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KP Mark: Confessions of a School Chaplain

The following write-up was written by Miguel Alberto, Luke Chan, Elijah Fernandez, Cassy Fong, and Chesca Sawit for a Grade 12 requirement. After interviewing KP Mark and gaining his insights, the group decided to publish his responses (with his consent) to enlighten the rest of the student body.

Pastor Mark del Rosario, commonly known as Kuya Pastor (KP) Mark, is the current chaplain of GCF International Christian School (GCF-ICS). The student-writers wanted to understand how his education and career closely relate to his current position.

The interview started with the student-writers asking KP Mark about his family. He talked about being the middle child among four siblings and how this made him the “glue and bridge” of the family. He always had the urge to hold everything together. He matured when he went to the United States and started living on his own at age 17. He went to New York to study business marketing, but he switched to studying education after realizing he did not enjoy his original course. He taught grade school students for his internship while finishing his education course. However, he did not know if he wanted to stay or leave America since he was offered a job by his last internship. After reading a passage in the Bible about Nehemiah, someone who wanted to fix Jerusalem despite not growing up there, KP Mark felt that God led him to that story on purpose. He said, “I felt it was God telling me, 'Mark, doesn’t your heart break for the Philippines?’ Like, in the States, you’re one of so many people who are there, but in the Philippines, how many people from New York come back? So better come back.”

Returning to the Philippines was difficult for him because he had to adjust greatly. People always assumed he was the oldest due to his newfound responsible nature when he returned to the Philippines. While he knew who he was and how to act because he went overseas, when he came back to his home country, others expected him to behave differently. People made fun of his English, and so he was culturally confused because despite being a Filipino, he did not feel comfortable. He had to learn how to relate to people again.

The conversation moved on to his career in the Philippines. He revealed that he first worked at Messiah College for around eight years. He taught some classes while doing leadership and discipleship programs, but these classes were not necessarily theological. The church, Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF), then offered him a job to be a pastor whose sole focus was the school, rather than the church. The arrangement was perfect considering his education background. He gushed, “I understand what the teachers go through. I’m an English speaker, so I know what all of you go through when you try to speak Tagalog and it’s hard. I get that.”

KP Mark talked about his role and experience in GCF-ICS as a pastor. When he was only 14 years old, he already wanted to be a pastor in GCF because he went there as a child. He used to sneak into the Auditorium A, stand on the stage, and imagine himself preaching to an audience. After telling this story, he joked about how he could no longer complain about his job, seeing that he had finally achieved what he dreamed about as a child.

He started to work full-time in 2016, but before that, he worked part-time as a volunteer. He mentioned that he would preach at least once every two months or once a month at most. During his first year at GCF, he thought he would be able to preach more, but he was denied the opportunity to do so. With all the free time that he had, an older pastor told him, “Mark, during this time that you’re not preaching, work on sermons.” He brushed off the remark of the pastor, but he later regretted it.

KP Mark assists with the Christian Living (CL) program as the school chaplain. He mentioned that originally, the curriculum he and the other teachers had planned for CL was quite intense. They had planned to study topics like “Who is Jesus?”, “Who is the Holy Spirit?”, “What is salvation?”, and “What is the Bible?” within the first quarter alone. However, he realized that they had to simplify the topics as it proved too much for both the teachers and students. He explained that learning how to disciple those around him was part of his role as a chaplain.

He delved deeper into his work, explaining two aspects of an effective sermon: delivery and Bible study. He explained that many pastors often forget one or the other, favoring delivery over Bible study or vice versa. Ideally, both should be executed effectively, but one eventually gets sacrificed. “It would be nice to have time to do both all the time, but usually, we don’t have time.” Pastors like KP Mark often preach on a weekly basis, so preparing a purposeful and engaging sermon every Sunday takes a lot of time.

He was supposed to minister to the teachers, the parents, and the students. However, he soon realized that this was more difficult than he had imagined. For example, most teachers were not free until holidays and long breaks so ministering to them became difficult. Another challenge arose as he tried to minister to the parents. He could only hold short parenting seminars and short prayer events, but he never got the opportunity to connect with them more. When it came to the students, he was in charge of creating the CL curriculum and preaching during worship and prayer times. However, he said that he stuffed too many topics into the original CL curriculum and plans to cut back some of the lessons for the second semester. He mentioned that he had skipped essential and foundational Bible lessons and plans to return to simple but crucial Biblical truths.

KP Mark continually referred to the students as the main concern and growing point in his career as a chaplain. His previous mindset had made him see students as just students instead of as individuals with different perspectives and needs. This made him realize that the needs of the students came first and that understanding them was the most important step toward effective ministry. While the head pastors of GCF needed to be broad in their sermons, KP Mark saw that the same approach did not work with the school. He said, “I should be speaking specifically to what you’re going through. I have to keep on trying to talk to you all, know what’s going on, and keep tweaking it to match what’s going on with everything.”

He has noticed that recent devotions and sermons have been sticking longer in the collective consciousness of the school. He gauged this by simply observing how many people shared his message with others. He spoke excitedly, “Sometimes you measure like, did they change? But you can't measure that… it's just more about, do you remember something?” To KP Mark, sharing was much more important than just retention because a student who shared a lesson must have cared enough about it to think someone else should know about it, too.

However, he faced challenges while trying to connect more with the students. One of these was scheduling meet-ups with growth groups. He assumed homerooms would be the perfect time to find students, but he was often met with a half-empty room. The high schoolers were much less available than he thought, so he resorted to collecting random assortments of students instead. Another hurdle KP Mark faced was the diversity of the students’ needs. He remarked that grade seven students asked him whether dinosaurs belonged in the Bible while grade twelve students asked what role the Bible had to play in politics and government. He mentioned that he “need(s) to know how to tackle these different things (concerns) that people have and still put value in those struggles.”

An aspect of the job he struggled with, but could not find the motivation to do, was file management. Recently, he needed to submit all his previous sermons to the school. The issue was that he had not written any of them down. Instead, his work was buried among a pile of YouTube videos, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets. He really did not enjoy having to go back and remake his sermons, but he acknowledged that this was the consequence of not managing his files earlier. He found it difficult to focus, not just on his files, but also on his desk. It had gotten really out of hand after he moved houses. The mess made it hard for him to get any real work done. A student suggested that he make weekly YouTube devotions, and he really liked the idea, but he still has not done it. He feels frustrated because he already spends more than eight hours of his day at school, but he is still unable to get everything he wants done. He conceded that he is a bit of a workaholic and struggles to feel satisfied with the amount of work he accomplishes.

KP Mark admitted that getting to stop is hard. He spoke about how his dad used to buy food for others to get them to stop. Food was the only way to get people to forget about work and just talk. His father was more of a people person than he was, so KP Mark borrowed some of his techniques. He tried to buy pizza for the G-Groups to get them to sit down and talk about their issues, but not everyone is receptive to his invitations. He mentioned that whenever he walked around the fifth floor, the most he would get was a short greeting. Everyone was always doing something, and he just needed a way to get them to stop. The opposite was true for grade schoolers. He is now afraid of the fourth floor. Whenever he ventures into this territory, he is immediately swarmed by children asking him questions.

Despite these difficulties, he had one successful experience where he got a student to just stop and talk. While they did not talk about the Bible directly, KP Mark found value in just conversing and connecting with that student. However, this was one victory in a sea of missed opportunities. He found it initially difficult to connect with his Growth Group because he was not bonding with them in a genuine way. He would try to give them a Bible lesson after they were all tired and disengaged. He concluded, “That is ministry… the talking, the listening.” This was something he noticed he did not do enough. He realized that to engage and teach effectively, he needed to become more than a pastor. He needed to get the students at ICS to talk to him as a trusted friend. Through this, he wanted to cultivate a deeper collective understanding of the Bible and the issues that the school faced.

His long-term vision is to create a kind school. He brought attention to the fact that the word ‘love’ has lost its meaning in the modern world. It is thrown around a lot without any of the weight that makes it real. This is exactly what he wants to return to school, this true form of love called kindness. To him, kindness is when “people from different levels, students from different levels, and even teachers are interacting and building relationships with one another.” His ideas stemmed from a project he and his roommate created in college. It was called The Breakfast Club, named after the movie, and it had the goal of connecting strangers from different friend groups under the guise of a nice meal. It became so successful that the tradition was continued after he graduated. KP Mark went over his memories, remembering how real connections formed between complete strangers. There was true love and kindness that was being shown just because they got the chance to sit down and talk.

This vision was what KP Mark wanted to create within the school. This legacy of his would reform the people of ICS into people looking to do better and do good things for others. He wanted to see things through, so he is making efforts to make his vision a reality. Before the interview ended, he gave back all the glory to God and relinquished control over his life. He firmly spoke, “I want to be here as long as I possibly can be here, but we all know God. God's the One who guides us on where to go.”

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