Discipleship 2013 conference was nothing short of phenomenal.

The opening presentation. Video testimonies of lives that Jesus transformed. Hilarious hosting by Dennis and Robert, Ariel and Gilbert. Powerful message by Steve Murrell. Amazing worship by the music team. Incredible updates and upgrades via web and baller USB.

But there was one that blessed my socks off.

He didn’t get on stage. He didn’t lead worship. He wasn’t in the band. He wasn’t even on the tech booth.

He used to be on stage. He used to be leading the worship. He would lead the band during conferences. But this time, he was sitting in the stands like a proud daddy.

Joel Barrios is a leader who truly serves. Many of the worship leaders we have today were raised by him. Scores of them, he influenced and trained.

This was his tweet:

A real picture of discipleship and leadership was what I saw.

As Steve Murrell would always say,

“A lot of leadership is getting out of the way. We are to lead in view of leaving.”

Joel has exemplified this.

And he is not even done. To this day, he continues to disciple, train and influence young men and women in the area of leading worship.

His tweet truly blessed me.

“…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant…” Matthew 20:26

Today is a sad and joyful day.

Sad because a very loving, thoughtful and affectionate man has gone to be with the Lord.

Tito Delfin’s battle with pancreatic cancer has come to an end.

The Lord has given. And the Lord has taken away.

The Lord has given a “tito” who brightens the day of every person he encounters.
The Lord has given a faithful usher who knows the power of a simple hug.
The Lord has given a lolo to many kids in church who received a candy whenever they were restless.
The Lord has given an amazing friend to his basketball buddies who organized a weekly Bible study to share God’s love and Word to.
The Lord has given a compassionate man who brought 100 plus handicapped on wheel chairs to Jesus and now enjoying church.
The Lord has given a jolly lolo who gathered 50 street children every Saturday together with his son John to feed, bless and tell the story of Jesus’ love.
The Lord has given a father to John and Ann who has poured his love to all these years.
The Lord has given a husband to Edna who has been a friend, companion and constant prayer partner through the years.

(And the list goes on and on and on and on… Feel free to add and comment below.)

The Lord has given.
And the Lord has taken away.

But as Job says in his book,

May the name of the LORD be praised! (Job 1:21)

A sad day indeed but at the same time, a joyful one.

We have been blessed to witness a life of a man transformed by the grace of God and served Him to the very last breath of his life.

As I visited the family this morning at the hospital, a few hours before he passed, he woke up suddenly and in a loud voice said, “Thank You Jesus. Thank You Jesus. Thank You Jesus.”

Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious I the sight of The Lord are the death of His saints.”

How can death be precious?
It is precious to Him because those that He loves dearly, He brings close because He can no longer love from a distance.

His life here on earth ended but His life in His presence has just begun. What a way to spend Christmas!

I can almost hear the Father saying, “We’ll done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

Thank you Tito Delfin for your hugs, encouragement and example of what it means to live for Christ.

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…” 2 Timothy 4:7

This was an original post by Brix Briones.

It’s quite a long one but deserving because of the man behind this story.  Tito Delfin, Mang Delfin, Lolo Delfin … however you might call him, he is well loved because of how thoughtful and caring he is.

Whenever we bump into each other before the 6pm service, where I usually attend, he runs after me to give me a hug, WITHOUT FAIL. Then the words would follow just like a script he’s memorized yet always as in ALWAYS would come from the heart – “Thank you pastor. Great to see you pastor. I love you pastor.”

 

Here’s the post by Brix Briones.

God commanded us to love one another, just as he loved us (John13:34).

In fact according to him, this is how people will know that we are His disciples, the love that we have for each other will be a clear testament that we are His followers.

This point is easy enough to understand, but the execution is another thing. Love for your fellow man (true and genuine love that is), especially in todays market-driven economy and Facebook oriented society, is a rare commodity.

You see I seldom feel Godly love, specially among men. Until I met this guy, he is an usher in our church, and he showed me that it is possible to give a generous portion of Godly love every week, something that I craved for. A genuine love that even my wife could notice, she would even ask me why she could not have something similar. It was a love that I thought would always be there, and that all I had to do was come back for more If I needed it.

But that was not the case, because that love came packaged in human flesh, and as with everything human, that love too was only temporary. Unfortunately I was only able to recognize that it was that when it was just about to go back to its source. A love coming from a total stranger, a love simply expressed by humility and a smile. The genuine love coming from an usher, my favorite usher, and now it seems that it will not last for long.

You see my favorite usher is dying. As I write this he is in the hospital battling it out with pancreatic cancer. When I heard the news yesterday, I wanted to see him so badly, I wanted to get a hug, I wanted to see his smile, I wanted to hear his voice.

But how could I? I barely know the man.

I desperately tried to get information and details so I could see him, but nobody could give me answers. And how could they give me details, I was not related to him, I was not part of his group, I was not an usher, I was not a friend, heck I don’t even really know his complete name. All that we had were little minutes during Sunday afternoons, smiles and hugs, and quick chats in rare instances when it was possible.

To him I was just supposed to be someone attending the service, and to me he is just supposed to be an usher named Delfin. But the reality was very different, I felt Gods presence and love in those short moments he engaged me. He showed me that it was indeed possible for us to obey Jesus and genuinely love one another.

And the strange part is, he did it to me without even trying. He did it by just being himself.

Our story began the Sunday that my wife and I decided to move back to VCF Fort about three years ago, just a few weeks after we got married. Weve been growing in our Ortigas Church, but decided to move back to the Fort for proximity, it was a lot closer to where we lived, and since we wanted to have more family time together, it was an easy choice to make.

Our schedule was crazy, so we were attending different services, whatever was convenient for us. Then one fine Sunday afternoon, we came a little bit early for the 2pm service. As we were heading towards our favorite chair, this old man approached us, he was one of the ushers.

He came to us like a breath of fresh air, sharply wearing his Sunday best, together with the most wonderful smile I’ve seen from a man his age. He extended his hand, so I politely extended mine as well and tried my best to smile back and not be the usual grouchy me.

To my surprise, he grabbed me by the shoulder with his other hand after reaching for the handshake, and gave me a hug. It was the warmest hug I’ve had from a man all these years.

“Welcome to Victory bro! Kamusta ka na!”

Was he somebody I knew but could not remember? Was he a friend, someone that I failed to recognize? Who was this guy?

“Ok naman po, kayo po kamusta?”

Whew! Sure glad I quickly pulled that fast one out, why would I want to embarrass him and myself, surely I’ll remember who this guy is in few seconds…

“Ok lang ako!… cge, dito muna ako ha, enjoy the service.”

Then he smiled again, Then that was that.

After the free hug and the smile, he was out of my reach. Doing similar gestures to all the other people he was able to come across with. As I was observing him doing his rounds, the hug was still lingering and I felt something strange, I still had the smile he left me with, he was that contagious.

My wife was smiling at me when I looked at her, and was asking me who Grandpa was, and I told her that I didn’t know him. She didn’t believe me, and said that I probably just didn’t remember who he was. So I tried my best to google search him in my brain but couldn’t realy find him (and it really doesnt work quite as fast). And besides, I had to pay attention to the preaching of doc jun, so that was that for the usher and me, our very first encounter.

I told my wife the following Sunday that I wanted to do the 2pm service again because I wanted to get the continuation of the series of doc jun. So we were there again, same chair, same time, and of course, the same usher again.

“Hello bro, welcome!!!” was his greeting, but it was done in such a passionate exuberance as if I was attending a once year special revival service.

The hug was there again, the smile was there again, but this time I caught a glimpse of something special.

Believe it or not, I saw the Holy Spirit reflected in the twinkle of his eyes. So I knew right then and there, that this was no ordinary man. He may have been just an usher to everyone else, but to me he was a messenger from God, giving out generous portions of love, neatly packed in a smile, delivered door-to-door (face-to-face even) together with a hug, so one can get it with a dose of the warmth of Gods love.

So it went on and on, every Sunday it would be like that, it became sort of a ritual that I would be looking forward to. We would be attending the service to hear the word of God, and then I would get the added bonus of special smile and hug from this nice usher.

The experience came to me in perfect timing, as I was going through tough and difficult times, and it was very comforting to know that I could reach out for a dose of Gods presence and love if I needed it. I got so comfortable about it that I didn’t even bother to get the name of this usher, nor did I even try to make an effort to get to know him.

Then one Sunday came, it was volunteer weekend. The church was asking for volunteers in the various ministries, the ushering ministry included. Mister nice usher came to me and asked me if I would consider joining the ushering team. I told him I will think about it, and he said he would pray for me and hope that I would indeed consider joining them.

To be frank about it, the ushering ministry is not something I find attractive. You clean up the mess other people make after the service, you arrange the chairs that people mess up on purpose as they leave, you try to be all smiles and be very nice, and yet people don’t even try to notice you’re there. People ignore you when you ask them politely, people don’t greet back, people don’t smile back, and most of the time people are just nasty (just like me), who will not even bother to get to know you, no matter how nice you are to them. And I really didn’t want to be at the receiving end of that predicament, so I’m not really so sure if I want to be an usher just yet.

And as we were heading out, another friend greeted us. He is also a member of the ushering team, but this guy was totally different. He wanted me to join the group also, but his methods were totally different. He actually signed me up himself, he gave me a name pin, and told me that my schedule to help out the following week as already confirmed. No more training, no more briefing, all I needed to do was just to smile. Yeah Right…

Im sure he meant it in a nice way, and im sure that all he wanted was for me to help out. But doing things like that just don’t cut it like they used to. So I never came the following Sunday. In fact we attended the morning service from then on because I wanted to make sure that I will get no pressure to join any group. Never mind the free hug and the smile from my favorite usher, I will just visit back from time to time in case i wanted to see him.

Weeks passed, it turned into months. Hadn’t realized that it was more than a year already since I last saw my favorite usher, and by this time I actually got to know that his name was Delfin; and this was because yesterday, pastor joey mentioned him in his preaching. That he visited one of the leaders of the ushering team at the hospital, and he was dying of cancer.

All pastor joey had to say to confirm that it was indeed him, was that you will surely know this man when you meet him because he wears the best smile on a Sunday. That surely was my favorite usher.

My heart was crying when I learned that it was indeed him. Had trouble sleeping, had trouble eating, had a hard time focusing on the things I was supposed to do.

There were so many “ifs” in my mind: If only I joined when he asked me to, if only I gave him more of my time and attention, if only I was a little bit more nice to him…

I honestly don’t know what to do to make up…

To all the ushers, in my church and in others, I encourage you to continue what you are doing. It may seem trivial, the work may seem mundane; but I’m very sure that my experience with Delfin will be as true and genuine to others, as it was true and genuine to me.

The smile, the handshake, the hug, the attention, the simple act of kindness to a total stranger, all of that has a tremendous and profound impact in the life of someone like me. People may not be able to repay you, nor will they recognize your efforts and honor you for it, but I’m sure that our Father in heaven sees you, and your every little act of kindness and generosity does not escape his attention, and ultimately God will be your reward.

To you Lolo Delfin, (if you will permit me with the honor to address you that way, because you seem to be that to me, a lolo that i never had…) I want to thank you, with all my heart. My wife and I want you and your family to know that we appreciate you so very much. It was both an honor and a privilege to have you in our life, even for just a few moments. We will never forget you, your smile, your hug, your love.

If I can have even just half as much of the kind of humility and grace that you were able to exhibit in your life, I know I will be a better man.

Be assured that we will be with you in faith and prayer, we will ask all of our friends to be with you in prayer and faith as well. We serve an Almighty God and nothing is impossible for him, and we will continue to believe for your healing and recovery.

Serving others is not second nature to me. I prefer being served than serving others. (Just being honest.)

But in our recent trip to Jakarta to attend the World Prayer Assembly, I was privileged to travel with a man with such as servant attitude.

He would offer to take the pictures for us.

When Nano, one of our Indonesian brothers from Every Nation’s iPhone was low on battery, this guy offered to turn on his MacBook to juice up Nano’s phone.

I was his room mate for a few days. He noticed that I would roll up the comforter to make it an extra pillow since we only had one. The next day, he requested an extra pillow from room service.

Maybe it was because Jonathan Camcam worked in the hotel industry for years (Opryland Hotel and the Radisson in Nashville)?

Probably. But I think he just understood firmly what Jesus said in Mark 10:43.

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

I’m glad he’s part of our team as one of our discipleship pastors and the one who leads our intercessory prayer team.

I’m also glad because I will have a consistent example before me of what it means to serve as Jesus served.

Last night, we had our Volunteer Appreciation. I still couldn’t believe what I witnessed last night – the passion, the excellence bundled with lots of fun.

Every year, we try to appreciate our volunteers who worked so hard the past 12 months serving in our different worship services – tech team, creatives, ushers, kids church, youth, music… Weekend services won’t even be close to what they are weekly apart from the hardworking and passionate volunteers we have.

This year’s Appreciation Night’s theme was Disney.  Part of the program was for each ministry to have a special presentation based on one of the Disney movies.

To say the least, we were blown away… flabbergasted… astonished… dumbfounded… amazed… (running out of words to explain)…

It only showed the passion and excellence of each team serving at the church.

Pastor Joey Bonifacio shared a verse that aptly described what everyone has done (not only that night) but for the past 12 months.

Hebrews 6:10. “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

Here are some of the pictures from last night.

Our hosts, Tin, Jek and Pastor Jeff made us laugh throughout the night.

Disney theme for the night

We saw Timone walking around

We also saw 'pink' Sebastian

Jeff with "The Beast"

Lion King presentation

"Aladdin" presentation

Little Mermaid with Nemo and Dory

"No One's Been Like Gaston"

"Gaston"

The "other" Gaston... ushering team

Not to be outshone, our pastors and staff's presentation "Be Our Guest"

Thanks Alfred and Anson for the pictures!