[REFLECTIONS] Business temporarily closed: Jesus, what now?

Kirk Chester Damasco

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[REFLECTIONS] Business temporarily closed: Jesus, what now?
It was like God was telling me: 'Kirk, you guys claim that your business is about me, that everything you do is for me. Put your money where your mouth is.'

It’s a first in world history: an online Holy Week for millions of people, even in Vatican City, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rappler presents a series of reflections to help you, our reader, enter the spirit of Holy Week even in quarantine.

Good Friday came early this year.

March 13, a Friday, was one of my toughest days as an entrepreneur. The night before, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Metro Manila would be placed on lockdown. I gathered our team and told them: “Babawasan muna natin ang araw ng pasok ninyo ha? Okay kasi mas marami ang araw ng pahinga, pero ‘yun nga lang, walang kita.” (We’ll have to reduce your number of workdays, okay? That’s okay because you have more days to rest, but unfortunately that means you’ll have no salary.)

They nodded, but their ambivalent smiles and awkward attempts to joke around betrayed their worries about what will happen to them and their families.

My business partner and I tried to be calm about it, making sure that we project confidence about the things to come. Truth be told, we were concerned about our business. Where will sales come from? How do we pay rent, suppliers, and dues to the government? 

Worship Generation, our business, is a brand of Christian-themed merchandise available online and in malls across the country. One of the main advantages of being in this business is the overabundance of spiritual inspiration. “With God, nothing is impossible,” one of our shirts says. In my workstation is a framed artwork that says, “All I need is coffee and a whole lot of Jesus.”

But as the details of the lockdown became clearer and as one by one, malls and online platforms ceased operations, the rubber of my faith met the harsh road of the COVID-19 reality. It was like God was telling me: “Kirk, you guys claim that your business is about me, that everything you do is for me, and that the steering wheel is controlled by me. Put your money where your mouth is.”

In retrospect, this is not the first time. As we were hours away from opening our first ever store, one last piece of glass panel won’t fit. We were producing thousands of shirts for a big event, only to find out that the paint used was defective. We underwent an expansion of mall stores only for the market to rapidly shift to online. 

These instances were by no means easy. By God’s grace, we overcame. 

Yet this one is extra daunting because lives are on the line. Our people’s livelihood is on the line. And by extension, their respective families’ day-to-day subsistence and future plans are at stake. 

How I wish we had the war chest of the likes of the Ayala, SM, PLDT, and San Miguel that can afford to release in advance the salaries and 13th month pays of their people! Unfortunately, the reality is for SMEs like us, access to capital, among others, will continue to be a challenge.

The most that we can do is to fast-track our employees’ application for government aid and study the financial viability of releasing their pro-rated 13th month pay. I personally have asked friends for home-based online jobs that some of our people can apply for. My business partner and I have contracted the services of some of our people for errands and for our side racket of selling fruits in our subdivision, in part so that they would have extra income. 

And how they have gifted the company with amazing testimonies of faith, hope, and love! 

Our office ministry team has continued doing devotions for our colleagues. Our stockroom personnel told me that he can’t wait to go back to work. “Sir, napapanaginipan ko na na pumasok ako at nag-ayos ng mga T-shirt! Nakaka-miss!” (Sir, I dreamt that I went to work and fixed our T-shirts! I miss it!) Our office manager, who was accepted in one of the online jobs, decided to offer some of her earnings to her colleagues who are in need of financial help. 

God’s faithfulness

There’s still no clear end in sight for all of us. The lockdown has been extended and our economic future remains uncertain. But my Christian faith ultimately and absolutely compels me to trust that all will be well.

As early as now, there are so many manifestations of God’s faithfulness: malls waived rental fees, suppliers agreed to temporarily suspend collection, utility companies extended payment dates, and banks allowed us to pay our loans on a later date.

God has also cared for our people. Our head of IT has been able to find side jobs that made it possible for him to send money to the province for the burial of her sister. While imperfect and oftentimes delayed, help from local government units have been reaching our people.

But human as I am, I still fear. I still worry. I still get anxious. 

In the face of this, I turn to this story: Two disciples were running away in fear because their master was crucified. On the road to Emmaus, a man they did not recognize met and conversed with them. So engaged were these two disciples that they invited the man to stay with them. When he broke bread, they recognized it was Jesus. The experience was so powerful that their hearts burned that they found the courage to go back to Jerusalem – the very place they were fleeing from. 

We are all looking for the anchor that will keep us strong in the face of fear in the days to come. The Christian faith suggests that what we are looking for can be found in and is Jesus – the God who conquered sin and death. 

In a social media post announcing the temporary closure of all our stores in the light of the lockdown, Worship Generation said, “This is a difficult time for all of us. But ours is a stubborn faith. Yes, COVID-19 is there and is affecting all aspects of our life. BUT we have a God who is greater. Our hope is in Him. We will overcome.”

I place my hope in Jesus. 

I pray for our collective victory over COVID-19 and to the reopening of Worship Generation. 

I cannot wait to gather our team once again and exchange stories about God’s faithfulness.

Hopefully when the quarantine period is over, or whenever God wills it. 

That will be an Easter moment and certainly be one of my best days as an entrepreneur. – Rappler.com

Kirk Chester Damasco is the business development head of Worship Generation. His two most played songs on Spotify these past few days is “Desert Song” by Hillsong UNITED and “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship. He looks forward to watching “Money Heist” and “CLOY” after he submits this article.

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