On the first day of class here at BCCL, I had each student write a short pop-quiz essay entitled, “What is worship?” I got a lot of varied responses from them, and it was enlightening to see their collective perspective regarding this very big and deep word. On the last day of class, I surprised them and gave them the very same pop-quiz: “What is worship?” The point was to see how their perspective of worship has changed over the last two weeks of study.
In these last two weeks, we’ve learned theology, philosophy, practices. We’ve discussed Trinitarian, ecclesiological, sacramental, and dialogical aspects of worship. We’ve broken down Scripture, from Genesis to the Gospels to the epistles. We’ve also gotten very practical and discussed service flow, song lyrics and selection, musical arranging, and other practical considerations. We talked about the calling of the worship leader, and the qualifications of the worship team. And we’ve worshiped a lot in class too, to practically put action to our words. We’ve traveled quite a journey of discovery together. So the answers to the question were considerably different and thoughtful, even profound.
As a gift to the class, I put on a short mini-concert for them, for which they were very appreciative (I had given them all CDs of my music as well as my book at the beginning of the first class). There were many gifts and well-wishes given to me at the end of our class, and about a million photos were taken (did I mention yet how much Filipinos love taking photos?).
There is one other thing too. After reviewing everything I had taught them, I took a moment and shared with them some of the things that they had taught me. Here are a few reflections, some things my class has taught me.
A Greater Humility. I’ve been teaching worship for the last two weeks. But I have been teaching people whose lives are so completely sold out to Jesus, saints who have paid a tremendous price—persecution, isolation, economic hardship—for the joy of sharing their faith in their own part of the world. They totally love God, and are totally sold out to His Kingdom-purposes. In many ways, through their lives, they have been the ones who have taught me instead. Honestly, I am humbled in their presence.
A Thankful Heart. One of the things that missions trips almost always provide—if your eyes are open to it—is perspective. And traveling to a part of the world that is less advantaged than we are will certainly give you perspective. I think about how amazingly easy life is in America—everything from hot running water to washing clothes to getting coffee—we are simply an over-privileged nation. I think about what hardships people here have to go through just to get to church. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the persecutions—both from family and from society—that they have to go through just to attend an evangelical church. And I contrast that with how easy it is for American Christians to justify staying home on a Sunday morning. We really don’t understand the degree to which we make God our servant. I come away from my experiences here in Legaspi with a renewed spirit of thankfulness, one that doesn’t take for granted our privileges and blessings.
A Bigger Picture. One of the things I continually preach in worship is the idea that our corporate worship activity is an entering in to a larger, continuous worship that extends through time and history, place and geography, and spiritually into the heavens. When we worship as a local church, we join other Christians around the world, the saints through history, the angels and the heavenly realms, and ultimately all of creation in glorifying God. More than just a few moments that start and stop on Sunday morning, worship is a continuous and eternal act that we join into. My time here has been bathed in the act of worship, through constant singing, exclamation, teaching, exhortation, training, fellowship, and even eating! Through it all, I have gotten a much bigger picture of who God is, and what He continues to do to advance His Kingdom in the hearts of people. It has been an exciting thing to see firsthand.
When I first got here, I would lead these people in worship and picture my congregation in Folsom worshiping with them. Now, when I lead worship in Folsom, I will picture my Filipino friends singing and raising hands in worship. It’s a beautiful thing.
A Larger Picture of Myself. My cultural heritage has always been something experienced through my childhood—my parents, extended family, and the Filipino Community I grew up with in Salinas. But now I have a first-hand understanding of the land of my Father and Mother. I’ve experienced a whole lot of the Philippines in my short time here, and it has given me a greater perspective of where I’ve come from.
Though we will be far apart, I will keep these memories and people in my heart wherever I go.
Neither Red Nor Green: Legaspi is a city of almost 800,000 people, yet there is only one stop light in the whole city, and it’s turned off. Believe me when I say driving around here is more than a ride, it’s an adventure.
Funniest Road Sign: “Piglets for sale.”
New Favorite Food: The best thing I ate in a restaurant here (and I’ve eaten a lot of stuff here) is called “Bicol Express,” a local pork dish with coconut milk and red and green peppers. A bit hot, but amazing over white rice. Yum. [BTW I think I put on 5 pounds easy on this trip.]
Our Schtick: One of the common occurrences traveling with Gregg Evans is that when we go to a restaurant, the waiter will always look at me and begin to speak in Tagalog. I’ll give him a sheepish shrug, and then Gregg will begin ordering for us in fluent Tagalog. Freaks the waiters out.
Mayon Volcano: We took advantage of a relatively unrainy day and took a motor tour around the Mayon Volcano, the primary landmark in this area. Known as the most symmetrically formed volcano in the world, it is a marvel of beauty, so much so that any photos pale in comparison. I don’t have the words to express it’s beauty. And that’s on a cloudy day.
Pili Nuts: One of the delicacies of the region, pili nuts are sugared, coated, salted, and buttered. I think I have a half dozen packages of pili nuts, as well as assorted pili nut souvenirs, to take home with me. Sometimes you feel like a nut…
[Top photo: The BCCL Worship and Arts Class of 2012. Second photo: The wonderful staff at Bicol Center for Christian Leadership. I hope to see them again. Third photo: Gregg shares some coinage with some quite disadvantaged local children during our sightseeing trip around the volcano. Fourth photo: My distant cousin, Tony, and I share a meal in Manila after all the fun of ministry is done. This was my first time to meet him. Bottom photo: A view of the Mayon volcano. Startlingly beautiful, beyond words really, even if you can only see the bottom half.]