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We were in Beijing from 13 to 15 April to give a teaching to the leaders (unit leaders and up) of CFC China. We were specifically requested to discuss how leaders in the community should pastor and care for their members. Thus our talk was on “Building Relationships, Pastoral Skills and Attitudes.” The participants were all Chinese so we needed an interpreter. The interpreter requested that we complete the thought first before he translates rather than do a sentence by sentence translation.


The talk is inspired by the calling of the first disciples, Simon and his brother Andrew, who were casting their nets into the sea and James and his brother John who were in a boat mending their nets: He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets (Mark 1:19).


In CFC, we cast our nets, meaning we “catch people”; and we mend our nets, meaning we prevent losing them through the holes of the nets. We mend our CFC nets by proper pastoring and building relationships. 


The teaching identifies two things needed to hone our pastoral skills and build relationships: the Spirit of a Shepherd (John 10:1,14) and the Heart of a Servant (Luke 17:10). The talk describes Pope Francis as an example of both a shepherd and a servant, and quotes his teaching on pastoring: “A pastor watches over the dreams, the lives and the growth of his flock. This watchfulness is the result of shepherding.  Only one capable of standing in the midst of the flock can be watchful, not someone who is afraid of questions, contact, accompaniment. A pastor keeps watch first and foremost with prayer, supporting the faith of his people and instilling confidence in the Lord, in his presence. A pastor remains vigilant by helping people to lift their gaze at times of discouragement, frustration and failure. We might well ask whether in our pastoral ministry we are ready to ‘waste’ time with families, whether we are ready to be present to them, sharing their difficulties and joys.”


But the perfect model of both a shepherd and a servant is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Faithful Servant who will give his all for his master. He is the Good Shepherd who will give his life for his sheep. We ended our talk by relating the Parable of the Boy and his Toy Boat.


The story goes like this: There was a young boy who constructed a beautiful toy boat for himself. The toy boat was so beautiful that he loved it so much. One day while he was playing with it in the river, the boat floated downstream swiftly. The boy ran alongside the riverbank to try to keep pace with it but the river current was too swift and turbulent that he lost the boat. Feeling sad and dejected, he went home.


One day, while walking in town, he saw displayed in one of the stores the very same boat that he had lost. He told the storekeeper that the boat on display was but the storekeeper said that if he wanted it, he should buy it. Because he loved the boat so much, he went home, got his piggy bank, broke it, took all the money, and purchased the boat. He gave all he had, everything that he owned, to get back the one thing that he loved the most.

As I explained to the Chinese participants, in this parable, we are the toy boat. God is the little boy. Just as the boy made the boat, God created us. He created us beautiful. And he loves us so much. As the boy placed the toy boat in the river, God placed us in this world. But the world’s pace is too fast and too turbulent. There are deadlines to be met. There are mortgages to be paid. We work frantically. And like the toy boat that the boy lost, God lost us. And God was very sad. Then one day, God found us again, and he wanted us back. But like the storekeeper, Satan said, “You have to buy him back.” God asked, “How much?” Satan said, “Everything that you’ve got.” And God said, “Done.” And God gave everything, his very own life to buy us back. He created us. He owns us. He bought us back. God owns us twice over.


We waited for the interpreter to translate the story into Chinese. But he could not come out with the words. He struggled to compose himself but no words came out. He was crying. After a while, the interpreter regained his composure and started translating. After he finished, over half the audience had teary eyes.


At the end of our talk, they were hugged, kissed and thanked us. It was time for us to go back to our hotel and prepare to leave for Manila. After so much hugs, kisses and handshakes, we walked to our car that would bring us to the hotel and the airport. Peter, the leader of CFC Beijing walked us to the car. We told Peter, “Peter, take care of the flock.” To our surprise, he broke into sobs.


As we travelled back to Manila, we reflected on how powerfully the Holy Spirit is working in CFC China; how seriously they take the teachings; how deeply they embrace the challenge of pastoring their members; and how much they love Jesus. We honor Peter. We honor our interpreter. We honor CFC China.


We could understand why our interpreter, due to deep emotion, took some time before being able to muster the words to say. We could understand why, after hearing the parable of the boy and the toy boat translated into Chinese, over half the audience became teary-eyed. We could understand why Peter broke into sobs upon hearing our admonition, “Take care of the flock.”


Peter must have felt, as the leader of the Beijing community, the magnitude of the task that God has given him – to pastor the community and keep them all inside the “CFC net.” The members of CFC China must have a very deep love for the Lord and have a profound faith in the great sacrifice made by Jesus on the Cross that their emotions came out, their empathy manifested, and their inmost feelings were revealed upon hearing the parable.


We were so much more evangelized by them than we had evangelized them. What happened in Beijing strengthened our faith that the Holy Spirit is working in the CFC community – and doubly working in CFC China. The Beijing incident confirmed our belief that Jesus is truly present in the CFC community. And if Jesus is present with us, if we can feel his presence, if we can hear his voice, if we can see his power working, why should we look for Jesus elsewhere?

Added on Thursday, June 14, 2018


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