3 Things I have learned from our Japan Trip

Marc and Ef in Kinakaku-ji Temple SignWe love Japan! We enjoyed the weather, food, people, and the places that we saw. We went to Osaka, Kyoto, Narra, Kobe, Tokyo, and Mount Fuji. Kyoto was most probably the best place that we visited because of its scenic nature sites. It was the first time for me to have a vacation trip for more than 5 days and indeed, it was very memorable for us. This post is not to detail our itinerary or costs, but to share lessons that I have realized as I reflect on how our trip went.

Here are the things that I have observed during our 12 days in this country. 

  1. The first thing that I have observed is how Japanese people want things to be done efficiently and fast. They have va ery good system when you ride trains and it’s always on time. How restaurants serve their customers is also amazing. The process is well defined from getting your order, serving your food and paying your bill. We even documented the process for eating in a revolving sushi restaurant. Revolving Sushi Restaurant in Tsukiji MarketAlthough one downside I saw is since they want to be fast and efficient, people come to restaurants to just eat and not necessarily take their time to bond with their friends or family. There are bar stools set for solo eaters wherein one would just sit down, order, eat and then leave. This made me realize that even though the Philippines is a third world country, and we have inefficient systems, people still find joy in the simplest of things. People go to simple restaurants or fast food chains excitingly and just enjoy their time with their friends and family. This is something that we should be grateful for. This is something that I believe we should cherish and enjoy – joyfully fellowshipping with family and friends.
  2. The second thing that I have noticed is how rich this country is. In Tokyo, we stayed at Ginza where most of the big fashion & luxurious brand stores can be located. Just for the experience, we went inside stores like Louise Vuitton and Chanel. Inside Louise Vuitton, there were so many people.Road in Ginza with Lots of Stores In Manila, stores like Louise Vuitton would only have a couple of people inside their shop, but not in Japan. It made me realize that people who live there might really rich because they have the money to buy expensive bags and clothes. Even tourists go there since there are brands that sell their items at a cheaper price compared to their resident country. As I was observing, I realized the need to really GUARD MY HEART FROM LOVING THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD.
    1. 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
    2. While exposed to this kind of an environment, it’s so easy to be tempted to buy things that you don’t necessarily need. And to be honest, I think there are a couple of things I bought that I don’t think I need. That’s why when we arrived home, I started to look inside my closet for clothes to sell or give away. This is to give way to the new ones I bought. My wife and I have this principle that if we buy something that we don’t need we have to give something away – buy one, take one out. I’m just so grateful that I have a wife who is not fond of shopping which really prevents us from buying more things we don’t need.
  3. Lastly, I have observed how Japanese people are engrossed with their work. Despite the holidays, we still saw so many people riding trains to go to work. That’s why Japenese people are admired for their hard work. Lots of people in Shibuya CrossingThere was even a day when I went inside a convenience store early in the morning to buy food and then I went to the same store late in the evening again to buy food. I noticed that the staff who served me in the morning was still the same person who served me in the evening. It made me think if the reason why this country is so rich is because of their people’s work ethic? Are they happy despite working for long hours with no time to celebrate Christmas or New Year with family and friends? I really don’t know the answer. Twelve days are not enough to derive a concrete conclusion. I can only give my thoughts based on my observations. One thing is certain for me though, work is important but there should always be balance. Work should not be a means to get rich, but it should be enjoyed as you work for the Lord and depend on His provision. Your security should be in God and not on your work.

Marc and Ef in Mt. Fuij 5th Station with SnowOverall, we really like Japan! If given a chance I would love to live there, and if that is what God wants for me and my family, I would love to start a church there for people to know Jesus and to find joy in Him alone. I leave this in God’s hand though. Wherever He directs me and my family, we will go. Because no matter if you’re in the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, America or whatever country – Jesus needs to be shared and known.

 

 

 

3 Things I have learned from our 1st year of Marriage

This one deserves a post! It’s been a year since we got married, and time goes by very fast if you are in love, and happy with the person that you are married to.

The night before our anniversary we were watching our same-day-edit video. While watching it, each scene flashed backed in my mind. It was one of the most memorable and happiest moments of my life. The past year has been great, as I realize and experience the joy of being married to someone that God has gifted me with. Honestly, some say that the first year is hard because there are lots of adjustments, but in our case, it was really very smooth and easy. Here are 3 things I have learned from our one year of marriage.

#1 – IT IS REALLY A JOY TO BE MARRIED TO SOMEONE WHO LOVES THE LORD THE SAME WAY THAT YOU DO.

Ef Sorongon Speaking in CCF Sta RosaThis year opened a lot of speaking opportunities for me, and in those speaking engagements I really try partnering with my wife. I have asked her numerous times to share a testimony or story of how God worked in her life and in those moments, she has always said “yes!” This made me realize how crucial it is to marry someone who has the same faith and passion as you. Truly, there is wisdom with what God said in 2 Corinthians 6:14. She has also always supported my meetings with my small group and ministry team. There are even times, wherein she will wait for me in church until my small group and I would finish at 11:30pm in the evening. Plus, when we had our discipleship outing two weeks ago, she was there to serve and cook for us even though she was the only girl amongst seven boys. She never complained and always showed joy in her service to me. Being married to her is really such a blessing.

#2 – THE ROOT CAUSES OF OUR CONFLICTS IS ALWAYS MY SELFISHNESS

I can count the number of conflicts that we had for the past year with my fingers. We rarely fight, and when we do I normally know what caused it – it’s my selfishness.

Bag of Bean Tagaytay with my small group

Bag of Beans Tagaytay with my small group after our outing

I remember one time, we had a fight. It was my rest day and I just wanted to relax. I saw my wife stressed because of work and I asked her what was wrong. She didn’t respond. Deep within my mind, I thought that she was ok since maybe she was just stressed and she didn’t want to talk about it. So I left her and started playing with my tablet to unwind. Then after a couple of minutes she came to me, wanting my attention. That irritated me because I felt it was unfair for her to suddenly want my time when I was willing to give it before unwinding – so it led to a fight.

The root cause of all conflicts is selfishness. Think about it, what was the cause of the previous conflicts you had in your life? Was it because YOU did not get what YOU want? Was it because YOUR expectations were not met? Was it because YOU were hurt? Look at all of those reasons and you will see it’s because YOUR focus was on YOURSELF. But if we will all learn to be selfless and love like Jesus, this will help our relationships be more peaceful and Christ-like.

#3 – THERE WILL BE REAL JOY IN YOUR MARRIAGE IF GOD IS AT THE CENTER OF IT.

Sorongons in Bellevue Hotel BoholThis is the main reason why I believe our marriage had a wonderful first year. Without God, I know I will always allow my pride to get the best of me resulting to conflicts and arguments. Without those moments I spend with God, I know I won’t be able to draw strength to love my wife unconditionally. We love because He first loved us. We draw love from Him, to love others. And I know I won’t be faithful with my thoughts and actions if it was not for God. Every time I think about how good He has been and how much of a precious gift my wife is, it makes me really want to be loyal to her and be faith to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ

One year has passed and we are looking forward to more years ahead. Thank you for all those who prayed for us and has supported us. With God by our side, I know we’ll be able to finish the race set before us all for His glory and name! God bless everyone!

 

Our God who allows the good and the bad

If you think God is just a God who allows good you are wrong. God is a God who allows calamity as well.

Isaiah 45:7

The One forming light and creating darkness,

Causing well-being and creating calamity;

I am the Lord who does all these.

 

I know people always question, how can a good God allow calamity or evil. Numerous answers have been given. I for one particularly like what Ravi Zacharias said in one video.

Yes, this is a hard question to answer and who are we to really question God’s ways. But there is one thing that I know, even though God permits calamity, distress or evil in this world, He can always turn it for our good. So even with the bad that we think is happening in our lives, in God’s eyes, it is actually good because He can turn it for our good.

Singles Retreat 2018 Group PicI remember the past retreat that has just passed. I have been organizing retreats for years and by far, Singles’ Escapade has been the biggest one yet. When we started planning for this retreat we were only expecting 250-300 participants. A month before the retreat, a surge of registrants entered. For the first time, we had to close the registration two weeks prior to the event. We closed our registration at 397 and some people were still asking if they can join the retreat. Some problems are bad, and some are good, and this is definitely one good problem to have.

Then we started to think, how will we be able to accommodate all of these participants. We checked the venue, added an additional bus and even bought more materials. In the end, God delivered us, and we were able to serve 393 participants during the retreat.

Even during the retreat, I encountered so many setbacks and concerns:

  • We encountered a brownout during the second session
  • Only one shuttle was provided during checkout when it should have been four
  • There were so many concerns with the participants’ room
  • Food portioning was so small
  • The volume of our own speakers was not enough
  • The temperature of aircon in the hall cannot be adjusted

When all of these things happened the only thing that I can do is pray. Plus, I remembered what God showed me in Isaiah 45:7, “The Lord causes the good and the bad – well-being and calamity.”

It was then that I just started to really trust God. Yes, it is God who allows the good and the bad because he wants us to know that nothing is beyond His control. Even if it looks like everything is already bleak and hopeless, God is still in control and can do the impossible.

122 BaptizedIndeed, that is what I saw. Despite the many issues that we encountered during the retreat. God still worked mightily, and His word did not return to Him empty. The brownout did not stop the word of God from convicting people of their sin. The issues with the participants’ room cannot hinder God’s plan. And even if the volume of the speakers was not loud enough, God’s love through Jesus spoke so much volume that 121 people declared their faith in Him and were baptized.

Who can really thwart God’s plan? Man is just an instrument used by God for His glory. The bad that we encountered during the retreat was used for good. Truly God is good no matter the circumstance.

I know sometimes we view God based on our circumstances but remember, who God is according to His word and not according to our own circumstances. Not matter if we are experiencing something bad, God is always good and he can turn our situation around for our good.

I hope this gives you encouragement to just trust God and see Him work in your life. If there’s anything that encouraged you in this post, leave a comment below and I would love to hear from you. May the Lord strengthen and establish you. God bless!

1 Peter 5:10-11

10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.