light sauce), matarbak (think a pancake sandwich – pancakes loaded with butter, stuffed with chocolate and cheese), soto ayam (Soto means soup, from what I gather. This kind uses tamarind so it’s sour like our sinigang.), satay, rawon (a black beef soup), bakmi (which is noodles like the way Filipinos enjoy mami) and my favorite – nasi uduk! It’s rice cooked with coconut milk/oil (gata) then seasoned with fried shallots. Yum! I really enjoy the variety of spices of Indonesian cuisine. My perfect house in an ideal world would have access to the best Korean, Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and of course, Filipino delicacies.
Check out Dan's seat assignment label.
Working with a great friend
This is the third time I went on an international campus ministry trip with my friend, Dan. It seems like it just gets better and better. This time, I was so thankful to have him because his practical campus ministry experience and insight surpass mine on many levels. He facilitated many of the group discussions we had and he handled it excellently. We’re both very excited for the promise that the campus ministry in Indonesia has.
We got in this morning and the trip just made me more eager and excited to work toward Ignite because we will see not just 8000+ students from the Philippines, but delegates from 17 other nations! What a privilege to be able to serve other nations this way.
But before the work stuff, I’m just glad to be back with my wife. So I’m ending this blog now because we have to go to the grocery together.
Thank you, Lord, for a great trip. we ask you to continue the work that you started in that nation. Amen.
Recently, there was another chapter in that on-going debate about the greatest NBA player. Michael Jordan, when asked who he would pick, Kobe or Lebron, said, “Five (titles) beats one every time I look at it. And not that (James) won’t get five. He may get more than that, but five is bigger than one.”
Of course, what Jordan didn’t say, but we all heard loud and clear was that he remains at the top of that list with his own 6 championship rings.
Lebron, the King (of Being Defensive), replied, “(Jordan) said he would take Kobe over me because … five rings are better than one, and the last time he checked, five is better than one. At the end of the day, rings don’t always define someone’s career. If that’s the case, then I’d sit up here and say I would take (Bill) Russell over Jordan. But I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take Russell over Jordan. Russell has 11 rings, Jordan has six. I wouldn’t do that.” (But you just did, Lebron.)
I’m not trying to weigh in on who is truly Jordan’s replacement. It is an interesting dynamic that this debate doesn’t go away. It’s clear that for everyone involved the concern is for themselves and their own legacy.
The truth is a labratory-like comparison between the players is impossible. Each has their own season and brings their own unique contribution.
The truth is Kobe and Lebron are building on a foundation that Jordan and many others have built. They wouldn’t be anywhere near where they are today if it wasn’t for the generation that went before.
The truth is Kobe and Lebron are also dealing with massive amounts of competition that the new league has produced. Lebron is able to do things that previous generations only dreamed of, and that’s not a bad thing. That’s great for basketball.
I'm afraid some people are gonna ignore the rest of the blog and debate about this this topic in the comments section
We can have our own version of this debate too when we compare unfairly across generations – whether that’s colleagues or family members who have gone ahead of us or those who follow after.
I’m thankful for the men and women who don’t think this way, and instead honor those who have gone before and build up those who follow.
People often introduce me as being a better preacher than my dad. But I wouldn’t even be a preacher if it wasn’t for my dad and mom’s influence, coaching, mentoring, and nonstop encouragement in that area. For him, being the best preacher isn’t the goal. He’s just happy to see the next generation excel. Thanks Pop and Mom.
We look at our campus ministry now, LifeBox, and are thankful for how far it’s come in the past five years. CJ Nunag and I have had the joy of leading it, but we also know we are only building on what greater men have lain for us. God used men like Ferdie Cabiling, Rico Ricafort, LA Mumar, Gilbert Foliente, Marc Constantino, Dennis Sy and Christian Flores who have their own sets of skills and gifts that have been turned into priceless contributions today. When their turn came to pass it on, they did so graciously without needing to position themselves on the top. They’ve transitioned into other areas where they can continue to break ground and pioneer.
We look at the people who are coming after – students and staff who are so capable and committed. Like Lebron, they’re accomplishing great things at such a young age that we didn’t accomplish till much later. I preached my first sermon to 80 people at 15 years old. I was so nervous that I finished in eight minutes. But everyone stayed supportive. Mark Muleta, at the same age, preached to over four thousand people and hit a homerun. And we’ve got another one lined up for this year’s Ignite.
Just one of many young men and women who provide a glimpse of an awesome future ahead.
I’m excited for what these people represent because it makes me hopeful and really excited for the future.
At the end of the day, it’s a question of what we’re really after. If we’re after personal glory, then we will do everything possible to lift ourselves up and tear others down. If we’re after something bigger, something more meaningful, then we will honor those who have gone before and empower those who are coming after. All this leaves for us is to do our best in the season and time we are in right now.
As Gandalf the Grey said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
Are you honoring those who have gone before you? Are you empowering those who are coming up?
Reading a fascinating biography now on Peter the Great, recommended to me by my brother. Peter the Great was the ruler of Russia from 1682-1725. He was a giant of a man, standing 6 feet, 8 inches tall, insatiably curious and with seemingly limitless energy.
He led Russia through a series of reforms and changes which brought it into the modern world. His naval and engineering breakthroughs were instrumental into making his country competitive on an international level. And by reshaping the Russian military, he turned it into a major European empire and expanded Russia’s boundaries through his military successes.
But even as I marvel at the man’s achievements, a recurring theme bothered me from the beginning of his reign – his neglect of his family. He never loved his wife and instead saw her sparingly, spending more time with his mistress. He openly mocked her to his friends so that she constantly despaired for attention.
When she had their son, she expected it would bring them closer, but it didn’t.In fact he neglected his son as well, until he finally separated with his wife. By then, his son viewed him with so much suspicion and feared more than respected him. He tried to shape his son to be more like him, but his son resisted. Finally, at his son’s adulthood, he fled from his father, hiding in a neighboring country, causing his father much international embarrassment and jeopardizing the legitimacy of his rule. This crisis would jeopardize everything he had already built, more than any of the wars he fought.
The son almost became a symbol of resistance against his father. Much like Absalom with David in the Bible. Peter had to stop everything immediately and quell the controversy. It was only with sudden arrests, exiles, and under torture that he calmed his empire down. He had his ex-wife exiled into a monastery, many of his sons friends executed, and his own son – the heir to his throne – tortured until he “confessed” to a conspiracy against his dad. His son died from the injuries soon after.
I don’t know how distant or unloving a person has to be to see their son to be tortured and eventually killed. But it is true that when we don’t build up our family and the next generation we stand to lose everything that’s been accomplished so far.
Some questions I’m thinking of as I finish the book:
1. Is it really necessary to sacrifice our family in order to achieve success in our field? While the world will applaud our career gains, we must also learn to be content with the gratitude of the ones who know us best.
2. Am I building up the next generation to ensure that everything we’ve gained so far will be maintained and even added to by those to come? My success is connected to theirs.
3. Am we forcing them to look and be like us instead of giving them the chance to be themselves? What are the things we must pass on to them that they must carry on no matter what? And what are the things that they are free to modify, alter, or discard altogether?
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending and speaking at Campus Harvest, a student conference put together by the History Makers which started as a church youth group and grew to include hundreds of churches and thousands of students. It started in the church of Pastor Manny Santiago, who with his wife, Helen, and their four daughters, began to share what they knew about discipleship to other churches.
There were no strings attached, just one part of the body helping the other parts. That’s how the network grew.
pic by Dennis Sy, click on it to see his blog on the event
I first encountered them when a friend connected me with Pastor Benson, a youth pastor from their network. I invited him to attend Ignite, our student conference, last May 2011. Afterward, he said, “You’ll want to meet with our pastors.” They visited our office in the Fort, a few pastors from the network, including Pastor Manny and Faythe. I was struck by the sameness of our priorities – campus ministry, discipleship, church planting. And we stayed in touch – visiting their churches, meeting some of their leaders, inviting them to our training, etc.
It is such an encouragement to us to see so many young people so committed to Jesus and to discipling their friends. Here are some thoughts I had running through my mind during the event.
1.) Young people need an encounter with Jesus.
One thing that will strike you immediately with this family is the passion of the four daughters – Faythe, Lovely, Keeneth, and Mitch (Shobe), all in their early 20s, except Shobe who’s 18. Yesterday, Shobe preached a powerful message about the power of the Holy Spirit and the best illustration of her point was her life itself. And that went for the older three also, whether it was Keeneth’s dance group, Lovely’s excellent video productions, or Faythe’s leadership and preaching.
We asked Pastor Manny over lunch what he did to get children like that. He shrugged and said, “To be honest, I’m definitely not a perfect dad. I made mistakes. But, I dunno, somewhere along the way they met Jesus and that’s how they are now.”
Young people need an encounter with Jesus. Parents, campus missionaries, teachers, kuyas, ates – our primary objective should be to connect them with him. And that’ll be more than enough.
2.) There are no “secret recipes” or “hidden techniques.”
There were encouraging testimonies from individuals and churches during the event. One stuck out in particular, by Pastor Nanding Mates and Keen (Carlo) from Word for the World in Market! Market!. I’d met them before and was thrilled to hear Pastor Nanding describe how God used their church to reach and disciple many, after being stagnant for so long.
It wasn’t a new thing he learned or somehow unlocked. He just made disciples, just like Jesus told him to. Jesus promised to build His church. Our job is to disciple and leave the results to Him.
L-R: Keeneth Santiago (works in ABS-CBN, leads the dance ministry), Joseph (looking silly), Manny Santiago (senior pastor and head of History Makers), CJ Nunag (LifeBox National Director), Acel Bisa-Van Ommen (award-winning singer/songwriter, mom, wife, and Christian)
3.) It really is a beautiful thing when brothers and sisters come together in unity.
It’s so cool, that in our movement of Victory and Lifebox we are in the middle of a series about the importance of reaching the campuses. All over Metro Manila and different parts of the Philippines, students, senior pastors, and campus missionaries are reminding people of our calling there. And while this is happening we get to witness and participate in another movement that’s doing the same thing. And I know it’s not the only one.
Luke tells a story of when Jesus caused Peter’s fishing boat to pull in a catch of fish so great that their nets began to break. They signalled the other boats to come help them and both boats were filled. In the same way, the students of the Philippines need to know Jesus. And they are also ready to serve to reach their own friends.
We need the whole body preaching the whole Gospel to the whole world.
bunch of students, worshipping Jesus, ready to make disciples - felt right at home
Who does it take to impact the next generation?
Who does it take to make a difference for the future?
Who does it take to ensure that what God has done today goes into a greater level tomorrow?
I believe more than asking what it takes, WHO is the greater question for us to ask and to answer. Too many people want to outsource the raising of the next generation to others. Parents rant at schools who fail to fashion their children into their wishes. Older batches comment about how the new students of their alma mater aren’t made of the same stuff. And when we see a kid going crazy – whether they’re children acting bratty in a grocery or teenagers who go off the deep end – we often breathe a sigh of relief that they’re not ours.
New Reality TV/Comedy Show: Whose Problem Is It Anyway?
Pastor Steve Murrell has a great blog about the consequences of a selfish, generation-centric attitude that doesn’t look beyond its own time. I’m grateful for the many people I know who willingly work so that their lives have an impact in the next generation. Yesterday, while our church was focusing on discipling the next generation, I saw many instances of this.
- There was a businessman who came up to me after one of the services. He works in a company whose objective is to help people get out of poverty. He said he had part time jobs with flexible time that we could recommend to students and volunteers so they could free up their schedule to do more campus ministry. He was taking what he has and using it to disciple the next generation.
- In another service there was the student leader – president of the supreme student council of his university. Being an upperclassman he didn’t have too many years left. But he was asking how we can design curricula (plural of curriculum, not Dracula’s sister)to reach the students in his university for Jesus and develop their skills for life. I look forward to working more with him this year. And he’s just one of many students who’ve been discipled and decide to
- There were the parents praying to God for their sons and daughters, asking for His grace to raise them well. You just knew that for every parent represented there, there countless hours of talking, relating, and discipling. They’re not perfect by any means, which is why they acknowledged the need for God’s grace. There were also plenty of uncles and aunts, lolos and lolas, kuyas and ates who through different circumstances have taken on the responsibility of raising their relatives. These people impact the next generation everyday.
- While preaching at Victory U-Belt, I watched as the campus missionaries and students from their Leaders Camp arrived. Over 450 student leaders were there, having saved and earned money to go. Like clockwork, you could see the campus missionaries immediately . Some were unpacking the equipment, others were making sure all the students were safe, some even had counseling sessions to attend to. After seeing them at work in the camp, I marveled at how energetically and eagerly they got to it. But then again, these are the people who quit their jobs and rejected regular income, in order to disciple more students.
- At the end of the three services in U-Belt, many of the members signed up to express their intention to learn more about campus ministry and maybe partner with some of the campus missionaries. Most of these people aren’t extremely rich and many of them need financial breakthrough for themselves, but they’re willing to set aside a portion of their income each month to make sure high school and college students get discipled.
Reaching the next generation cannot be outsourced. They need a whole family, biological and spiritual. They need a community. As the African proverb supposedly goes
, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
“what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.”
My wife and I just got back from our short time in Dagupan. It was amazing seeing more than a thousand student leaders gathered from Central and North Luzon worshipping God, hearing His word, and encouraging each other. Here are some of my highlights from the day.
1. Seeing everyone together.
Having trained most the campus missionaries there over the past three and a half years, it was great seeing them all moving in their roles. And boy, it was beautiful to watch. After preaching, I loved walking all over the place and seeing over 50 of our campus staff running around doing their roles – leading worship, overseeing the technical requirements, handling registration, hospitality, or making sure the students got in safely. At different points in the program, our national director, CJ, had different staff leading on stage. Seeing them all move in their gifts and strengths was such a fun thing to watch.
Special mention goes to Pastor Anthony Minguez who’s been in campus ministry for years and ran the entire event, all the while being able to smile and greet people.
different locations, different ages, different backgrounds, same passions
2. Students worshipping God
This was all worth it to see this. I think for every campus missionary, volunteer, or LIFE group leader, the sight of even just one student having a life-changing encounter with God is enough to energize us to get back to work. I just love hearing students worship even if I’m already being deafened by their shouts. There’s just something so right about seeing people at a young age follow Jesus. As they took time to pray for each other, it was exciting to think about what kind of wonders God will do through them this school year.
3. Support from the Senior Leaders
As I got up to preach, one thing that surprised me was seeing all of these senior pastors in attendance. They dressed inconspicuously and sat among the students. Many took notes and during the breaks you could find them supporting in little ways that they could. I was just so encouraged to watch these men and their wives who, amidst their busy schedules, decided that this time with their students and campus missionaries was worth the long drive.
It wasn’t even a political-candidate type of support also. They weren’t loud or showy about it. There weren’t any signs saying, “This convergence is a gift from Pastor Abubakar.” They came to serve quietly, even though I know that for many of them, it meant financial sacrifice. Maybe it’s because they came from campus ministry before also; maybe it’s because they’re passing on what’s been passed to them. Either way, I consider it a privilege to work with humble and powerful leaders like them.
4. Congratulations Victory Dagupan!
Our first church plant outside of Metro Manila is celebrating its 25th year! It promises to be an amazing anniversary, after planting many churches in the nearby regions, training dozens of staff, and touching thousands of lives who are now all over the world. Thank you for being faithful in honoring God and making disciples!
totally worth it