B1G South True Life Retreat – Day 2

Note from the author: This is part of my daily account of what happened in the True Life Retreat last November 29 to December 1. This is my Day 2 you may read my previous entry here

I wasn’t really expecting too many concerns when the day started because I knew that most of the things we needed to do and fix were already done on the first day.Marc Sorongon Playing Guitar I really looked forward to this day because I expected it to be more relaxed and plus, I was looking forward to the chance to fellowship with other people. I wasn’t planning to go to dawn watch because I wanted to rest and sleep. But somehow, I woke up and was lead to still attend it. I fixed my hair and immediately went to the obstacle course. Yes, you read it right. I just fixed my hair and didn’t take a bath. Haha. That’s what most men do and there was a time scheduled for wash-up after dawn watch and breakfast anyway. After hearing KC’s message, I took a guitar and played it while wandering around the field and just had a wonderful time with the Lord. I walked around the field, strumming and plucking the guitar while praying to God for everything that will be happening throughout the day.

Message 3 was scheduled to start at 10am and Pastor Joby delivered such a wonderful message about the cross. He was able to clearly show the suffering that Jesus Christ endured for our sins. Pastor Joby Soriano PreachingEveryone was in tears as they realized just how much Jesus Christ loves them and the reason why He died for them. Tita Cindy even shared her testimony which was very applicable to singles and young adults. I am truly blessed by their ministry. Pastor Joby and Tita Cindy are people I really look up to. They are my role models. I want to be able to minister and shepherd people just like Pastor Joby and I am looking for a partner in life who complements and supports my ministry just like how Tita Cindy supports her husband. It was a joy to spend time and fellowship with them over lunch. I am truly grateful that they are always asking me how they can better support the Singles ministry. Their encouragement and love can truly be felt and I am always grateful for that.

After the morning session, we had lunch, then message 4, breakout and then True Moments. I was assigned to be a Marshall at the most exciting station in the game – True Friends.B1G-South-True-Life-Retreat-True-Moments It was so exciting that my only responsibility was to take a picture of each group from the tree house. Of course, I am exaggerating when I said it was exciting. Haha. Although I have to say that the view from the tree house was perfect as it gave me the chance to see how each individual can be very competitive and how the different groups tried to work as a team. As I expected, Day 2 seemed like a fun and relaxing day for me. But the day hasn’t ended yet.

When dinner was finished and everyone was able to wash-up, the next scheduled activity was a group workshop called True Access and everyone was asked to gather in front of the main hall. Honestly, it was hard to do crowd control but with God’s help, we were able to gather everyone in that small area between the main and mess hall. Nano started to speak and I felt relieved that the program was going according to plan. During the activity, I slipped to the back, took a seat and prayed. Somehow, I felt very frustrated. I felt that we weren’t doing a good job on keeping the program on schedule and the crowd wasn’t being controlled or managed properly. I am not pointing out to any gB1G-South-True-Life-Retreat-True-Accessroup or person but for me, this is one of the major points for improvement that we need to take note of. I prayed and asked God to help me continue to respond well in the situation. I was just asking God to continue to give me that strength to push on and serve no matter what the circumstances are. I went back to the activity and after a couple of minutes, it started to drizzle. I was already alarmed, but praying that it will not get stronger.  A large part of the group was already under a big tree so I was hoping that the leaves and branches would somehow help cover them from the rain. I moved to an open area where I would be able to feel if the rain was getting stronger. I was praying to God to not allow a downpour. Lots of thoughts were already going inside my head. What will we do if we couldn’t finish the program? Where will we continue the activity? What if it suddenly rains hard and everyone gets wet? What if a lot of people get sick because of this? In the end, I was thinking about all of these things because I knew I was accountable for this. I approved the activity being held outside despite the fact that the weather had become unpredictable since the participants arrived. I know this is under my responsibility. With this experience, I suddenly realized that my decisions for the ministry are really crucial. I cannot just say “yes” all the time, I need to think how this will benefit everyone and how this will affect the whole ministry. It is truly a big responsibility. But it is a responsibility that I am willing to carry. Not because I feel confident I can, but because I firmly believe that it is what God has called me to do.  Honestly, I have never felt capable and have sometimes felt scared to lead. But the Lord has always assured me that He is with me and just like what he has been telling me this whole time, He is always faithful. It is His ministry not mine. By God’s grace, the rain did not intensify and the activity finished without the message being disrupted.

When everyone started going into the main hall for the worship night, the band that was supposed to be playing was still incomplete. It took around 15 minutes before they started.Everyone was becoming restless and some were even going back to their cabins already. I started to worry and become frustrated again. True Life Retreat - Worship NightI know it was properly communicated that praise and worship should start while people were entering the main hall. I looked for those who were missing in the band and somehow God was telling me to voice out my concern properly to those who were missing and extend grace to them. I calmly spoke to them to immediately go to the main hall and I praise God that I did not do anything that could have ruined my testimony. I felt God was telling me to calm down, speak to them and refrain from getting mad because this might lead them to suddenly lose their focus. I was prodded to address the concern after. When the praise & worship started, I again withdrew from the activity and went to my favorite quiet place to pray. I felt very frustrated and it was hard for me to worship during that time. I prayed and asked forgiveness for worrying and not trusting Him. I tried composing myself again and in prayer, just asked God to help me let go of my frustration because my worship should not be dependent on the situation but on who God is. I went back to the main hall and joined the worship and once again, I was just blown away. With a thankful heart I just worshiped God for everything that He is doing and has done in my life. I was just filled with peace and the night became a wonderful time of worship for me.

Marc Sorongong, Crissy Rillo, Fren LagmanAfter worship night, everyone was asked to join in the Fellowship time. I tried my best not to meddle and allow the programs team to handle this. The program was not what I expected because everyone was seated and not talking with one another. What I actually envisioned was a free flowing program where everyone can just mingle and fellowship even while there is a program going on. But still, the programs team did a great job because in the middle of the program, everyone was encouraged to stand up and start mingling. I was relieved to know that I didn’t have to do anything to make it happen and just allowed God to work. Everyone started talking to one another and meeting new people. I was able to meet new people as well and it was a good time to enjoy and fellowship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. When the program was finished, we started cleaning up the covered court and gathered all the chairs again. When that was over, I went to my room and slept.

I have to be honest that I wasn’t expecting all those concerns that happened during True Access and True Worship. In everything that happens, there is always that one lesson for me that I am hoping to apply whenever things get out of control – do not panic. What happened throughout the day really helped me realize that I should learn how to calmly handle things even when there are a lot of things that are out of control. That is my natural tendency – to start looking for the solution to the problem without first thinking if that is a real problem that needs to be addressed. I’m just so grateful that in all those times I felt frustrated, God was there to calm my heart down and assure me that He is in control. I might have lost all my hair if God wasn’t with me. Hehe.

I believe Day 2 ended well for me. I may have lost my composure but praise God that through Him, I was able to be at peace again and I learned to trust him throughout. And I do not know if you remember what I wrote before in my B1G8 experience regarding that great ending to a hopeful love story. Well, this time… there isn’t any love story! Haha. I am still waiting for His perfect timing in everything, and no matter what, I will always give thanks! Praise the Lord for what He has done.

The second day of the True Life Singles Retreat has just ended and here is what happened during the last day in the retreat.

B1G South True Life Retreat – Day 1

I know it’s been a while since I wrote something for my blog. These past months, I‘ve been busy preparing and planning for a retreat. The  True Life retreat just ended and I am once again filled with mixed emotions. I remember writing an article last year about my B1G8 experience so this time allow me to just walk you through what has happened in this year’s True Life Retreat.

Marc Sorongon with Advance Party for True Life RetreatI was part of the advance party which arrived at the Rizal Re-creation Center last Thursday (November 28, 2013) and immediately, there was a big problem that we needed to address. The main hall which was supposed to be unoccupied was filled with around 120 people who were having a retreat as well. One of our main objectives for the advance party was to setup the stage design. So we just decided to do the stage setup somewhere else and transport it the following day. But that was not actually the major concern. The main concern is the actual program that we planned for the morning of Day 1. Part of our program during the first day was to have an opening program in the main hall. But those who were occupying the hall were scheduled to vacate it after lunch. This left me thinking of other options that we could do. I started talking to a lot of people about contingency plans. This also made me ask God for help through prayer and at the same time, wisdom for what to do. I really did not want to change the program and adjust. To be honest, I’m the type of guy who wants everything to be planned and executed perfectly. But I knew God had a plan and I just needed to trust him. Even before the retreat, He has constantly been reminding me that He will be faithful and that I just needed to trust him.

Marc Sorongon briefing BOGLS

Briefing the Breakout Group Leaders about the change in Schedule

We adjusted the program and decided to replace the opening program with an early lunch. When Day 1 came, I was excited but at the same time nervous. I was so looking forward to seeing all the participants that I was even confident enough in what we had planned to do. I also set out a challenge for myself. I know people have always been telling me that I needed to improve my social skills so I decided to welcome people at the retreat. Before everyone had a chance to leave their bags at the designated area, I was there welcoming them and with a big smile.  I really wanted to make everyone feel comfortable and welcomed. I can’t remember how many times I said “Good morning” but each time I would greet someone and smile at them – they would politely smile back. I thought to myself – “Hey, this is not bad. I should do this more often.” I was even relieved to know that the participants were being accommodated because people were approaching them with boards hanging over their necks which had questions they needed to answer. Overall, I saw that despite the change in schedule, God was still working it for the good. As he has been telling me all day long – He is always faithful. This was also the first time that the first part of the program was not an opening ceremony, but a getting to know activity for the breakout groups. I was scared honestly, since this might be awkward for some participants and the break group leader had to ensure that they’ll be able to build rapport with their group on the first meet. I trusted God and thought to myself that the opening program is not the major factor that will help ensure the catch, but it’s the relationships that will be created and nurtured in the breakout groups. I know God is working and I should trust him.

If you’re thinking that the problem ended there, it was actually just the beginning. Because while the breakout groups were getting to know one another, lots of things still needed to be done. Those occupying the main hall finished late and the mobile rental equipment had around 3 hours to setup the speakers, wiring, amplifiers, drums, etc. To top it all off, while the mobile equipment was being prepped, the production team needed to setup the stage and transport all the designs they have built to the main hall. The opening program was delayed and we started at 3pm. I also needed to compose myself because I was scheduled to play the bass during the opening program and preach the first message after the opening program. To simply explain my condition during that time – I was just very tired.B1G-South-True-Life-Retreat-Message1-Preaching But when I started to preach, I just really felt very relaxed and energized. As I looked into everyone’s eyes from the pulpit, I felt this overwhelming joy because it made me realize that these are the people that we will be serving the next 3 days and I want nothing more than for them to get to know the Lord and grow in their love for Him. I really thank God that despite the issues and problems we had, when I started to preach I was focused and was able to deliver the message well. Truly, I am always left thanking God after each message I deliver. This was really another work of the Lord and glory should only be towards him.

I was really relieved after preaching, everything was almost in order and I was done with most of the things I really needed to do. We had dinner and I sat with my Dgroup. I asked how everyone was since I haven’t been able to really connect with them because of my busy schedule. As I tried to listen to them, I can feel that most of them were going through something which left me very burdened and not at peace. I wanted to minister to them. I wanted to be there for them. But I couldn’t handle everything that’s why I asked one of the Dgroup members to be an intern and handle the group for the meantime during breakouts. I was left asking God, what I should do. I was thinking, do I need to join them during breakout? But again, looking back at what was God was telling me, I know He will be faithful and I needed to focus on what my responsibilities are. So I entrusted my group towards God. But in the end, He still never fails to guide me. During the breakout, I was doing nothing and no concern was coming along my way so I took the guitar and started playing outside the main hall and somehow, God lead me to just listen to the discussion of my Dgroup and then eventually join them. So I did and we had a good discussion about life in general.

Day 1 was really exhausting for me. I ended the day briefing all the volunteers what would happen on Day 2 and at the same time praying for them. The tone of my voice was monotonous and without energy but deep within my heart, I felt peace and joy to be part of the work of the Lord. Despite being tired, I was still actually able to roam around and do security checks. I really do not know how much energy I spent during that day. But I know deep within my heart that it was fuelled by my love for the Lord and the love I have for the people he has entrusted me to lead. This is just my Day 1 experience which really showed me that God is in control and He will always be faithful no matter what happens. I still want to write about Day 2 but I feel I need to cut this entry since it might be too long. I hope while reading this, you were encouraged and you realize that no matter what setbacks we may have in life, God still holds us in his hand. Again, He is faithful.

The first day of the True Life Singles Retreat has just ended and here is what happened the following day in the retreat.

3 Lessons from the Start of Nehemiah’s Ministry

Nehemiah is known to be one of the greatest leaders in the Bible because he was used by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  Personally, this chapter in the bible holds a dear place in my heart ever since B1G Connect conducted a series on it and I was asked to preach Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah 10 and Nehemiah 13.

Let’s start with a brief background. The King of Babylon took all of Judah into captivity (II Kings 24-25). The Babylonians got to Jerusalem, destroyed everything – the temple, the walls of the city, the fortress areas and anything of value. Everything was in chaos. The city was reduced to rubble while they marched back to Babylon with their captives and seized treasures. Just imagine how terrifying of an experience captivity can be. When people are captured, they are forcibly taken away from their homes and their land and they are then made into slaves. They are then treated with disdain and abuse, which is what exactly happened to the Jews. It was only when Persia conquered Babylon that the Jews were allowed to return to the Promised Land. So you can visualize what it looked like in Nehemiah 1:3.

3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

Nehemiah wanted to know the condition of his city so he asked his brother about it. When he heard what his city has become, he sat down and wept. For months he mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. We can see this in Nehemiah 1:4.

 

(1) The burden deep within our hearts can be an indication of what God wants us to do.

No one asked Nehemiah to rebuild the wall, but because he felt the immense burden, he translated it into action. If you want to know where God is calling you to serve or what he wants you to do, it’s usually related to your burden. That burden will carry you and move you through what you need to do. And when you start to feel that burden, the best thing to do is to take the time to pray about it. This was the first thing that Nehemiah did – he prayed.

4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

 

(2) Spend time in prayer to align yourself with the Lord and to seek his guidance and favor.

It took Nehemiah 4 months to pray for his burden. Why do we need to pray? Because we need to align ourselves with want God wants us to do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by burdens or desires inside so it’s important that we spend time in prayer. The heart is deceitful above everything else and through prayer, we are covering our desire or burden with protection, that if this is really what God wants us to do, He will go ahead with us. It’s ok to spend a couple of weeks in prayer but it’s also a good idea to put a time table to it.

 

(3) Step out of Faith

And after the 4 months that Nehemiah spent it prayer, he stepped out of Faith. We can see that in Chapter 2.

I was cupbearer to the king.

2 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

He was a cupbearer. He was aware of how important his position was and that he had access to the king every day. The king was vital in ensuring that the wall will be rebuilt and Nehemiah clearly understood that he needed to get the approval of the king before he made any moves. So in prayer, he lifted this up to the Lord as well. He took his step of faith and showed sadness in front of the king even though being sad in the king’s presence is considered to be a sign of disrespect. The king could have asked Nehemiah to be thrown into prison or worse, beheaded. But the hand of the Lord was upon him and the king just asked him why he was sad.

And the rest as they say is history. If we look at Nehemiah’s life, we’ll see how God was with him all along. It started with a burden which he lifted up in prayer to the Lord. When the right timing came, he stepped out of faith and from then on, the Lord was able to use him mightily. Sometimes, we just really need to take Nehemiah’s lead and step out of faith. We can’t ignore the fact that we will have to face uncertainty, but if we know who our God is and if we make sure that we have it covered it with prayer, we can rely on the truth that the Lord will always be faithful to us. He can use us mightily for this work.

There is no better privilege in life than to part take in the work of God. We are only his instruments. We are vessels of his love and grace. As we lay down our lives for him, may we grow in our understanding of who God is and live a life of worship.

Note from the author: This is an excerpt from my Nehemiah 1 Sermon in B1G South for the retreat volunteers call. The B1G South ministry is the singles ministry of CCF Alabang. We have service every Saturday at 6pm at the 3rd floor of CCF Alabang. Everyone is invited! I would love to meet you if you have time to visit.

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