10 Year Anniversary Sermon

Due to the Pandemic, we did not celebrate our 10th anniversary. However, our administrator, Dr. Robert Munson, was asked to preach at the chapel service of Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary on October 13, 2016 (three days before the 10th anniversary). He was asked to integrate the story of Bukal Life Care into the sermon. The following is that sermon, based on the theme verses of our counseling center (Isaiah 58:11-12).

It is a great privilege to be before you here today. October 16th, 2010 marked the formal launching of Bukal Life Care and Counseling Center. We existed for several months before this, but this our formal birthday. As such, 3 days from now, we would have our 10 year celebration. But with the pandemic and everything going on… this won’t happen.

But since I am supposed to preach, I thought I would preach on our organization’s theme verses. They are Isaiah 58:11-12

These verses are in the middle of a chapter on True Fasting. According to the text, true fasting is not depriving yourself to show God how spiritual you are to convince Him to overlook your wrongdoing. True fasting is not depriving yourself to get God to bless you. True fasting is depriving yourself by choosing to be a blessing to others, rather than yourself. Out of this true fast, in verses 11 and 12, Isaiah states,

11 The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters never run dry.

12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.

In this passage, I see three blessings. They also serve as three ministries. After all, the Abrahamic Covenant makes it clear that we are blessed by God so as to minister to others as a channel of God’s blessing. A true fast.

The first blessing, or ministry is Sustaining. At the beginning of verse 11, it says “the Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and will strengthen your bones.” The three sustaining words are leading, satisfying, and strengthening. Leading can be thought of as spiritual sustaining. In the Bible, spirit is not really about ghosts or ethereal beings, but is normally about power with purpose, life with vibrancy and direction. So God sustains by leading. God sustains emotionally through helping us to be satisfied— find contentment. God sustains physically by strengthening. Of course, we are holistic beings so leading, satisfying, and strengthening are for the whole person.Those are pretty comforting words. The passage describes being in a parched, inhospitable, land.

If you are involved in ministry… I think you will find that there is a lot of parched, dry, inhospitable land out there. There is a lot of stress… a lot of conflicts… a lot of lostness… a lot of feeling weak and without hope. David spoke of God leading… leading to green pastures and still waters… but also leading through the valley of the shadow of death. And King David walked through a lot of very dark valleys in his life… sometimes led there by God… and sometimes in straying from the path that God gave him to follow. Paul speaks of contentment — so that in whatever state one is in, poor, rich, full or in hunger, therein to be content.

Paul also spoke of being strengthened by God. Being able to do all things through the strengthening of Christ… yet in context he wasn’t talking about victory… miracles… conquest. As most of you probably know, he is talking about in going through suffering… to endure… to survive— to sustain.

Sustaining is not easy… it doesn’t just happen. Many missionaries and ministers burnout…. suffer from fatigue. Some quit. Some quit by leaving the ministry. Most missionaries do not make it to retirement… on average serving for around 5 years. Others quit by moving around. In the US at least, the average pastor serves in a church for around 4 years before feeling that God is “calling him or her” to move elsewhere. Others RIP— retire in place. They keep the job, still accepting pay, prayer, and praise for their position, but are just going through the motions. Others act out, lashing out at others, or finding unhealthy chemicals or behaviors to numb the pain. They fail to sustain.

God blesses us by helping us sustain… and we need sustaining. So that’s GREAT! But I think most of us hope for better than this—merely surviving sounds pretty bleak. I think after decades in the ministry you would like to look back and be able to say more than… “I was sustained. I endured. I survived.”

Verse 12 offers something better than just sustaining.

The second blessing or ministry is Healing.

Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.

I would like to make a controversial statement here… You might not agree with me. But I don’t think God worries that much about ancient ruins. I am not so sure that He cares about foundations laid long ago. I am not convinced He is concerned about broken walls and unrestored streets. I believe God cares about His creation. He cares about people. He cares about communities.

God is concerned about rebuilding, restoring, repairing broken lives and their social connections. Sustaining is about surviving… enduring. Healing is about restoring what was lost… fixing what was broken. There are a lot of broken people… both inside and outside of ministry. God heals and restores, and calls on us to do the same. Sadly, the church… truthfully… we are not all that good at healing broken people. Some people in the church don’t want to heal… they want to embrace the role of the avenger of God. They see our Lord as a punishing God and want to help Him in this role. Fine, perhaps there is a place for that… Others may prefer to be a prophet of God, embracing the role of Job’s friends, blaming, judging, accusing, gossiping.

Others may try to help the person… giving trite meaningless statements that not only commonly aren’t helpful, but say, “I don’t really understand the situation you are in… and I don’t want to.”

Celia has been involved in Clinical Pastoral Education for around 11 years, and supervising for about 9 years. We have had around 250 trainees over the last 10 years. Of the 250, it seems that maybe around one third of the trainees join primarily because they are kind of required to by their course of study or their denomination. No problem. About one third join because they genuinely want to gain new skills to be more effective in ministry. Awesome. The final third are people who come because they are broken. They are seeking healing, but they don’t want to tell their church or school or ministry organization that they are broken. It sounds better to say one is being trained in CPE than to say that one is going to a pastoral counselor, or a psychiatrist, or a support group. You know… that’s okay too. It is okay that people take CPE for self-therapy. It is okay when ministers and students set up appointments to meet with one of our team for pastoral counseling, or seek professional help. Not a problem.

But isn’t it a shame? Wouldn’t it be good if churches were hospitals of the soul. Wouldn’t it be awesome if… say… a pastor who is going through a personal crisis would think. “Wow, I am really struggling now with— sin, or temptation, or stress, or a relationship, or doubt. I definitely need to talk to the Church Council”… or Board of Deacons… or Personnel Committee, or accountability team.” Wouldn’t it be nice if churches actually were both willing and able to bear one another’s burdens.

Sustaining is good. We need that. Healing is good. But I think we can do better than that as well.

The third is Redeeming. When we face bad things. A dry, thirsty, parched land, we need sustaining… to endure, survive— to be led, strengthened and satisfied. We need healing— to restore what is broken, repair what is damaged. But we also need redeeming. The term redeem is used many many different ways. Here, I am using it in terms of transforming what is bad to what is good… to reimagine a crisis as an opportunity, and to identify the garbage of life as a potential fertilizer to feed barren soil… see the beautiful garden that exists, potentially, where there is now only a dry infertile wasteland.

Our group formed out of tragedy— A few months before our formal launch, devastation struck the Cordilleras in late 2009. A typhoon hit the region and four days of drenching downpours triggered landslides with hundreds of deaths. Many organizations leaped into action. And then a few of us decided to work together to help in some small little ways. A lot of relief supplies were coming in from big groups. That’s great. We visited one community where a whole room at an elementary school was converted into a storeroom for all of the relief supplies coming in.

Worderful thing. But there were those who were ignored. Even when it comes to those who have undergone trauma, there are winners and losers. One group we decided to start helping was police cadets… trainees from CARTS, the police training school at teachers camp. They were being bussed every day to Little Kibungan in Pico, to dig in the dirt to search for bodies buried by the landslide– they found 76, a massive tragedy. They had no special supplies. They had no shovels or gloves, but had to dig with bare hands in mud that has already dried out to dirt and dust. They had no special protective clothing. They had no facemasks or goggles to protect their eyes. They received no briefing or debriefing. They had no counseling for the secondary trauma they were experiencing. So we partnered with a few others to supply shovels, gloves, face protection and more. Our team got training in disaster response chaplaincy and stress defusing. Later, we did a group stress defusing exercise with them, and a medical mission with them since so many of them were experiencing respiratory problems.

Isaiah in verse 11 says that in a parched land, … You will be like a well-watered garden,  like a spring whose waters never fail.

We chose our name from this verse. The Tagalog word for spring is “Bukal.” Isaiah speaks of people doing more than just surviving in a dry, parched land. He speaks of them being as a well-watered garden… like a spring whose waters never fail.

Richard Rohr says that we must make our hurts and pains into something good. He said, “If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter. … If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children…We shouldn’t try to get rid of our own pain until we’ve learned what it has to teach.”

Rohr calls on God’s people to redeem the pain and suffering… and transform it into something good. Sustaining in times of trial is difficult. Healing, is challenging. But to redeem the challenges in life… that’s miraculous– the act of a merciful God.

Joseph was ripped out of his family by his brothers and sold into slavery. He had years of struggle. But out of that struggle he was blessed, and then able to bless his family, and even bless his brothers who had early enslaved him. In his later years, he was able to tell his brothers that although they meant their actions to be for evil, God meant it for good. That is redemption.

Out of the tragedy we formed as a small group. We are still a small group– even a little smaller than usual as we have curtailed our ministry work in hospital and jail during the quarantine, and have taken a break from CPE and CPO. Our work right now is mostly limited to online counseling and online support group for pastoral counselors. Hopefully, we will stay a small little group until it is time to close the doors for the last time.

My hope for each of you is that you will experience God’s sustaining power in your life as He strengthens you, leads you, and teaches you to find satisfation and contentment in the valley of the shadow of death, in the dark nights of the soul, in a dry and sun-parched wasteland. My hope is that out of this sustaining, you are healed and able to heal others, restoring and repairing broken lives and communities, giving comfort to others out of the comfort you have received from God in your times of need. My hope is that regardless of the state you are in, you can serve as a channel of God’s favor in this world, working redemptively, as a garden-producing spring of life in the desert.

As some of you have probably figured out, I am saying “Expect a lot of suffering in the next few years.” That sounds more like a curse than a blessing. But God’s best blessings come out of suffering.

With that in mind, have a blessed time this year at PBTS.

Please join me in prayer.

Greetings. On the 16th of October, 12 days from now marks the 10th anniversary of the formal opening of Bukal Life Care and Counseling Center… the main ministry of Celia and myself. Because of this, I was asked to preach at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary on the 13th of October relating to this event. Today, I am preaching a similar message to the one I will give on that date. The passage is the theme passage of Bukal Life Care… Isaiah 58:11-12

These verses are in the middle of a chapter on True Fasting. It is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible… Isaiah 58. Fasting is to deprive yourself of physical things, in hopes of spiritual benefits. Muslims will deny themselves food during the lunar month of Ramadan during daylight hours. Devout Jews would fast two days a week— on Mondays and Thursdays. Until fairly recently, Roman Catholics were expected to avoid certain types of meats on Fridays… and many Christian groups around the world will deny themselves certain foods, drinks, or other physical joys during the Lenten period. And that is fine. It can be a way to focus on spiritual things. It can be a way demonstrate a worshipful heart. Unfortunately, Isaiah 58 shows that people back then, much like today, can do fasting wrong or for the wrong reason. True fasting is not depriving yourself to show God how holy you are to get Him to overlook your wrongdoing. True fasting is not depriving yourself to get God to bless you. True fasting is depriving yourselve by choosing to be a blessing to others, not yourself. If you are not eating because of a fast… don’t leave the food in the shelf to gobble down later… give it to the needy now. Don’t fast to try to get God to overlook your sinful past. Rather, fast as a part of a holy obedient life.

In verses 11 and 12, Isaiah speaks of the results of living a holy obedient life, and one that is focused on helping those who are in need:

11 The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters never run dry.

12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.

In this passage, I believe there are three blessings. One might even say that they are three ministries. After all, the Abrahamic Covenant makes it clear that we are blessed by God so we can minister to others as a channel of God’s blessing… A true fast.

The first blessing, or ministry is Sustaining. At the beginning of verse 11, it says “the Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and will strengthen your bones.” The three sustaining words are leading, satisfying, and strengthening. Leading can be thought of as spiritual sustaining. In the Bible, spirit about power with purpose, life with direction. So God sustains by leading. God sustains emotionally through allowing us to be satisfied— find contentment. God sustains physically by strengthening. Of course, we are whole beings so leading, satisfying, and strengthening are for the whole person.Those are pretty comforting words. The passage describes a parched land. We live in the Philippines where things are rarely parched… dry. But this is just a word picture. I think you will find that there is a lot of parched, dry, inhospitable land out there. 2020 has been a difficult, challenging, stressful year for many. There is a lot of stress… a lot of conflicts… a lot of lostness… a lot of feeling weak and without hope. David spoke of God leading… leading to green pastures and still waters… but also leading through the valley of the shadow of death. And King David walked through a lot of valleys… sometimes led there by God… sometimes going there of his own accord. Paul spoke of being strengthened by God. Being able to do all things through the strengthening of Christ… yet in context he wasn’t talking about victory… about success. In the passage, you discover that he is talking about suffering… enduring… surviving.

This sounds bleak. It sounds bad… but it is not. God is a sustainer… and as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1 we are able to comfort each other based on the comfort God provides us. God is with us. God is with me, God is with you. He is able to lead us through a dry, parched, desolate land… satisfying our needs, and strengthening us to endure.

And that’s GREAT! But I think most of us hope for better than this. Enduring is nice… be I believe all of us want to do more than simply survive.

Verse 12 offers something better than just sustaining.

The second blessing or ministry is Healing.

Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.

I would like to make a controversial statement here… You might not agree with me. But I don’t think God cares all that much about ancient ruins. I am not so sure that He cares about foundations laid long ago. I am not so sure He is concerned about broken walls and unrestored streets. I believe God cares about His creation. He cares about people. And he cares about communities.

God is concerned about rebuilding, restoring, repairing broken people and broken communities. Sustaining is about surviving… enduring. Healing is about restoring what was lost… fixing what was broken. There are a lot of broken people… both inside and outside of the church. God heals and restores, and calls on us to do the same.

People come to our counseling center (Bukal Life Care) who are broken. They come to talk about their struggles. They come to ask questions. They come to be with someone (live or online) who cares. That is fine and good, but isn’t it a shame? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a church had such a reputation that when a person is in the community has a problem they knew that the church was the place to share their burden? They know that the church was the repairer, restorer, rebuilder of what is broken.

Sustaining is good. We need that. Healing is good. But we need better than that as well.

The third is Redeeming. When we face bad things. A dry, thirsty, parched land, a valley of the shadow of death, we need sustaining… to endure, survive— to be led, strengthened and satisfied. We need healing— to restore what was broken, repair what is damaged. But we also need redeeming. Redeeming is not just undoing what is bad. It is making good of what is bad.

In the book of Genesis… Joseph was taken by his brothers and sold into slavery, because of jealousy. For years Joseph struggled… but God was there to lead, satisfy and strengthen him through that difficult time. Then God healed Joseph… restoring his status and honor, and giving him a new family. In the final healing, he was was reconnected to his birth family, and God helped heal him of his anger, and he forgave his brother. This is good… but not enough. Joseph was able to bless his family and give them a place protected from famine. As Joseph told his brothers years later… what you did, you meant it for evil… but God meant it for good. Joseph took the bad that came his way and not only survived it, and restored what was lost. He redeemed it… making things better.

It is like if someone dumped a lot of rotting garbage, basurang nabubulok, at the steps of your house. What can you do with that. You can survive it. You can keep going in and out of your house, stepping carefully over that garbage. You sustain yourself and endure. That is good. Or you can heal and restore. You can clean up things removing the garbage. That is better. Or… you can take the garbage, and you can compost it in your garden to grow more beautiful flowers and healthier fruits and vegetables. That is redeeming.

Isaiah says in verse 11,

You will be like a well-watered garden,  like a spring whose waters never fail.

We chose our name, Bukal Life Care from this verse. The Tagalog word for spring is “Bukal.” Isaiah speaks of people doing more than just surviving in a dry, parched land. He speaks of them being as a well-watered garden… like a spring whose waters never fail.

Richard Rohr says,

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter. … If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.

… The Jesus Story is about radically transforming history and individuals so that we don’t just keep handing on the pain to the next generation. Unless we can find a meaning for human suffering, that God is somehow in it and can also use it for good, humanity is in major trouble. Because we will suffer. …

We shouldn’t try to get rid of our own pain until we’ve learned what it has to teach.”

Christians seek to redeem the pain and suffering… the basurang nabubulok in life… and transform it into something good… something better. Sustaining in times of trial is difficult. Healing, is challenging. But to redeem the challenges in life… that is miraculous.

My hope for each of you is that you will experience God’s sustaining power in your life as He strengthens you, leads you, and teaches you to find satisfation and contentment in the valley of the shadow of death, in the dark nights of the soul, in a dry and sun-parched land. My hope is that out of this sustaining, you are able to heal others, restoring and repairing broken lives and communities, giving comfort to others out of the comfort you have received from God in your times of need. My hope is that regardless of the state you are in, you can serve as a channel of God’s favor in this world, working redemptively, as a garden-producing spring of life in the harshests of deserts.

If you read between the lines, I am saying “Expect a lot of suffering in the next few years.” That sounds more like a curse than a blessing. But God’s best blessings come out of suffering.

Please join me in prayer.

10 Year Anniversary

October 16th, 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the formal launching event (October 16, 2010), held then at West Baguio Baptist Church. Technically, we first started to do ministry under the name Bukal Life Ministries for one year earlier (November 2009) and we incorporated in June, 2010. Regardless of what is our birthdate, it has been an exciting and challenging decade.

Due to quarantine we are not doing any special celebration.

But here is a little slideshow we did back in 2011.