Hindi ka estudyante lang, estudyante ka! Estudyante na kayang gamitin ng Panginoon para iparamdam ang kanyang pagmamahal sa ating bayan. In this episode, we talked about encouraging stories of students who are used by God to be salt and light in our nation.
It was not the usual Christian way when I started. Usually, when Christians are asked why they started doing something, they would say “I prayed for it” but in my case, it started at the spur of the moment. I did not pray about it. I was just challenged by seeing a friend who started a community pantry in their place and I thought if he could do it, why not do the same?
I thought it would be an easy and simple thing to do but I was wrong. At first, it was exciting. However, when the challenges came, I started to doubt and thought that what I was doing was not going anywhere. There were times that I felt that what I was doing was not enough, as I encountered people asking for help and I cannot give them anything anymore.
Then I started praying and told God that my heart is to be a blessing. It was very challenging but what compelled me to keep going was the strong desire to answer God’s call to be salt and light, to serve and be a blessing to others. Eventually, I’ve experienced the grace of God as he provided for the community pantry. We were able to raise P 70,000 and give 750 food packs. Most importantly, we were also able to preach the gospel as we distributed the food packs.
Looking back at what I wrote in my journal, I experienced feeling so weak, vulnerable and useless. Yet, God also made me see the good coming out of this. It started with selfish intentions and pride but as it went on, God built my faith, God helped me love my country more by serving it wholeheartedly. In the end, God showed His faithfulness.
When we offer what we do to God, it does not come from us but from God. Therefore, we need God to come through for us.
It happened during the first night of doing the community pantry. We started with 1,000-peso worth of goods left outside on a table, so that people can start contributing and it will grow. The next day, all the goods were already gone and we didn’t have funds anymore. There was a change when I saw that I am not the source, I am not the provider. God destroyed my pride by showing me that I can’t do it on my own without depending on Him.
I remember a biblical community pantry account where there were 5,000 people who needed to be fed and a boy gave Jesus five fish and two loaves of bread. The boy offered the limited supply he had and Jesus multiplied it. God taught me that this principle applies in our situation. I wrote three things I’ve learned from this in my journal:
“Use me Lord. Let me be your hands and feet.”
The community pantry was God’s divine plan to show that He is the one who provides.
I got help from the church community and support from my parents. It took a while to have a system but I realized that God does not only teach about faith but he also gives wisdom and this comes from the idea that what we are doing is not just about giving away food. Our goal is not just to provide material blessings but to also pray for them and preach the gospel to them. Aside from food, we were able to give away Bibles and pray for healing for the sick.
This experience also made me realize that we don’t have to be afraid to move. Sometimes, we hesitate to start something in our community because we think we are not yet ready and we want to have a perfect plan for everything. However, though we can never be ready and can never have a perfect plan, God will guide us throughout. We don’t need perfection to start. We just need to trust God and offer it to God.
I’m the leader of a City Farm project in Taguig, which is a business project with a social responsibility. Our aim is, first, to establish a functional and aesthetic green house in Taguig that will serve as a green space in a highly urbanized area. Second, to establish a go-to food store with edible greens (e.g. lettuce). Third, to establish an agri-tourism site that could potentially attract the youth to venture into agriculture and at the same time make everyone have a greater appreciation for agriculture. And fourth, to establish a garden classroom where people from the community (e.g. mothers, senior citizens, etc.) can learn about urban gardening and how to grow their own food in their own space.
This project is composed of five students and we decided to pursue this in response to the pandemic. But personally, I pursued this project not just because I’m passionate about planting and urban gardening. I also want to use the skills, knowledge, and talent God has given me to glorify Him and let Him be known to other people.
This project started last April 2021 when I was applying for an exchange program in the US and one of the requirements was to write an essay why I want to apply. I was very missional in my essay and I stated there that I wanted to learn things in the US and at the same time, it was a calling from God for me to learn about urban gardening and promote and spearhead the urban farming project. However, I didn’t qualify, so I was sad at first because I thought that was what God wanted me to do. But thinking about it, I realized that it was God’s way to reveal to me my passion and purpose. While I was crafting that essay, I was reading ENC articles, particularly those about nation building and servant leadership. The idea of City Farm birthed from this moment.
We were already experiencing a lot of struggles even before starting the project, finances being the first one, and also the place where we will start so I prayed to God. Eventually, God’s plan unfolded little by little. God led me to four students who were also passionate about this, so they joined me. Then, God also provided a free place where we can build the green house.
The second one is the physically challenging aspect of doing the project because of the far distance between the greenhouse and my place, so I invested in a bike. Everyday, I have to wake up very early to travel 6.5 kilometers. I would remember a moment when I cried because of exhaustion from heat and the long distance I had to travel so I surrendered this to God and cried to Him for help. Recently, I had a conversation with my boss from work about my struggles, then my boss committed to give me transportation allowance and this is an answered prayer! The journey is not easy but I am thankful that in every struggle and hardship, I get to know God more as a provider, as a friend and as a miracle worker.
I want us to give this due appreciation because usually, our picture of helping other people is just in the form of “dole out” (giving money or any kind of resources). While there is really a season to do this and there is really a certain group of underprivileged who need this (e.g. community pantry), Bea’s initiative is also another way of helping which is in the form of teaching people to grow their own food. This has stronger sustainability and is also empowering. This kind of work is actually more helpful in addressing poverty and problems with food supply.
Sometimes, we think that we need to do things that are beyond our usual make-up or preferences but this shows us that our passion can allow us to serve.
Based on personal experience, doing these things are not usually perceived to be equated or connected to advancing the kingdom and sharing the gospel. However, this shows us that even these aspects of helping others are also aligned to God’s purpose.
What Bea is doing tells us that we should be good stewards of our natural resources and this will help in sustainability. It will help fight supply shortages if done right.
For the students who are listening, you don’t have to wait for a huge break to start something. You don’t have to wait to be ready resource-wise and skill-wise because this just comes from a heart to serve, in obedience to God. I appreciate John and Bea for doing their part despite the challenges they had to face.
Nevertheless, it is God who opens doors and provides. If it is God who called us, He will also be the one to provide everything we need to fulfill the task He wants us to do.
Both John and Bea say that this is something that they want to do and something that they do to honor God. Also, both of them faced challenges. At times, we think that if we are doing something for God, everything will be smooth and easy. However, doing God’s will does not mean that we will not have challenges. In fact, there will be challenges precisely because we are doing God’s will.
Also, it does not have to be big and extravagant. Another thing I also want to highlight is that their obedience, their step of faith to do their God-given tasks, inspired people to help out also. It is not just about being the hero of the story but the impact it created to inspire other people. What I learned from this is someone has to start doing something and listen to the Lord. God only wants us to obey and step out in faith and He will do the rest.
This is also to encourage students who also see the great need around them but are overwhelmed by the feeling that they are powerless to do something.
This is our vision when we say “Change the Campus, Change the World”. This is the idea of how students and workers who are Christians can be a blessing in their own ways. God has given us gifts and opportunities to do good work. We don’t necessarily have to imitate what others are doing because God has prepared an opportunity specifically for us. We just have to surrender to Him and allow Him to use us. This is the best prayer we can have as students – “Lord, use us as young as we are”.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people… – Galatians 6:10a
In a season that we are called to be students, our calling is not just limited to being excellent in our academics. We are also called to use the tools that we have to extend help to the people around us. Be in faith that God can use our tools and He can empower us to create something beautiful from what we have and use them to serve the community.
I am also challenged with our current (online class) setup, but one thing I encourage us to do is to surrender and cry out to God for help. If there is someone who really cares for us, it is God.
There’s so much more to nation-building than just speaking up in social media about injustices and grievances. These things have a place in a democratic society and I am for that as well. However, it has to be holistic. We play a part in being socially responsible. We play a part in praying for our nation. We play a part in sharing the gospel to people. We play a part in being a source of hope and encouragement.
If you want to help build our nation, where is God calling you? What is God asking you to do personally? When we do this together collectively, we can actually change the narrative of our nation. We could rise from the challenges that we are experiencing as a nation.
I hope that our understanding of the concept of “Love God, love others” will expand from just mere words into passion, action, vision, burden, etc. We are excited to see a whole new generation who have better tools (e.g. social media) rise up and make a difference even in little ways. I hope that this generation will join God in building up this nation.
Today on Campus is hosted by Dave Estrera and Jello de los Reyes. In this episode, they are joined by John Tapulao and Bea Suavengco, students from different ENC centers in the Philippines.
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