October 28, 2017
In the early ’60’s, the Philippines experienced a massive cultural revolution, when The Beatles snubbed Pres. Marcos’ First Lady Imelda’s invitation to Malacanang Palace. It was a quiet coup for the likes of scholarly, folksy academics, by way of the study of Scripture, no less—peaceful, tiger-in-the-grass type resistance was alive and well.
A young Pastor was known for being a champion diver in his village, an academic, unbeatable chess player and theologian. I learned later from a few of his compatriots in ministry, his name had been included on several of Marcos’ lists of so-called “resisters” and “dissenters”. He had a beautiful wife and three growing daughters, whose added revolution around him made for unsettling and restless times in a household. (Note: it’s said that the day his youngest girl was born, he closed a lucrative commercial real estate deal, working while he completed his Seminary studies.)
In a short time he earned a respected position as an ordained Reverend with his own flock to lead and inspire. Resisting what felt safe, but dangerously complacent in a turbulent society, this lover of adventure made the ultimate sacrifice and left his family behind to pursue a Masters in Divinity at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. in the United States of America, an entire world away. Consider that this was decades before cell phones and Internet. Hell—even the mail service was a precious expense and much mystified, leading to cultures of exquisite, tiny, perfect penmanship, letters wrapped in onion skin envelopes with the words “via air mail” written on the front, which could take weeks to come. Everyone said he shouldn’t, that he couldn’t... yet what’s a Resister to do?
This choicefulness also came with immense sacrifice. His spirituality was not a case of martyrdom but of simple faith keeping. Not a stand for right or wrong, but a promise to BE better in a world that may never be what you want it to be.
In the decades to follow, again, he resisted what should have been a simple career trajectory, and he sought neither American ordination nor licensure, instead opting for a mission in social work with families and youth in crisis intervention for the City of Chicago. He never made his goals about profit. Yet today, he is a very, very rich man, whose spirit remains restless, albeit gentler.
WITH A LOVE LIKE THAT, YOU KNOW YOU SHOULD BE GLAD.
Happy birthday, Pastor Ernie.