Children

Family Reunion: God Is Ever So Good

Six siblings. Six out of eleven came for our 2016 Family Reunion. Three days of fun with all 33 of us, including one-year old babies Caleb and Sky. Fun at the beach and laughter at the table. It was sweet to watch my children reconnect with their cousins and cousins' children close to their ages. Many of the kids were calling my 12-year old son, Jacob, "Uncle Jacob." Carmen had a blast playing card games with her young adult cousins, who are mostly in their mid thirties. The last time we were in the Philippines was in 2011. This reunion is a good time to create new memories and strengthen fellowship with relatives and families.

The hardest part for me is seeing my brother battle cancer. Even at this family gathering, we all could see his fight to stay with us, and enjoy the short time with love ones. I remember waking up to his guitar music and him singing praises to our God in the early hours of the morning. "When I sing songs to our God, I feel the pain leave me and sense God's visitation in my life," he shared to us siblings at one of our chat time. It was hard for me to watch, but God is ever so good. He is bringing restoration and healing in my brother's life. 

So, we continue to play on the ocean and enjoy our food and time together. My brother comes and joins us whenever he is able. One of the most memorable photo we have is of my brother lying in bed and looking over his side towards one of the children blowing soap bubbles in the air. We shared stories. We told jokes. We made fun of our little quirks and what-not. In all of these, God is ever so good. He is transforming our lives, and for my brother, our Lord is demonstrating His love in and through my brother's struggle with cancer. God is faithful.


My Cubs Family

It is history of course. The Chicago Cubs is the World Series 2016 Champions! After 108 years, we are here. It is past now. The world knows. There is no need to repeat what everyone is talking about, what the world media is covering. We are here. I am so happy! I am grateful to be a big part of this historical event in USA history.

I came to America as a foreign student and married into an Illinois family with deep roots in Chicago Cubs culture. I heard my wife's grandmother, Grandma Addie, say: "I want to see my Cubbies in the World Series before I die." She almost made it. She passed a few years back. I am sure she is smiling in heaven watching all of us go crazy over a baseball game.

  Clemente Family

Oh the joy of being a Cubs fan !


Missions and Small Things

She touches my face. She smiles and giggles. I try to coach her to follow me as I pat the table with my open hand. She imitates my moves. She laughs whenever she hears the sound of her hand hitting the table surface. We all laugh with her. Our one-year old visitor is visiting us for a day, and all four of us are delighted with her every move. Lucy is here with our family to take a day off from staying at a local orphanage home. We take turns cuddling with her. We cherish our short moment with Lucy and hope her day with us will help her prepare for her future family.

I support this orphanage ministry. Sarah is volunteering at this orphanage every so often and brings a child to our home for fellowship and social interactions. I do my part by helping Sarah. Carmen and Jacob are also engaged. They totally enjoy spending time with little ones like Lucy. We do this orphan-care as a family.

Little contributions are small. In most cases, they are so insignificant. However, we want to be faithful to both the small and big things that come to our lives. The Bible reminds us that if we are not faithful with little things, then we will not be entrusted with big things (Luke 16:10-13).

This past week, I also went to hang out with Sam, a Filipino migrant worker. Sam works at a local factory here in the south. This is his second year here in Taiwan. We went for lunch and talked about his family back home, his home church, and a few other mundane events. We did not have any earth-shaking conversation or deep profound theological dialogue. We just talked about ordinary things in life. I really wanted to get to know Sam. He is a new friend. This is only my third time to see him. I am still seeking God’s direction on where our friendship will lead us. I still do not know why our Creator has orchestrated both of us to meet up here in Taiwan. Meanwhile, as I wait for God’s answer to my petition, I hang out with Sam. We are thinking maybe sometime next month, when the weather permits and Sam has a day off from work, we can go hiking up on some Miaolin mountains. I want to be faithful to God in all circumstances, whether it is giving theological lectures to a big crowd or chatting with a person from a nearby factory.

This week is the start of our seminary classes. I am teaching two courses. Last Monday, I went to the school library to do some lesson preparations. Christine, one of our senior students, shared to me her dreams for a missionary work among the Chinese people of Asia. Our sharing time was a chance encounter, but I took that as God’s providential way of saying “meet with this student.” And so I listened to her story. I did my small part of encouragement.  As we parted, I said: “Let us continue this conversation.” We made plans to continue our sharing time. Nothing grandiose. Just little sharing time with another seminary student thinking about her future missionary work. I do my small part. Because one never knows if that small part might be a turning point to God’s grand design for something. I want to be faithful with little things. God will do the rest.


Children Taking Charge

"Do not worry, Dad, we will lead the way," Jacob confidently makes the announcement to the four us, even within earshot of other people in this Narita airport. I just smile. It is hard to argue with him, when a few minutes ago, I made a wrong turn leading our family to the wrong gate. We are on our way back to Asia. And we are changing planes here in Japan in route to Kaohsiung. I am half awake, groggy from jet lag and worried about luggages. It is easy to miss miss the gate numbers and other details related to international travel. "See, Gate 88 is that way. We need to go to Gate 68, which is where our next flight is boarding," Carmen reminds me and point to our boarding passes. Sarah and I just smile with approval.

Later, I took the two kids aside and told them that their mother and I are looking forward to the day when we would be traveling together and they will be in charge. "We will take care of adult stuff, such as passports and paying fees we will be incurring along the way," we mentioned this to the two kids. "Other stuff like finding our boarding gates, pulling our carry-on bags, and making sure we get through customs and security, these things you will be responsible." Both kids beamed with pride. Jacob even said, "I like our travel this time, this year."

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) I think this verse does not only speak about spiritual realities, but relates to practical ways as well. Children can be empowered. Given the encouragement and opportunities to lead, they will. 


Second Generation

“Maayong buntag!” (Good morning.) I hear the booming greeting of our guest, Rev. R. Cranston, from outside our house. I hurried out of our living room and head for my sister’s bedroom. “The missionary is here. The missionary is here,” I tried to make an announcement hoping that my Dad would hear me and our guest won’t. I did not want to embarrass him. Pretty soon I hear heavy footsteps coming up our stairs that lead to our front door. Knock! Knock! He is here, I thought to myself.

I am a second-generation Free Methodist growing up in the Philippines. My parents knew the first missionaries who came to the Philippines. I heard about Greenville, IL and Winona Lake, IN, even when I was child. My father and mother became Christians early on and got involved in the Free Methodist missions work through the leadership of the early missionaries in the Philippines. I knew all of them as a child. My brothers and sisters knew the missionary kids and played with them from time to time. Soon after, my grandmother, Lola Alud, also came to know the Lord and started going to the Butuan City Free Methodist Church (BFMC). And this is where this story begins.

Let me tell you a beautiful memory I have of my grandma, Lola Alud. She passed away when I was in College, but when I was growing up in Butuan City, Philippines, she stayed with us for quite some time. We lived in a medium-sized house, not too small. However, with eleven of us siblings, Grandma, two other relatives and their families, and helpers living with us, the house gets crowded. My three younger siblings and I would sleep in the living room. We got used to waking up to noise of people getting ready for the day.

I remember grandma and her song. Every Sunday morning, she would wake up early and pray for us. She would walk around the living room and sing songs of praise, and we would get up to her singing, get dressed for church and walk to it (BFMC), which was only a block away from our house. I remember her song very clearly. She would sing: “Laoman ta, Ug tahuron ang Dios. Kay way laing mahimo. Nga ikabalos.” This is the Cebuano version of the song Trust and Obey. “Trust and obey, For there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus; But to trust and obey.”

I thank God for grandmas and grandpas who pray for us so that we will grow in the knowledge of God and serve Him. I thank God for fathers and mothers who encourage us in the faith, send us to Church activities, and even to missionary gatherings, so that we will understand the love of God for the world. I thank God for Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, mentors, and others who help some of us because we do not have Christian parents or grandparents who pray with us. However, I thank God the most because He is the God who answers prayers. He answered the prayer of one grandmother from Butuan City, Philippines. And here I am now, a testimony to God’s answer to the prayers of His people. He will answer your prayers. The answers might come tomorrow, next year, or 20 years from now. That is okay. What is important and most essential is that the God of the universe is the One who is answering our prayers. I thank God that He is a prayer-answering God.


Stinkbug is a Good Word

"I cannot believe my little brother's already 10 years old! He is just growing up too fast. He's still my little stinkbug. Happy birthday Jake!"

These were the words Carmen posted on her Facebook page. They were so endearing. Carmen made a collage of photos of her brother and described him as a "stinkbug," in a very loving way. I just smiled when I saw that. See the photo below and get a glimpse of how Jacob's sister feels for her brother.

Jacob - 10 yrs old

This past year, 2014, my children have grown so much, physically and in all aspects of their personal development. What stands out for me is how they have grown closer more than the past few years. They play well together. They have different interests but both take time to learn the interest of the other. They talk like they are bossom buddies. I praise God for two beautiful children who are close to each other. This is truly God's blessing to our family. 

Jacob's tenth birthday will always be a memorable day.


A Father's Blessing

Last Sunday was Carmen's baptism Sunday. It is hard for me to express the joy I have to witness my 13-year old daughter's decision for Christian baptism. I am so glad we did this together with the brothers and sisters of Fong Shan Free Methodist Church. This is just another affirmation of God's guidance in our lives here in Taiwan. An added blessing was the attendance of our dear friends, the Brandt family, Jason, Cindy, Lizzie, and Hayden. They are our friends from our small group. 

Oh, and did I mention that I was the one who baptized Carmen? (I was overflowing with joy. This is the kind of joy that a father-pastor feels for his teenaged daughter.) The picture below is a frame-grab from someone's video of the event. It is not a good one. But, you get the idea, right?

Carmen's Baptism


Going Blue in Kenting (Blue as in BLUE NATION)

We are all wearing blue shirts, with big "Kentucky Wildcats" all over our bodies. Well, not all blue. I am wearing white, but I still have the words "2012 Champions!" right in the center of my chest. This refers to the NCAA University of Kentucky Men's Basketball Wildcats. We are all crazy rooting for the UK team. You can tell from our picture, below.

All around us is green. We are taking our December break here in Kenting and have opted for a small cabin-like accommodations with farm animals around us. Close to nature and relaxing. We will be spending Christmas in Kenting, just like last year. This has become one of our family's special get-aways. Carmen and Jacob are enjoying this place. We all love it.

Clemente Family - 2014 Dec - GO BLUE

For now, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for the coming 2015! And while you are on it, watch the upcoming Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinal game this December 27. Go Blue!


Five Days Ago Was My Birthday

My devotions for today is on 1 Corinthians 14. Paul talks about "Orderly Worship" and the principle he explains is that "Everything should be done in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). How do you apply this principle in blogging? I find it challenging. Most of the things I write about here in my blogpost are events from my life as a missionary and some reflections ensuing out of these events. Most of the times they are random. They are somewhat disorderly. Paul says: we need to have order in our worship because God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33). So, by extension, because we serve the same God, we can then apply this principle to everything in our lives--including blog writing.

On a cursory glance, my blog writing seems "disorderly," with no direction and focus. I pretty much write about everything. However, if the over all theme is "a missionary's reflection on Taiwan life," then there is cohesion and movement towards a single point: my life as an FMWM missions worker.

Last July 13th was my birthday. But until now, people are still posting on my Facebook page greeting me a happy birthday. I try to be very courteous and express my gratitude. But seriously, sending a FB birthday greeting five days late? This is a DISORDERLY greeting. It is not meant to be. FB or any social media format is supposed to be time sensitive. You post a picture or comment of an event that is currently happening. (Unless of course it is Throwback Thursday or TBT posting.) Otherwise, it is confusing and out of order.

I did not expect anything special for my birthday. But extra surprises made it memorable. I went to church at Higher Ground (a Filipino church in Kaohsiung) and Pastor Tessa posted a birthday video greeting from my daughter Carmen, who was then in Illinois with Sarah and Jacob. And I thought I would be spending my birthday all alone, far away from my two children and beautiful wife. Nope! They were with me via video. Monday, a day later, I received three birthday cards in the mail from my family. What a pleasant way to spend a birthday here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

One of the card says: "Luv you, Papa! From your weird son, Jacob." My 9 1/2 year-old son, Jacob, is describing himself as weird. I know he means it to be funny and not too serious. But, his honest self-description is encouraging me. Children his age are struggling with self-identity and family acceptance. I am grateful that my son can be natural with his feelings and express them to me. Paul says: Let all things be done for building up (1 Corinthians 14:26b). I am glad that Jacob's silliness is building me up, helping me to become a better father and follower of Jesus.


Bringing God's Healing to Children of Tacloban City

60 plus children. 18 youth and young teens. Four pastors from four different Free Methodist local churches. Good Friday celebration on this Holy Week. Blessing upon blessing. God's grace overflowing. Praying inside the Lora Jean Schlosser Memorial Free Methodist Church (FMC) of Tacloban City, Philippines.

I am here in Tacloban City, helping our Set Free Movement Philippines facilitate a 5-day camp for these 60 children. It is a Stress Debriefing Camp for these children. It is challenging. I only prepared for a camp for 15 children. God sent us 60 and 18 young people. I studied and brought materials for grief debriefing, but God redirected our efforts to this stress debriefing efforts. Funds were limited, but our Lord provided. I had my worries and doubts. God, however, took over. He rebuked me. He comforted me. He taught me to depend on him. This is the work of God.

How did it happen? People from many places gave money for this camp. I am grateful for their donations. Leaders volunteered to help out. What a blessing! Also, at the last minute, Jayvee, the pastor of the Free Methodist Church, rallied her 18 young people and mobilized them to assist with these 60 children. No time to give these 60 young people training for leading small groups. They just learned it along the way. God helped these 18 youth. God led this camp. God is our leader.

The work is still going on. The challenge of bringing healing to the people of Tacloban City is still current. After the visit of supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda), Filipinos here are slowly recovering. It is an uphill climb. And some days, they are overwhelming. We do our small part and focus on these children. We contribute by obeying God's call for healing located in this one local church. 

Truly God is leading the way. During this 5-day camp, Jayvee and Marilyn, one of the local leaders of Tacloban FMC, organized 20 mothers to come for an afternoon of sharing and reflection; their own time of debriefing. Paula, our Supt. from Manila, and Kenneth Joy, one of our Manila FM leaders, and both members of the Set Free Movement Philippines team, facilitated this time with the mothers. We did not plan for this meeting. God took over. One of the mothers said: "I thought I was already okay. But I discovered that I still need to be debriefed." Healing and recovery will have to be continued. There has to be more debriefing events. The process of rehabilitation needs a long time. Readers, write me back if you want to help Tacloban City. Any help in this time of recovery will greatly be appreciated. I have many suggestions and proposals to give you all, but I will wait for God to lead you. Only when God leads the way will these efforts of healing have any meaning at all.