Coffee. The very dark brown or black liquid that people drink – hot or cold, flavored or unflavored, with or without cream, “leaded” or “unleaded,” brewed or instant. It comes in a thousand and one varieties, blends and concoctions, peddled by upscale coffee shops, or dispensed by Vendo machines in paper cups.
But one thing that coffee does – it perks up people. It is no accident that a machine invented to brew it is called (but of course) a percolator.
Jopeng (or Joseph Piquero, when referred to more formally) is a coffee nut (pardon the intended pun). He begins his day, ceremoniously enough, with a good dose of the aromatic black liquid. After his first quaff (“sip” is too tame), he perks up – round bleary eyes popping, a grin materializing on his fresh-out-of-bed face, and his lips chirping a cheerful “Good morning, brothers!” at the breakfast table.
“A good cup of coffee starts and makes my day,” Jopeng says matter-of-factly. “It makes me human! It relaxes me, sharpens my mind, squeezes out my creative juices, gets me through the day’s work. Best of all, conversations with brothers become more stimulating over (what else?) a cup of good coffee!”
Just like coffee, Jopeng also perks up the lives of many brothers and sisters, especially the young people of The Joy of the Lord Community in Manila, where he serves as director for the Young Adults Program. He is fondly (and intentionally) called by those in the program: “KJ” – for “Kuya Jopeng,” kuya being the Filipino title of respect for an older brother.
“Young people make me young,” he declares. “They are full of idealism, energy and enthusiasm for life. They are like a sponge that absorbs everything, uncomplicated, and just willing to listen and take in the truth. The knowledge that I am making a difference in their lives is quite humbling for me. I am grateful for the chance to serve my young brothers and sisters”.
Along with a dedicated team of youth workers from The Servants of the Word and the local community, Jopeng organizes and runs summer camps, mission trips outside of metropolitan Manila, temporary households for boys during the summer, retreats, training modules, evangelistic events, sports activities, and more. Jopeng the percolator?
But of course! For Jopeng also perks up the brothers who work in The Servants of the Word office. As the regional steward, he makes sure that the brothers’ finances are in order and the overall practical administration of our life is working well. Being a mechanical engineer by training, Jopeng is methodical and systematic in his stewardship work. At the same time, he is brotherly and personal; he is one of the more compassionate brothers I know.
Jopeng made his lifelong commitment to live single for the Lord in The Servants of the Word in 2006. “I have always wanted to live for something greater than myself. So even earlier on, as a youth leader both in school and in civic affairs, I involved myself with things like the Red Cross, campus politics, student activism, advocacies, academic pursuits, an engineering career after graduation in the country’s major power company and, yes, even girlfriends. But none seemed to satisfy my heart’s deepest longings.” In 1994, Jopeng joined a retreat for single professionals, and there he made a personal commitment to live for the Lord. “I didn’t exactly know what it meant to give my life to God and to follow Him but I thought I’d give it a try,” he recalls. “I gave God a chance. Little did I know that it was the start of the greatest adventure of my life. Little did I know that God was about fulfilling that deep desire in my heart ‘to live my life for something beyond myself.’ Little did I know that I had stumbled upon the ‘treasure hidden in the field,’ and that saying ‘yes’ to God was to receive the key to that treasure.”
In addition to community youth work and his stewardship responsibilities for The Servants of the Word, Jopeng also serves as trainer or formator for some younger brothers who are investigating our life. That tells you a lot not only about Jopeng’s pastoral and evangelistic skills but also his ability to model our life to other men. Jopeng truly has a big heart and gift for evangelizing and discipling men.
Besides his missionary work, Jopeng also loves to run, do wilderness activities like hiking or mountain climbing when he has the chance, tinker with our two vehicles and, yes, have coffee with the brothers and his friends. Having grown up in Baguio City (about 250 kilometers north of Manila in the cool mountain regions of northern Philippines), he loves to eat the exotic food of the mountain people – backyard vegetables, boiled pig or chicken entrails, even dog meat!
Jopeng’s favorite coffee is neither the genteel Arabica nor the full-bodied Robusta. He likes the local variety called Barako (Filipino for “bull”) which is strong, full-flavored, even aggressive, yet smooth and lands well. Like the Servant of the Word that he is.
Just listen to his parting shot at this interview: “Living for and in the grace of God has no dull moments. The pursuit of heaven is the ultimate adventure!”
Very Jopeng. A cup of barako coffee, anyone?
–Francis I. Iturralde
This article is from our 2012 Fall Servants of the Word Newsletter [1.0MB PDF].