My Birthday Gift to the United Methodist Youth of the Philippines

Growing up I really never celebrated my birthday.  My first cake was, in fact, during my mission stint at Wesley-Rankin Community Center in Dallas, Texas in 2001.  It was a tres leches cake and has since been my most favorite cake! Yumm!

So, this year, I decided I wanted to celebrate my birthday by giving back to the youth.  The youth has always been close to my heart.  I remember my UMYF days in Guimba where I spent my formative years.  Then, I was an unofficial youth worker for Munoz UMYF just before I flew to the United States to become a young adult missioner for the inner-city youth of Wesley-Rankin.  During that time, I was also the weekend youth director of Cornerstone UMC in Garland, Texas.

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With Munoz UMYF

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With Cornerstone UMYF

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With Wesley-Rankin Youth

In 2003, I moved to San Diego, California and became the full time youth director of San Carlos UMC where I practically built the program up.  This was an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life!

With San Carlos United Methodist Youth during our mission trip to Texas, 2004.

With San Carlos United Methodist Youth during our mission trip to Texas, 2004.

So, this year I decided to make my birthday more meaningful by inviting the youth of the Philippines and give something back.  Using the social media, I encouraged them to showcase their skills promoting “teamwork” and “leadership” through photo jump shots.

5 groups heeded my invitation and they intensely and passionately campaigned to get the most *likes* on Facebook. The winning entry is slated to cash in ten thousand pesos to be used for camps and other events. Through this exercise, I wanted to see how the social media can be a great tool in reaching out to others.  It has proven to be useful and really has lots of potentials… if used properly.

However, unbeknownst to these groups and absolutely not their fault, some “fans” decided to “help” by using computer programs that generate auto likes. I am sure their intents are pure, but this extra hand jeopardized the integrity of this whole exercise.  Again, I am sure the youth groups who participated in this contest have no idea that this was happening until it was noticed that some of the photos were being flooded by foreign names that are clearly outside their normal network and reach.  I also noticed on my Notification a sudden surge and hundreds of “likes” posted at the same time.

I prayed about it and asked God’s guidance on what to do.  I still wanted to achieve the main purpose of this exercise, that is to give back.  At the same time, I didn’t want to discourage the youth.

So, I have decided that we will cut the contest short.  Instead of ending the campaign on Saturday midnight, it ends right now. In addition, no one goes home empty-handed in this contest.  EVERYBODY IS A WINNER!!

Through the generosity of my wife, Annaliza, who also wanted to give to the youth as a birthday present for me (Yay!!), we are taking this to a higher level! So, instead of awarding 1 winner of P10,000 with questions swirling around about auto likes, I hereby declare that the following groups will each win FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (presented here in no particular order):

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The Martyrs Memorial UMYF of Paranaque wins P5,000!

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King David UMYF of Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga wins P5,000!

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Balingog East UMYF , Guimba, Nueva Ecija wins P5,000!

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The Isabela South Ifugao East District UMYF wins P5,000!

And, as a consolation price for their participation, the Salinungan East UMYF of San Mateo, Isabela, also under the umbrella of Isabela South Ifugao East District, will receive P2,500!

The Salinungan East UMYF of San Mateo, Isabela will receive P2,500 consolation price!

The Salinungan East UMYF of San Mateo, Isabela will receive P2,500 consolation prize!

In all, instead of giving away P10,000, we are blessing these young people with P22,500!  We hope that this will be used to send as many young people as they can to the Christmas Institute or CI.  CI is where many youth leaders are born.  Many of them become pastors or deaconesses.  It is one of the best things that UMYF offers.

Congratulations to all of you!  I cannot thank you enough for participating, for making this fun, and for being the hope and the future of our church! Send me some pictures of your CI adventures!  I’d appreciate it!

May God bless you all!

Christ above all!

Kuya James

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