By Stefany Simmons, Office Manager
The Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church.
I recently had the amazing opportunity to travel to Manila, The Philippines, with The Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church and the Study Committee on the Worldwide Nature of the United Methodist Church. I consider my job as office manager of The Connectional Table an honor, and I am blessed and humbled to have been given the opportunity to serve these groups of leaders in the Church.
On Thursday, April 15, I left my home near Corpus Christi, Texas to spend 10 days in Manila providing administrative and logistical support for their spring meetings. I was filled with excitement and anticipation at the experiences this international trip would inevitably entail. While there were indeed countless wonderful experiences, the highlight of my trip was on Sunday, April 18, when I had the opportunity to worship at Puno United Methodist in Quezon City. Here are some highlights…
I can honestly say that this worship service was probably the best I’ve experienced in my life thus far. It was life-changing. It lasted two and a half hours! (I wondered what people would say at my congregation at home if the service lasted that long…) There were 300-400 people in the congregation that morning, and I really believe that every single person was genuinely present and truly enjoying the presence of God in that sacred place. They sang; they danced; they prayed; they cried; they sang some more. This was real, passionate worship. I cried, because I was overwhelmed by it.
Of the 300-400 people who were there, at least half of them were children, youth, and young adults. The youth had a passion that was energetic and so refreshing! The youth band got to lead a significant portion of the service, and they clearly enjoyed it, as did everyone. The band sang passionate songs of praise, and the dancers danced beautifully in their dresses. At one point, Bishop Christian Alsted of Denmark, a member of the Study Committee on the Worldwide Nature of the UMC, invited all of the youth to come to the front of the church so he could offer a prayer for them. It was incredible to see so many young people crowded into the aisles! All of the adults in the congregation raised their hands as they joined in praying for these young people. Talk about powerful.
Pastor David informed us of the many ministries in which Puno is currently involved. We learned that Puno has a daughter church, a Mission Church located in the midst of a very poor community near a dumpsite where families scavenge through garbage to find plastics that they can sell to earn enough food to eat that day. Once a month the people in the poor community come to worship at Puno. Puno is making intentional efforts to break down barriers between the rich and the poor. Puno is also known as a “MODEL” church, which stands for Medical, Ophthalmic, Dental, Educational, and Legal. Once a month, Puno offers free clinics providing people from the poor community with free medical exams, medications, dental care, legal advice, and other services. Doctors, lawyers, dentists, and other professionals from the congregation openly and lovingly share their time and talents for the good of the poor. Wow… I have never seen or heard of anything like that in any of the churches I’ve ever visited in the U.S.! We (myself included) tend to be so selfish with our time and talents. We worry about not “over-committing ourselves.”
I could honestly go on for pages and pages writing about my reflections on this trip. I was deeply humbled to see the ways in which the people of the United Methodist Church in The Philippines are unselfishly serving each other in Christian love.
Lord, forgive me for my sins and deliver me from my selfish ways. Help me to serve others the way these people do. Amen.