Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: November, 2005

Floating holidays

This morning, our chapel service was a thanksgiving service. It lasted quite a bit longer than a normal chapel with lots of special songs, instrumentals, testimonies, etc. I missed most of the sermon because Tiffany was sick and I had to try to get Elijah to take his morning nap. I did get back in time for the announcements at the end of the service, though.

November 30 is Bonifacio Day in the Philippines. The President has decided that it will not be celebrated on the 30th this year, however. Instead, it will be on Monday, December 5. But our students didn’t need a day off on December 5. They have a variety show to prepare for Friday night. So our academic dean moved the holiday back to the afternoon of December 1 and the morning of December 2. This has been our experience with holidays here. It’s not a holiday until the President says it is, and she doesn’t usually announce it until the day of the holiday or the day before.

Even when we first arrived in the Philippines, the people we talked to weren’t sure if there would be a day off for their Independence Day or not. They were waiting on the President’s announcement. If I recall correctly, there was no Independence Day holiday this year.

Cultural comparison

This morning, I began with teaching my church planting course some rather Western perspectives and strategies on life management which I don’t practice and which I’m not sure totally transfer to this culture. But I hit my stride the next hour in my missions class, because we were talking about one of my favorite subjects–cultural diversity. I was just trying to broaden the students’ horizons to see a little more of how different we all really are. For comparison, I was using Gailyn Van Rheenen’s descriptions of the Kipsigis of Kenya, the students’ descriptions of Filipino culture and my descriptions of American life.

We talked first about nonverbal aspects like gestures. In Africa, it’s common for men to hold hands with men, and for women to hold hands with women. When I intimated that the same kind of thing takes place here, I got winces or looks of puzzlement. So, I amended my statement to say that women hold hands here and men walk around with their arms around each other. In the US, those kinds of actions are generally an indicator of homosexuality. When I shared this, the students seemed genuinely surprised.

In the same area, we talked about how to motion someone to come to you. Our textbook gave an example from Thailand, where an American student gestured a two-year-old to come to her by curling her index finger upwards. For this insulting gesture, she got a punch in the arm. That’s how you call an animal, not a person. I tried to explain the other day that this was the way Americans usually beckon someone but the students all seemed rather blase about it. Today, when I mentioned that it was offensive in Thai culture, the students volunteered that it is also offensive in Filipino culture. I had read this, but it was the first time someone here had actually verified that to me. I explained to them that their way of gesturing (palms down, bringing the fingers to touch the palms) would actually confuse an American. For example, traffic policemen here will often raise their hand in a symbol that looks to me like “Stop!” and then sweep it down to their side to tell me to proceed. This is repeated, appearing to me as, “Stop! Go! Stop! Go! Stop! . . . “

Rainy Days and Mondays

Today began, as most Mondays do for me, at about 4:30 AM, when I rise to prepare for the core group meeting on our porch at 5:00. As they have been recently, they were early. I popped in an iWorship DVD to start our meeting with a few songs. Now, granted, I think that 2 of the 3 songs were new to the group, so I can understand a little hesitancy on the part of some to join in singing. But the other song was “How Great Thou Art.” The arrangement’s a little different than we normally sing it, but we just sang it this way 2 weeks ago. But most of the students sat in silence and just stared at the screen or looked like they were having trouble keeping their eyes open. This was ironic, because the subject we were tackling this morning was the passivity of the church members, especially during the singing. There was a part of me that wanted to shout, “Hey! Maybe this is why the members are passive; we’re passive!” but I restrained myself. I tried to give a few points on leadership and talk to the group about setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, result-oriented and time-bound) goals. Then we started our discussion about improving the worship in our church. It usually takes some time after I ask a question before I get any response. I try not to call on someone to answer a question, but that seems to be the most effective way to elicit a response. It strikes me that each of the students has an answer on the tip of his or her tongue but will not volunteer that answer unless they are specifically called upon. They did manage to come up with a goal, though. “We will have a congregation that worships in Spirit and in truth. Everyone is participating in singing, listening attentively, bringing their Bibles (?), and participating in church vision and ministry. By the end of 2005, we will have designed a worship service that fits our people.” There are several of the SMART criteria that this goal fails to meet, but I really had to press them for specifics to get this much done. Sometimes, I feel like the group members leave out important details, but when I make a statement based on the information I have been given, they courteously correct my misunderstanding about the details. We still made a little progress and decided to do some informal surveying of the people in the preaching points regarding their worship style preferences and hopefully educating them both about worship and the importance of their finding a place of ministry in the local church. Frankly, I’m still a little reluctant to pose the question that probably most needs to be asked: “What do we want our church to look like?” I’m afraid that I will hear that they want a megachurch. I’m not really interested in building that kind of ministry, but it seems that is where our methodology is headed. If they are bold enough to say that is what they want, I may be bold enough to recommend that they find a different mentor.

I had 2 boys come and work for me at 4:00 this afternoon, a rare thing indeed. I told them that I needed one to burn the trash and the other to cut the grass on the west side of the house. While I went to get a bolo and matches, they began to quarrel about who would do what, but they had it worked out before I reappeared. I didn’t check on them for several minutes. When I came out, the one who was supposed to be cutting the tall grass and weeds was actually digging up every plant on the side of the house, grass and all. I explained to him that I only wanted the broadleaf plants removed, but he still was preparing to dig up grass. So I sent him over to the area with taller vegetation and told him to chop with the bolo.

Disciplinary meeting

Tonight, following the students’ prayer meeting, we heard the report from the disciplinary committee. We do this about monthly. The acting president of the college went to the front and began to read the list of offenders. I think there were 8 this time. Three couples were named who had violated the school’s social policies. Generally speaking, they had engaged in prolonged conversations, texted each other on cell phones, or, in one case, the boy had given the girl a gift. The other offenders had left campus last Saturday night without obtaining permission. Each name was read, one by one, followed by the list of offenses, sometimes containing language of shock that someone would dare to violate these rules (despite the fact that it happens almost continuously). Then, the punishment, er, disciplinary measures were read. Every offender was required to give a public apology, extra work assignments were given to all (digging a 5x5x5 pit, making & maintaining a garden, cleaning the tabernacle, washing dishes, etc.), the couples were forbidden from any contact with each other for the next month, and the gift that was given was to be returned. In addition, four of the students were given a “WARNING FOR SUSPENSION.” These were, I believe, repeat offenders. Six of the eight students were first year, the usual suspects. But there were also 2 third years on the list this time–a rarity, as they are supposed to be beyond this by now. Even while the acting president was reading the report, I noticed one of the couples talking to each other, mere moments after it had been announced that they were to have absolutely no contact with each other. So I moved up and sat down by the boy, a third-year student. He immediately hung his head in shame and never looked up again. When the report had been read, those being disciplined began to get up one at a time and give their public apology. Some were in English, some in Tagalog. Most sounded like Academy Award acceptance speeches–I’d like to thank the discipline committee for their understanding, etc.

Thanksgiving service

I’ve noticed that Filipinos celebrate things that are, um, “different.” On Saturday, we went to a birthday party for someone we didn’t really know, but that was okay because we went with people who did know the celebrant. The thing that was different was that the celebrant had been dead for a year. Today, we went to a thanksgiving service held in the home of a person with whom our only connection is that we recently ran into him with our school vehicle. In fact, all of the victims of the accident were present.