2019 MEANS Retreat

Means Retreat 2019 Impressions by Faith Cheng 

postcardTake My Life and Let it Be was the theme song of this year’s MEANS Retreat, and one of many worship songs and hymns that we sang together to open up our time. I was sitting in a fellowship hall with 20 uncles and aunties who all pitched in to help contribute and set up the space for two and a half days together: the A/V system for the worship team, speakers, and videos we would watch; the banners on stage and on the podium; and, of course, an abundance of food. It was an all-hands-on-deck weekend.

BSCOVERThe retreat theme was Radical Generosity based on the Gospel of Luke, preached by Tim Keller (via video, not in person). The contrast between the prayers of a Pharisee and a tax collector in Luke 18 laid the foundation of our discussion, and the disciples’ conversations with Jesus in Luke 9 revealed that ministry in a Christ-follower’s life is a result of generous grace and discipleship.

We dove deep into Radical Generosity, which stems from the heart and permeates one’s whole being. It is a pervasive mindfulness of others and their needs, an attitude of pouring out not just from our bank accounts. No, we learned that night that radical generosity extends far beyond financial giving; Tim Keller prompted us to reflect on our generosity in the different areas of emotional and physical space, relational economy, and time; and whether our generosity really was pervasive. Radical generosity is pervasive generosity.

crossAs our hearts are the wellsprings of radical generosity, Pastor Tim provided some truth to guide self-examination of our hearts. He reminded us that though we had in the past repeatedly fought and lost the battle against shame and inadequacy, now we have met Christ, who calls us out of our past and into blessing. Ephesians 2:10 teaches us that we are God’s handiwork, his poem, crafted in detail and assigned a time and place in history for meeting specific needs of specific people: “there are hands only you can hold, and demons only you can cast out; you are marked by sentness,” Pastor Keller gently reminded us. This service and ministry must stem out of strong discipleship, where believers give fully of themselves to one another, committed to one another and to Christ. Discipleship is difficult, but it is God’s gift to his children, through his children—for each other, from each other. However, it is human that I would never give myself fully to others without first giving myself to Jesus with no reservations. And we will never give ourselves fully to others or to Jesus without first realizing how utterly Jesus gave himself for us.


In our small groups following these sessions with Tim Keller we both gave and received this gift of discipleship to one another. We challenged one another to identify hindrances that prevented us from radical generosity, and committed to the Lord in prayer our happiness, busyness, pride, addiction to convenience, or denial of others’ need that prevented us from pouring out wonderful gifts from the Radically Generous Gift giver. We encouraged one another in deeply experiencing (as Ate Amy would say, marinating in) God’s grace and mercy towards us, being broken by encountering the cross at Calvary, recognizing that all we have belongs to God—and finally, though generosity may cost us, recognizing that no one was ever cut or hurt more deeply by generosity than Jesus Christ himself. I witnessed radical generosity in the heart of MEANS even before we left that room. It was powerful.

The offering from MEANS Retreat went to various scholars through the Education Program for Indigenous Families, whose goal is to develop Christian leaders, enabling young men and women to be agents of change in their families, communities, and the nation. We supported one student from the Elpis Ministry in Thailand, who was abandoned by her parents and raised in the care of her grandparents until she enrolled in Elpis School, where she came to know the Lord. She recently graduated from there as valedictorian and is going on to Chiang Mai University. We also sent support to the education of three high school students, selected by Precious Jewels to perform ministry through farm work. The brothers and sisters at MEANS Retreat spent time in prayer for these students, that the Lord would strengthen them in their studies, and show them every day that He is the source of hope and truth and light.

Praise God for the blessing of dedicated time to reflect on his goodness, his provision, and the strength he gives us to serve Him that weekend. I was in awe of His presence even as we shared food and laughter together, played team games, sang karaoke, and told stories together. In videos from our ministry partners in Philippines and in Thailand, the Lord showed us his Spirit moving among university students and whole communities. He refreshed our hearts that weekend to keep serving and giving this next year, out of the radical generosity of Christ towards us. Thank you for joining with us in MEANS’ ministry.

Take my life, and let it be, Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;

Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in ceaseless praise,

Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Frances Havergal

Easter gift. Give Rice.

Rice Bucket Challenge: Looking Back and Praising God. 

imageWhen I was young, my family could only afford to buy rice by the kilos. In the Philippines, growing up, I noticed that only the rich can afford to buy sacks of rice. When we ran out of rice, my mom would give some money to buy rice at a convenience store in our neighborhood. We were happy when we had rice even if there was no special dish to go with it. Sometimes, because money was scarce, we kids were happy when we had boiled rice with milk and sugar, or boiled rice with “sardines” or with “ginisang kangkong, “ or even with “ bagoong” (salted shrimp paste) or  with “patis.”( fish sauce). Having those to go with boiled rice was enough for us kids and we were happy.

Who would have thought that many years later, the ministry I am involved with now would be, by the Grace of God, providing sacks of rice to our partners ministering to the needy. Such is the grace and Mercy of God.

The idea for the Rice Bucket Challenge was duplicated from an NGO in the Philippines giving rice in a bucket of about 20 pounds to families. We started this idea in 2012 with volunteers of Radio Gandingan, a ministry among

Muslims in Mindanao. We gave 10 buckets of rice (about 200 pounds at $ 100).

Many of our friends and donors have responded to our Rice Bucket Challenge. In the beginning, we started giving to MEANS ministry partners 50 kilos of rice (one sack of rice)  which is equivalent 5 big buckets of rice (100 pounds). We realized that there is a great need for our rice eating ministry partners in Thailand and the Philippines. Six years later, sacks of rice are now being shared to many of them. Our donors in the US have enthusiastically responded to the challenge. The year 2018 was significant to MEANS. Last year, 305 sacks of rice (33,990 pounds) were distributed to 17 organizations including Bangkok Bible Seminary and Elpis Ministries inMaesot,Thailand.

Many stories have been shared to us about God’s goodness and provision for rice. Here are some of their stories.


ELPIS4Elpis Ministries, Maesot, Thailand
The head of Elpis, Maria Nelma, our partner helping migrant Burmese girls in Maesot, Thailand, for the past 15 years, shared:
“God, the Source of all blessings knows what we need before we say it. Praise God for these 12 sacks of rice from MEANS. A donor just ended their donation of rice last October.”

Through your generous help, MEANS will be able to continue to supply rice to them. They consume 6 sacks of rice each month to feed Faith House migrant Burmese girls and the village children that visit their compound every weekend for Bible teaching and feeding.

imageRadio Gandingan, Al Hayat Ministries
“Rice Bucket – MEANS have not forgotten our Muslim brothers and sisters who are working with Radio Gandingan.  Vernie Cie wrote: “GIVING is the best demonstration of CHRIST’S LOVE. Thank you so much MEANS USA for the sacks of rice for our Muslim Radio Community Volunteers during their Annual Radio Gandingan Family Christmas Party on December 2018 and for blessing them with your love and prayers.”

One of the radio volunteers said: “Thank you MEANS for the sack of rice. I will use it to make pastil dish for our livelihood business. It will be a great help to us.”

Pastil is a Maguindanaon ( Muslim ethnic group) recipe using boiled rice topped with meat, fish or chicken, then wrapped with fresh banana leaf.


Highlights on God’s Work in 2018

Stories to be Told: Highlights on God’s Work in 2018


RICE transported to an Island in Coron, Palawan, Philippines for New Tribes Missionaries.

So many stories have been woven in 2018 by God’s powerful and merciful hands. They are so many to be counted. We have been surprised many times as to how these stories unfolded. To us they are like tapestries. When you look at the back of a tapestry that is being woven, it looks like a mess. You would see knotted threads with different colors. It is difficult to figure out the shape of what is being woven. It is opaque, vague and undefined. But we do not look at the back of the tapestry with its many knotted details and colors. We look at the front part and admire how beautiful is the finished work of art of the weaver. God is our Master Weaver. He is the Master Designer, the One who keeps on weaving to make beautiful tapestries of stories for His children.  The stories we share with you here come from our ministry partners. These are stories that came out of what God wanted us to do – to build the Kingdom of God in places where He should be known as the Lord of all. Behind each story is the hand of God at work in unique and different ways in each person’s life. We ask that you open your eyes so you can see the work of God and give praises to Him Who deserves it all.

Flip Flop Project

In our partnership with IVCF Tacloban (Eastern Visayas), we aim to help them apply what they are learning from their Bible studies by reaching out to their own community. Since December is the season of gift giving, the timing was perfect! With the support of MEANS, a plan was conceived to distribute flip flops to children at a Haiyan survivors’ relocation community –  Barangay Guadalupe in Tacloban City. When a group of graduates, IVCF students and staff went there, the children and parents welcomed them with joy. They taught songs, dances and games. There was food and distribution of flip flops afterwards.

A volunteer shares: “The impact of our community outreach in my personal life is that it has inspired me in my role as a leader and a social worker assistant. I was challenged to be more faithful and to have a kind heart. I want to be a good person by doing good things and to share good deeds. The experience has helped me to become a better follower of Christ.  I  learned that it is indeed better to give than to receive. “ – Alfred John Perez de la Cruz, 1st year civil engineering student.

Sama Badjao Ministry

On December 23, 2018, an IVCF group with 8 students, 6 graduates and 3 IVCF staff visited the Badjao Church community in Mambaling, Cebu.

“It was really my first time to be involved in this kind of activity (Gift-giving to the Badjao Community). Whenever I would hear the word Badjao, what comes to my mind is their different culture, belief, traditions and faith. But when I volunteered to the gift-giving activity, I was surprised and was very blessed especially when I joined their worship service. Though I didn’t understand their language, I felt how sincere and dedicated they were in worshiping God. I really felt their submission to God. I thanked God for their conversion to Christ,  that they came to know the truth and are now worshiping God in Spirit and in truth. Despite their way of life, I felt their joy. Even in their simple way of giving, I saw the happiness on their faces. It was an overwhelming experience. I really thank God for giving me the opportunity to be part of this activity.” – Mari Joy Maranga, BS Math 1, Cebu Technological University

Jail Ministry

This is the first time that our ministry partners together with student volunteers and graduates under the leadership of Belinda Basas, a university instructor in Tanauan, visited a jail in Burauen, Leyte. There was joy, singing of Christmas carols, both by the visitors and inmates, food and gift distribution. It was a joyful experience.

Erika Basas Encina, a teacher at Tanauan School of Craftsmanship and Home Industries in Leyte wrote: “The inmates are very welcoming, I really felt so blessed by their eagerness to listen to God’s Word. But before sharing the Word, we sang a Christmas song to them and they sang with us. I really felt God’s presence, and we were enjoying the Spirit of Christmas. But the moment we started the praise and worship songs, everything changed in a snap. They were so touched by how God loves each of them through the songs. They were touched by the Holy Spirit and I saw them humbled with tears falling from their eyes. They may look strong and violent as evidenced by their well-built physical features with tattoos all over their bodies yet they cried out to God loudly because of God’s love. I witnessed God’s work in their lives. Indeed, only God can change the hearts of people. I also felt blessed to see them moved when the inmates started to sing another song entitled “Kay Buti-buti Mo Panginoon.” (Lord, You are so good).” The way the sang this song really manifested their surrender to God and acknowledging God’s goodness in their lives. This is one of the activities where I really was moved and overwhelmed by God’s doing.

Frederick Buechner, a famous pastor, theologian and author wrote: “Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories that God makes himself known to us.”

February 2019

Contributor: Lina Padilla

Editors: Carmena Cruz and Grace Rocha (February 2019