Padayon! Is the rallying cry of ICM through this pandemic. It is a Visayan word often used as an encouragement to keep on going, especially whenever times get tough.
Pre-COVID, Pastor Jessie’s church in Banago, Bacolod City had 60-70 people at Sunday services, not including kids. In his 16 years as a pastor, Pastor Jessie lived off the tithes and offerings of the congregation and has no other financial support. He and his wife have four children, two who have their own families, and two high school-aged children.
Before COVID his income varied from P500-1000 per week. It wasn’t a lot but it was enough to support his family. He has had many ICM programs held at his church over the years.
Life during the pandemic
During the COVID-19, the people in Banago were very fearful and didn’t want to meet at church. For Pastor Jessie, it’s been a really difficult and emotionally draining time. The two toughest moments for him were conducting funerals for people who had died from COVID. One was a father of a family that used to attend his church. The other person was from a neighboring church, but their own pastor didn’t want to conduct the memorial service and burial service out of fear of the virus, and so Pastor Jessie conducted the funeral instead.
He said that he has never seen people so fearful and depressed. Many lost their jobs and are worried about their health and their futures.
At the same time, the lockdown wiped out Pastor Jessie’s income. He said, “it evaporated.” His church unable to meet, he had literally no income for weeks at a time. His daughter has temporarily dropped out of school and got a job to help provide food for the family. Pastor Jessie said that while he is so worried and stressed about his own situation, he has to be strong and positive for people around him who were struggling. He said “I don’t want to show them that I am also feeling depressed. Because I’m their pastor. So I put a smile on my face and try to encourage them.”
Padayon. Encouraging each other to thrive in hard times
The only people who Pastor Jessie really felt he could turn to for support were the other pastors that he knows through ICM’s Thrive network and the ICM staff who he has known for years. He said, just getting together with a group of pastors who were facing similar challenges and talking and praying together is his only support network. Those fellow pastors are his lifeline and the epitome of padayon.
And he received food packs for his family and community several times during the pandemic. Pastor Jessie applied for Refresh, and the community savings group has started up again. They have 42 families who will graduate in the next few weeks.