THE security guard gave me a stern look as I walked in the entrance hall. My companion said, “we’re here for check-up, our organization is responsible for her so I need to accompany her…” Then with a slight smile, a more relaxed expression, the man said, “oh, I know her! I can recognize her by her eyes!” (I am probably the only Asian patient so far in that hospital.) In three months I had visited the hospital twice. Once in January and the second time in March.
The first time I was diagnosed with Gastritis. Two months later with Bronchitis. The doctors and the hospital staff at the out-patient-section are already familiar faces. I wasn’t only there for a short time but had to spend an entire day for consultation, medications, and observation, then consultation again. I had never spent that long in a hospital in my life. “There’s always a first time,” the doctor told me on my second visit as I was taking nebulization to improve my breathing caused by bronchitis.
I praise God for the experience. I praise the Creator for choosing me to be in that situation. It was hard especially that I am away from home. There were times I wished that my parents were with me, especially this March when the doctor required me to be on bed rest for three days (to one week). I felt useless, thinking that I am giving much burden to my placement site for not reporting and participating those days.
I praise God that although my parents were not with me, God provided me with friends who took care of me. My supervisors in CEPALC were always checking on me. My workmates were calling and continually encouraging me. And church friends were there to pray with me. During that time I can see God’s warm embrace through the people He used.
A call to remember
Exactly a year ago, April 2013, I was invited to speak at the United Methodist Church, Baguio City (northern Philippines) during the Emmaus Sunday, as the community coordinator. After the worship service, a man approached me. He is a balikbayan or a returning citizen, who just happened to be in vacation in the Philippines with his wife. He and his family are permanently residing in the US. His wife brought him to church, he was hesitant.
He asked me about my faith and my conviction about love and relationships. (Well, I was used to hear people complementing the message.) He was the first person to challenge me with the sermon. His face was full of curiosity, waiting for a tangent answer from me. I told him what was in my heart and shared Bible verses. Seeing a relief in his expression, he suddenly told me, “I appreciate your thoughts and you really speak well. But, well, it still sounded so religious to me…” Then he continued, “anyway, I can see that you will be going to places so I will give you my phone number in New York City. I am sure I’ll see you again, there!” I got his number still wondering why he did give it to me. From his expression, he was so sure we’ll see again soon. We bid goodbye and he left with his wife and relatives.
On that same day I was looking at the piece of paper he gave me. That was also the time when I was continually discerning about my call to mission, right after I got an invitation letter from Global Ministries to be a part of class 2013 Young Adult Missionary Service (YAMS). Minutes later, tears came rolling down my eyes. “The training for YAMS in July (2013) will be in New York City! Could this be another confirmation from God?”
Despite my doubt of acquiring a visa from the US Embassy, in July 2013, after completing my requirements and confirming my participation, I flew to New York City for the training. When I arrived, the first person I could think about was Gregorio. I still had his number. With another YAMS from the Philippines, we met up with him and his wife. Until now, our conversations about God, faith, and Christianity continues.
He was God’s tiny whisper, telling me to “go!” I have 12 months left of my service here in Colombia, and when I feel down or drained, I would look back and remind myself of God’s calling for me to serve here–both to learn and to share. Eight months had passed. I have one year left of my service starting April 30. By God’s strength and wisdom, my remaining months would be more fruitful! Sharing you my ministry update during the first quarter of 2014
January this year CEPALC had an annual staff meeting, planning the entire year, plotting events and activities, delegating tasks to each staff (and volunteers). Aside from participating in all activities and outreach programs, my personal tasks (were) are:
1. Design, develop and relaunch CEPALC website (with project partner)
2. Help out with the organization’s magazine, Encuentro, layout
3. Spearhead the live streaming of major workshops and seminars
4. Training the technical staff with more website and social network knowledge
5. Continue assisting in conceptualizing workshops with partner groups, especially the ecumenical community
1. CEPALC responsible voting campaign for this year’s National Election #soyColombia2014
2. Teach at a partner grade school twice a week
3. Enhance communication strategies of CEPALC, maximize online presence, like podcasting Website: On the LEFT side is the new one, and the one on the RIGHT is the old website.
#soyColombia2014 campaign sample: http://cepalc.com/soycolombia2014/
A new place
After four months of living far from the office with two other Colombians, I finally moved in to a new apartment, on my own. I am still not sure if it has something to do with culture or just the persons, but it didn’t really work out well between us and there were so many restrictions, including the schedule for cooking, like I can’t cook after 9PM, and inviting people over. Anyway, my apartment is 5 blocks from the office, where I am serving. I can cook freely and invite friends, co-workers, church mates… I can finally move with freedom! I have been here sinceJanuary 17.
Language study and Women Missionaries Fellowship
Last March I finished the second part of my language study, which was another month-long classes. Two months of Spanish grammar were painstaking but worth it! I am confident to say that my Spanish is perfect! 🙂 (based on self evaluation.) I had an amazing language teacher, who was also my Filipino friend’s teacher before. She’s Christian and I love having classes with her! Here’s our photo on our last day of class:
Teacher Martha is a common friend from a fellowship group, which we started back in December last year. Remember Number 15? Raquel, another Filipino missionary I met here? Well, it so happened that she has contacts of some women missionaries, working in Bogotá.
Last December we celebrated post-Christmas and house-warming party at Raquel´s house. That was the first time I met Jennifer and Clara. Two amazing women of faith who are so full of love! Jennifer is from the United States of America and she has been in Colombia for 20 years already, working in a Christian school as English teacher. Clara is Colombian but speaks very good English. She’s a food guru when it comes to Colombian cuisine! And of course, ate Raquel, who has served 19 years in Colombia through a children’s organization. These lovely and spiritual ladies are my mentors and buddies.
January this year, Jennifer invited us to her house for a Korean lunch and a post-New Year celebration. There were food, singing hymns (since Jen plays the piano), conversations, and prayers for one another.
I really miss encounters like this! Back in the Philippines I had a regular Reunion Group or accountability group every week, aside from the church youth group and bonding with co-pastor’s kids. So, I really miss the feeling of having a fellowship with co-Christians, sharing our struggles and joys, and praying for one another–especially with people who understand my challenges as a missionary!
We all love the idea of forming a fellowship of women missionaries in Bogotá. And so, starting February we have a regular monthly gathering to chat, pray, and enjoy a meal together! From four friends, we welcomed Rut, an Indonesian missionary with the Menonite Church. Then in March, Lizeth, another Colombian and a volunteer in CEPALC, joined us. This April, we just celebrated Rut’s birthday!
Campus Ministry (sort of)
Since February I have been teaching to around 100 grade school children in one of CEPALC’s partners. On Tuesdays, I work with pupils from preschool to 2nd grade. On Thursdays with kids from grade three to five.
My job description with the school is:
1. teach songs and dances both in Filipino and English, enhance the children’s language skills
2. teach internet knowledge and responsible usage to bigger kids
3. teach basic journalism skills
Teaching songs and dances in my mother tongue and in English opened an opportunity to share Christian songs. They love them! Plus we dance the Hillsong kids collection both in English and Spanish. Mathematics dance is a HIT since my first day here in Colombia and it never goes old! But kids are not easy to handle! They have so much energy and it’s hard to catch up with them. They are too excited about almost everything, so I did struggle to control them during my first month with only the math dance.
On my second month I observed that the teachers use a specific song to organize the kids (it also works here!). So I taught them a greeting song in four languages, and is now a major hit in the school!
Kumusta ka! (Filipino)
Also during Women’s Day in February, I was asked to perform a cultural dance for the school event. With enthusiasm, I did an ethnic dance in front of one hundred parents. It was fun! 🙂
Holy Week: the Colombian way
I was still recovering from bronchitis during the Holy Week, but on Holy Friday I decided to observe the practices in the city during this important season for Christians around the world.
Colombia is a Roman Catholic-dominated country. Most protestant churches in the country, like the Methodists, don’t hold services on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Just regular service on Sunday. So, I went out to be a part of the roman catholic tradition.
On Thursday night people go to church to participate in the Last Supper and the Washing of the Feet. On Friday they visit 7 churches/monuments and offer a prayer for each visit. I asked a devotee why she does it, her reply was “aside from tradition, it is a way to remember the sufferings of Christ Jesus. Also, by completing the 7, means that God will answer whatever prayer you ask, like good health, good job, etc.”
It’s almost impossible to get in to a church because of the crowd. One of the major cathedrals is located on top of the mountain. Some pilgrims climb up there (3,315 meters above sea level; Bogotá main city is 2,700 meters), which is 600 meters high, barefooted or on their knees. Some go up there through cable car. Since both options were crowded, especially the cable car, I decided to end the day and go home, until I met a family.
The Cruz family wished to go up the Monserrate Cathedral as well but couldn’t because of the long line. Waiting, I asked the wife about what’s up there and why people desperately want to be there. While talking, they decided to go to the opposite mountain sanctuary instead, which is higher than Monserrate, and invited me to go with them in their car.
By car we went up the Guadalupe Sanctuary. Along the way I got to know them and hear their faith stories. At the same time, I was able to share mine. They were amazing people and we clicked so easily. I had always wanted to go up the Guadalupe but never had the chance. Indeed, God answers silent prayers! Here’re some photos of my Holy Friday observation:
Aside from observing, I also took the opportunity to do a “Jericho Walk.” I saw some practices that comes from the power of the opposition. I know God’s spirit is moving in Colombia. He is changing the direction of the wave!
Ending my Holy Week experience is an Easter Worship Service at church, Iglesia Metodista Colombiana. Not the regular worship but a more intimate one. We all sat around the table, like the Last Supper scene. The singing and reading of the Gospel were solemn and more personal. Then we partook the Holy Communion as a celebration of Jesus’ victory over death, cleansing us from our sins and calling us to be one with Him. Here’s a video of our communion:
And some photos: (1st left and right- worship service proper; below left photo- tamal, traditional breakfast meal with bread; below right- a member enjoying tamal after the service)
A CALL to remember: a new ministry
Every day I spend here in Colombia is a reminder of my calling to BE here. Every time I go to the office and realize that I am actually in Colombia is a reminder that God brought me here for a purpose–both to learn and share.
Near my apartment lives an old man in his push-cart “house,” parked outside our building. Since I moved in to the new apartment I started to bake. Most of my favorite recipes are muffins and bread. And when I bake, I always make a lot of extras to share with the building security guards and the man outside. After my first bread, I committed to provide the Communion bread in church. Through baking, which I learned from the More-With-Less cookbook, I can share the love of God! This is a first for me! I never thought I could be good in baking and use it as an instrument to introduce Christ.
Right now, I am starting to see the fruits of this service, while continually praying that the Holy Spirit will move in every person who will eat the baked goodies, and be filled physically and spiritually. Baking taught me to “cook for all, not only for myself.”
1. Pray for the preparation and ongoing discernment period of the recently accepted Global Missions Fellows from the Philippines, 2 of them, Bong Dalisay and Elfie Grace Tangunan. They are currently finishing some medical and other essential documents. Their training will be in the Philippines.
2. Pray for Mission Interns in my batch who are still waiting for their visas to their placement sites. Pray that God will guide and comfort them in this waiting period.
3. Continually pray for good health. The months of April to July is the coldest time of the year, I am still coping up with the altitude and the cold air.
4. Pray for the new ministry God gave me through baking and I may be able to use it also in the women’s program in the church.
5. Pray for more fruitful time at work with CEPALC.
6. Pray for the National Election- Presidential in Colombia on the last Sunday of May.
7. Pray for my THE ADVANCE support raising. Individually, we need to raise $2,600.00 (USD) for the first year, and as per updated support, I have $600.00. If God is calling you to give to His ministry through my advance number, you may go to GIVE TO JOY EVA BOHOL (click) and choose from the pledge options.
Thank you for your continuing support and prayer with me! May God bless you as we all do God’s work! For more info and if you want to communicate with me directly, you may email me at JBohol@umcmission.org or check my page at GBGM Missionary Joy Eva Bohol.