Part 11: Ang Grandeng Selebrasyon
Ang Grandeng Selebrasyon (A Grand Celebration)
I had the privilege of leading the final session of the final course of this 5 year commitment to training. It is entitled 'Reshaping our Lives' and involves prayer and reflection as the participants write out a number of application pieces in response to the truths learned throughout the week. These were then shared before spending the closing moments praying for one another. It has been a joy to watch these dear brothers and sisters grow in their knowledge and faith while continuing to faithfully serve in challenging contexts of ministry.
With the course complete, it was time to celebrate. We had a few hours to retreat from the heat, take our second shower of the day and don our new Filipino barongs. Then a 20 min drive back to the host church facility along the coastal road of Ormoc city, where we stepped back out into the wall of humidity and heat, leaving the air conditioning behind.
We were amazed at the transformation that had taken place in just a few short hours. Large signs of congratulations, balloon arches, tables laden with food including 2 huge lechon (roasted pigs), tables and chairs with lovely coverings - the auditorium/classroom was now a banquet hall.
And then our students began to emerge, one after another, from the surrounding rooms. The men wore a variety of barong styles, some classic, some business class like the ones we were gifted. All looked sharp, some looked royal. And the ladies, wearing gowns of all shades of bright colour, some with what looked like angel wings, outward beauty reflecting their attractive inner godly spirits. We were then adorned with lovely flower corsages, some pinned on and ours hanging around our necks. We were ready to process.
Led by bearers of the Filipino and Christian flags, we 5 facilitators marched on in followed by the 28 graduates, some of them seasoned pastors and others on the front end of ministry. Spouses, children, family and church members, along with the "Timothies"- the student apprentices of our course participants- all stood to receive us as we entered.
The service included leadership by a number of the graduates with singing, Bible reading and testimonies shared. Pastor John gave a challenge from God's word, a reminder of the mandate we as stewards have been given, and the graduates formed a choir and sang a hymn of commitment they had prepared. Finally, one by one the course participants were called forward to receive their certificates, recognizing their hard work and completed training.
Then it was picture taking time, both formal and informal (lots of the latter) followed by feasting.
Pastor Bereso, whose home church and family hosted our 5 years of courses, reflected all of our feelings in his closing remarks. Happy for the completion of the training and for all that has been invested in the lives of the leaders, and very sad that we may not see each other again this side of the new heaven and earth. Paul Gerics had expressed the same in the morning devotions, stating the truth that God had knit these dear brothers and sisters into our hearts. There were definitely tears shed this night as we said our goodbyes and offered our blessings. As per the economy of God's kingdom, we came to serve and in return feel we have recieved even more, with both challenge and encouragement from having walked alongside these friends.