Sunday, October 2, 2011

A most unusual gift

I listened to a very uplifting sermon last Sunday, courtesy of the Rev. Pastor Teofilito A. Rufon of the Odiongan Baptist Church.

My presence at Pastor Rufon’s congregation was not an accident. It was fate—and a recipe called Christian Faith—that carried my feet inside the OBC’s imposing cathedral, the newest in Odiongan’s rising skyline.

I was invited to the service by John, Pastor Rufon’s eldest son who, I kidded Ismael Fabicon, is fast becoming a soloist than a college professor. You see, John had a great time a day earlier when he belted out with gusto songs of the 1622: Unang Usbor, the Asi people’s only ethno-linguistic musical group. John has become a convert—to the strong brew of the Asi language—which was the reason for this latest Odiongan visit. But I am taking a detour. I will write about it later. The temporal can wait. The spiritual can’t.

First, the gospel music. Perched high up above the Pastor’s podium when I entered the Church was a group of men and women garbed in their bright red and green uniforms. They were singing. Ask me what melts my heart most and I will say to you: it’s singing.

The choir’s rendition of gospel music tore the air at the cavernous hall, cementing the solemnity of the service. I knew some of the Church’s hymns and I found myself singing, first under my breath, and later, briskly, as if I was a congregation member. I don’t know if somebody noticed.

Christ in the home—the Christian home—was Pastor Rufon’s sermon that Sunday. I winched the moment he forcefully described a home without Christ as the center. Well, a writer’s sanity is best restored not by writing alone, but by admitting self-guilt: I haven’t listened to a sermon for quite some time. I think the last service I attended was when a priest excoriated the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office for selectively publishing the names of bishops who received cars from the agency and that strengthened my resolve to take a time out from being seen inside a church.

Here is a pastor of a flock who remains within the confines of the spiritual, unlike some who bully others from the pulpit on matters sometimes of least concern to the faithful. Like politics. It was a welcome air, don’t you think? I loved it. I am a strong believer in the separation of the State and the Church, as the Constitution dictates, but alas, this in the Philippines is honored more in the breach and so I rest my case.

Being in the labor and employment department, I appreciated Pastor Rufon’s admonition to parents to “teach their children to work”, the letter “T” in his ABCs for a Christian home. He was right on target. So many parents today, many of them OFWs, “feed” their children and are not teaching them the value of physical labor. “Do not feed them,” said the good Pastor, “if they don’t work.” We need many more Pastor Rufons in our midst to help the government whittle down the number of the unemployed.

“Sig-ab ako sa kabusgan sa sermon it imo Papa,” I told John after the service. It’s true. I think it was de-stressing to nourish your soul from time to time. Thank you, Pastor Rufon for the Vitamin “S”—Spirit’s Supplement.

I thought that was the last for that day, but life, really, is full of surprises. After the service, John introduced me to Andrew, his brother in law.

Andrew’s heavenly occupation is as deacon and chairman of the OBC’s Board of Christian Education. On earth, he works for PhilHealth. Well, education for heaven and health for earthlings are compatible professions, but the good part of the introduction was that Andrew and his wife Melody were to host me for lunch, at their house surrounded by farms in Poctoy.

I remained there the whole afternoon of Sunday. I forgot the world after Domingo “Jun” Fetalsana, with his guitar; Vic Musa of the Land Bank with his violin; and John with his vocals and I sang Asi songs, with Tony Fadero of the Department of Agrarian Reform providing the applause. I left three of my most recent compositions for them to arrange and to blend. When I return, I’ll join the three for us to form a quartet—initially, we will call ourselves Ap-at nak Sungay—and we will mount a concert. Ready your ticket money. The concert will not be free.

From Andrew, I received a most unusual gift. No, it was not the lunch consisting of ginat-ang yangka nak de bago and fried tilapia, but another dose of spiritual food. He handed me “The Double-Edged Sword”, an outline of sharp sermons that he had compiled.

I browsed some of the sermons on my trip to Batangas that evening and, just as Pastor Rufon’s sermon earlier, I experienced a high. You ask why? The first sermon in the outline is titled “Emergency Tips”.

“Disaster and emergency come at unexpected times. Therefore, we must prepare to meet our God. Jesus teaches us that preparation is needed,” said the outline.

When you are on a ship; when you know the record of ships in the Philippines; when you know what shipwreck is; and you read these lines, I think it gives you an idea what to expect. And the sermon is ready with a prescription. Here, in a poetic form, it is:

2 Samuel 22:2 Get on the Rock
Isaiah 40:11 Stay in the Flock
Hebrews 10:25 Put the kids on Dry Dock
1 Peter 5: 8-9 Build a Roadblock

Thank you, Andrew, for putting me to sound sleep during my trip with your “Double-edged Sword”.

The Odiongan Baptist Church, I learned from Andrew’s gift, is doing well in terms of being a good corporate Christian citizen of Romblon, busying itself with activities most, if not all, of which are into winning souls for heaven. I like the Church’s Tricycle Ministry. I encourage Odionganons to attend the OBC’s Survival Summer Camp, given that survival in today’s frenetic world is on everyone’s radar, depending, however, on what was it that a person wants to survive from. I also encourage parents to send their children to the OBC’s vacation bible school. I had attended one when I was a child in Sibale and I certainly knew what it is all about. It’ll keep your children along P-Noy’s “Daang Matuwid”.

Pastor Rufon, I was surprised, has a radio program, “Mabuting Balita”, that has been going on uninterrupted for 13 long years. In Romblon, no one can top that. Of course, the good pastor’s record on radio cannot top Rep Budoy Madrona’s staying power in politics, but it’s like comparing apples and balimbing, with Pastor Rufon representing the good fruit, and Rep. Madrona the embodiment of the . . . forget about it.

God bless you, Pastor Rufon and your Church. Please don’t return the compliment. I was already blessed by a unique Sunday as the last I was with you and your faithful.

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Unusual Gifts said...

What a beautiful story! Some people give us not material gifts, but gifts for our souls, and those presents are the best.