Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I’m currently still reading John Maxwell’s “Put Your Dream to the Test”. Last night, I read the part where he tells about one time when he asked his friends this question: “If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?” One by one they answered. Then, they threw back the question to John and this is what he said:

“I would teach every child in the world to read.”

At the point of reading this part of the book, I stopped, closed it and read no further. I knew I had to meditate on that fact.

I was a teacher for six years. I taught 1st graders and 3rd graders. They were pretty challenging. But by the time they came to my class, they were already readers, thus, I have never experienced how it is to teach a child to read.

Not until today, DAY ONE of the BLESS Reading Program that we started in our outreach center. I have ten kids in my learning center, all of them eager to attach sound meanings to these figures we call LETTERS. After the first 4-hour class, when all the kids had gone, I sat on my chair and asked: “John Maxwell, is this what you want to do? Seriously?!”

Day ONE and my mind was already filled with things to map out: a disciplinary system, a motivational strategy, a fund-raising idea, a recording system, an accounting system, the parents’ Bible study, step-by-step toilet rules, manners, ..etc..etc..etc… So, John Maxwell, is THIS really want you want to do?

I giggled in the middle of these battling thoughts. Because the truth is, nobody talked me into doing this. Not even John Maxwell.

So, why did I decide to teach kids to read?

When I was little, before I could read, my mother would take out an old cover-less book of fairy tales. She would read to us the stories and my mind would go wild in imagination. From time to time I would look at the page my mother was reading from to see the pictures. But time after time, I would be disappointed; I saw letters after letters – clumped together, or better known to us as WORDS. Just words. No pictures.

That is how I became very eager to read. I wanted to ‘see’ what my mother was seeing. I wanted to unlock these symbols, to see the scenes behind them. I wanted see the pictures drawn by those letters, repeatedly scribbled in the pages like there was some pattern I need to figure out. I was dying to know what they meant.

When I finally learned how to read, there was no stopping. I have always been picking up a book. A friend of mine asked me what if the kids will forget ‘how to read’ and all my efforts would be wasted away. I told her, no one ever unlearns reading.

I picked up John Maxwell’s book again and continued reading. He wrote “ I believe the ability to read can open the door to all other learning and personal growth.”

These kids in my learning center are not guaranteed an easy adult life. No, not even a higher education, no, not a big-shot career. Everywhere they look -  in the four corners of their houses, in their flooded backyards, or the ‘mahjongan’ across them – they wouldn’t find a picture of a meaningful life.

But, one of these days, they will pick up a BOOK, unlock the pictures from these written symbols and they will see HOPE. They will decode these figures and find FREEDOM. They will read these red letters and they will find LIFE.

Meanwhile, I get them ready for that moment.

John Maxwell, I’m with you on this one! *wink*

Note: BLESS Program is a 20-week reading program for indigent children.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Free Education

Most of the lessons I learned, I did not learn in school. BUT the things that gave me the CAPACITY to learn them, most, if not all, I LEARNED IN SCHOOL.

I completed 10 years of basic education at a laboratory school for teachers. Yes, graduating students who were preparing to be teachers practiced on us. I developed the skill of evaluating would-be-teachers long before I understood the meaning of the word evaluate. Before the class ends, I could tell whether he/she will get good grades for the demonstration or he/she will witness the supervisor walking out of the room. Our classes were unpredictable thus, the excitement everyday.

Of course, we had permanent class advisers and subject teachers that were responsible for most of the things we learned. They are the ones we remember the most.

It is probably my exposure to these would-be-teachers that contributed to my desire to become a teacher myself. It may have been my desire to redeem the whole education system from these ‘not-so-ready’ teachers (as I thought at that time). Or, I may have thought pasting manila papers and asking “Who can point at the carabao in the picture?” when the animals in the drawing all looked like dogs is really a cool thing to do. It must be fun playing tricks on the kids. Well, whichever it was, 8 years ago I became one of them. I now hold a license that says: PROFESSIONAL TEACHER.

My expired license. hehe!
They didn’t specify teacher of which lessons. So I guess, that gives me the liberty to teach ANYTHING and claim: “I’m licensed. Want to check?”. I might as well teach music, dance, French, Swahili, Karatedo, boxing. I have the license to help me get a way with it. Haha!

But of course, my oath of professionalism wouldn’t allow me to do that. I can only practice what I was trained for: Elementary Education.

I was trained in the best, (yes, I’m serious) teacher-training institution in this country: Philippine Normal University. I had four years of excellent instruction from exemplary educators. I had 5 months of laboratory experience in the most challenging labs one could be in. I was assigned to teach English to 6th graders of a public school. No, not to the ‘bright kids’ class. To sections: 13, 14 and 16. Some of my kids were only two years younger than I was, have criminal records and can hardly read.

Today, I have countless opportunities and experience, and can do many things that are in no way related to the professional license I am holding. Although most times I say “ I didn’t learn this in school!!”  I am certain that the things I learned in school staged me for these experiences. Even the ability to determine that is a skill I learned in the classroom.

But what really blows me away is that the wealth of these instructions and experiences came to me at a ‘discounted price’. Yes, in this world where quality education comes with not less than 5 digits, I got mine in three. As I mentioned, I went to a laboratory school for my basic education. What does it imply? Yes, free education! And college? How’s Php335.00 per semester? (At that time my friends paid 19-22k per semester.) Yes, almost free!


Because the truth is, the university I attended is state run. Every penny spent for me was taken from every hard working, honest tax payer. I enjoyed it because someone already paid for it. I mean, seriously, where can you get fine education for the price of 7 Jollibee Yumburger Meals  or 2 sips at Starbucks or 1 meal at Twist? And when I say FINE EDUCATION, I really mean it. I seldom say this – Phil. Normal University is THE institution for would-be-teachers. (Oh, I must add: results vary on students’ commitment. Hehehe!)

Sounds a lot like everything about my life. I live a life free of worry about tomorrow. I can sing, dance, sleep on problems, love without fear and live like a human being. Because the supposedly payment I need to make for being human has already been paid for.  

No, I don’t ‘purchase’ a slot for an audience with God for half the price.
No, I won’t get to heaven at a ‘discounted’ price.

I get both free – compliments of the ONE who paid it on the CROSS.

I paid Php 335/ semester for my education.
He paid with His life my salvation.

Now, this education has become my stage to tell you of His Salvation. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

You Spoke

There was darkness
and nothing more
You spoke
and light came forth
(Who says You cant light up my momentary sadness?)

There was water
no land, no soil that gather
You spoke
divided, the waters broke
(Who says You can't gather the waters one one side
and let me cross the continents on low tide?)

There was no green, no grass
no vegetation. no patch
You spoke
and the leaves sprouted forth
(Who says someday there will no longer be food on display?)

The sky was empty
no sun, no moon, no stars in the heavenly
You spoke
the sun showed and the moon overtook
(Who says they can't be together to amuse me with a soulful rigodon?)

The waters were deep
void, black and no creatures creeped
You spoke
on the ocean beds, the sea animals nooked
(Who says the oceans do nothing but divide?)

And the earth was barren
no single thing was roaming
You spoke
and the earth was filled with noisy bleating
(Who says the world can never again be silenced?)

There was no image of You
no one to dominate the flock
You spoke
from the filth broke-

And out of Adam 
she came
and offsprings they bore
generation to generation
I came forth

and I ask
Who is God?
What is God like?

You spoke
and silence overtook

Monday, October 4, 2010

Redefined By God - A Testimony

My parents named me Jabez, after a guy in the Bible*, who was born in pain or caused pain. Whichever it was, Jabez still meant pain. But this guy asked God to bless him, expand his borders and keep him away from evil and pain, and GOD DID! And so his name took on a new meaning. God redefined Jabez.

I was 9 when I got saved. My father brought me to one of his new Bible study centers. He was explaining to a bunch of adults about the Salvation that is in Jesus Christ when I felt God talking to me. I heard this same story many times before but it was the first time that I understood it and it drew a response from me. I accepted Jesus Christ that night. Whenever I look back at that incident, I am reminded that no one could ever underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to make a child understand. This has been my motivation why I have a passion for child evangelism. That night, God redefined my childhood.

When I was 18, I attended Faith Baptist Church - Alabang(South Metro). This is where I learned about the Bible doctrines I hold on to until now. I know it wasn’t no accident that I ended up attending that church for a specific ‘season’ in my life. It was there that I met, for the first time, missionaries to foreign lands. Whenever they testified about the ‘work’ I’d always cry. Sometimes, because I am touched by what God is doing but most times, it was for fear that God might call me to the mission field…and I really didn’t  want to go. Nevertheless, my eyes were opened to the burden. God redefined my idea of misssions.

I lived a very comfortable Christian life. By that I mean, I had the liberty to worship God, I have access to great Bible teachings, on occasions I get involved in ministries, and well, I can freely tell others about Jesus…whenever I wanted to. I got involved in the ‘education’ ministry since I am a licensed elementary teacher. I was fine. I was really really fine. But being fine and comfortable is not the reason why I got saved. In fact, fine and comfort were not part of Jesus’ agenda when he was on earth. And so, dreadfully, my comfort ended.

September 26, 2009, I attended a seminar on worship. And it was there at the seminar that my spiritual eyes were opened to the fact that if we truly want to worship God, we should take part in His plan to redeem the world. This redemption plan is to bring the lost under the feet of Jesus as it is said in the Bible: “Every knee shall bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”** We must bring God to those who have never heard about Him. John Piper once said, "Missions exist because worship doesn't."  Missions will only cease when every single one is already a worshipper of God. God redefined my idea of worship.

It wasn’t comfortable after that. In fact, I couldn’t go anywhere where I wasn't confronted with the idea of missions.  I sought God’s word, godly counsel and soaked it in prayer and in January of this year, I said ‘Yes’ to God for missions. I was sure God was calling me to Go. God redefined my idea of my purpose.

I didn’t know where to go or if there’d be any use for a person like me in the field. I thought I’d never qualify to be a missionary. I had no idea what will happen to me. But, as what I always say, When you have no idea what will happen to you, you are in the best position to receive God’s idea for your life. I found out Africa is my heartland. And God showed me little by little everyday what I should do. Fist, I needed to say ‘Yes’ then, he showed me where and how. God redefined my concept of obedience.

Last week, I attended the BLESS training, one of God’s answers to my ‘How will I be of use?” question. BLESS has a literacy program that guarantees children ages 5-8 the capacity to read at the end of an18-20 week period. But it was more than the method that impacted me. It was the foundational truths I rediscovered that made me passionate about this system.

Through the program, we teach children these:

1. Truth.
WE teach them the truth that they are made in the likeness of God. And because of that truth, they will know that they are of worth and value. When they hold on to this truth, they will seek to use their bodies to glorify God, they will seek godly pursuits and they will always look back to their Creator.

2. Responsibility.
The program requires parents to assist in their child’s learning process. There is a weekly conference with them which they are required to attend. When parents get involved in the lives of their child, they become responsible. When children see that their parents are responsible, they also grow up to be responsible parents someday. A family lead by responsible parents make up an ideal community. Then, we create a society that is according to how God's original plan.

3. Capacity.
Let me quote Rev. Delbert Hooge, “Teaching children to read will give them the capacity to live until seventy. But because we also teach them about the salvation that is in Jesus Christ, we give them the capacity to live not just until seventy…but until eternity.

Attending the BLESS training gave me a clear picture of what God wants my role to be in the mission field. When we obey his call, we change lives. God redefined my idea of blessing.

Many areas in my life took on new meaning because God changed them. I trust you would let God do the same to you. Let God redefine your life!!!

Note: This is the testimony I delivered last Sunday at Faith Baptist Church South Metro, the church I attended for 4 years when I was attending college. I regularly attend at my home church, here in Cadiz but I still hold FBC dear to my heart. 

*  1 Chronicles 4:9-10
** Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10

BLESS Philippines website: www.blessachild.net 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What I Know Now

"Recently, I have this inner tugging to be somewhere. Where? I dont know. I just know some hungry land is calling me. A land where my footprints are pre-etched. It may be the next town, or the neighboring island, or continents afar - I don't know. I just know I am called somewhere." - July 1, 2009, Venus Speaks

I know NOW that that 'land' is Burkina Faso. Or at least, the first of those lands if God has other plans for me. It was not an easy process. Finding it out entailed a lot of thinking over, of praying and well, wrestling with God. But hey, whoever wins a fight with God? So I let God be God and said "I'll go". In the future blogging days, I'll be adding more to that story of "how and when I said yes".

I know NOW that believing you're doing God a favor by saying 'yes' to missions is a misunderstanding. I used to touch my 'halo' whenever I tell people I committed to be a missionary. But thank God, I didn't continue misinformed. Haha! God revealed to me through His word and through many humbling experiences that really, THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME...that I can never do it without Him, and that He is the one doing me a  favor. You see, God could bless a 'nation' without my help or anyone's. But when He called me into this, He chose to bless people through me. That's the same promise He made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 "...and people will be blessed through you."

The preserved magazine cut-out notebook cover
I know NOW that a tiny tugging could be a signal of something big. Your desires mean something. You have to check which side of the pendulum your desires swing you to. Your education, life experiences, the people you meet - they all make up the complete plan God has for you. In college, I cut-out a magazine picture of an African woman in colorful clothing. I don't know why I never forget that it fascinated me. I also have a cut-out picture of an African herdsman carrying a stringed instrument and a staff. I used it to cover my college notebook (back then when covering notebooks with some photos were cool..hehe). Then I met some African friends online through my poetry blog. Something about them draws me. I know NOW that it is part of THE Plan.

I know NOW that just when you think God makes your life beautiful, He starts to make it even more beautiful. And it is not because He gives you things or people (*wink*). It is because He ushers you into His secret places where He reveals Himself. And you get to see Him up close...and personal. And then you want to cry and dance and tell the whole world what you know about Him but then... your mouth opens dry...because words fall short. And you ponder in silence the God you saw and quietly pray that the world may see Him too.

What I know NOW, I didn't know before.

What do you know NOW? Are you excited about what you DON'T know yet?

*Note: Venus Speaks is my poetry blog.