My first trip to the Philippines took place in 2007. After my wife, Lauren, had been on a couple of short-term trips with our church, she was ready to sell everything and move to the Philippines. I laughed it off. But I eventually (and begrudgingly) signed up for my first trip. You see, I had been on mission trips my entire life. I had been there, done that, got the t-shirt, checked that box. I enjoyed missions, but felt I had a new purpose in ministry at this point in my life. My first trip seemed like the perfect opportunity to check things out – they needed a music team. I was willing to go and do music “as missions.”
Well, God has a sense of humor. When we arrived, it was evident almost immediately that I wouldn’t be needed for any music. They needed more teams to go out and do evangelism in the mountains. I had no experience whatsoever to do what they were asking me to do. I instantly had a poor attitude and was focused on nothing other than wanting to return home. But then! I began to see God work. I watched Lauren as she shared the Gospel and entire households prayed to receive Jesus – mom, dad, grandma, uncles, kids… all of them being converted at one time! I instantly felt my heart shift and began to follow her lead in sharing the Gospel with these beautiful people. Music didn’t matter anymore. It was all about telling people about Jesus! No matter the response of the people, I felt joyful in doing what God had clearly planned for me all along!
I returned home after that trip with an ache to go back as soon as I possibly could! I felt the way my Lauren did after her first trip: I wanted to sell everything and move there! But… we were soon expecting our first child. The timing was not right. God provided an opportunity for me to begin leading short term teams from our church to this same place – twice a year for nearly ten years! All the while, my love for Jesus deepened, and my heart for the Filipino people grew more passionate. I would often dream of doing life with them on a permanent basis, but God did not open that door. (Not yet!)
After nearly 20 trips to the Philippines, God eventually led our family to Michigan to serve in a new ministry. I worried I would need to put my Philippines passion on the shelf as I joined a church that was not invested in that particular place. This church was equally passionate about missions – but just in different places! God quickly opened the door for our entire family to take a trip – our first time ever being together in the Philippines. Then another trip with just my daughter and me. Then a few years later, a vision trip developed with leaders from our church, which resulted in the Holy Spirit solidifying the call and passion within me to serve full time in the Philippines. My new church was sending my family out to become full-time missionaries! Although it was an answered prayer, even a dream come true in a way, the transition has taught us much about obedience. About surrender. About leading our children. Leaving behind everything we take for granted – our church, friends, school, jobs, house, cars, comforts… but it has already been worth it!
God continues to go before us each step of the way. At the time of writing this, we are less than 100 days until departure. Living each day by faith, we are closer to Jesus than ever before as we cling to Him for our every need! All glory be to Christ and Christ alone!