I date my mother every week.
And she loves telling me stories about her life.
So every week, I get a lesson in Philippine History.
Remember that my mother is 85 years old—and anything about her life is Philippine History.
When I was a little boy, I asked her, “Mom, did you see Jose Rizal?”
“Uh, that’s a little bit too early in Philippine History,” she said.
But last week, my Mom told me about the lowest point in her life…
The Bombs Were Falling From The Sky
“I got married during the Japanese war,” she said.
She was only 19 years old.
War was raging all around them. Japanese soldiers running around the city, looking for guerrillas. One million Filipinos will ultimately die because of that war.
Yet there they were, two lovebirds, getting married!
As if their problems weren’t enough, Mom’s mother was very sick. “I was an only child,” she said, “my father had died years ago. And Mama was totally bedridden, sick with tuberculosis…”
And six days after their wedding, bombs fell from the sky.
They heard the roar of American planes flying above, dropping their bombs all over Manila.
Everywhere they looked, homes and buildings were on fire.
Soon, their house caught fire as well.
“Bo, your father had to carry my mother in a wooden pushcart through the burning streets of Manila,” she said. “On the way, Japanese soldiers would block our road. We didn’t know where to go. But we kept running…”
All of a sudden, they saw a convent.
The gates were closed but they knocked anyway.
The nuns, seeing an old woman in a wooden “kariton”, welcomed them with open arms. “Those nuns were God’s answer to our prayer. God protected us there. If they didn’t accept us, I don’t know where we would have gone…”
They Had Nothing To Eat
One month after, my grandmother passed away.
So they brought out the pushcart again and pushed her to the cemetery.
And then my mother told me something I never knew before.
I’m 44 now and it’s the first time I heard this story!
Because it was wartime, they couldn’t find jobs. There came a point when they had nothing to eat anymore. Their cupboards were empty. Their wallets were empty.
Mom told me, “Everyday, your father and I would walk around the market, begging people to buy our tomatoes. We didn’t have a store or stall. We just walked with the tomatoes in our hands. It was the only way to put food on the table.”
Mom and Dad also foraged whatever little belongings they had left, and sold them all: plates, spoons, forks, anything that they owned which had value.
God Is Faithful
After a year, both of them got jobs.
And few years later, Dad was hired by San Miguel Corporation—one of the biggest companies in the country. And years later still, he was promoted as Assistant Vice President.
Needless to say, it was a far cry from walking around the market, selling tomatoes.
God blessed them.
Their trials became but a distant memory.
God’s abundance flowed into their lives.
Of course, their biggest blessing came when they had a handsome son named Bo. (I’m half-kidding.)
My mother recalls all these past events and is astonished.
Did she really go through all that hardship?
Did she really go through all those trials?
Through all her storms, she has realized one thing: God was Faithful!
Why did I tell you the story of my parents?
To tell you that if you look back at your own life, you’ll also see the same beautiful thing: That God has been faithful to you.
That in your worst trials, God has never abandoned you.
When you got sick with cancer.
Or when you lost your job.
Or when your house burned down.
Or when your husband had an affair.
Or when your son turned to drugs.
Or when your daughter became pregnant out of wedlock.
Or when your friends turned against you.
Or when you were heartbroken by someone you trusted.
Or when you were falsely accused.
Or when you were buried in a mountain of debt.
Or when you fell into sin.
Or when you lost a loved one…
Through all these storms, God was there, holding your hand, steadying your steps, guiding your way. God was there, hiding you under the shadow of His wings. God was there, covering you with His Divine protection.
God is faithful.
If you’re going through storms right now, know that better days are ahead. Because God is faithful. You will overcome. Because God is faithful. You will be victorious. Because God is faithful. The Bible says, He will not abandon you… (Deuteronomy 4:31)
This Woman Was Faithful
To Her Mother-In-Law
There was a man named Elimelech who came from Bethlehem. He was married to Naomi and they had two sons, Mahlon and Chileon. (I don’t know of Mahlon was Filipino because he has a letter “h” in between his name. Filipinos are the only ones who do that. Like “Jhun” and “Dhel” and “Pinkhie”.)
But because of the famine in Israel, they became very poor. So they migrated to Moab to try their luck there. In that place, both of his sons married Moabite women—Ruth and Orpah. (I’m not sure if that second woman had a talk show on Moabite TV.)
But tragedy struck when Elimelech died.
And after him, both Mahlon and Chileon died too.
So there were three widows left.
You didn’t want to become a widow during ancient times.
Widows were the poorest of the poor. They could not inherit anything. They could not own property.
Naomi knew this.
So she told both her daughter-in-laws to leave her now because they would just suffer poverty with her. She said that she’d return to Israel, to her hometown, Bethlehem.
Orpah tearfully did as Naomi told her.
But Ruth, this extraordinary woman, was an extremely faithful woman. And this was when she said these words… “Don’t ask me to leave you! Let me go with you. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried. May the Lord’s worst punishment come upon me if I let anything but death anything but death; or even death separate me from you!” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth could have gone back to her own parents and her own family. But she didn’t. She loved her mother-in-law. She knew Naomi would be all alone.
This Moabitess left her home and family, went to Israel, knowing they were both widows and would live in poverty. But that didn’t stop her from being faithful.
It’s easy to be faithful when times are easy.
But that’s not faithfulness. That’s convenience.
You know you’re faithful when times are hard.
And that was Ruth.
I need to cut the story short here.
While in Israel, Ruth worked to feed herself and Naomi. She foraged fields for scraps of food left by harvesters.
One day, she was scavenging in a field owned by a certain man named Boaz. And he got to know Ruth. And he married her.
It was God who brought Boaz into Ruth’s life because of her faithfulness to Naomi. If she wasn’t faithful to Naomi, she would never have met Boaz.
Right now, you may feel like you’re Ruth.
You’ve experienced a great loss in life.
Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one.
Perhaps you’ve lost a marriage.
Perhaps you’ve lost your health.
Perhaps you’ve lost your job.
Keep on doing what is right, even when it’s difficult.
Keep being selfless even if you don’t see any rewards.
Because you know that one day, God will reward you the way He rewarded Ruth.
When I look back into my life, I’m amazed at how God would bring the right people into my life. The right mentors. The right volunteers for ministry. The right business partners. The right connections.
One of God’s great rewards is He will make the right people walk into your life.
Singles, believe that your Boaz will walk into your life.
Even amidst closed doors…
Don’t Keep Looking At The Closed Door
Read my next sentence carefully.
When a door of happiness closes, another door of happiness opens. But here’s our problem: we keep looking at the closed door so long, we don’t see the other door opening.
You’re so hurt by that past relationship, or you’ve been so depressed by that failed business, or you’ve been so discouraged by that problem, you’ve not been able to move on. Stop looking at that closed door. Look around you. There’s a new door of happiness opening for you!
Ruth experienced a door closing on her life.
But she didn’t stay looking at that closed door.
She could have!
She could have said, “Lord, why did you take away my husband, my father-in-law, my brother in law? Could you have not just left as least one guy in the family to take care of us?”
She could have cursed, moped, grumbled, and complained.
Instead, she became faithful. She looked around for the new door that was opening in her life.
Friend, do what she did.
Maybe right now, a door that used to be open is now closed.
But after mourning, move on. Don’t get stuck.
Because another door is opening.
Will You Be As Old As This?
Let me tell you a story.
One day, an old couple who are in their nineties were getting very forgetful.
While watching TV, the man stood up to go to the kitchen.
The wife said, “Where are you going?”
The husband said, “To the kitchen.”
“Can you give me a bowl of ice cream?”
“Sure,” the man said.
“And can you put some bananas in it? But I think you need to write it down. You might forget.”
The husband shook his head, “Of course not. You want a bowl of ice cream with bananas.”
“And if it’s not too much to ask, can you crush some peanuts and sprinkle it on top?”
“But I think you really need to write it down or you’ll forget.”
He became irritated. “I’ll remember! You want a bowl of ice cream with bananas and nuts!”
He went and disappeared in the kitchen.
When he came back, he handed her a plate of scrambled eggs and sliced bread.
The wife looked at the plate and said, “My gosh. You forgot the ketchup!”
Growling Old Together
I have a dream.
Ask my wife this and she’ll tell you that I’m crazy about this dream. I tell her my dream all the time.
I want to grow old with my wife.
I believe God designed our friendships to last forever.
When you grow old, you’ll realize that life is about relationships.
Your body will weaken.
Your mind will forget.
Your eyesight will dim.
Your hearing will become faint.
Your house will decay.
Your car will rust.
Your bank account will shrink.
But there’s one thing that can still keep growing: Your love for one another. Everything else will grow old except your love.
There’s a part in Mom’s story that I didn’t share with you.
It’s about Mom’s faithfulness these past 60 years.
During that difficult period in that war, my parents started a tiny sari-sari store in their home.
But because they had very little money, they sold very few things. Their store shelves were always empty.
One day, God sent them an angel.
An Aunt visited them.
And she saw the empty shelves in their store.
This woman pulled out P100 from her purse—a huge amount at that time—and handed it to my mother, “Go and buy more groceries for your store.”
I asked my mother, “Was she rich?”
“No, she wasn’t. It was war time. We were all poor.”
My mother said, “That P100 saved our lives. We were able to fill our shelves with groceries. And our store earned more money. After a month, we bought a little gift for our Auntie and returned her money.”
All of a sudden, it clicked in my brain.
For many years now, like clockwork, Mom sends money to two of her cousins who are now sick and very old. Without fail, she’d send half of whatever money I give her to her cousins.
Now I know why.
Because those 2 cousins are the daughters of that Auntie who, sixty years ago, during a time of her great need, lent her P100.
Through her life, Mom taught me about faithfulness.
It’s a faithfulness that I try to practice in my life today.
What Is Unique About Light of Jesus
Last week, a young man asked me, “Brother Bo, what do you say is unique about Light of Jesus Family?What makes it different?”
His question triggered something deep within me.
Something very emotional.
All of a sudden, I realized our uniqueness.
It isn’t the preaching.
It isn’t the worship.
It isn’t the music.
It isn’t the media work we do or our work for the poor.
It isn’t how good-looking I am. (Haha.)
I believe that what makes Light of Jesus Familyunique is something more subtle.
This year, we’re celebrating our 30 years together.
Most of the top leaders of Light of Jesus have been serving with me, shoulder-to-shoulder, for the past 20 to 30 years. And we’ve chosen to be faithful to each other. (At least, we try too!)
Oh, believe me, we’ve had bloody fights.
So bloody, so painful, so severe, they almost tore our friendships apart.
But a very long time ago, the top leaders of Light of Jesus made a decision to make our relationships more important than our ministries. People are more important than our projects.
And here’s something controversial to chew on: We’ve decided to make our friendships our mission. Why? When unbelievers look at the broken Body of Christ, they ask, “How can we believe in the love you preach when you keep fighting each other?”
Here’s another reason:The leaders of Light of Jesus are spiritual parents. The people following us are our kids. So we’ve decided never to divorce. Because those who suffer the most in any divorce are the children.
So we’ve made divorce unthinkable.
And why do I treasure friendships so much?
When I grow old, I want to be surrounded by old friendships—not just new ones.
Don’t get me wrong. New friendships are fantastic.
But I believe it’s the old friendships that give you a deep happiness, a profound peace that new friendships can’t give you.
This is just my opinion.
But since I’m the Founder of Light of Jesus, my opinion holds a lot of weight around here. (Smile!)
I believe in faithfulness.
Because God is faithful.
Let me end with one last story.
The Tragedy of Alzheimer’s
One day, a woman began to forget things.
Where she went.
What she said.
Where she was going.
Her husband brought her to a doctor, and sure enough, their worst fears were confirmed: She had Alzheimer’s.
After some time, her sickness progressed until she needed nursing care 24 hours a day.
Her husband didn’t want to, but he had no choice. He transferred his wife to a home care facility for patients with Alzheimer’s.
But he promised to visit her everyday.
Every 3pm, he’d visit her and spend the afternoon with her.
There came a point when she no longer recognized him.
It was so painful for him to enter her room, and she would just stare blankly at him.
One day, the husband was in a business meeting.
At 2:30pm, he stood to leave, saying he was going to visit his wife. One of his friends took him aside and asked, “Can I ask a question? Why do you still visit your wife everyday when she doesn’t know you anymore?”
He looked at his friend and smiled, “She may not know me, but I know her. And that’s enough for me.”
That man was a faithful husband.
Just like God.
Despite Our Spiritual Alzheimers
Friend, we sometimes have spiritual Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes, we forget about God.
Sometimes, we fail to recognize Him.
But God is faithful.
Even if we fail to know him, he still knows us.
And that’s enough for Him.
Everyday, He meets with us.
Everyday, He visits us.
Rejoice that God is faithful.
Be faithful as God is faithful.
May your dreams come true,