Part 18: Kagalakan sa Banga
Kagalakan sa Banga (Joy in Banga)
The day had finally arrived. After five years and a total of 15 weeks of intensive study of the Scriptures, 26 graduates - pastors, their wives and other church leaders gathered with us in the air conditioned banquet hall of the Aqua Visit Resort, our temporary home for the past five days. Dressed in the finery of traditional and colourful Filipino garb and fashion they marched proudly in procession into the luxuriously decorated hall to be greeted by their applauding guests - family and church members and most importantly their “Timothies.” With the singing of Bayang Magiliw, the Philippine National Anthem, the graduation ceremony began.
Mario Villanueva, our emcee for the evening, worked his magic with appropriate comments, giving direction to every aspect of the proceedings, insuring that everything ran smoothly and with precision (Mario is one of the pastors of Morningstar Christian Fellowship in Toronto and he is also my kumpare, which means, we are related through the marriage of our children, Peter and Gracie). It was my honour to bring the graduation address. After I exhorted the graduates to make the word of God fully known and the people of God fully mature, Dave Roberts and Paul Gerics joined us at the front and together we welcomed each graduate and distributed to them their diplomas and other gifts. Their joy was evident to all as their faces beamed and pictures were taken of them displaying their diplomas with us gathered around each one.
At the closing of the ceremony each of the graduates came back to the platform at the front of the banquet hall and together they raised their voices in song. For me this was the “emotional moment” of the evening. As I looked at each one, their stories of grace raced through my mind. There stood Veronica, a faithful and diligent soul winner and disciple maker, who was once imprisoned for almost 10 years for the murder of her abusive and cruel husband. I saw Sammy, a passionate evangelist, a real Barnabas to all in this cohort. Then there was Pastor Joey, a young zealous 24 year old pastor who gave to me a special gift, a Tagalog Bible, that was given to him personally by the world famous boxer, Manny Paquiao. I was startled at how attached I had become to all these dear brothers and sisters in Christ who stood in front of us. And then I could hold back the tears no longer as they prayed in song for those they plan to train, “May all who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way.... may the lives we live inspire them to obey.” There was joy in all these precious servants in Banga that night, but for me this was the moment of greatest joy - to know that these faithful men and women are determined to pass on the good deposit entrusted to them.