LIVING THE NEW NORMAL
At the airport, I saw this sign: ‘Live the new normal. Observe social distancing.’ But as I looked around, hardly anyone was living the new normal. It was like any pre-pandemic airport scene – crowded and humming with low-volume conversations. I guess the devastating deaths and losses of the pandemic were not enough to change people’s behavior. People are just eager to return to the old normal.
As we enter the endemic stage of the covid pandemic, it is important that we do not return to the old normal. Instead of rushing to forget the pain, losses, and difficulties, we should remember the mercies and grace of God who carried us through that time. Instead of recreating life as it was before, let’s rebuild life and ministry better by integrating the lessons learned.
Towards the end of Joshua’s life and after Israel had conquered the Promised Land, Joshua warned the people to not return to their old ways. They should remember that they “have seen all that the LORD their God had done,” and how “it was the LORD their God who fought for them.” (Joshua 23:3) He urged them to “cling to the LORD your God” which was what they did during their time in the desert and while conquering the Promised Land.
During the pandemic, we learned to cling to God, perhaps more resolutely than we had before. May we continue to cling to God even as the fear of death from covid abates.
We in IVCF are eager to return to in-person fellowships, Bible studies, and outreach activities. As we do so, we bring with us the lessons learned about life and ministry in the new normal. In this volume of Campus Impact, read about how our students, graduates, and staff are doing life and ministry in the new normal.
In this new normal of life and ministry we live with gratitude, with hope, and with faith that there is nothing stronger than God Himself.
A Frontliner’s Account
Standing Upon the Shoulders of Giants
Hello! My name is Bok. I have been a nurse by profession for 9 years now. Initially, I always thought that every disease I encounter in the field is just a part of the job. That included the COVID-19 pandemic. I was so used to seeing diseased patients – with illnesses such as HIV, hepatitis, gangrene, etc. – that my mind was numbed and I became very passive. “Ano pa bang bago?” Until the pandemic and its reality came knocking at my door. Patient number 1 was reported in the Philippines and then later on my co-worker was infected. Its effect on the acquisition of goods was evident. Lockdowns were implemented and transportation was difficult. Everything went online.
Nurses were put to the test during the height of the pandemic. We served at the expense of putting our families at a higher risk of contracting Covid when we come home after work. A part of our salaries was also withheld because the hospital wasn’t making enough income. We also lacked hospital supplies. There were also fear, doubts on our leaders, and of course problems in submission. Discrimination was also very evident. Pandidirian ka dahil sa ospital ka nagtatrabaho. It was a difficult time indeed.
God gave me mentors who helped me a lot during difficult times. They gave mature and fresh perspectives on a lot of things. Mentors will not only be our “Kuyas or Ates” during IVCF training and camps but I guess for life. Catching up with IVCF friends who were also open in sharing my concerns and fears helped and somewhat lightened the burden.
For me, God’s triumph was very evident when He delivered me through the pandemic leadership storm. There were unexpected collaborations and friendships. Most importantly, I learned a lot in the leadership aspect. I have led a number of teams in the IVCF organization with different specific goals, but it was different this time. The pandemic made it harder to deal with. It humbled me. It may sound cliché but I saw God’s hand at work. I just have to trust Him.
A Staff’s Reflection
When the pandemic brought fear and uncertainties to all of us, I was just starting as a Junior Staff of IVCF. I was transitioning from a life of a civil engineer to a life of a staff worker. It surely brought a lot of stress and tears as I tried to make extra effort to adapt. To be honest, in the first weeks of the pandemic, there were times when I enjoyed the new set up. I am an introvert, so staying at home is not an issue. I liked working at home, relaxing, and enjoying my cats.
These moments of comfort and peace gradually faded when I started to observe the effects of this pandemic. There were so many uncertainties. Everything that we planned for the ministry in Zambales was canceled. I found it hard to connect with students because of internet issues. It took me longer to adjust when we shifted to virtual activities.
When I started to be comfortable with the new set-up, time flew fast and all of a sudden, I am now an Intermediate Staff. Another transition is taking place. I have more work assignments. I am also caught by surprise that aside from transitioning as an intermediate staff, I will transfer to another area. I am now based in Baguio City as a field staff with admin and finance work.
It’s like a never-ending transition. I constantly need to adapt to these sudden changes. I also find it weird and awkward to conduct face-to-face activities. For years, all I saw were virtual faces, now, I’m able to be with them in person.
In all of these, I find it amazing that in times of never-ending transitions, God is still faithful. He is unchanging. I am still motivated by the fact that He equips the one He calls. He also uses people to train and mentor me in the areas where I couldn’t work well.
God’s grace and mercy are also more real these days. I appreciated it more not just in my quiet times but because I am experiencing it in a very personal way. I am the type of person who overthinks a lot. As much as possible, I want my work to be perfect and go well according to plan. I am humbled by the fact that I am not sovereign. I cannot do all these things, adapt quickly, nor work close to perfection. There are days when I’m too tired, unproductive, and unmotivated. It is only by His grace and mercy that I’m able to continue.
As a response, I will continue to rely on His grace and cling to His promises. I will also try to be more gracious and not blame myself too much whenever I fail or cannot proceed according to plan. It is His sovereign plan that I need to follow.
Even if I am being shaken by these unending transitions, I am confident that the Lord is with me. He is unchanging.
A Student’s Story
A Rough Start
When I started college, I was looking forward to meeting people from Campus Christian Fellowship (CCF), the IVCF chapter in Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP). However, the pandemic caused the CCF fellowship to halt. By the time that I was a freshman, the only active members were me and one graduating senior. There was no regular fellowship. Even in that situation, the Lord is good! He did not let my college life be stagnant. Instead, He used my situation to transform me. He still involved me in IVCF through hosting and such tasks. Through this, I overcame my fear of speaking in front of many people. Now, I am able to use and apply what I learned as I minister in our local church. Even though I had a rough start, God uses IVCF and the people in it to improve myself. Today, I am looking forward to the coming face-to-face set-up.
A Student’s Story
Change of Perspective
The COVID-19 pandemic’s preposition of social isolation had a profound effect with lasting psychological repercussions. This is just one of the challenges that the pandemic brought. Not only does it limit the physical but also social and even emotional connections. During the height of the pandemic, I experienced emotional and social isolation. At first, it was just a feeling of being distant, then a feeling of emptiness and a feeling of losing my mojo (my cool/”magical” power) creeped in, until these feelings eventually became part of my everyday life.
There were times when I sat in emptiness and confusion, and footsteps of doubt kept on resounding. Doubtful whether God is really in the midst of this suffering. This was also the season where I based my identity on my academic life and whatever the results of my exams will directly correlate to how I look at myself. I deliberately thrived in my academics, not to please the Lord, but to set a premise to myself that I am not a failure, thinking that these academic achievements can fill the “hole” in me.
To cope, I took the opportunity to reconnect with my IVCF community who also share the same struggle. I took the courage to let go, and surrender to the Lord every burden, especially those that are causing me to stoop and to stumble – every pressing weight that kept me from being connected to God and other people, and every heavy yoke that led me to choke on things I never should have let in, in the first place. This act was liberating.
After I lived with those struggles, I began to realize that there was something wrong with the way I perceived things. I began to realize that where I see brokenness, God sees strength, and He sees all my pieces together. Where I see scars, He sees tattoos of triumph – stories of how I fought, stories of how I lived each battle through – all only by His grace. From now on, I will always look from this lens on how God sees me as I journey in this season of the new normal.
An Educator’s Chronicle
I was excited when the year 2020 started. I was looking forward to significant events lined up for me – my 50th birthday and international conferences in China, Thailand, and Spain. But things took a different direction when the pandemic spread to many countries including ours. I was still able to celebrate my golden year. My family and a few churchmates surprised me with a simple celebration. But I bid goodbye to the three countries I was looking forward to visiting.
As we all know, the education sector was significantly affected by the pandemic. The transformations were so sudden. In my case, the zoom room became my classroom, the screen of my laptop became the blackboard or whiteboard, and the stylus was now my chalk or whiteboard marker. Instead of teaching in front of warm-bodied students, I was talking to a cold “wall” of names and pictures of students. This was the most difficult part of teaching online. It was a struggle to engage virtually with my students. I could not feel their presence even though I knew that they were there listening behind their names and pictures. (Well, most of them were😊!)
This was not the only struggle I had to deal with. The changes brought about by the lockdowns and restrictions have thrown me off my stable system. You see, before 2020, I considered myself a “well-oiled machine” that can perform two to three tasks at a time. I was so accustomed to it for years. I felt I was in control. However, that machine crashed as my responsibilities at work and ministry started to double. This meant being less productive and not meeting deadlines. The work-from-home set-up disrupted my system and adjustment was difficult.
I was constantly asking the Lord to click the “restart button” in me so that I could go back to my system. I want to get back on my feet and start being in-control again. The restarting began through an online spiritual retreat on 1 Kings 19: 1-18. Three invitations were given: TO REST, TO LISTEN, and TO TRUST.
I was reminded that God knows how heavy was the load I was carrying. He invited me to rest my body and mind. I had an honest conversation with God as I expressed what my fears, pain, and frustrations were from teaching and doing the ministry in the church. It was an opportunity to pause, calm my spirit, and listen to Him through His word. This led me to realize that I do not need to be in control because God already is. The pandemic was not a surprise to Him. He is on the throne. So, there’s only one thing left to do – accept the invitation to trust.
I am grateful that God knows where I am, and He is there to carry me through. I just need to rest, listen to, and trust Him.[Prof. Aberin is a KC ’89 graduate]
Editor-In-Chief: Di Fernandez
Associate Editor: Kenny Ebo
Content Editor: Mizpah Villamor
Copy Editor: Minette Rabuya
Proofreader: Pearl Ovalles
Layout Artist: Jake Abiva
Contributors: IVCF Alumni and Students
Photos taken from different IVCF FB pages