Transcript—Get Your Spirit in Shape: Meet Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan
Listen to this conversation here, where you will also find links to learn more about Bishop Rudy, The United Methodist Church in the Philippines, and other great stories.
Joe Iovino: Welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape, United Methodist Communications and UMC.org’s podcast to help keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino.
For this “Meet a Bishop” episode, I got to chat with Bishop Rodolfo Juan of the Davao Episcopal Area in the Philippines.
Bishop Rudy has been a United Methodist all his life…
Bishop Juan: I was born United Methodist. My grandparents were founders of the United Methodist Church in our town.
Joe: Originally, he thought he would serve people in a profession other than ministry.
Bishop Juan: I always wanted to become a lawyer… I wanted myself to be a champion for the poor.
Joe: Early in his ministry, he served as a military chaplain
Bishop Juan: In the Army, in the Air Force, and at the Philippine Military Academy. I was there for 5 years at the PMA, like West Point.
Joe: Today, he’s a spiritual leader across the Philippines. Let’s meet Bishop Rudy Juan.
Joe: Bishop Rudy, welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape.
Bishop Juan: Thank you, brother Joe. Thank you for this opportunity of being part of this wonderful program. I greet all our listeners, not only in the United States but in the Central Conferences. I greet you all in the name of Christ.
Joe: Bishop Rudy, where did you grow up?
Bishop Juan: I grew up in Baggao, Cagayan. This is the northernmost part of the Philippines. It is a province up north. It is close to Taiwan and it’s a beautiful, rustic community. A lot of rice fields, cornfields, and you can see the mountains. Beautiful. I love my hometown.
Joe: How did you start going to church? Was it something that your family did every Sunday, or did you start going to church later in life?
Bishop Juan: I was born United Methodist. My grandparents were founders of the United Methodist church in our town. My parents were lay leaders. So, I grew up as a true blue United Methodist church.
Joe: Did you grow up in a church that your grandparents started? What was that like where everybody knew your family so well?
Bishop Juan: It was home. The church was a home for us and we were a big family. My mother’s side there were four children—one son and three daughters. My father, there were eight in the family. All of us—the Juans and the Alfonsos—we were all in that community church. It was a big family for us.
Joe: Your mom and dad and your grandparents must have been really influential in your faith journey.
Bishop Juan: Yes, they were. In fact, in my faith journeys I always speak about my grandfather who died at 103 years old. He was able to read the Bible seven times from cover to cover in his lifetime. My parents also. They were influential.
Get Your Spirit in Shape
Joe: Can you tell me, what are some early memories of your grandfather? What was it like knowing him when you were a child.
Bishop Juan: When I was a child, when I came home from school, he would be there. My father and his brother Jose—my father’s name is Angel, and his brother Jose—they were neighbors. My grandfather, when he was getting older and was widowed, he stayed with my uncle and in our home alternately—like five years, five years, and three years, three years. He would be a fixture in our home or in our neighborhood.
Whenever I would come home from school, I would see him. I would pay my respect to him. I would always see him reading his Bible, praying. I have great memories of my grandfather.
Joe: He must have taught you a lot it sounds like by his life… by his words and example. Did you know all along you were going into ministry in The United Methodist Church?
Bishop Juan: Not until when I was in second year of high school, brother Joe. I always wanted to become a lawyer. The reason is, in our community—what we call barrio or barangay, or like a county or community—there were lots of poor farmers who were denied justice, and I wanted myself to be a champion of the poor to fight for their rights. So I nurtured in my heart that dream to become a lawyer.
But something happened when I was second year high school. I got influenza pretty bad. You know influenza, flu? I got sick. I heard the doctor in the hospital—a small hospital, a clinic—telling my dad… it was October 1975…telling my dad that I wouldn’t make it. But if I would be alive the next dawn, the next day, I would surpass the health issue.
Joe: So you had a crisis night when you were sick?
Bishop Juan: Yes, and you know what? I managed to kneel down on my sick bed in the hospital and I prayed. I made a commitment with the Lord, if he would heal me then I want to offer my life to become a pastor. It was a miraculous healing. That was a very faithful evening. The next day I was healed miraculously, so I became a pastor.
Joe: I saw in a biography of yours that at some point you were in the Philippines armed services as a chaplain. What that right out of seminary?
Bishop Juan: I graduated, my friend, in 1985 from Union Theological Seminary. From 1981-1985, I was a student pastor. Then ’85 to ‘89, I was a full-time local pastor, a mission worker, and ministry developer. But in 1989 I was blessed to be able to go to Columbia Theological Seminary in the United States, in Atlanta to finish my doctor of ministry.
In 1991, I went back to the Philippines and ministered at Knox United Methodist Church, the biggest and oldest church in the Philippines as one of the four pastors. In 1994, I entered military chaplain service. That’s where you read it. For fourteen years, I served in the Army, in the Air Force and at the Philippine Military Academy. I was there for five years at the PMA, like West Point. Those were glorious years in my ministry.
Joe: That’s a very special ministry that not everyone does. What were some of the rewarding parts of that journey?
Bishop Juan: A rewarding part is that I believe by God’s grace I was able to make an impact, a difference in the armed forces of the Philippines. First, as a chaplain, I served as counselor of young cadets in the Philippine Army from ’97 to 2002, that’s five years, I made a lot of difference and influence in the lives of young cadets.
Now if we fast forward… now that I am a bishop, my cadets are either major, captain, or lieutenant colonel spread out in the country. Now that I am in Mindanao where most of the Army is assigned almost in every corner in every province in Mindanao somebody would salute to me, somebody would say, “Hello sir,” “Good evening,” “Good afternoon”—they are there as officers.
Another is, I was assigned in four local military churches and by the grace of God, used me to either build up their kindergarten schools and physically—the building, the church, the sanctuary, the pastoral house. God used me, so I’m very thankful.
Joe: You had a long career in pastoral ministry before becoming a bishop. What’s it like being a bishop?
Bishop Juan: Brother Joe, I am happy to inform you that I’m the only bishop in the Philippines who was assigned consecutively in the three episcopal areas. When I got elected in 2008 I was assigned in Baguio Episcopal Area. When elected in 2012, I was in the Manilla Area. Now in my third election, I am in the Davao Episcopal Area. There are only three episcopal areas. And the rewarding thing is to be able to influence young pastors, retiring pastors, deaconesses in the whole of the Philippines is in itself a blessing.
Of course, I’ve always had the passion of evangelism and discipleship. Earlier on in my being a college student, I’d been to discipleship, and as a young pastor to missions and evangelism. Now that I’m a bishop with some form of servant leadership, I see to it that churches would make a turnaround—revitalization, church growth, and I’ve seen that in the whole Philippines.
I have other programs like tree planting, maybe you have read about it in UMNS I led for 4 years tree planting and now in Mindanao, October 14 as the Davao-wide tree-planting program. It was in the UMNS and is a big program.
Joe: I ask every guest of Get Your Spirit in Shape to share with us something they do that they would recommend other people try, that helps keep them close to God. So what’s something you do that helps keep your spiritual life full?
Bishop Juan: The spiritual disciplines of course. For two quandrennia already, for 8 years, I’ve had this Covenant96.com. It’s an organized prayer time, wherever you are whatever you’re doing at 9:00pm and 6:00am. It also goes with the UMC DOC, UMC Discipleship of Christ program. It has a component of journal writing, quiet time, personal devotion, and it is in care group. I also am the national spiritual director of the Emmaus Walk, Philippines Emmaus Walk, and is a five-year program. I brought this to the Philippines. We are growing. Have you been to an Emmaus Walk?
Joe: I have not. I am aware of it, but I haven’t been on a walk.
Bishop Juan: These are spiritually grounding activities and I find my strength in all this.
Joe: I hear that’s an amazing time for the people that I know who have had an opportunity to take advantage of an Emmaus Walk. Thank you so very, very much for talking to me today.
Bishop Juan: Thank you, brother Joe. It’s a blessing to talk with you.
Joe: That was United Methodist Bishop Rudy Juan of the Davao Episcopal Area in the Philippines. Learn more about Bishop Rudy, the United Methodist Church in the Philippines, and listen to other “Meet a Bishop” episodes by going to UMC.org/podcasts. Look for Get Your Spirit in Shape, episode 28.
There’s a link to my email address on that page so you can send me your thoughts on our “Meet a Bishop” series and our regular episodes. Also, please take a moment to review Get Your Spirit in Shape on iTunes or wherever you download our podcast. Good reviews help people find us.
Thanks again for listening. We will be back soon with another conversation to help keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino. Peace.