Good afternoon everyone! Welcome back to all returning students! Welcome also to new students. I hope and pray that your study here at PTSCAS will be worthwhile and enjoyable!
We had a very challenging first semester this Academic Year 2020-2021. Through God’s provision, PTSCAS did not suffer the fate of more or less 400 private schools here in the province of Cavite that stopped operation. By his grace, we reach the second semester of this school year and classes now have officially started.
For returning students, how was your experience last semester in our online learning? The school has tried to identify the challenges that both the faculty and the students have encountered through online survey, but the problem is responses are too small that we could not get an accurate picture of what’s really going on. Let us continue to pray for insight and guidance on the part of school administration for us to be able to properly address the kind of situation that we are currently in.
On this orientation day, I would like to challenge everyone not to be satisfied just to survive this semester, but to thrive even in the midst of challenges caused both by the pandemic and the lockdown. And I want you to have this kind of philosophy in ministry that helped me in my stay for four years in South Korea, from 2012 to 2016. Make this philosophy as your philosophy in your study this second semester of AY 2020-2021.
The year I arrived in South Korea, the atmosphere in the local church I was about to serve was tensed and discouraging. Listening to emotionally depressing stories from fellow Filipino missionaries, I thought I could not survive there and I actually wanted to go home just after two days of my arrival. But praise the Lord everything changed after three days. I decided to change my mind, to think differently. I made a philosophy of my ministry around three verbs or action words. They serve as my guide and by the grace of God I was able to live on the basis of those principles during my stay in South Korea.
Pray hard! This is my first guide. Korean Christians are known for their dawn prayer meetings and Prayer Mountains. In the church I served, there are four daily Morning Prayer, one in the evening, one mid-week, and an all-night prayer every Friday. That is the lifestyle of Yaksu Presbyterian Church. Even during day off, Monday, I need to come to the place of worship to assist both in morning and evening prayer.
Prayer isn’t easy. In fact, on our own, we do not know how to properly pray. We need the Spirit of God to teach us how to pray. Prayer is difficult; it is hard work. It is portrayed in the Bible with activities that require intense energy and exertion. It is described with activities like wrestling, agonizing and travailing. We really need to pray hard. If there is one good thing that came out of this pandemic and the lockdown, it is this: that the Body of Christ is now praying again in a way that is never done when everything is normal. In our Presbytery alone in NCR- South Metro, before the pandemic, we meet once a month for prayer and fellowship. But since the lockdown started last March 2020, pastors and elders in our presbytery are now praying every Saturday. Many similar examples can be mentioned such as the regular online Morning Prayer meetings of Korean missionaries and our former church members in different parts of the world meeting every Friday just to pray.
Do your best! Prayer is not an escape for action. As you continue to study here at PTSCAS, do not be satisfied with just an average performance. Aim for excellence. Your study is now your calling. If you are encountering problem in Internet connectivity, I think it is not difficult to go to a computer shop even just once in the whole semester and download all the learning materials from our Moodle platform and save them either on the cloud or on any external storage device that you have. And so even though you do not have enough money to buy data for your Internet connection on the day of your online class, at least you can read and study those materials offline. You can even discuss with your instructor to go for a self-paced learning if you really find it hard to have weekly online classes.The most important thing is your output. Aim for excellence. Give your best. That is your service to the Lord as a student this semester.
Finally, enjoy! “How can I enjoy my study in this kind of situation?” Maybe you will ask that kind of question to yourself. When I told my colleagues in South Korea about this ministry philosophy, someone told, “Praying hard and giving your best are attainable, but to enjoy, that’s not possible.” One fellow assistant Korean Pastor told me, “You know, my life here is getting more difficult as days pass. How about you?” I just responded to him with a smile and I told myself, ‘There’s nothing more difficult than the place where I came from.” For some people, their hell is heaven to others because they are not used to difficulties or hardships in life. If you’ve been through a level 10 difficulty, a level 1 or 2 is just a walk in the park for you; it’s nothing; it doesn’t bother you. But for some such low level of difficulty in life is already like a world-ending experience for them. Imagine the apostle Paul while inside the prison at Philippi. Instead of complaining for his unjust suffering, he and Silas were instead praying and singing hymns to God (Acts 16:25). He even encouraged believers at Philippi to rejoice in the Lord always.
In closing, let me read a couple of verses from the New Testament. The apostle Paul reminded the church of the Thessalonians to “rejoice always” and “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5: 16-17). And then finally, the church at Corinth, a church that is gifted and yet afflicted with so many problems, apostle Paul told them that “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do (that includes study), do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). My brothers and sisters in the Lord, join with me in prayer that PTSCAS by the grace of God will produce excellent, prayerful, joyful, holy, loving, powerful and productive biblical counselors, preachers, missionaries, theological educators, and Christian teachers! Amen!
Ruel Chavez is a Presbyterian minister and a theological educator. He has taught several Bible school extensions under Evangelical Presbyterian Mission in the Philippines for the past 20 years. He served as full time faculty member of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary from 2006 to 2009. After eight years, he returned to PTSCAS last 2017 and is now serving as the Academic Dean of the institution. His major is in the field of theology, but he also earned 34 units in Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.