By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“My grace is sufficient for you.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9
It is like history repeating itself. Year 2012, like that of last year, is also coming to an end with more than a thousand people perished, millions worth of properties and agricultural crops destroyed, and thousands rendered homeless in one of the most devastating floods that visited our country. Perhaps, the only difference is the typhoon’s name. Last year, Typhoon Sendong destroyed Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City. This time Typhoon Pablo visited Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental also in Mindanao. Hundreds of people are still missing as of this writing, and survivors, especially children, have to literally beg for food on the roadsides.
Crises like this are opportunities for people near and far to manifest their humanitarian and Christian spirit to those in need. Individuals, groups, governments, public and private organizations and churches here and abroad have been giving their share to help survivors overcome this environmental tragedy. It is in times of crises, indeed, that the best of us can come out into the open.
However, some are also using the natural calamity for their own political agenda and advocacies. For instance, some CBCP bishops interpreted Typhoon Pablo as God’s way of showing displeasure over the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill in congress which they have been vehemently opposing all these years. This would make us wonder what kind of God these bishops believe in. Surely, their God must be different from the God of those whose hearts melt in compassion for the typhoon victims or even concern for those women in need of government support in planning their families.
By all means, we must learn our lessons from these natural calamities, but not in the way the CBCP bishops interpreted it. DENR people tell us that the devastating floods were caused by destructive mining and logging in the affected areas. Unless something is done to put a stop to this environmental degradation, more devastating floods, God forbid, would be expected in the future.
I started year 2012 with “brand-new eyes” courtesy of our dear German friend Britta Moehring who graciously shared her resources so that Dr. Mary Ars Ngaosi-Mondiquing could operate on my cataract. I stand in awe and wonder at the way God can make all things possible in times of need. I express a deep sense of gratitude to those whom God used as instruments to save me from physical blindness the rest of my life. I especially thank my wife Pearl for sharing my fears and anxieties and for finding ways to make my eye-operations possible. My “brand-new eyes” are constant reminders that my life is not my own and that it must be spent meaningfully in the service of other people.
Pearl spent almost the whole month of March in Europe participating in a program organized by the United Evangelical Mission (UEM). Together with other participants from Asia, Africa, and Europe, she visited the Taize Community in France. The group had a good time participating in the daily life of the community, learning their songs and music. Then, after a week of exposures they moved on to Germany and conducted a liturgy and music seminar-workshop. The results of the workshop were presented in a concert held in Wuppertal.
In July, Pearl and I were also invited to visit Australia courtesy of Uniting World. I was invited to give public lectures at the Uniting World and at the Deacon’s Conference in Sydney, and also at the General Assembly of the Uniting Church in Adelaide. In between these activities, we had also the chance to visit our partner churches. We met in the Uniting Church General Assembly some Filipino compatriots working with the Uniting Church in Australia. There, of all places, we met Pastor Berlin Guerrero who came all the way from Melbourne to meet us.
Pastor Berlin was a UCCP pastor arrested in front of his church several years ago, falsely charged of rebellion, tortured, and imprisoned, but turned the prison cell into a church where he conducted worship services, Bible studies, and even choir concerts. After his release from prison, he applied for political asylum in Australia while working as pastor of the Uniting Church. His application for political asylum was officially granted last September.
I also participated in September in a conference of indigenous theologians held at Yu-Shan Theological Seminary in Hualien, Taiwan, in preparation for the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 2013. We came out with a paper to be presented to the WCC Assembly in Busan, South Korea.
Our eldest son Leo is now in his senior year in the College of Law while working as an administrative officer of a bank in Makati City. He could not be with us in our Christmas and New Year celebrations, because he has to catch up with his readings.
Lean is back from Doha, Qatar where he had his two-year apprenticeship, and where he took his foreign licensure examination in architecture. He was top three in the examination for the entire Middle East. He is now working with a construction company that is putting up building facilities for a science high school and some cottages for the Girl Scout of the Philippines here in Baguio City.
Our youngest son Roland is now in his second year in the College of Medicine. He has been doing his best to fully equip himself for the career he is envisioning for the future. Although a medical course is financially draining as we know, we do thank God for making it possible for us to support Roland in his medical studies.
Aileen Respicio is a new addition to our family. She is one of our music students in the Seminary. Her father passed on in March and she had no where to go. We, therefore, welcomed her to our family, and she would stay with us until she finishes her studies.
Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS), which we consider our “daughter”, has been experiencing financial difficulties this year. Part of the reason is that our seminary students are not paying their fees on time. Besides, many of our mission partners had stopped giving financial support partly due to financial problems they themselves have also been encountering.
Financial difficulties are experienced worldwide. But this would not deter us from fulfilling our divine task of equipping men and women for the Christian ministry. We started our Seminary from scratch about seventeen years ago. And for several years, Pearl and I never had remuneration, but we never starved. God has always a wonderful way of meeting our needs, sometimes in ways we cannot fully understand.
It is with this reason that we face the future with renewed faith and hope in God’s grace that is always sufficient for us.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
THE DINGAYAN FAMILY
Luna, Perla, Leo, Lean, Roland, and Aileen
EDITORS NOTE: We missed the deadline last week so we are publishing both of Rev. Dingayan’s columns: Christmas message and the New Year’s New beginnings. Our apologies.