Jesus dealt the death blow to Satan and his dark kingdom on the cross, Satan and his demonic angels aggressively cling to the power that they've had for hundreds of generations over families and neighborhoods. Materialism, religions, sexual addictions, drunkenness, anger, and selfish pride open the door to generational bondage.
We are at war with the kingdom of darkness, and this is easy to forget! As Christians, we are given authority and the command to overcome the darkness with Christ's light.
When Christians move into neighborhoods and spring up in families, we bring hope and light! But, not without a fight. Demonic powers can see us and resist us. That is why we fight with the weapons of Jesus Christ.
Weapon #1: The gospel of Jesus Christ, who has come to bring forgiveness and freedom. We have to teach, tell, and live out this gospel in communities where the Light is needed.
Weapon #2: Resist the Devil by turning the attention from him towards King Jesus Christ. He roars like a lion, but his tendons have been cut at the cross. We attack his kingdom with the gospel, prayer, and courage. We defend ourselves from his attacks through worship, prayer, and proclaiming the Bible.
Weapon # 3: We have the Holy Spirit. As we walk in the Spirit, we bring light into the darkest corners. We have the power to bring holy living and worship into neighborhoods that are filled with spiritual strongholds.
Weapon #4: Know your identity as a child of God and a warrior for Christ.
Weapon # 5: The church! The Body of Christ is spread out by the 100 millions across the planet. In humility, we serve and pray for each other. With courage, we bring truth, justice, mercy, and love into the communities where we live.
Our weapons are found in our intentional lifestyle of Bible/Church/Prayer and living out the Truth of Jesus daily.
As missionaries, we see the immediate and long-term affects of discipleship. Parents and young people are learning how to apply the truth of Jesus Christ in their daily lives. A new generation of young people are growing up to serve Christ in Aninuan. Families are empowered to provide for their children's spiritual and physical needs. We get to play a small and important role in this kingdom of Light fight.
God is raising up men to preach, mothers to disciple, and fathers to lead, and young people to change the world. It is exciting to see the long-term affects of the Threads of Hope ministry within the Aninuan neighborhoods.
At the same time, I'm frequently reminded that we are in a battle against evil. An old man just moved into a house I pass by daily. When I talked with him, something seemed strange. Later I found out that he openly has a addiction for sexual perversion and prostitutes. This scene is repeated in tens of thousands of neighborhoods across the planet. What are my weapons against the dark king and his satanic kingdom?
Ministry is all-hands on deck! We were chosen from before the creation of the world to join this co-mission with Christ... chosen to go! Go into all of the word, teach the gospel, make disciples and teach them to obey Jesus' commandments. And, who will go with us? Christ and His church. Ministry is war. Our weapons are powerful and our victory is sure!
Young people are full of amazing ideas, talents and strengths. Most young people also have something else: They are still kids! But, sometimes, you meet one who has had his childhood stolen from him. That fun, optimistic, excited person inside has been replaced with a wary, street-smart, weathered, old person. Most young people have eyes that sparkle out a zest for life. But, for some, that sparkle is replaced with the flat eyes of a teen who has seen too much evil.
Parents have to protect their children from predators. This means taking a stand against working in high-risk jobs, where predators prowl. Young people should not work in areas of town where the older men are looking for dates. Why? Because the knowledge of such evil steals the sparkle. It also puts the young people in imminent danger.
Know where your young person is roaming! Predators are skilled at gaining the trust of young people. Once that trust is gained, they can then manipulate the young person through positive attention, gifts, abuse, and threats of violence against other siblings. Predators will say, "If you tell, I'll do the same thing and worse to your little sister."
Relatives, neighbors, and babysitters have the potential of stealing your child's innocence. Develop a level of communication with your child, so you know what is happening. Always be watching.
Young people must protect themselves by avoiding areas where predators prowl. High-traffic tourist areas are dangerous for young people because predators blend in as tourists. Young people tend to trust friendly strangers who they meet in social situations. If possible, avoid bars and boardwalks, if you are not with your family. Being in adult places may make you feel important. But, you are swimming with sharks.
Too good to be true! Watch out for people and opportunities that are too easy or too good. Be content to have only the friendships, money and things that God provides for you. Don't give in to that offer for easy money or easy friendships.
This is especially true online! Only chat with and accept friend requests from people who you know. It is tempting to have lots of Facebook friends and talk to friendly people online. Some of them will be predators.
Listen to God
Memorize these Truths:
1. I am a child of God and am loved by my Father.
2. I am a special gift and my body is meant only for my future spouse.
3. I am a child of light and I don't belong in dark places.
4. I obey my parents unless they ask me to disobey God or be unsafe.
5. I listen to my parents, pastors, and teachers.
6. If something feels strange, I tell a trusted adult.
Be watchful for children who are in unsafe environments. Keep an eye out for adults who are grooming young people. Be an advocate for children who are being sexually abused by a relative. Often, these situations are hushed up by the family. It's the responsibility of every person to look out for the youth in the community. Be alert. If you see something strange, ask other trusted adults to help you find out what is going on. Don't just ignore it or think that someone else will take care of it. Importantly, get some training on what to look for and how to react! Is there something you can do proactively in your community to prevent abuse and trafficking? Ask your pastor about this.
#1: Don't ignore.
#2: Be wise in how you react.
#3: Involve other trusted adults.
It is estimated that 100,000 children under 18 of age are trafficked into the sex business yearly in the Philippines, according to Unicef.
According to the United States government, 600,000 to 800,00 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children.
Extreme poverty and extreme choices. If you aren't from a majority world country, you might not understand extreme poverty. I'll give you an example from the community where I live. In Puerto Galera, an under-aged girl can work a 12-hour shift at a bar and get paid $6 (USD). The price for prostitution in Puerto Galera is $60. To a young person, $6/day seems like good money. But, the traffickers are looking to make $60 multiple times. Evil is sick. God hates trafficking. Let's do everything we can to prevent it.
Threads of Hope ministers to prevent poverty-driven extreme choices in the Aninuan community. We are providing opportunities for livelihood entrepreneurship, education, discipleship, recreation, and accountability. We all have a part to play in protecting youth from exploitation and trafficking. Thank you for what you are doing to protect and proactively provide for the youth in your community. Be brave, Be wise, Be vigilant.
Wanted: Normal, everyday Christ followers.
Needed: Mature Christians who care about others and are willing to risk it all for Jesus.
Job Description: Move into a community and be yourself. Be a living, daily example of a mature Christian, helping others by using your skills. Invite your new friends over for dinner and live beside them. Help out at the local church and do ordinary things to help extraordinary people. Live humbly and visibly in the midst of the community, showing and sharing the gospel of Jesus. Mostly, you just need to be willing and available to lend a hand.
Location: If you respond to this call, you'll get notice of the location. Jesus has a specific location already picked out for you. Start by looking at where the Holy Spirit is working. Where are there so many people interested in the the Bible that there are not enough mature Christians to befriend, mentor or disciple them?
Warning: You'll experience great joy and significant job satisfaction. And, you will be targeted for spiritual and physical attack by the enemy. You'll experience trials, sickness, and learn deep dependence on God. You'll laugh and cry with your new friends.
Rewards: If you give up your life for Jesus' sake, He will give you all of it and more in return. Most who answer this call find that giving up their lives is a daily continuum, resulting in great joy.
Expiration Date: Time is ticking. This is a limited-time call.
It was our first date in quite a while, and we went to our favorite pizza place over on the beach. We were having a good time talking and eating, when an elderly man from North Carolina stopped by our table to ask about the pizza. We chatted for a few minutes and then he rejoined his party, which was seated next to our table. I couldn't help but notice that he was seated with a Filipino mother about 20 years younger than him, two 20-something kids and an elementary age girl. This man had flown from North Carolina to spend a couple of weeks with the 20-something daughter. Her mother, brother, and the little girl were along for a vacation, as well.
Living here in the Philippines, we see old white men with young girlfriends or prostitutes daily. I never get used to it, but I think that I try to ignore it. Taking the family to town for groceries the other day, I swerved the van to avoid an gaunt old Caucasian man with long grey hair on a motorbike. He was stopped in the road and a prostitute was hopping onto the back of his bike. Outside of the grocery store, another elderly Westerner strode by with his arm around a young Filipino man. Sex is not free, but it is cheap. That's why it is so shameful. Sex was never meant to be cheapened by lust or money.
The sexual relationship is sacred, meant to be shared by a man and a woman within God's covenant of marriage. Marriage is a sacred picture of the relationship that Jesus Christ has with the church. It's a pure love, not to be shared with others for money, lust, or power.
But, let's get back to Matt from North Carolina and my date night with Gina. As we got ready to leave the pizza place, Matt came over to talk. He was telling me about his multiple trips to the Philippines. About his room rate and his stay with the girl from Laguna and her mother... etc. Then, he mentioned something that seemed unusual. He said that he had sat next to some missionaries on the airplane. That they help children living on trash dumps. They have bracelets with different colors about hope, he said. Well, Matt had me at hope! I pulled out a gospel bracelet from Threads of Hope and said, "I have a Threads of Hope bracelet right here that I'll give you." He eagerly stretched out his left wrist. I hesitated for a second and then tied it onto his wrist. "Did I have the courage to tell him the gospel?" I asked myself. But...That's why we're here! So, I pointed at each color on his wrist and said, "God is holy. We have sinned and are spiritually dead. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He gives us new life. And, to grow in Christ each day, we read our Bible and pray."
As I drove my sweet wife home, I thought about Matt. A really old foreign guy with a hard-faced young lady. Two people missing the point of sex, marriage, and life. Life is about a real, daily relationship with Jesus Christ. Life is about living out the plans that He has for you: Being part of a marvelous relationship, a world-wide relationship called the Bride of Christ.
That's why we're missionaries here: To bring the hope of forgiveness, acceptance, and real life through Jesus Christ to the children, families, and adults in a little beach town called Puerto Galera.
Today, I preached the sunrise service at Aninuan Christian Church. I was getting ready to start teaching, when I noticed that a fellow pastor and friend had arrived to encourage and support me. Considering his very full schedule, I was surprised to see him there. But, then again, it didn't really surprise me at all!
Being a full-time missionary medical doctor can mean a very full day of ministry for Francis Daytec. What strikes me as unique about Francis and his wife Leah (who is a midwife) is their ability to speak life into so many crevices of their community. Jesus is important to the Daytec family. They live a rhythm of ministry so natural that it is easy to overlook. However, in all actuality, the scope of their ministry is astonishing.
How many medical doctors do you know who have patients living at their house for post-op recovery? A friend from a mountain tribe recently gave birth and simultaneously had a very serious operation. After the surgery, Francis and Leah invited this precious woman, her husband and five small children to live with them during recovery. At the same time, Leah was hosting a short-term medical team from Australia, home-schooling her three children, and mentoring an American medical missionary living as part of the Daytec family.
Meanwhile, Doc Francis ministers throughout the community serving, encouraging and being a catalyst for outreach. On Saturdays, Doc facilitates a community pastors' get-together at 6am, which focuses on ministering to Mindoro as a church without walls. Francis also happens to be the pastor of a small church that meets in his house, where people come to be taught, loved on, to eat Leah's incredible home-cooked meals, and leave refreshed for another week of service. Between his work as pastor and medical doctor, I've known Doc Francis to work a 40-hour day.
Would you like to meet Doc Francis and Leah? Just come to Puerto Galera and keep your eyes open. They move quietly through the community, feeding homeless, counseling the hurt, and giving medical care to any who ask. I remember when one of our pastor friends broke his arm playing basketball on a Sunday evening. Doc Francis got the call during his church's after-service dinner and immediately left to help his fellow-pastor out. Another time, I was riding my motorcycle past a basketball court where a government medical outreach was taking place. Who do you think was sitting at a folding table listening intently to a patient's words? The other day, we stopped over at the Daytec house to bake some Christmas cookies. A few hours earlier, a mountain family had come to the house with their baby who had been feverish for a week. Doc was out, so Leah got them started on some food and provided an egg fund for the baby. (An egg fund is money that provides one egg a day to help improve the health of malnourished patients.) When Doc got back home, he and I drove up to the church where this beautiful family worships. After a warm welcome from the pastor, we waited a few minutes for the family to arrive. Doc did the check-up and gave them medication to take home.
What strikes me is the heart of this missionary doctor: humble and Christ-centered.
For you have been born again... through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1:23
The Bible is different from any other book because inside of it are the living words. When mixed with the purpose and power of the Holy Spirit, the words in the Bible make life-birthing changes inside of the reader. When you give a Bible or a New Testament, you are giving the potential for the reader to experience eternal life.
God uses His words in the Bible to give new spiritual life and to germinate faith in Jesus.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17
The Holy Spirit continues to use these living words to fuel a life of repentance and faith. The reader wrestles with the words, learning how to live a truth-filled life that matches his/her new identity in Christ.
Memorize Truth, Apply Daily
Every week, the Sunday School classes at Aninuan Christian Church have a Bible lesson and memorize Bible verses. In the above photo, ladies are sharing their memory verse. This begs the question of why. Jesus Christ is called the Word and calls Himself the Truth. We are born into anti-Christ, humanistic thought patterns. We are bombarded by anti-Truth messages constantly. That is why we memorize and study the Word, which came to us from the WORD. We must fill out minds with the truth of God's word, so that we can evaluate each thought and action. We must tear apart our thinking patterns and replace them with truth. That is how we grow!
You know that feeling when you are saying just a little too much? Or, when you are being manipulative? Have you ever crushed someone with your words? Most of us can remember specific words spoken to us that were devastating. The tongue is like a little match that can cause blisters deep into the soul of a friend and kindle destruction in a relationship. Has your sarcasm scarred your spouse's self image? Or, have angry words left a relationship in a pile of smoldering rubble? James says that if you can tame the tongue, you'll have control over your whole body. He also says that the tongue is set on fire by the fires of Hell.
The fires of Hell burn hot with the fuel of lies, envy, greed, lust, selfishness, complaints, gossip, and angry bitterness. These flames scald and burn. But, they also seer the conscience of the speaker. Hell is a total absence of God's goodness. Imagine what that can do to people within range of a tongue smoking with the heat of Hell's fires.
But, there's a better way! There's the Jesus way!
We're here to build each other up with our words. Instead of burning, we build. Imagine you see a friend who is living in a house that is tilted and sagging. You look under the house and you see that one of the supports is missing. So, you get some lumber and you fix the support. It's the same way with our words. As we see the needs, we will use our words to build up!
Encouraging, truthful words bring blessing into people's lives and build them up. Try this for a week: Simply speak blessing into the lives of people around you. Tell them how much you love them and thank them specifically for their skills and contributions. Tell your pastor that you are proud of him for his integrity and perseverance. Tell your neighbor that she is doing a really good job raising her children.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29.
Our motive is really important here. If we are always on the prowl to fix people, our words will not be encouraging. The motive for fixing people is usually anchored in pride. The motive for building other up "according to their needs" should grow from Christ's love.
Patience and timing are important when building others up. The right words at the wrong time can crack the structure. Christ is the foundation and we are helping to build the house. Our truthful, loving, timely words will benefit those who listen.
Last! Relationships! It's hard to build if you don't know the blueprint or are unfamiliar with the job site. With the Bible as the blueprint, we must do the hard work to learn the job site. Be vulnerable. Be honest. Be available. Take the risk of your love and honesty not being reciprocated. Part of taking up your cross daily, is to allow yourself to be hurt in this process. A jammed thumb or hammering the wrong nail will happen. Take those to Dr. Jesus, and stay focused on "being helpful, building others up according to their needs."
I could see her moving across the small bank parking lot with a dirty baby on her hip and her hand cupped. She was short, face puffy, and hair orange from malnutrition. She looked about twelve. The baby surely was her brother. I edged a little closer into the ATM line, and watched her slowly climb the concrete steps. She was ignored by most, but that cupped hand pushing towards me demanded my attention. I asked her her name. She refused to answer. Either, it was too personal or she didn't speak Tagalog. I told her that I wouldn't give her money but that I would give her food. She edged up to the European family at the adjoining ATM. The tourist-mother turned furiously and started making a hissing TSK, TSK sound, like we use with stray dogs in the streets.
The single-most, potentially, powerful phrase in the world is, "I love you." As a missionary, my "mission" is to communicate one phrase in the language that all humans understand, "Jesus loves you."
Love is usually communicated when actions give context to words. Jesus Christ soaked up the eternal, infinite wrath of His Father and became sin for us. In near-death fatigue, muscles and flesh ripped to shreds, the Chosen One leaned forward and said, "Father, forgive them because they know not what they do." Jesus is infinite love, and His actions are convincing.
Through the power of Christ, we can reflect Christ's love. Our most significant method for this task is through truth-filled, authentic, vulnerable relationships. The old adage says, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
As we open our homes and hearts to new friends, we need God's wisdom for how to speak love. We need God's power and stamina to speak love into the souls of those we serve.
"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
Cross-cultural ministry has a few obstacles that a missionary has to be intentional about overcoming. In order to cross cultural and socio-economic barriers, we have to be aware to them. I don't really have solid answers for these obstacles, but I do have some possible suggested solutions.
Paternalistic expectations can be placed on a missionary because he is "here to help." The truth is that paternalism short-circuits honesty in relationships. A missionary has to be careful about creating situations where he becomes the patron. A patron is by nature disconnected by a layer of formality that elevates him. He is like an employer or a charity in the eyes of those who he's trying to minister to. Serving others and spending time together in each other's homes is one answer for this. Another idea might be to limit economic help and increase sweat equity to build relationships.
Jesus avoided paternalism by crossing socio-economic boundaries. He ate in the homes of rich and poor, righteous and sinners. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He sought out and served people from a variety of walks of life.
In America, we have a saying that a man's house is his castle, meaning that people should be invited before they come in. In the Philippines, people are more fluid in their hospitality. I think that the answer to this one is to find ways to invite our friends over that feel unstructured for the guests. One idea that I have is that when I feel most comfortable, might be when my guest feels least comfortable. Trying to imagine how my guest feels in my house, is start for anticipating answers.
Most people understand that a missionary will retain some semblance of the home life that they were used to in the States. Stewardship of funds is of utmost importance to a missionary. But, this presents an area for consideration. God created all of us equal. A man's budget does not give him increased worth. How can I bridge the divide that my budget projects? One way is to share life with people: game nights, dinners at my house, dinners at their house... indiscriminate hospitality can lead to honest conversations and friendships. Another way is to pray together and study the Bible together, bearing one another's burdens through prayer and friendship.
Here to Help:
As long as people feel like I am here to help, it puts me right back into the paternalistic paradigm. Actually, I'm here to glorify God by using my family's talents and skills within a community. The key here is "community." The answer is relationships. Building true friendships within a community gives the missionary the space where he/she can glorify God with his/her talents because those talents contribute to what Jesus is doing in that community.
It's such a privilege being a missionary, albeit difficult to navigate at times. The beauty of mission work is that it is a summation of daily life, lived out in relationships. Through those thoughtful and intentional relationships, the good news of Jesus Christ is received and believed. Saving faith is always accompanied by repentance and a Spirit-filled life that glorifies God in daily life.
“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right." Peter
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," James
"Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all." Solomon.
"I have become all things to all men,that I might by all means save some." Paul
We're a family on mission to bring the good news of Jesus to the Philippines.