I have been leading a ministry called Bagong Simula (New Beginnings) since January 2010. It is an outreach ministry to the poor with a vision of bringing transformation to the lives of children and families in a safe, loving, and sustainable community. To strengthen my service, I studied for my MBA degree at Asian Theological Seminary. There, I met Gary Hoag when I took his Faith and Finances course.
One idea really resonated with me from his teaching: the concept of margin. He gave a name to what I needed in my life. To have margin is to learn to live within your limits, have some space to heal when you’re feeling tired, give God some space to work in your schedule, and have free time in my day for His leading and miracles. I realized I was missing a lot because I didn’t have margin in my life.
This birthed a deep desire in my heart to live the life described in John 10:10. It was a long journey with lots of suffering and disappointments, even burnout, until the Lord allowed the pandemic to happen! For me, the pandemic was an answer to my prayers. The world stopped! Suddenly, there were no meetings, no deadlines, no reports, and no going out. I finally had the time to exercise, garden, cook, bike, and watch movies. In short, I was forced to “do nothing.”
It was not easy, because I was not used to doing nothing. But the Lord knew I needed help on that. In March 2021, I got severely infected with COVID that it took 22 days of isolation and hospitalization before I recovered. Soon after that, my husband had an accident and fractured his leg.
Shortly thereafter, I felt led to resign from my role as head of operations of our church. It was something that I had long decided to do but kept on putting off as I am someone who does not want to quit as long as I can help. So, the Lord gave me Mark 1:29-31 and reminded me that Jesus Himself said “no” to healing more people in order to focus on preaching the gospel and preparing the people for His cross.
Finally, I had margin. Living a life in all its fullness was becoming real. I experienced what Psalm 16:11 says, “I have made known to you the path of life. In my presence, there is fullness of joy, in my right hand, pleasures forever more.” Because I had abandoned the hurried life, I had a time for things like reading an email from GTP about JOE (Journey of Empowerment). Knowing Gary personally and trusting the organization where he served, I got interested and signed-up.
I liked the idea that I could go through it “on demand” on my own time. I explored topics that were easy to understand. But what surprised me most was how deeply JOE impacted me! Much of the content of the lessons was not new to me – I know that I matter and my identity is in Christ, I am familiar with the Johari window as a tool for self-awareness, and I have read books like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther several times – but God met me in a powerful way and I experienced each lesson as if it was designed for me at that particular time in life.
Moreover, I truly enjoyed learning with others through the facilitation of Gary Hoag (GTP President & CEO), Ereny Monir (GTP VP of Training & Empowerment), and Trevor Lui (GTP Regional Facilitator for East Asia). The simplicity and clarity in the way each topic was presented spoke afresh to my heart. The lessons took us from being introspective to becoming aware of our community, context, and our contribution to the world. It was my kairos moment!
Many times my heart was filled with joy, like when we read Zephaniah 3:17. “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” And on other occasions I cried while remembering my childhood memories, realizing how the Lord has been faithful and kind to me since I was young. The Lord met me while I was doing the Johari window activity, lovingly reminding me that I must learn to celebrate more and that it is His delight to bless me.
All of these experiences with On Demand JOE (ODJ) became a beacon of light to me. The pandemic and the result of the elections in the Philippines have been a great source of my anxiety. Belonging to a cohort in ODJ and learning what is going on in others’ contexts has hugely encouraged and helped me. Learning in a safe environment made me know for sure what the Lord is doing in my life, in my family, in my community, and around the world. So, while the first lesson provided the foundation for my empowerment, the next lessons moved me into a powerful action.
I am a trained lay counselor in our local church but I have been avoiding accepting counselees. I lost confidence and the courage to help someone in their journey because of the burn-out I experienced. After attending ODJ, I felt empowered to begin afresh so I decided to share what I learned. I accepted a counselee! After hearing her problems, I shared the first JOE lesson: “You Matter.” In response, my counselee said she was empowered to cope with her negative emotions and acknowledge Jesus for what He has done for her. She is now reading the Bible and looking for verses that affirm her identity in Christ. I didn’t even have to hard sell the gospel to her. She even requested to stay in contact with me so she can update me with her progress!
I have taken a few more counselees after her. The concepts of social identity, our original identity with God, and how our identities have been shaped by our childhood experiences become the key that unlocks healing to wholeness for my counselees. I have been sharing these concepts to core co-workers in our mentoring meetings and inviting more people to join ODJ.
I decided to join the next cohort because I need more of this experience to concretize my learnings. Being in the middle of an important decision in my life, I feel I need to remain in the company of empowered people in a safe community to help me in my own journey. I have also become more engaged, helping Trevor, Ereny, and Gabrielle Fortunato (GTP Regional Trainer for Africa) with this cohort as preparation to start facilitating in the near future.
I want to encourage you to create some margin in your schedule to go through ODJ and then get involved in guiding others through it. It may be a jumpstart for you to live a life of empowerment! Learn who you truly are, why you are placed in your context, and what is your role in the bigger picture. I imagine if our world was full of empowered people who truly understood their identity in Christ and were living out God’s purpose for their life, then the Kingdom of God will come to us indeed!