Blogging from my hometown Jaen, Nueva Ecija, some 100 kms north of Metro Manila.
Death in the family is never fun. It’s a season of sadness and mourning. I’m not going to talk about that, though, as it is expected. Let me just share in this piece some of the unique experiences I’m having in this recent visit.
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About an hour after my arrival from Manila today, I entered the room where my aunt’s casket is stationed. I saw familiar faces. They were having an interesting discussion — religion. The characters:
Ate Glo – Ang Dating Daan member, former Seventh-day Adventist. During my time as an Adventist youth leader here, she was my sparring partner. Now, a Bro. Eli Soriano “fan”.
My mom – Seventh-day Adventist.
A distant cousin (forgot her name) – Iglesia Ni Cristo
A distant relative (forgot his name) – Roman Catholic
Mang Ilo – elder of a local full gospel church, God is Alive Christian Ministries. Most active in the discussion, he quotes the Bible for every sentence that he makes. Encouraging yet, in my opinion, intimidating.
And then myself – a Christian from an urban church called Grace Place.
Topics of discussion ranged from the deity of Jesus to the Sabbath to who should be allowed to read the Bible to why Eli Soriano remains in exile. When I got in, things are already getting out of hand. They were not debating violently, but I can feel the tension nonetheless. This is a unique experience, I told myself. Who can ever tell that you can put all these people with diverse religious persuasions in a single room. Only in a wake can you do that :)
Anyway, I remained silent, listening intently to their discussion. I do not intend to interrupt but has started praying that the Holy Spirit will put the right words into my mouth when and if I am asked to speak. (I expected that they will ask me about my opinion because Mang Ilo, knowing that we’re on the “same team”, introduced me to the group as someone who leads a ministry back in Manila).
And then, my time came. They asked me about my opinion. I’ve been praying and I believe the Holy Spirit has truly put the right words into my mouth. I mumbled words that I do not intend to say, thoughts came while I was speaking. I may not have lead a soul to Jesus during that short participation in that unique conversation, but I believe I accomplished what I intended to do: to make the discussion fizzle out while leaving some questions in their minds. The finger prints of God was all over the place.
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Around 8 pm, I visited a “crusade”, an evangelistic tent meeting (happening a barangay away) normally done by the Adventist church during summer vacations and Christmas breaks. I’d like to see what changed, or to be more precise, to see if there’s anything has changed at all in the way they preach the “gospel” since I left the church 8 years ago.
It’s discouraging and sad to learn that nothing has really changed. Same topics, same tactics. Sabbath. Ten Commandments. End time events. Scare tactics. Legalism.
The topic was about living a healthy lifestyle. I had an impression that the points being presented was good in one way or the other. But when the speaker started explaining each point, legalism started to crop up. Imagine telling his listeners that buying and chewing bubble gum is a sin against God? I also got the impression that smoking cigarettes will usher you to hell. Where the “hell” did he get that idea?
Of course, expected in this topic is the discussion on Leviticus 11, food prohibitions. He started with verse 1 where God says, “speak to the Israelites…” He may have seen my facial expression and anticipated what I have in mind. I did not intend to, but it may have just came out unknowingly. Of course, I was thinking, the Bible was clear, those were spoken for the Israelites and we are NOT Israelites. He stopped and explained as if he was talking to me, “Let me explain for those of you who thinks that this is not for us, there are two types of Israelites, the literal and the spiritual. We belong to the spiritual Israelites.” I was laughing inside. I wanted to ask the pastor, so to whom does God spoke Leviticus 11? To the literal? Or the spiritual Israelites?
The elder told me that they are to baptize 3 people as a result of that crusade. Hayyy…
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Today was also a trip to memory lane. I saw and spoke to my grade 6 teacher. My math coach. Mentor. I love this guy. He is a motivator. My love for mathematics (and anything number) came from him. I saw several old friends. Played “pusoy dos” (a glass of water as a bet, if you’ll allow me to be defensive). Hang out with my favorite cousin Kuya Unyo. Most of my relatives from Austria are also here.
Tomorrow, as part of the tradition, we’ll walk from here to “bayan”, about 4 kms., the cemetery.