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.

 

 

 

What is Spiritual Perseverance?

Man in the Desert

Let’s try to define first what perseverance is. Perseverance according to Merriam-webster:

Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. The action or condition or an instance of persevering

 

But what is the difference between the general definition of perseverance and spiritual perseverance? Or what is spiritual perseverance? Is it entirely different from its standard definition?

I like what Oswald Chambers said in his book “My Utmost for His Highest”:

Perseverance is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen…A call not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately, knowing with certainty that God will never be defeated

  

Some may say that perseverance means that you need to endure but the tricky part is we may endure just for the sake of enduring, or wanting it to come to pass. But as what Oswald Chambers said, it is more than enduring. Enduring can be done with power of our will or positive thinking. Isn’t there too much self-help books already to help derail us from what spiritual perseverance is? Part of spiritual perseverance is enduring but that is not all. Because spiritual perseverance is working your faith despite opposition, knowing with full confidence that God would do what He said He would do. Spiritual perseverance is always held together by the foundation of who God is. It is not allowing defeat because your faith is telling you to hold on to this everlasting God, who gives us the victory in our Christian life

When I think about these things, I am reminded about Nehemiah in the Bible. In Nehemiah 1, he was moved to pray and ask God to help him in his desire to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. He took the step of faith, asked permission from the king in Nehemiah 2 to allow him to rebuild wall – and when it was approved, he then went on with this great task. And when we’re always assigned to do a great task for the Lord, we can expect that there will always be opposition and sometimes even ridicule which Nehemiah experienced.

Nehemiah 2:19 – But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”

Nehemiah 4:7-8 – Now when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it.

 

We see that even in Chapter 6 of Nehemiah, there was still opposition:

Nehemiah 6:2-4 – then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.

 

Take note of what was said in verse 4. Four times this was done to Nehemiah, but he remained firm. He persevered. He did not merely endured but he spiritual persevered. He persevered because he knows what God has called him to do. He said, “Why should the work stop…” He was so focused on the task assigned to him and in his faith in the Lord that he knows his Lord will make everything come to pass as long as he remains faithful to what was entrusted to him. And indeed, the wall was rebuilt in 52 days.

You may be going through a tough time right now. You may be experiencing disappointments in life. Your work might be crumbling right now and you just don’t know what to do. But if you know that you are walking rightly in the Lord, just continue to persevere. Trust Him and know that He is in full control. Do not focus on the circumstance but on who God is. He is a good and faithful God. He knows what He is doing. Or maybe you are experiencing setbacks in your ministry. Spiritually persevere. If you know that this is what God called you to do, then just be faithful in what He has entrusted you to do. In the end, it’s not about you. He will be the One to make your ministry successful – not you.

Life will always bring you sour apples, but you can always turn them into sweet juice only because of the Lord. When things are tough – spiritually persevere by working your faith in putting full confidence on who the Lord is and what He can do.

If you are going through a tough time right now, leave a comment below so I may be able to pray and hopefully, encourage you.

5 Things to Consider When Planning for a Retreat

I don’t know why, but I’ve always dreamed of leading a retreat. I just haven’t volunteered before because I know it would require a lot of work. But this time, I know that this is really what God wants me to do so I took on the role of being the retreat coordinator for the B1G South Ministry this year. We’ve started retreat planning a couple of weeks ago for our November retreat and I just want to share some important points that you need to consider when planning a retreat.

I started my career in the project management industry. Whenever there is a project, a lot of the work is invested on planning. You need to plan a lot of things: the scope, time, and cost. Having these factors sorted out will make implementation seamless and less prone to errors. The output of your planning sessions will help brief your team so everyone’s aware of the tasks they specifically need to do. When the project team knows what is expected from them, you’ll be able to easily delegate tasks and monitor the progress. Of course, establishing the scope of your retreat is also very important and will require you to focus on the following factors during your planning sessions.

 

(1) Objectives

What is the goal of the retreat? What do you want to achieve? Laying down your objectives will help steer the direction of the retreat. This will help you focus just on the important things you need to consider. When you have a goal in mind, everything that you will be doing should help attain it. Your objectives will also help you in making sound decisions. There will be times when you’ll need to make some tough choices and your objectives should be a major factor in your decision making.

 

(2) Date

Since you’ll want to have a lot of people participate in your retreat, choosing the right date is important. There’s no guarantee that a specific date will be free for everyone so you should plot a date that will encourage the majority of your target participants to attend. It’s also vital that you consider Holidays and peak season since this can affect the price of your venue. What is the ideal number of days for a retreat you ask? This ultimately depends on your objectives. Normally for us, we would always have it for 3 days and 2 nights.  Our retreats are specifically targeted towards single professionals so we usually plot our retreats for the weekend, allowing them to only take a leave from work for one day.

 

(3) Venue

Try creating a checklist of all the things you want to consider for the venue. From your checklist take note of your absolutes and good to haves. Definitely, your absolutes should be good rooms that will be comfortable for your participants. But what is the scope of a good room? Does that mean a 5-star rated room? Again, you need to align your objectives towards your target market. If you are targeting single professionals, they would most probably want a room that is at best the level of apartelles. If this is for the youth, they would most probably not think much about the type of room they will be staying in, but they would be more concerned about the facilities available at the venue. Keep in mind the amenities and costs for the venue. Amenities should help foster your objectives and also include enough recreational activities that your participants will be interested in. Before you decide on a venue, do an ocular inspection. It will allow you to get a feel of your venue and have a better understanding of what you and your team will be working with.

 

(4) Cost

If you already have past experiences in planning the financial side of a retreat, you can peg a cost that will be reasonable for your participants. Whatever the pegged cost, just remember that your budget shouldn’t revolve solely on it. This means that when you create your budget, don’t try adjusting it too much just so it would meet your pegged cost. Create a feasible budget. Include all the actual or estimated costs and then compute how much to charge each participant. From there compare it to your pegged cost. Is it above or below your pegged cost? If it is below, then you can use your new computation rather than your pegged cost. If it is above your pegged amount, then you might want to do away with some items to lower your budget. What are those items? Again, realign yourself with your objectives. The best outcome is just to breakeven but if have a retreat fund from your ministry, then maybe you can use it as leverage to lower down the cost. At the end of the day, the cost for a soul getting to know Jesus is priceless!

 

(5) Number of Participants

Create a target of how many participants you can accommodate on this retreat. But be sure that your target number can easily be accommodated by the venue. Aim for the target and let it be your vision. Put that target deep within your heart. Allow it to sink it. Allow it to motivate you and push you to reach it because you just want to share the love of Jesus to people. When you have that target, cascade it to your team and create marketing campaigns to achieve it.

In reality, there is no clear formula on how to plan a perfect retreat. Keep in mind that imperfect people are planning it. That imperfect people are working on it. The best way to ensure that your retreat will be successful is to just rely on God. With every decision, pray about it and ask God to guide, lead and give you favor throughout. In the end, if your retreat is for Him then the success should only be pointed towards Him and not you.

Note from the Author: if you want to know how the Retreat went, you may read my entries about it. Here are my experiences during the first official B1G South Retreat: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.