Thursday, April 4, 2013

Give Me Remembrance!

The Badjao are a strong, proud, sea-faring people group who inhabit the southernmost regions of the Philippines, but as “sea-Gypsies” often migrate in search of better lives throughout the Philippine archipelago. During my recent mission to the Philippines I had the pleasure of interacting with a community of Badjao located on the island of Bohol. As we entered their village, my brother-in-law and Youth With A Mission base director, Ramon Bautista, showed me the conditions in which the people were living and characterized their daily struggle in one word: “survival”. “Brother Sam, these people are survivors. Their lives are hard. They are forgotten by most who meet them, and they do not have much to celebrate. They have no schools, nor the hope of an education, yet they keep fighting on. They need help and that’s why we’re here.” 

Our presence created quite a stir in the community and before long the scene was one of energetic and positive chaos. Children were everywhere, and it became clear that our initial plans were not adequate in ministering to the immense need before us. Several members of our team took quick action and began to engage the crowd on some basic levels by organizing games, playing with the children, conversing with adults and setting up an area to show a film on the life of Jesus. Luz, Ramon and I met with community leaders to map out how we could be of service on a more effective level for the long-term and what the community’s most critical needs were. As the evening wound down to a close and good-byes were exchanged, a girl named Teresa approached my daughter Joana and left her with this charge: “Give me remembrance!” The words gripped Joana’s heart. As she shared this encounter with me she passed the charge on to me: “Daddy, we can’t forget those we’ve met and what we’ve seen here today! We've got to give them remembrance”

In the 1981 movie Excalibur, Merlin the Magician instructs King Arthur after a great victory that it is critical to remember one’s life experiences and to learn from them. He warns: “It is the doom of men that they forget…” There is doom associated with forgetting. In the case of those of us called to minister in Jesus’ Name, others are doomed to suffer when we forget our calling and become self-absorbed. Yet, the power of remembering our call is so much more potent than the doom of forgetting.  Our remembering serves as a significant blessing to others and is a seed which bears much fruit as lives are impacted by our ministry and reaching out.  I considered this power as I reflected on my history with my brother-in-law Ramon.

I first met Ramon only a few days after Luz and I were married almost 25 years ago. He was on a path to destruction with a lifestyle and life habits that were sure to bring him to disaster and ruin. Providentially, Luz and I were able to intersect with Ramon and we began a long and sometimes painful journey seeking to help him and remembering that as those who were called to serve and love others we were his keepers. Even when it was tough, we refused to forget our calling. Years passed and God worked. Ramon eventually surrendered his life to the Lord and an amazing transformation took place! As he himself remembered what God had done for him, he became forever impassioned to pour into the lives of others.

When I stepped off the plane and into Ramon’s arms at the Bohol airport, it was one of the most emotionally charged moments I had ever experienced. It had been 18 years since we last saw each other face to face and everything had changed. Ramon was not only not in trouble, he was a spiritual leader sharing the Good News about Jesus with others and seeing their lives change as his had been. The man I saw was a completely new creation in Jesus! As we looked at each other, Ramon and I laughed, cried, hugged kissed and laughed some more. It was time to celebrate! The whole week, in fact, was a celebration of giving remembrance and rededicating myself to the call of God on my life and ministry. I came to see that I must constantly give remembrance to what God has done and what He is doing in my life. There are many practical ways I must engage this truth.

I must give remembrance to the people scavenging a desperate existence in the Manila Garbage dumps. I must give remembrance to the Badjao as they stubbornly pursue hope in the midst of a sometimes hopeless existence. I must give remembrance to all the children I saw who have so much potential but are hindered because they get lost in the sea of forgetfulness as those who encounter them and are touched, eventually forget them and go on to other concerns of life. I must give remembrance to the emerging young leaders I met who are unmatched in their dedication and devotion to the Lord – they just need a little help to fully engage what they are called to do. I must give remembrance to all of my God-given gifts and talents and to the duty I have to surrender my life daily to the One Who has called me and charged me with being my brothers’ keeper in my own back yard and in the friendships I enjoy around the world.

There is so much to report on what the Lord did on our trip – some of which will appear in postings and various other media in the days and weeks ahead. For now, I simply surmise the experience in saying I will give remembrance to my latest time of ministry in the Philippines and to the people to whom I have committed my life as a Brother, minister and friend. I call you all to do the same! Until next time…


Joana, Dylan and Badjao Children

Don't forget us: Children from Smoky Mountain

Sam with a crew fo Badjao Church Members

One of the Pastors at Vineyard Church, Sam and Ramon

No comments: