Transition: A Tribute To A Beloved Pastor

(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.

Brooklyn bridge (photo taken with an iPhone)

Church on a Rock

During our trip to Sedona last summer, we visited an interesting structure in the midst of a desert.

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It is located in a rugged, yet beautiful terrain, perched among the red rocks.

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This building is the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona. The church was designed by Marguerite Bruswig Staude, a student of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The chapel was completed in 1956, built on two pinnacled spur rocks about 250 feet high.

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The structure is a testimony of great architectural achievement and an impressive monument of faith.

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It is also a great place of meditation, where weary pilgrims can find rest and renew their faith.

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Missing A Special Flower

A couple of weeks ago we visited an elderly lady in her home. We have missed her for a few months, as she had grown so weak to attend church anymore.

This is a woman that made us feel right at home when we first arrived and became members of a church here, in Des Moines. Even though we have been in the US for several years, we were always been a part of a Filipino congregation. In New Jersey, New York, Florida, and California, we have been attending church composed mainly of Filipinos. (We Filipinos wherever we are, tend to conglomerate, you know.) However, when we moved in Iowa, there was no such Filipino congregation, and thus we became a part of a church that is mostly white, with a sprinkling of other races, like us.

Whenever this lady would see us, she would greet us so warmly and would ask my kids to give her a hug, and would say for everybody to hear, “Here’s my beautiful family.” Of course it was so obvious that we were not related at all, just based on the difference in the color of our skin. However she made us feel like a real family. And without a real family in the area, that meant a lot to us. We then called her Grandma Dorothy.

Several weeks ago, Grandma Dorothy was diagnosed with cancer, and it was in its advanced stage. However due to her ripe age, she chose not to receive any treatment at all. She said that she had lived a full life and was ready to meet her Creator. And as the weeks passed, she became weaker and weaker.

During our visit with her, it was by chance, also her birthday. She is 97 years young. She may be weak but she still looks happy. She was sitting in a chair eating her lunch of soup and crackers. Her digestion was not so good anymore she said, but she still had room for dessert, as she finished a scoopful of ice cream. She was thankful for the flowers that we brought her and wondered how we knew that she likes yellow flowers. My wife confessed that we really did not know that she likes yellow, but she just picked this color since she likes this too.

Grandma Dorothy's flowers

Grandma Dorothy’s body may have been feeble but her mind was sharp as ever. She called us by our first names and reminisced the earlier days we had with her. She told us that our church is like a garden of flowers: some are roses, some are daisies, some are petunias, and pansies, and gardenias, and lilies, and lavenders, and daffodils, and irises and tulips. (To this I will add sampaguita, ilang-ilang, gumamela, kalachuchi, katuray and kampupot.) She said that every one is beautiful in their own right.

Today, we learned that Grandma Dorothy passed away around seven this morning. I guess, people just like flowers too, will fade away and die. But she surely let her bloom radiated so beautifully and her fragrance diffused so eminently while it lasted.

We definitely will miss a very special flower in our garden.