(I went to New York this past weekend to pay homage to a beloved Pastor who is retiring. I was one of the many who was asked to give a short tribute in the program for him. Here’s what I said:)
I met Pastor W at the time of my life that can be described in one word: transition.
In 1997, my wife and I moved to New York City to continue my medical training. Being new to this foreign place, the Filipino church became our instant support group and family. That was the beginning of my close relationship with Pastor W and his family.
The Filipino congregation, still a fellowship or company at that time, was undergoing a transition too. The leader of the core group was leaving for another state, and our arrival was not by chance but considered a Divine appointment.
During our time in New York City, the Filipino congregation moved from a small rented storage-like room to a spacious rented church. It was also during this time that the group was formally organized as a church. I am humbled to be a part of that transition and was even chosen to serve as the first First Elder of the newly formed Filipino church.
In my first hand account, I observed Pastor W as a relentless worker. Always respectful and humble, yet getting the job done. He will do whatever task is needed to be done: he’ll preach sermons, he’ll do visitations, he’ll sing with the church choir, he’ll help clean-up and be the church janitor, as well as some other odd duties outside the job-description of a church pastor. He even helped my family and me moved to a new apartment, all in the real essence of the word “bayanihan.”
After our three years in New York, I finished my training, and that was when we had to undergo a painful transition of visa status change. The transition process took several months, and I was unable to work, and yet I had a family to feed. During that time, the Filipino church adopted and partly supported us. Every church service, Ate Nelly, and some other members would hand me $20 or other amount, and would tell me, “This is for your daughter’s food and diapers.” Pastor W never failed to encourage me during that difficult time and continued to pray for my family and me.
We eventually moved out of New York City and went to California to stay with our relatives, to flee the cruel winter season of our lives. But like any winter it ended, and we were able to transition to our current status now.
I have been out of New York City for 20 years now, and even after several more transitions that I went through, there’s one thing that has not changed: Pastor W remains my Pastor and my friend. Every year on my birthday, or my wife’s birthday, we receive a greeting and a prayer from him. Every year on our wedding anniversary, he’ll do the same. And I’m sure we are not the only ones who get greetings and prayer from him on every special occasion. Because that’s who he is – a minister, a shepherd, and a faithful friend.
As he now undergoes a transition in his life, as he officially retires from the ministry, I want to sincerely thank him for his service. He definitely made an impact on so many lives, and I am among them that he forever touched.
Thank you Pastor W.