What I Learned In A Field of Sugar Cane

I’ve already talked at length about some of the things we did over in the Philippines; but I’ve not addressed the greatest lesson I learned.

The man who taught me the most was a man named Pastor Rey. While we were in the Philippines, Pastor Rey had a stroke. It’s his third stroke in two years. Pastor Rey has never had enough money to get a CT scan to find out what’s causing the strokes. Every day, he walks from his thatched hut in the middle of a sugar cane field, down a pitted road to a bus stop. He takes an hour long bus ride from Victorias to Bacolod City to work at New Jerusalem Christian Chapel. On days that they minister to the kids in the mountains, it’s another hour and a half ride up to the school near Mount Talisay. One way.

What I’ve failed to mention is that Pastor Rey is an amazing artist. The night we drove him home from the hospital, I got a chance to see all of his art: a huge picture of a dragon made from bamboo and sugar cane; a fish he carved from a piece of wood; a large root he had fashioned into a bench; a portrayal of the Last Supper made with a large sheet of metal and a chisel. There were many more items, but two in particular caught my eye. The first was a beautiful scale model of a church, built with bamboo intricately fitted together. I initially was going to buy this from Pastor Rey, but wasn’t sure about getting it home. The second item I noticed just after the church; it was a picture of sorts, a wall-hanging with the facade of a cathedral made with bamboo, shells, sugar cane, coral, painstakingly placed to give it depth.

I wanted it. Why buy a mass-produced souvenir when you can help support someone in need and get something that no one in the world has? I gave him money, and he refused, but I insisted. With tears in his eyes he took the money I gave him, and began taking things off the wall and loading my arms. He was giving me things that meant a great deal to him, some of the only true valuables he owned. I couldn’t take them! As an artist, I realize how much heart goes into something you create; then to have this man who possesses virtually nothing, giving me things of such great value. I couldn’t bear it. It was the first time in many years I was on the verge of tears. I left that night with the wall-hanging and the model of the church.

But I left with so much more. My mind was reeling the entire hour long ride back home. As I clutched two months of a man’s life in my hands, I realized just how wrong I’ve been for so long. Here’s a man with so little material wealth, so little physical health, so many things fighting against him; yet with great joy he serves God and serves others. He is talented beyond words, far more talented and patient than I’ll ever be; yet he gives away his art without hesitation. He gives his life, gives his time, gives his value; and even a stroke cannot keep him from loving God and loving others, without hesitation. There are simply no qualifications on his service.

And here I sit, reminding God how valuable I am. Pointing out all the sacrifices I’ve made for Him. Telling Him just how much I could do for Him if only…

Maybe I should be the one in a thatched hut, two hours and a long, dark walk through a field of sugar cane away from where God wants me. Maybe then I’d realize how little circumstance matters.