Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas party for my friends at the bridge

Most people would just see a group of people casually dressed having a simple party. However, As I looked closer I noticed that there was something different about my friends that day. This was a special event for them, everyone was showered, dressed up, and some of the ladies were even wearing make-up; a luxury that is sparingly used. I was even surprised to see that a few of them were using some old 35mm camera's to take pictures.

I passed by this local fast food restaurant many times over the last several years, but to be hosting a party in it for the people who live under the bridge that lay around the block from it had never entered my mind. Starting with showing love to one needy man I was now touching the lives of over 75 men, women, and children. What a privilege God has given me!

Our party started with a few dances from some of the kids. This was followed by a couple testimonies. My friend Nestor shared how as a child he witness his father and brother's executions. He went on to live a life and crime until God saved him in prison. Now his life is dedicated to serving God and sharing the good new of how God had forgiven his many sins and made him a new person inside and out. After the testimonies I showed a 10 minute video that I had put together of my friends from the bridge. They were cheering and laughing as they watched pictures of themselves, family and friends set to popular Filipino music and "Lord I lift your name on high" which they enjoy singing at our bible study.

After dinner we had the kids taken to another room where they played games and had a time of teaching and sharing the gospel. Josette used some material from Evangelism Explosion for youth. May of the kids were engaged as they heard that Jesus receives into his family everyone trusts in Him alone. These kids not only get to hear these words, but they get to see the love of Christ lived out before their eyes as we go to minister to them each week.

I invited my friend pastor Noel Alberto to give a special message for the teens and adults. From Luke chapter one he taught how Jesus came to be born as man while remaining the Son of God so that He could pay for our sins. After a powerful message he invited everyone to pray on their knees and asked those who wanted to receive and follow Jesus to raise their hands. I was blessed to see many respond. Some were praying, some were crying, and all were having a good time. The coming days will give opportunity to see fruit in their lives to demonstrate the genuiness of their hearts.

We all had a great time together as friends and family. This was a special time that I pray will be the first of many parties to come that will continue throughout eternity. I know that the families were blessed and that God has been pulling at a lot of hearts at Manalo Bridge. Pray with me that they would all know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and that they would long for their Father in heaven who desires to prepare beautiful homes a from them in heaven.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Loving those who love the gifts, but not the gift giver

Finding balance between meeting physical needs and spiritual needs can be quite tricky. There is a part of me that wants to do and give everything I can to help those who are in need. I can see myself giving up more in my life to help some of the endless needs of the poor. At the same time I can see how giving too much can be a hinderance to the gospel. The problem is that people become more interested in the gifts than God, the gift giver. I'm sure that some of the people that I am ministering to fall into that category.
Right now I am in the process of helping a few of my friends from the bridge who have few to no teeth in getting false teeth. Two of them seem to be genuinely excited about the Lord and are faithful in reading and learning the word of God. Another is clearly not, but he is a regular attender to the bible studies we provide. However, there are a couple of possible reasons for this. It could be that he is attending the bible studies because he feels obligated due to the help I have given him and his family. It is also possible that he could be thinking that a one hour bible study each week is a small price to pay in exchange for what he has already recieved and for the possibility of getting more stuff in the future.

Let me just say that I don't help people in the hopes that they will feel indebted to me. And I don't help people simply to create opportunities to share the gospel (However, I don't mind that meeting phyiscal needs does create opportunities). Actually, I can't help but to help the needy. God has made me in a way that I find great joy in helping them physically, but even more, spiritually. I often remember that I was spiritually dead, a needy sinner, underserving and desperatly in need of help. God mercifully reached out to me, forgave me, and helped an undeserving guy like me. With that reality ringing in my head and heart, I can't help but be moved and motivated to help others. I really do enjoy it.

I do what I can with the limited resources that God has given me to help the poor with their physical needs. More importantly, I always try to do the most loving thing that I could possibly do - I share with them the best thing that I have, Jesus Christ. If I merely feed them, give them clothes, medicine, an encouragement, I would be selfishly hording my greatest treasure for myself.
So how much giving of material things is too much? I believe that we should give enough to show love and meet desperate needs, but not so much that the reciever becomes focused on the gift rather than the gift giver (who ultimately is God). I imagine that having the right balance will be a life long challange. I also realize that there will always be some who will take advantage of me and who are not really sincere about Christ, but in the end, those who truly embrace Christ make it all worth it.