The Personal Testimony of Bro Vit Lacaba, BCBP Calbayog
My testimony is inspired by the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians 3:8-9, “For the sake of the more valuable knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, I have thrown everything away so that I may gain Christ”, and Philippians 4:13, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you”.
When Jesus commanded his chosen twelve ordinary men to make disciples of all nations, it seemed an utter impossibility. But God made it all possible because the twelve chose to follow him. You see, when God gives us a task, the only thing that makes it difficult to do is our doubt and disobedience. But with complete trust He can lead us to do things that seem unattainable through the strength that He provides us. God chooses common people with the willingness to be used by him.
I belong to an ordinary yet close-knit Samareno family. My father, the late Basilio Songco Lacaba, who was an educator, farmer, carpenter and a very rigid disciplinarian, together with my mother Mamerta Negrido Anaviso, an enterprising, industrious woman, brought into this world two boys and three girls, with me being the eldest of the siblings. Ours was an average Christian family doing what other families usually do – attending Sunday masses and other religious celebrations. Our celebrations, however, were unique in certain ways in that we participated in two different religious denominations. You see, my late father was a Roman Catholic while my mother, at that time, was a devoted Aglipayan.
Being the eldest, I experienced the full brunt of my father’s rigid discipline. He was a perfectionist. Any mistake in carrying out assigned task or any misdemeanor would earn me harsh punishment. But the rigidity of my father was cushioned by the affectionateness and tender care of my mother, developing in me a firmness in decision-making matched with understanding and compassion.
I was reluctant and timid when I was first invited to a meeting of the core group of Calbayog outreach. Being just a nominal Christian, I meekly declined thinking I might not fit in with the group. I also entertained thoughts like, “This would just be like other organizations. They’re only good at the start but would slowly fizzle out”. My first breakfast (together with my wife Ligaya) was followed three months later when we happened to be in the same boat with the Cebu Mission Team on their way to Calbayog City. They goaded me to participate in the Brotherhood Christian Life Program No. 1 in Calbayog.
I was touched by the Mission Team’s sincerity and warmth in dealing with us and reflected: “Who are these people? What is driving them such that they are willing to sacrifice themselves and their families, leaving the luxury and safety of their homes just so they could meet other people and establish a community of God?” Slowly, I was convicted. The Holy Spirit led me to understand them and what they were doing. We completed our BCLP, became members of the community, and soon after many things happened. I became conscious that God was with me. I realized that I should emulate the selflessness of these Cebu people, and that I should not waste the work of God being done in me through them.
At the beginning of our BCBP life I just wanted to be an ordinary member. But I did not end up as one. I was called to lead the newly organized outreach. From a reluctant breakfaster to a hesitant Outreach Head? Again my weakness manifested itself. I asked myself, “Why me? There are those who were more capable than me?” Fear was my initial feeling and reaction when I was chosen to lead the outreach. Iba kasi ang challenge that came with the responsibility. In this organization one cannot just impose anything the way I could impose things in my office. I was then DILG (Dept of Local Government) City Director and I had people under me not to mention the local government officials who have to follow my directives, and non-observance of the same may merit sanctions when necessary.
Running an organization composed of people with different personalities, background, etc, such as the BCBP would not be easy. However, the confidence given me by the elders from the national office and our mentors from our mother chapter encouraged me to accept the gargantuan task. I tried to shake off my doubts and my fears. After all, this was a God-given opportunity that rarely comes to someone like me. I was strengthened by His promise “to be with us every step of the way”.
My main credentials when I accepted the headship of the outreach were my new found faith in the Lord, and my availability and willingness to serve him. Psalm 37:3-4 says “Trust in the Lord and do good… Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Leadership in the community was not an easy task. I was in my third year as outreach head when the unit was recommended as Chapter-in-Training by the regional council and approved by the national office. I tried doing my best so I could bring the outreach into chapterhood. Expectations ran high. But to my dismay and disappointment, we remained as an outreach for two more years. I felt I was not doing my job, that I was the cause of the sluggish progress of the outreach or much worse, its stagnancy.
I articulated my problems to the elders in the regional council and to our mentors in Cebu. I said it was a very difficult task and I want to be relieved of the responsibility. “Who told you that it would be easy?” I was answered. “Is this your way of saying you don’t want to serve the Lord anymore?” another said. “And you no longer believe in his promise that he will be with you every step of the way?” a fellow elder asked me. And finally came the burning question, “Have you been praying enough? How is your prayer time?”
Then it dawned on me, I was not praying well enough and neither was the community. And even when I prayed, they were PRAYERS that were not sincere ENOUGH and just done in haste. I also realized, I was believing more in myself and less in my God. In my enthusiasm to achieve the goal, I had left behind the power that I should have been depending upon. I was feeling more confident in myself and not trusting enough in my God.
So I enhanced my personal prayer efforts and we intensified our community prayers. We strengthened our Intercessory ministry to four times a month. And in our prayers, we sought for God’s guidance, offering all our plans most especially those concerning our Chapterhood. I also enhanced and deepened my scriptural readings hoping to find answers to my quandary. Proverbs 16:3 gave me a clue. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” I realized I was doing things according to my capabilities and not dependent anymore upon Him who called me. An unexpected gift from a friend stunned me. It was a quotation printed on a small board saying, “A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.”
My bible readings led me to the Gospel of Matthew 10:38, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” I realized that the problems I was encountering were all little crosses which I must bear to able to be worthy of Him. In the BCBP I learned that there is nothing impossible if you do things the way the Lord wants it to be done and not the way you want it to be done.
I opened and surrendered myself to the Lord, permitting his guidance and his will to envelop me. Led by the Holy Spirit, assisted by the active participation of the community, our outreach eventually became a chapter.
But along the way the Lord permitted another test to strengthen my leadership ability and build my character. Some false accusations were hurled at me by a small interest group from within the community weeks before our chapter installation, even reaching the national BCBP office. Armed with the truth and a clear conscience, and believing in the Lord’s grace and wisdom, I faced them in a dialogue which ended with all issues clarified and the whole truth revealed. I was amazed at myself. Ako na madaling magalit at mairita was so pasensiyoso during that dialogue. I even felt no rancor in my heart against those who initiated the action.
That event lifted up my spirit and heart. It told me that everything was happening in accordance with God’s will. I also realized that as there is personal purification, God permits also communal purification. From the experience, I learned the following lessons.
Firstly, there are those who join Christian communities because of the various benefits the community provides, i.e. friendship, engaging activities, role to increase personal esteem. But this cannot be the primary reason for being a part of a spiritual community life. True conversion to Christ is the beginning and end of community life. If a member has not had this genuine conversion then his first focus will not be the Lord but the self-interest he has and the personalities, the programs of the community which are just tools to genuine conversion to Christ. Communities are but tools to Christ.
Secondly, in a community such as the BCBP, we need elders or leaders. Even if these leaders are not perfect as they are prone to commit mistakes, their authority does not come from their imperfection but from the Lord. God will use their weaknesses and frailties for the satisfaction of the members.
Thirdly, I learned that true obedience needs two virtues: surrendered humility because leaders are not in command but God is; and, a deepened trust because we cannot follow God’s delegated leaders without faith in God Himself.
I am now 65 years old. I have outgrown my being a nominal Christian. I can say with all sincerity that I am a now a practicing Christian. And that I am God’s work-in-progress. I have surrendered myself to God and submitted myself to the authority that runs the BCBP. I was a City Director of the Dept of Local Governments when I became a BCBP member. In God’s grace I became a Provincial Director. At age 63 I could have opted to stay with the DILG because I still had two full years to serve with all the perks that the department can offer. But I opted to retire because I wanted to serve fully as an RCD, Regional Council Director for Northeast Leyte and Samar.
I did not plan all these. God did. He is planning everything for me and I am sure He has more plans but whatever it will be, I will abide by them. I rely on the promise In Philippians 4:13, “I will be able to do all these things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.” May God bless us all!