Spirituality With a Hope and a Holy Unrest

“Growth in spirituality is never only a matter of confirming the known and familiar,” Charles Ringma states in his Dare To Journey (1992:110). He describes our life with Christ is more of radical transformation, a restlessness and a vision for what is to come, than contentment and conservation. He cites Paul’s words in his Epistle to the Romans saying: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Hope here is an application of joy and peace. God’s Spirit moves us forward, and thus, our spirituality grows.

 

Henri Nouwen tells us that “You are [a] Christian only so long as you look forward to a new world, so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in” (Open Hands. 1972:126). We keep moving forward being unsatisfied with the status quo and we keep saying that a new world is yet to come. Nouwen continues: “So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life” (1972). 

 

Where are you in your journey with Christ? Are you in a state of holy unrest? Is your hope in the Lord moving you forward?


“Why you should care about your multiracial friends” (By: Carmen Clemente)

According to the U.S. Census in 2020, the population of “Two or More Races” in America increased by 276% compared to the 2010 U.S. Census. Now, around 10.2% of the U.S. population identifies as being multiracial. Though the population of multiracial adults is growing at a high rate, it is still a relatively new concept. The U.S. Census Bureau had just introduced Americans’ ability to choose more than one race in 2000 (pewresearch.org).  

Growing up as a kid, and even now as an adult, I dreaded the little checkboxes under the question of what race you identify with when filling out surveys and applications.  

I identify as being biracial. My mom is Caucasian, and my dad is Filipino. So, whenever I come across this predicament of which checkbox am I going to choose over the other, a part of me feels as though this indefinitely defines who I am. But it’s only a checkbox, right?  

It is only a game of boxes until I am forced to limit myself to one checkbox that I stumble across named “other.”  

I can’t help but feel the repercussions of this one word for people who identify with more than one ethnicity. All of our unique experiences and identity crises condensed into one word that doesn’t even serve our individuality justice because it dismisses celebration and instead puts us in a box that forbids us to express who we are.  

Instead, we are the “other,” the forgotten, the marginalized. Thankfully, often you will see the checkbox “two or more races,” but even then, this should not dismiss the millions of multiracial people whose stories significantly differ from one another.  

The sad truth is that this is only a small example compared to what multiracial people have to go through throughout their lives.  

My experience as a multiracial child is vastly different from that, say, of a half Hispanic half African American child. Even though we are both biracial, our unique experiences based on our parents’ monoracial identities are completely different.  

One misconception plays out when monoracial people approach or talk to their multiracial peers. A lot of the time, they assume that all of our experiences are the same. More often than not, there is more diversity within the multiracial community than people realize.  

Moreover, I feel disappointed when people think they have me all figured out once they learn that I’m half-white and half-Asian. I’m not the only one feeling this way. According to a Pew Research study, about one in four multiracial adults “have felt annoyed because people have made assumptions about their racial background.”

There is no shame in asking a person of more than one race what they are. There is more to us than our biological makeup. Many multiracial people identify with one race over another. And though we may identify with one race, the world may see us as the other. Working through one’s racial identity, especially when your DNA is made of multiple races, can be challenging.  

For example, I am an ethnic minority, but I also pass as white, so I simultaneously experience white privilege. I feel as though my biological makeup limits me from being able to fully understand and experience the monoracial culture of both my Caucasian and Asian sides. So, where does that leave me? Often, I feel as though I’m left in the margins, that my experiences aren’t valid enough.  

What I long for is for people to be able to recognize my struggle and show compassion. I’m not asking you to understand, but to show up and offer a helping hand when I lose vision of who I am.  

We live in a world that likes to compartmentalize and label, so for multiracial adults who have to navigate through their identity in this world like me, that can be tough.  

I wish I could give you a concrete and straightforward answer to how you can be there for your multiracial friends who may be silently or not so silently going through a racial identity crisis. If I can sum it all up in one word, the best I can give you is this:  

Listen.  

Give us space to express ourselves. Give us time to tell you who we are. Give us grace and understanding when we change our minds about our racial identity.  

And please, do not put us in boxes. 

 

(Carmen is my daughter. This article was published in the Asbury Collegian, April 22, 2022.)


Like It Was Yesterday

What are things or events you remember like it was yesterday? In the post-resurrection story narrated in the 21st chapter of the Gospel of John, we read the disciples' encounter with Jesus. (See, John 21:1-19.) They remember it so well that the writer mentions the number of fish that they caught that same day. Verses 11-12 say: “Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn ‘Now come and have some breakfast!’ Jesus said.” Their fellowship with Jesus did not just end with this breakfast. It continued on to more teaching and reminders about Jesus’ love (Jn. 21:16). They all remember Jesus’ words like it was yesterday.

How is your life with Jesus? Do you have fresh revelation from our Lord every morning? Can you say with the disciples “our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road?” (See, Luke 24:32). Do you remember your encounter with Jesus like it was yesterday?

He said, "Who are you, Master?" "I am Jesus, the One you're hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you'll be told what to do next." (Acts 9:5-6)


Dancing With a Forgiving God

Have you ever danced with a homeless person? Have you ever sat down and ate a hearty dinner with someone not like you? Have you ever celebrated the Fourth of July or an extravagant birthday party with a person from the street who smells and for obvious reasons does not belong to the joyous occasion? You probably know by now the point of these questions: Being with persons who feel like they do not belong to the moment.

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we read of the story of the son who squandered his inheritance and lived an immoral life. When he came to his senses he came back to his father. And in verse 20, we see the “father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” We saw the celebration that later issued because of the home coming. (See, Luke 15:11-32.) Here is a picture of forgiveness.

We need to remember that this parable precipitated because the Pharisees and scribes saw that Jesus was receiving sinners. He was eating and celebrating with them (Luke 15:2). As Dr. Green says: Jesus is inviting the religious person to come, and “not only to drop their concerns about Jesus but, indeed, to replicate his behavior in their own practices” (Joel B. Green. The Gospel of Luke. 1997:569).

Here are some questions for us to ponder: When was the last time you joined a celebration together with persons who are considered outcasts by today’s religious standards? Do you feel joy when you see people, those who do not belong to our church gatherings, when they come to a closer encounter with the Good News of Jesus Christ? Would you be able to embrace someone, no matter how smelly and dirty they are, knowing that God himself have embraced everyone with his forgiving arms?

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2. NIV).


Teaching By The Lake: Peter's Story

Peter was there when Jesus started speaking to the crowd. He spoke to the people standing by the lake. His words did not make sense to him. This Rabbi Jesus came and got into his boat.  He continued teaching from the boat. Everything he said did not make sense. Then, he turned around and asked Peter to go fishing with him. Peter went reluctantly. He knew that, at this time of the day, any fishing expedition would end up a failure. But he still went. And when the miracle happened and the boats were filled with fish, lots of them, Peter understood. This Rabbi was no ordinary teacher. Peter responded in worship and said: “Depart from me, Jesus. I am a sinner.” He finally understood the teaching by the lake, after he witnessed a demonstration of that same teaching. The manna from heaven is now the Bread of Life for all people. Just as God feeds the sparrows of the field, this Rabbi is showing his love by providing fish for the poor fisherfolk. And so, when he gave him the invitation, Peter did not hesitate. Jesus said: “Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” At that point, Peter knew that his life will no longer be controlled by fear.  He will follow this Rabbi and trust in him always. He now understands the teaching that this Jesus is the Light of the world, the Light who gives life to all who believe. And so, Peter obeys and he wants others to understand Jesus’ teaching by the lake.  

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday (02/06/2022) is from Luke 5:1-11, where we see the story of Jesus calling his first disciples, including Peter. One question we could ask ourself here is: What are some teachings that only make sense after they are demonstrated to us in real life?


Comfort Zone in Australia

“Darwin is my comfort zone. This city is so familiar to me. I have no ambition of moving to another place or even traveling to other states here in Australia.” Emma expresses this sentiment to me. We are on a virtual meeting. I am here representing FMWM-Asia, providing some form of encouragement to our Asian missionaries like Emma, who are out there doing God’s work. 

Emma Betonio Agarao, or Pastora Emma to most of her Filipino friends, is a Free Methodist  cross cultural worker in Australia. She came in 2000 and started a fellowship in the city of Darwin. Although she came with a bachelor’s degree in theology, she started off as a bi-vocational church worker, pastoring this group during the weekend and working office hours during weekdays. The group is called the Light and Life in Jesus Christ Church Ministry (Free Methodist Incorporated) and was registered in April 2001. This fellowship grew into a church of 50 or so members who come from the Aboriginal communities and many other ethnic groups.

During our online meeting, Emma testifies of God revealing His plan for Australia through a dream. After the affirmation of various church members and the confirmation of the “voice of the Spirit of God,” she is starting a new work, a church plant in the metropolis of Sydney. She will be moving there this March, to live close to her son and daughter’s families. She shares with me that “God had already laid [out] His plan and I must obey Him because He is my Master, and the Holy Spirit is my strength, and His presence is my comfort and [He] assures [me] that I am not alone doing the work of God.”

I praise the Lord for cross cultural workers like Emma, who take a step of faith obeying God and going to different places to start new fellowships.

Emma, together with her husband, Rodolfo, are Filipino missionaries assigned to Australia. They have two adult children, Rodeo and Christen Joy. Please pray for the new work in Sydney, Australia.


Love For Outsiders

Our Lectionary Readings from the Gospels is found in Luke 4:21-30, where Jesus mentions two foreigners, Zarephath and Naaman. These two are outsiders, outside of the promise for the Chosen People, and yet they received God’s blessings, God’s provision and healing. As a result, “all in the synagogue were filled with wrath” (verse 28).   

When was the last time you saw an outsider receive God’s goodness and, as a result, your heart was troubled?

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Do you feel like an outsider or one of the Chosen People?

“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!” (Psalm 71:1-2).

“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.” (1 Corinthians 13:4. MSG)


Are You Moving With God?

When we see a ship, we think of the ocean. When we view a paddle and a canoe, we cannot help but think of the many adventures we will be facing. We look forward to traversing rivers and going to new places. Adventures galore!

In the same breath, when we see God in his holy temple, we also think of the oceans of people scattered in the world. We cannot help but think of global cultures, of people who need to hear the gospel. We long to share God’s love and holiness to everyone out there. This is why when we hear our Lord ask the question: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” then, we respond with Isaiah by saying “Here am I!” (Isaiah 6:8). We move because God is out there, just as much as he is here with us.

Are you moving with God, just as a ship is moving with the wind and the ocean? Is your faith stuck, not moving with the river? (Ezekiel 47:9) Do you long to move with God?

You might have noticed that I did not use the word “going.” Going is for those who will cross cultures and jump from one area to another. Moving is for everyone who is willing to hear God’s challenge and respond in obedience. When Jesus said to his disciples: “Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching people,” he is also saying this to everyone who wants to follow him (Luke 5:10. GNB). Movement is an integral part of our Christian faith. When we walk with Jesus in a life of obedience, this means we take a journey with him, similar to sailing the vast uncharted parts of the ocean. One thing for sure is that our Lord is sailing with us.

Seeing our God move in the world means coming to a state of readiness to move with him. So, the next time you open your Bible and read of God’s movement, pray this short prayer: “Help me Lord to move with you.” And then take a step of faith and be with the people who needs to receive the river of life, who needs to experience the ocean of God’s love.


Miss Trie's Story

“I am sorry for all the lies I told you.” Ms. Trie is going around asking forgiveness from her friends and relatives. You see, Ms. Trie is a new Christian. In the past, she worked as a fortune teller. She would foretell people their future and use her tarot card to promise healing for the sick. She would asked money in exchange for her services. Now, she has given her life to Jesus. She expresses this decision by burning all her books and other tools of the trade of fortune telling. She continues in this walk of faith by going around her social circle, the ones whom she read their palm and did the tarot reading, asking their forgiveness for all her deceitfulness in the past. She tells them, “Those were all lies, because only Jesus knows the future.”

Miss Trie's is from Country-VN, where one of our cross cultural worker is located. She is one of our newest Free Methodist in the global work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, do you have a similar story, like that of Ms. Trie?


Underground Place

“Why are you all singing?” The neighbors from the apartment complex are asking Ms. Holly (not her real name) about her group’s activities. Ms. Holly is a cross cultural worker living in Country-VN. In this country, it is illegal to share the Christian gospel to others. The neighbors are suspicious of this group’s singing and wary of the presence of a foreigner in their vicinity. They are thinking this gathering is a group of Christians singing hymns and reading the Bible. If the neighbors feel they are right, then they can call the authorities and report the group’s illegal activities. And that would be the end of this meeting.

Ms. Holly is from the Philippines and works in Country-VN as an English teacher. She offers her services as an English tutor to university students, and, when there is more time, she also teaches English to nearby elementary schools and language learning centers. In the eyes of the immigration officials, she is an English teacher. To her friends in the Philippines, however, she is a cross cultural worker, a missionary sent by the Free Methodists to Country-VN, with the goal of sharing the Christian gospel to the people of this restricted country. And this is what Ms. Holly is doing.

Everyday, Ms. Holly faces challenges on three levels. One is that she needs to be careful of her words when she is talking to people she does not know. From time to time, her tutorial students would invite their friends to attend these English classes, or join in one of their social gatherings. She knows that these friends could be “spies” from the local authorities or maybe family members of the local police. There is always the danger of being misinterpreted. She needs to be honest and yet respectful when she shares the gospel to others. She wants her students to know that her sharing of the Bible is a significant part of her English teaching. She needs to win their trust and friendship.

Two is that she faces the challenge of being deported from the country. Her work visa could be rescinded anytime, based on uncorroborated suspicions or false reports. She needs to be clear to everyone that she is an English teacher working at a language center or school. She needs to present a legitimate presence in the country.

Three is that she needs work. She has to find a job to pay her bills and other living expenses. The challenge of not finding enough students who can pay for her tutorial services is very real. Also, she chooses not to accept teaching opportunities that are too demanding or fall on a weekend because she is committed to helping local churches who are meeting “underground” or gathering in private during the sabbath days. She needs work and also enough free time from work to continue her desire to serve God at these Sunday gatherings. God has been faithful in giving Ms. Holly ways of meeting these challenges.

Looking back at the past, one could see that God prepared Ms. Holly for this present cross cultural ministry. She received her missionary calling at an early age. Later, her time at a Bible college and studies at several missionary training centers confirmed her passion for the people of Country-VN. In the 1990s, she accepted a teaching work at a kindergarten school in central Mindanao, in an area with Muslim neighbors. She learned to be prudent in her ways of sharing the gospel. She reported: “I learned many things especially on how to share the Truth without objections and violent reactions, [to witness] in a friendly way.” In 2007, she went to Cambodia to work among the boat people of the region. God taught her to be obedient, even in the midst of hardships and what seemed to be failures at that moment. In 2013, God opened the door for her to work in Country-VN as an English teacher and begin an “underground place” ministry in church planting and discipleship. God blessed her time of service, and in a few years, two young men were baptized. God answered the prayers of many for the Lord’s work through Ms. Holly in Country-VN. 

At present, Ms. Holly leads two local fellowships in two locations. She disciples the members of these fellowships through one-on-one teaching and online meetings. God is helping Ms. Holly. There are now seven young adult members in one group and five mothers in the second group. The members of these fellowship groups are sharing Jesus to their friends and family members. God is faithful, and He will continue to lead His people despite the restrictions. God is answering the prayers for this “underground place” ministry.

Remember that time when Ms. Holly was accosted by the locals from that apartment complex? They asked her, “Why are you all singing?” They were insinuating that her group is meeting illegally. Ms. Holly’s response to them was that the singing is an integral part of the students’ language learning. That same week, these locals reported the meeting and the authorities came and interrogated every member of the group. And everyone had the same answer: “Room number two; to study English.” Eventually, the local officials ruled to the group’s favor. Ms. Holly and her friends continued to meet for English lessons and for a time of learning more about Jesus. God answered the prayers of His people, and He continues to do so.