ome thoughts from one John Trinidad on the monetary assistance accorded to ministers and workers by the Church Administration.
How much does a minister recieve?
From what I gathered the baseline is something like ‘sapat na mabuhay ng marangal at di hamak na nakakataas sa ordinaryong kaanib’ so I reckon a baseline Philippine standard would be somewhere from a lower to middle-class stature for ministers depending on where they are assigned and upper middle class for the 01/02 and higher central staff. But here in the US and Canada, and other 1st world countries I would even hazard to declare that most possibly the full-time chapel custodian (the all around janitor/handyman/gardener) is receiving more tulong than the minister receives if we are to restrict the comparison to money only. The fact that they have free housing/accomodation/transportation kind of evens out to a middle class lifestyle.
Giving ‘abot’ to ministers is nothing new. I remembered in the early 90’s, while working in Saudi Arabia, where our brethren are so joyful to be visited by ministers albeit clandestinely and our PD will remind us to give him tulong to show our gratitude. Use to be that the PD will force us to give one-by-one which causes discomfort to all, from brethren (who might feel that he is giving too small) and from the minister who is receiving it (the brethren will sneak the bill in their palm when they shake his hand). So it became a little bit awkward. I then suggested to collect and we just give it as one. I explained to the PD that many wants to give but to the extent of what they can afford and so this is the best way. “Hindi sapilitan at kung ano lang ang kaya”. I would do the collection from the brethren, put it in an envelope (uncounted) and give it to the minister tactfully while saying “pasensya na po sa nakayanan naming lahat” and he would be very appreciative with that making sure to acknowledge and thank all the brethren for the effort. This made the handshakes and the small socializing that follow our worship service much more fun and relaxing. In the end everyone goes back to their accomodation feeling blessed and renewed. This is received better by the brethren but not our PD who wants to show he gives the most so his ‘abot’ is separate from us (but that’s a different story).
Then I was transferred to Qatar where we no longer have to hide our worship service and we have a minister assigned who visits us regularly (he covered Qatar and Yemen). Problem is that every time he visits, he managed in all his homily to make the sermon turn to “The help that needs to go the saints”. This made all the worship service ‘tainted’ and the ensuing pulong very depressing so much so that some officers will find excuses not to attend. I don’t hold an office but I have my own service car so usually I get requests from the PD to pick up the other officers who have no rides so I observed all of this. After worship services he will hold office with the different CFO’s and it turns out this is to insure everyone will give to him. I think his needs is just too great as he has no qualms asking everyone directly to give. Later on in the same year, the directive came from Ka Erdy that we are no longer allowed to give to the ministers. When the minister read this, he said afterwards that this will be the last time we will discuss about it and that was it. It stops right there.
Fast forward today and I can see that we continue to do this anyway. The generosity of our brethren either in cash or in kind knows no bounds. Here in North America, we buy all the household items a new incoming minister will be needing, They are even higher-end products (Lagostina/Circulon cookware, Henckel knives, IKEA furnitures, bed bath and beyond!) much better than what we have in our homes. We pay for his driving lessons, driving test until he gets his license. Brethren will pick up the minister’s wife and get her to choose her new winter clothes including those for our beloved minister at the Brethren’s expense. While some of us sheepishly admitted buying our stuff from Goodwill or Salvation Army (wag-wag). One Destinado who recently arrive to administer a newly formed local was using a very old laptop. A brethren took him to apple store and ask him to get a new one. Now he has a happy problem of trying to familiriaze how to use an apple OS which is different from windows. Also brethren are very generous to them during their b-day or their kid’s b-day. Food is really overflowing in abundance courtesy of each brethren who brings them, the gifts, and those red envelopes surreptitiously given, even the program is covered. All they do is appear. that’s how we love our ministers and workers. But of course if the minister is not well liked, It would be only the MT who will have to shoulder all these expenses out of some sense of obligation to them.
I think the DM’s are only well to aware of this as they have been in the receiving end of the brethren’s generosity in the past so they kind figure a way “to get in the action” so to speak, hence some promotions are tainted. Or the abot to the DM’s from the ministers and resident workers. Its a way of putting yourself in the DM’s good graces in those cases where the locale you are handling is not faring well in any of the core metrics (propagation, edification, financial). That’s why even getting the coveted posting abroad gets competitive and some ministers will gift generously to get the edge. I remember a couple of years ago, one worker assigned here in our locale who, while I was driving him to one gawain, said that he never expected to be assigned abroad that fast. His first assignment is a very remote locale in the south. One of those Baranggay chapels. He wanted to be assigned somewhere urban and was happy when he was finally rotated to a more bigger locale somewhere in Metro Manila. Then to his amazement he was sent here after a year. I commented “Biyaya talaga” and he said “yes! It was truly a blessing”. When I mentioned his name to a friend who worked in Central office, He knows his story too well. and so the other piece of the puzzle fell in place. It turns out that while our resident worker can manage the hardship, his young wife has a hard time coping up as she was raised in a much affluent lifestyle and clearly not faring well in a rural setting. She was miserable and depressed and complained to her wealthy parents. The parents in turn talk to their own DM who talked to someone in Central which resulted to their transfer. They of course gifted generously for that favor. Then the Central staff who was responsible for his transfer told the wife’s parents of a way to fast track postings abroad. And so they engineered that transition too. I’m not sure if the resident worker knows that or if he was kept in the dark. Bottom line is given 2 minister/worker with the same qualification but only one posting available, what could tip the favor to go to one of them? your guess is as good as mine.
- John Trinidad