Posted by Kevin Desabelle on March 25, 2013
At the start of the year, a committee was formed to select a new National Director for the Philippine Navigators.
After expressed support from both the Navs and his own family, a lot of prayers, and most importantly, leading from God, Jose Victolero, more fondly known as “Eseng” or “Kuya Eseng,” has accepted the role of leading the Philippine Navigators team.
Let’s take a few minutes to get to know him better.
Hello, Kuya Eseng. First things first: Tell us about your life growing up. What was your family like, and how has it helped shape you?
I am the second to the youngest of 8. I grew up with both parents and married siblings living just a few meters away; with my cousins and neighbors as playmates; with extended families who stayed with us for a break or for years. During typhoon, our house was packed with people for a day or two. I enjoyed having a lot of people in the house. This set up prepared me for ministry.
My father was a strict disciplinarian while my mother was gentle and tender-hearted. I saw my mom praying daily for an hour before she went to sleep at 7:30 in the evening. My father read his Bible for an hour everyday before he took his afternoon nap. Their spirituality is a rich heritage. (My father and mother died at age 94 and 97 respectively)
I was born when my father was 45 and my mother was 42. She gave birth to all of us without an attending midwife but only my dad who did everything from assisting my mom in her labor to the cutting of our umbilical cord. My father was a good provider but our big age gap hindered our closeness. Since my eldest lived nearby, I stayed in his house often. He was like a father to me.
My father loved politics. He supported us all when all the siblings became presidents of a Youth Organization and when I served as president of 4-H Club in our place even when there was no Kabataang Barangay yet. This marked the beginning of my leadership training.
How did you get into contact with the Navigators? How has the Lord used the Navigators in your own spiritual journey?
When the cat is away, the mouse roams to play! This was what happened when I first came to Manila. My dad brought me to a big dorm at AU. From the start, I was pulled by two attractions. First was to go with my childhood friends and violate for the first time my dad’s strict law against drinking, smoking, billiard and clubbing. The second one was to approach some Navigators living in the dorm for spiritual curiosity. I gave up the first after few tries. There was nothing on it. But I was too shy to approach the Navs to satisfy my inquiry.
In my second year, I saw a classmate memorizing verses while waiting for our Physics laboratory teacher. I hesitantly approached him and asked about the Topical Memory System (TMS). This led to a meeting with his Bible Study leader, who shared to me the Gospel. I heard the Good News a hundred times before, but for the first time, I was confronted with my sinfulness and my need for Christ and His saving grace.
The Lord has used men and women in the Navigators in my personal development and spiritual growth. Spiritual disciplines like Bible Study, Prayer, Scripture memory, one on one and Quiet time helped me a lot. But what impacted my life deeply were their lives that reflected Christ’s love, grace and mercy.
In the past few years we had a National Leadership Team instead of a single National Director. Can you share a bit about the new leadership structure and direction of the Philippine Navigators?
I personally prefer NLT leadership structure but a survey among the staff changed the structure to single leadership by a national director. I think the PhilNavs is not ready for team leadership. We are products of modernity – highly individualistic, A1 and lone ranger. Pioneering and working as NLT without a designated leader could have been unmanageably chaotic if not for my kind and understanding teammates. I am thankful to God for them.
One of the directions of the ministry is regionalization. With this, we intend to strengthen the regional leadership and empower them in making decisions especially in relation to regional concerns. In the next five years, we are consolidating regional coordinators and entity directors as National Council. They will bring their concerns and ministry initiatives to the national planning and then they take these back to their regions and local ministries for alignment. We would meet at least twice a year. There will still be a National Executive Team.
Though the National Council and other stakeholders will still meet this March 28-31 for strategic planning, the regional coordinators have already reported key result areas with special significance if we want to bring the Navigators towards the realization of our Vision. These are Funding the Ministry, Recruitment and development of Leaders, Regionalization, Alumni Development and Expansion through Small Biblical Communities.
How did Ate Ana and your children take your new role? Can you tell us more about them? (We understand you met Ate Ana through the Navigators.)
Yes, Ana and I met through the Navs at Araneta University. She was teaching there and doing ministry among her students while I ministered among some AU guys and townmates in Bulacan, where I also worked as animal nutritionist in a farm. We have been good friends and ministry partners since then. She is really a gift from God. I am thankful to God for giving me a wife who loves Him and understands the kind of ministry I have. At the moment that Ana is still waiting for her retirement, she continues to teach and lead the ministry at Brokenshire College. She coordinates the youth work in Davao, specifically the DID (Discipleship in Depth). Despite her job, she is able to attend national meetings and go on ministry visits with me.
Our children are equally supportive of my new role. They are all actively involved in the ministry. Joyce, a registered nurse, is now on her third year as intern staff with the Navigators. She teaches part-time at Brokenshire College, where she also reaches out to students. Jonathan recently passed the Electronics and Communications Engineering board exam and as thanksgiving to God, he is serving as Youth Development Facilitator from January to December. Joan, while on residency training at Brokenshire Hospital, coordinates the Young Professionals’ weekly Bible study.
I see to it that I have time with my family and friends in Davao and nearby cities at least one week a month.
Do you have any hobbies or pastimes? What “makes your day”?
I played basketball before but I can’t anymore. Reading newspaper makes my day. But when I am tired and stressed out, I find sleep therapeutic.
You have been involved in full-time ministry for a number of decades now. What would you say are some of the most important insights or realizations you learned from that?
I worked for 5 years in 3 different feed mill companies while doing ministry at AU and pioneering High School Ministry at AU, MCU and Balingasa High School. I responded to the Lord’s call to go full-time in 1982 just after recovering from a serious sickness that almost took my life. My first assignment was at Cebu Institute of Technology for two terms. Then, as a family, we moved to Davao City in 1988 as part of the STEER 13 (Sending Teams for Expansion in Every Region) Program.
Important insights or realizations? Well, I enjoyed feed formulation (I’m a BS animal Science graduate) but I find feeding human souls more fulfilling. I realized that what truly remains in people’s lives are their experiences of love and grace more than those workshops and seminars they attend. I am all the more convinced that our role or responsibility in the ministry is to be faithful to God’s calling and giftedness the Holy Spirit has bestowed on us; to journey with people in love and service through which we influence them to walk closely with God and to follow wherever He leads them and whatever He leads them to do. I believe with all my heart that the Lord remains sufficient and relevant in all contexts of life.
What do you think is the greatest challenge or challenges facing believers, and especially Filipino believers, today?
The impact of post modernity among believers has brought many workers into confusion on how to do ministry today. There are good things in PM but workers are caught by surprise with the way we respond to it.
Another thing that has surprised us is the effect of absentee parents. Children grow up with television and computer as surrogate parents. Such a relationship is without bonding and commitment so can be given up anytime. This attitude affects the youth’s commitment to God and to marriage, both relationships of which are foundational to Christian growth.
There are many other challenges but I see these two as most challenging.
As the new director, what do you want to focus on in the duration of your term?
Together with the staff and regional leaders, we will focus on raising funds to the budget level, recruit and develop leaders, strengthen regional leadership and ministry, develop alumni and expand the kingdom through SBCs.
Any message to the Philippine Navs?
Thank you for your confidence. I am not here to dominate but to serve in anyway I can. I won’t seek my agenda but God’s for the ministry. The work is huge and the dream is great but working together for His glory and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will reach what we envisioned to be.