May 30, 2005

Leaving home (Tobias Journal, no. 10)

{A brief note to start: I had intended to write a more regular account of my life in the Tobias Summer Household but somehow my experiences, which are recorded in a more conventional--read: pen and paper--journal are just too personal, even for this blog. Maybe someday, after I edit myself--which is a bloody process--I can post something. Don't mind the journal number, the numbers in between may someday see the light of print, so to speak.}

That was how I felt last Saturday as I cleaned, waxed and scrubbed the room I occupied for three weeks; as I packed my clothes and looked at my roommates do the same, I felt like I was leaving--and not returning--home.

The Tobias Brothers' Summer Household was an experience I was not prepared for. Going into it, I expected a very bloody adjustment because I am a creature of habit and my body, mind and soul do not take kindly to changes; yet, I am thankful that after my first night in Tobias (see previous post on this; journal no. 1), I found myself quite comfortable in that house (actually two adjoining houses but re-crafted as one). It was apparently a feeling that all the brothers shared.

During the first week, I could hear brothers referring to Tobias as "bahay" (house) and the act of going to Tobias as "uwi" (returning home); questions like, "bro, uwi ka ba ngayong gabi?", which ordinarily would mean the opposite slowly and surely took on the meaning, "are you sleeping at Tobias?"

I found myself referring to Tobias as home and started experiencing that excitement of returning home at the end of the working day, looking forward to quiet moments of being able to play the guitar in prayer time before chores (either cooking, setting the table or cleaning) or those moments of unforgettable bonding that only brothers living together can have--playing half-court basketball, table tennis, or just plain alaskahan and kumustahan. Apart from Morning and Night Prayers, Breakfast and Dinner were the times when the brothers were complete and these occasions would be the forge where the bonds of brotherhood of this household was tested; significantly, from the very first dinner, it was clear that this particular bunch of brothers had been handpicked by a power greater than any Branch Leader could divine--there was a chemistry, there was a bond that immediately formed. It was as if long-lost brothers had come home and picked up a conversation started but not ended and the times of breakfast and dinner were the moments when these strands were picked up again and woven into a tapestry of vignettes, anecdotes and life stories being shared.

I found myself adjusting not to sleeping on the floor (because I had spent two summers sleeping on stone floors and even soil during my activist days), but to distractions that arose at work because I was at work and would wonder what was going on at Tobias.

I found myself enjoying the simplicity of the life the brothers of the Servants of the Word led; I found myself inspired by the differences but also the similarities of the four brothers from SOW that we were with (Jobaqs, our household head; Byong, our household steward, Mark, our security steward, and John Yocum, our resident theologian and fanatical Pistons fan). These were brothers who were ordinary joes in all respects except that they had committed their whole lives--body, mind, heart, soul and spirit--to the God who had created them and called them; and that was the difference in these imperfect men because the perfect God whom they heeded was using their imperfections for His glory. And because of this, you saw their wisdom, their passion, their love, their service and even their imperfections in a very different light--that God uses ordinary men (and women) to bring His Kingdom here on earth and it is not a matter of our worthiness, it is a matter of God's worthiness.

The brothers I shared three weeks with was a rambunctious, loud, funny, fun group but they were also, to a man, passionately and deeply in love with the Lord and were each, to a man, figuring out what God had planned for us. And it was that process of discovery and discovering that each brother embarked on that made the household unforgettable; each brother entered Tobias with his own expectations and emerged with perhaps more questions than answers but definitely with a very different experience of God in their lives and that, I am sure, made an impact.

I personally felt the Lord speaking to me very clearly--not only through the sharings with the brothers in my Action Group but also through the talks and even the senses that the brothers and sisters would send me.

And so three weeks passed--just like that. To a man, each exclaimed that it was too short a period--such was the intensity of the experience that each of us felt that we would have wanted to continue living like this. Yet, it was now time to go into the real world--to be men in the world but not men of the world. To live out our calling to be men of God in a world where God's name is not proclaimed or, if at all, in embarrassed whispers or desperate screams of recrimination.

Yes, the three weeks of sheltered and protected existence had ended; it was now time to leave home and go out into the world. I can only pray that His grace be with me as I move on towards fulfilling His call for me. I also pray that the Lord will continue to protect and strengthen Tony, Dante, Polly, Ramil, Jason, Rice, Nandy, JC, Felix, Joseph, Red, Mike, Nick, Marlon, Luis, James, Mark, Byong, John and Jobaqs.

With joy in my heart, I left home last Saturday because I knew that home is where my heart is and, deep in my heart, I knew I could always go back home.

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