Friday, August 28, 2015

Philemon and Marilou: Runaways

Scenario: Chan Siu Fai was led to the Lord and discipled by Pastor Jorge de Ramos. As a result he started a small house church in his home and hired a helper, Marilou from Arrow Employment Services. Marilou was a big help with the house group, but did not return to work from a long holiday. She ran back to Manila, taking with her $5000 cash from the Chan family. While in Manila she ran into Pastor Jorge who recognized her and invited her to coffee. Marilou felt terribly guilty about what she had done and poured out her heart to Jorge and Bolen. They led her to the Lord and began discipling her. Several months went by and Pastor Jorge mentioned Marilou to Sir Allan. Sir Allan checked the records at Arrow and realized that the Chan's never terminated the contract and they hadn't hired another helper. Perhaps there was a chance for reconciliation. Pastor Jorge decided to write a letter to Chan Siu Fai. The letter is below.

From: This letter is from Pastor Jorge De Ramos, Senior Pastor of Capital City Baptist Church, committed to preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from sister Bolen
To: I am writing to Chan Siu Fai, our beloved co-worker, and to our sister Yau Suk Ming, and to our fellow soldier Chan Chi Wing, and to the church that meets in your house.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Siu Fai, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Jorge, an older brother in the Lord and now also a preacher for the sake of Christ Jesus.

I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Marilou Santos. I became her father in the faith while here in Manila. Marilou  wasn’t much use to you in the past, but now she is very useful to both of us. I am sending her back to you, and with her comes my own heart.

I wanted to keep her here with me while I am struggling here  preaching the Good News, and she would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. It seems you lost Marilou for a little while so that you could have her back forever. She is no longer like a domestic servant to you. She is more than a servant, for she is a beloved sister, especially to me. Now she will mean much more to you, both as a helper and as a sister in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome her as you would welcome me. If she has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Jorge De Ramos have handwritten this letter so you will know this is my desire. If she owes you anything I will repay it. and I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!

Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.
I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me visit  you soon.

Pastor Ron, my fellow co-worker in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. So do Bolen,Mark, Pastor Reynaldo, Simon Chan , and Luke, my co-workers.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Discuss:

  1. How does Pastor Jorge open his letter to Mr. Chan. Imagine this was written on church letterhead.  
  2. Read the opening prayer carefully. What did he pray for? From what he prays what do you learn about Pastor Jorge's and Mr. Chan's relationship?
  3. What does he ask Mr. Chan to do? How do you think Mr. and Mrs. Chan felt about this request? What would it take for them to take Marilou back? If they were typical employers what actions do you think they might take, IF Marilou returned?
  4. How do you think Marilou felt about going back? What motivation besides wanting a job could she have? What dangers was she facing in deciding to go back?
  5. We are not told the end of the story. What do you think happened? 
  6. In the real letter to Philemon, the actual letter was hand carried by the runaway slave Onesimus. Imagine that scene. How do you think Philemon felt when he saw Onesimus standing in front of him holding out a rolled up letter? How do you think Onesimus felt? 
  7. What is the hardest thing you have ever done simply because you wanted to obey the Lord? 
  8. Is there something hard God is telling you to do, but you  are resisting because it might have bad consequences for you and you are afraid? What do you think Marilou and Onesimus would tell you? What advice would they give you?
NOTE: The above letter is fiction, based on the real letter of Paul to his brother in the faith, Philemon.