I felt an overwhelming sense of thankfulness this past Sunday to have been introduced to a great church here on the second Sunday I arrived here! I have been able to attend services almost every Sunday and even a couple Thursday nights at a young adult group. Having been in many countries where I could not understand the language well enough to really grasp the message I anticipated it might be hard to be away from church for 6+ months with little or no church offerings, but that has not been the case. I had some friends who were working here in the Philippines when I first arrived and they suggested a church that held services primarily in English rather than Waray Waray (the local language) or Tagalong (the National language). Another bonus it is in the movie theaters on Sunday morning so there is air conditioning! A blessed few hours of relief from the heat I figured even if the service wasn’t what I was used to, but again the church surpassed all possible expectations! I can understand 99% or more of the service, it is cool, everyone is extremely friendly, and it is a contemporary service. Amazing praise and worship! Although I did not know any of the songs before coming, they are indeed great songs – alot of hillsong and planet shakers songs are used!
The youth in this church as well as the adults are unashamed of praising the Lord and are often jumping for joy, dancing, shouting Hallelujah’s and Amen’s, clapping hands, and certainly singing with all their hearts! It is so refreshing to have a place where I feel a community of believers really does get that it’s all about Jesus not about what those around you think! I often am moved to tears or get a silly grin about my face just enjoying the atmosphere and heart of those who are passionate about their Lord and Savior. It is encouraged to feel at home here in this church, but also to get involved.
They don’t do membership which my fellow churchgoers at home will appreciate. 😉 They have a motto that is as simple as ABC literally. A stands for Attend/Abide. B stands for Belong. C stands for Contribute. Essentially you are to feel accepted an welcome at the church, they want you to belong to the church with regular attendance in Sunday church as well as any/all small groups for which you have time or feel you would enjoy, and finally they want you to help in whatever capacity you have skills/abilities/talents. They stress the contributing is about time and gifts not about money. Indeed I am very impressed with this church’s view on money as well. Their is a collection gathered every service, but the pastor has openly made it known that they believe the Lord will provide what is needed so much that shock upon shock if you give with your name on the envelope and within a time frame you set up to 1 year if you do not believe the Lord has been a blessing in your life you can request your money back. The pastor said he has never had anyone ask for their money back, however what a bold thought! They truly do trust the Lord for all financial needs! A true testament of faith and belief that when called upon the Lord will act!
This past Sunday their partner church from Australia (I believe Melbourne area) had brought a group in for the week. A bunch of special events were featured including an annual youth conference on Saturday. I did not have the privilege to go, but heard on Sunday that it was an amazing time and event. There was an extraordinary worship set on Sunday with both Australian and Philippine worship leaders up front, followed by a bonus that I hadn’t experience yet, a time of prayer called for by the pastor inviting anyone to come to the front where Australian and Philippine leaders prayed for many! Such a moving experience all inside a movie theater mind you! 😉 The services ran long, but I didn’t mind a bit. We heard from an Australian lady pastor who kept us enraptured with stories, scripture, and message. When I left church I felt fed, refreshed, enlivened, loved by my maker, renewed in discovering all He has for me, and certain that I am where He wants me to be even when it doesn’t look or feel like what I had envisioned for myself!
Just thankful the Lord knows what you have need of long before you know and puts you in the place(s) in which you need to be at the exact right time! Glad to have a Savior who not only loves me, but cares enough about me to have prepared an entire church family to be established for ministering to me during this time I minister to others in various ways! He is a loving Father with a heart for His children’s well-being and with the power to see that we have all that we need, even what we are unaware we need! My prayer is to have my heart broken for what breaks His and to have eyes to see as He sees to the extent I am able. Very thankful for the faithful reminders of His love and examples of His glory and grace! I hope this post is as encouraging to you as this church has been to me!
Remember Jesus loves the least of these and so He loves you too! No matter where you are, what you’ve done, or what you are walking through right now, Jesus is and can be with you at all times and in all places. This does not mean He delivers you from the calamity, distress, irritation, sadness, pain, etc. but instead He makes it bearable by shouldering the heaviest of such a burden Himself allowing you to rest under His assistance knowing it is being looked after and you are being loved through it! Don’t give up, you’ve got the the best cheerleader and assistant all wrapped up in one right with you at all times! The end is always near because in His time line, time is endless and who can comprehend that amount of time when any pain, distress, worry, or burden will seem as nothing but a fleeting memory.
The Joy of Christ is before you, be sure not to let it pass you by! I am learning the meaning of Joy here. This is the true spirit of Christmas – it is the Christ part of Christmas! Joy is not happiness and there are many days when you are not happy, but you can retain the Joy that is from within! The Joy of the Lord is my strength when I am weak! I hope you too can learn this important element of Christmas as the season is under full swing! Seek Joy not happiness in each moment of your day!