(Delivered at Taal Vista Hotel during the First Annual Adventist Medical Evangelist Network – Philippines Conference, June 10, 2018)
They say that a journey begins with a single step. But in my case, I believe that my journey began before I even took my first step. My journey started with God. Let me quote Jeremiah 1: 5 to clarify my point. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
I hope I am not that too ambitious to claim that text as ascribed to Jeremiah. But I hope that when you listen to my story, I might convince you that it could be well applied to this lowly colleague of yours, as I believe that this text also applies to all of you.
Let me begin my simple story in line with our theme, “further and higher.” In our personal and spiritual journey, how far is further, and how high is higher? Considering our humanness, limitations, incapacities, incapabilities, and worst, our sinful human nature, how can we even think of proceeding a step toward that mark? That would be too ambitious, if not impossible. But before we get discouraged, let me bring you to an example of a journey- low, low behind, and far, far behind.
I was born third of us 4 siblings. Low, low behind our family’s humble past, we had meager funds for our expenses. Although my father was a public teacher, and my mother a midwife, it was not easy for them to provide us 4 siblings of our needs. But far, far behind us, we felt that the Lord was already leading us into a higher level of growth, further into a brighter future.
After graduating from my elementary education in my homeplace in Masbate, I followed suit to East Visayan Academy in Cebu for my high school education, after my two older sisters. Challenges became bigger, but somehow the Lord provided me with enough strength to hurdle those tests and grew better and stronger, but more dependent to God.
Off I went to Mountain View College in Mindanao to take up nursing. Of course, my personal mountains became bigger and steeper, paths rougher and bumpier, seas stormier and wilder, and I felt smaller and weaker. Sometimes, I felt that gloomy days seemed longer, and happy days seemed shorter. That was during those transitional days.
But in that mountain, I get to know God closer and deeper. There, God made me get acquainted with my self better- weak, inadequate, unready and unprepared to confront the sinfulness of the world. There I found that my real strength is outside of myself- It’s found in Jesus Himself, and the only way to have that strength is to welcome Him in my heart, which I did with all faith.
God’s gift of making me top the nursing board on 2011 was a major point in my life. My heart was swelling with joy and gratitude to the Lord for giving me more than desired, and covenanted with him where to pursue my medical training. That’s why I went to UERM.
Yes, with honest modesty, I felt good in achieving high academic honors since my elementary years until my college years. I thank my parents for that. But I found out later that unless God would let me receive those awards and accolades, I would not have those. Therefore, I concluded that these achievements are His ways to prepare me to do something worthwhile and special for Him- in a different capacity and level from the traditional ways that we normally know. Let me proceed further to emphasize this point.
It was already my childhood dream to become a doctor. And in my childhood innocence, or maybe some childish thoughts, I just want to be different from my other relatives and siblings- and be the first physician in the family. And I am glad that God worked on me even in that immature mind that I had. And now, I am a medical doctor.
Let me orate to you a poem composed by me and my girlfriend who is also a medical doctor who knows this medical journey by heart and by soul.
The Covenant Fulfilled
It started with a prayer from his childhood dream,
Commenced by a late application which he sent to UERM
And by God’s intervention the journey started unfolding,
The poor little boy was granted full scholarship for studying.
Burdening his heart were everybody’s expectations,
Obliging him to top the board, exams without objections;
He carried these all his own thinking he’ll be alright,
But he later realized that God was his partner in this plight.
In class, as an Adventist, he belonged to the minority,
With a day less to study, was disadvantaged, thought by the majority;
But he knew better than that, that he was not disadvantaged,
For great is his God, and having His wisdom, that was his advantage.
Asking for help from a classmate for Biochem laboratory,
That classmate turned his back, and said, sorry, for my group only;
His heart was broken but his will God had strengthened,
With his faith unwavering, He stood firm and was determined.
He busied himself not only with academics,
But also shared the gospel even with the atheists and agnostics;
He taught the discipline of prayer to his unspiritual roommate,
And invited to the church his distraught and troubled classmate.
God sent an anatomy student for him to mold,
And blessings from Him came back a millionfold
Her grade from 69, it rose up to the line of eighty,
And an unexpected reward came back worth a semester’s fee.
From doing all these he shared his time,
He learned from them a love so sublime
And more than teaching others, he was also taught,
That God is faithful and true, so His presence he sought.
The five grueling years of education finally came to a close,
And he ultimately faced the challenge that mattered the most.
He partnered with his God in every step of the way,
In every answer which he shaded, God had a say.
The board exam result was released, and God’s power was manifested,
With a mere 0.17 percentage, God put him in the lead,
Ladies and gentlemen, if it isn’t so obvious I am this lowly lad,
Relating to you all the journey I have just had.
Through the prayers of His people for my colleagues and me,
God granted His people this most assured victory!
When I passed and topped the medical exam board, and was interviewed left and right, I remembered that college realization I had- God is bringing me to this level because He has some job for me to do in this world’s stage. And the more I think about it, the more I shrink in humility because what I have now and where I am, is never ever because of me, nor because of my ability, nor because of what I have and nor because of my genes- it’s all because of Him. The farther and higher I get into, it’s because I am under His divine wings bringing me higher and higher and farther and farther into success which I have hardly known and expected.
This is confirmed by the stories of Joseph- the governor of Egypt during the regime’s golden years; of Daniel- Babylon’s governor, too, during it’s glorious days; of David and Solomon- making Israel a great kingdom during their times; and a lot more. Today, we also have our modern lay ministers in higher and extensive capacities- Ambassador Tejano, Major Espinedo, chaplains in the US Senate, government leaders in Papua New Guinea, and many more.
Contrary to my dream and expectations, being in the limelight is a challenge itself for me and I don’t know how to handle the situation without my God, without the support and guidance of my family and loved ones, and of course prayers of the entire church community. As there was a fourth person in the burning furnace, a companion of Daniel who shut the lions’ mouths, an Angel who was with Gideon in his victory, I believe that my God is my companion in all my undertakings from here and beyond.
With my few yeas of knowing, experiencing and sharing God within my sphere of influence, I have learned several countless lessons in life. I learned not to strive for recognition in this world. The Lord taught me to strive for significance in His vineyard. God impressed in me that topping the board exams is not an obligation; it is a gift from Him. I have also learned that true success is being who God wants us to be, doing what God wants me to do and finally hearing Him say “well done good and faithful servant”. Because for me, excellence is living out the best that I can offer according to the talents, skills and mental capacities that God has gifted us with and making it our way of life. Excellence is not only found in the result of the board exams. It is the result found in the lives of the people whom we have touched and changed for the better.
As your ordinary colleague in the medical field and in the medical missionary work, Joshua 1: 9 is my armor in my spiritual and professional journey going further and higher for the Lord. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Let this be your strength, too, as you journey with me further and higher for the Lord. God bless us all.