During my assignment in Nepal many years ago, I discovered how their religion (Hinduism) played a major role in how the locals see expatriates. One time during a heavy downpour, I can’t help it but feel pity on a young man who was dripping wet doing his job at moving bottles from one section of the factory line to another area. He was practically trembling in the cold and so I went back to the Staff House to get one of my shirts to give to him. Since it didn’t have impact on the production, I also asked that the work be suspended for a short while until the water coming through were corrected or contained. When the young man received the shirt, to my surprise, he knelt in front of me to kiss my feet. I pulled out, backed off and told him he shouldn’t do that. His supervisor, who was nearby, told me that it is alright as the man was expressing his gratitude for my kind gesture. The act of kissing my feet is a way of telling that I’m like a god to him, thus the gesture of worship. To which I replied that there is but one God in Heaven. The supervisor just nodded his head as he has already heard about Jesus from Filipinos posted in previous years. While it may not have challenged him to know more about Jesus, it is through our example that we can show to them who Christ is by the example of who we are. What I did is an expression of Christian faith that while I’m their leader, I’m also there to serve others, regardless of social standing in life. With the centuries-old caste system, this concept of a leader being a “servant” is quite a strange concept in Hinduism.
In the Gospel (Mk. 10: 35-45) James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus explained that they don’t really know what they were asking. Eventually Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
After this lesson on humility and obedience to the will of God, the Gospel continued with underlying themes on leadership and service orientation, “… whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Servant Leadership is one philosophy that’s been talked often though not practiced that much. There are several interplaying factors facing a leader’s plate that’s why it is often set aside. Yet, it is actually about character, consistency and courage. When one sets it as a model, he will practice doing it regardless of the circumstance. He will be attuned to the details such that his work is always meant to serve others. He is confident of himself and knows that what he’s doing will always bring out the best in people. Regardless, he is not afraid to speak out for his members and the organization. He steers his team to calmer waters when the going gets stormy.
Last week candidates seeking public office have already filed their certificates of candidacy, indicating that elections are just around the corner. During the campaign period, they will be telling and promising the electorate of what they will do if elected. The people’s experience will surely play a role in their choice of candidates. Hopefully, they won’t sell their votes but in a country like ours where patronage politics is common, there’ll also be a need to educate and remind them of their sacred duty to elect only those candidates who are truly deserving.
Looking back at the man from Nepal, I feel sadness because such a beautiful country doesn’t even know who the real God is. There is that kind of challenge that in our own small way, we can be missionaries at the circumstances we find ourselves. For example, after that experience, I organized secret sessions with two managers there. It’s secret because Christian activities are strictly forbidden in that country. What I did was on weekend nights, I invited them to the Staff House and introduced them to Jesus, just like a Christian Life Program (CLP). While there was curiosity among them given the circumstance; I managed my expectations. My objective was just to plant those tiny seeds with the hope that someday the Holy Spirit will touch their hearts and bring them to join the Faith.
This Sunday, let us pray that we be more service-like in our dealings with others. Let us pray that our leaders be like Jesus who came to serve and to give His life as ransom for many. Let us pray that we be open to the leadings of the Spirit and become like missionaries to those needing to see the light.