Here are my loaves and fish

January 18, 2012

Tonight I attended the dinner celebration of our company’s first year anniversary in Makati. To go home, I had to walk from Quirino to PGH after realizing I don’t have any small bill to pay the jeepney fare. And considering drivers follow “Barya lang po sa gabi” and not only “sa umaga”, am pretty sure they won’t accept the only bill left in my wallet. So a decision was made at that moment—I needed to walk along Taft avenue, past the four to five streets to get home.

As I was walking, I was speaking to the Lord, “Ayos to, Lord. Good exercise, malulusaw yung mga kinain ko kanina.” The walk, for me, was just that. An interesting experience. Useful in a way as I was hoping to burn the calories I had taken in earlier. But God seemed to have a greater purpose for this walk, a better plan this night.

Past Quirino, a man carrying a huge plastic of garbage was walking in front of me. Every lamp post, he had to stop to check the trash bags possibly for food or any material he might find helpful. I got a chance to overtake him the time I crossed Malvar street.

I continued to walk and as I was nearing Pedro Gil, I saw a couple of kids from a distance, about seven or eight years old, both with a plastic of what I assume to be rugby, which they held close to their faces. I tried to stay far from them and took the way which brought me close to the rushing vehicles in the street. But I did not care about the jeeps and buses rapidly driving past through me. What mattered that time is that I don’t come near the kids. Who knows what they might do. They could have easily mistaken me for a kid, too.

Past Pedro Gil, I was more relaxed as I continued walking. I even told myself, “Thank you Lord malayo na ang mga bagets na may rugby.” I thought I won’t be troubled or worried anymore, that I can finally walk home at peace. But no. Near Escoda stood an old man holding two piggy banks in his hands. He looked so tired and hungry and he was just standing there, not moving at all. Hawak nya lang ang binebenta nya. He wasn’t even talking, not even blinking. Just staring nowhere with the two piggy banks in his hands.

Steps away from him is an old woman lying in the street with a plastic cup. Like the old man, she was not talking. She was simply shaking the cup causing the few coins inside to make a sound. But she was looking at the people passing by. She looked at the woman walking before me. She looked at the two students who went past her. She looked at me.

That moment, the real purpose of this night started to sink in me. It’s as if God was unveiling His plan behind the short walk and whispering, “Ayan, kita mo na?” Thoughts came rushing in my mind and inexplicable emotions flooded my heart. I’ve seen kids and women and men in pitiful conditions. They are fatigued and hungry and homeless. Their lives are miserable. They can be named as those which the society brands as “hopeless cases”.    

But these are the same people whom Jesus has compassion for. These are the same people whom I am supposed to care for and love.

In Matthew, Jesus told a story of how when the Son of Man comes in His glory, He welcomes His people in the kingdom and say,

“Come on, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you in the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will ask when they did these things to God, to which Jesus answered,

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The man carrying the plastic of garbage, the kids with the rugby, the old man selling piggy banks, the woman with a cup in her hands are the least of Jesus’ brothers. And what I did tonight to these people I did to God. What I did not do for them, I did not do for Jesus.

But what I realized is this. What I can do for these brothers is what I can do to serve my God. Oo nga Lord, wala akong nagawa para sa kanila kanina. Tiningnan ko lang, nilampasan, kinaawaan. Ni hindi ko nabigyan ng pagkain o ng barya. Hindi ko nabilhan ng paninda. Wala akong nagawa para sa kanila. Right. I wasn’t able to do anything for them. But that’s tonight. Because I know Lord, You’ve shown me these people and You’ve made this walk happen because You are preparing me to do something for them. To serve and bless them. And to serve and glorify You. Alam kong may ilalabas ka sa akin, Panginoon. And You will do that because You love these people. And You want to teach me to have compassion for them and love them and serve them just as You would do if You were here.

In the dinner we had, our CEO was telling us how he had the business in mind ten years ago. He had a dream that time to put up his own advertising agency. Since then, he worked hard to achieve this dream. Everything he did, he did for the purpose of fulfilling what he had in mind. And now, that dream is a reality. Well the company is not exactly an advertising agency, but it is in the same field. The point is, he is where he hoped and worked for to be.

My officemate then asked me what I plan to do in life. I said I am going to study next year. When asked what am I taking up, I said Masters in Social Entrepreneurship. I gave an example of a social enterprise (Rags 2 Riches) to which he commented, “Ah, parang helping the community.” I replied, “Yes, using a business model.” Connection to the walk and the people I met and the story from Matthew?

I believe God planted this dream in me. More than the dream of becoming a social entrepreneur, this is the dream of helping the least of Jesus’ brothers, my brothers. Of loving and serving my God by loving and serving the people around me. Lagi ko ngang sinasabi kapag may nakikita akong bata sa kalye o matandang namamalimos, “Hintayin nyo lang ako. May gagawin si Lord. May gagawin kami.” And I believe in this! Although I won’t deny there are times when doubt seeps in through me. I wonder (and worry) whether I’ll be able to fulfill this dream, whether I can really be useful and productive to do God’s work here on earth. The work seems so huge, the dream so far, so immense to be true. And I must admit that thinking of the immensity of this dream often frightens me. But because of God, I know it can never paralyze me.

One of my favorite Bible stories is the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30-42). In this story, a large crowd followed Jesus in a solitary place to listen to Him. There were about five thousand men not to mention the women and children, who gathered in the remote area where Jesus was. As it was getting late, the disciples began to worry and said to Jesus,

“This is a remote place and it is already getting very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding country side and villages and buy themselves something to eat. But he (Jesus) answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat? “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five (loaves) and two fish.”

The disciples gave the five loaves and two fish (which are given by a boy in the crowd) to Jesus. Jesus prayed for the food and asked the disciples to distribute it to the people. A miracle happened that day. Everyone was able to eat to his heart’s content and even had a left over of 12 basketfuls of broken bread and fish.  

Tonight, Jesus showed me five people. Five who are as hungry and needy as the five thousand in the story. And like the disciples, I know something has to be done, even if it is just as thoughtless as “send them away and let them find food for themselves”. I want to help these people because I care about them. And I love them because I know my Lord loves them. And now He challenges and commands me as He did to the disciples, “You give them something to eat.”

What do I have to give? Here is my little heart for compassion, my mind for focusing on the vision. Here are my feet to take me to the least of our brother. Here are my hands to do the work. Here is my dream, Lord. Here are my loaves and fish. And all that I have I give to you as I mightily declare,

“I can do all things through Christ you gives me strength.” –Philippians 4:13

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