2014 Philippines – Tony Richardson

Rolling With the Punches


 

Before leaving for the Philippines, our team received the word that the trip would be marked with ease. But ease in what? The trip turned out to be marked with the ease to roll with the punches! Our ministry location ended up shifting last minute from Dumaguete to Isabel City in order to be closer to the impact of Typhoon Haiyan. This shift was a glimpse of how God taught us to be adaptable to His leading during our time in the field.

The Filipino culture is all about going with the flow and being relational. Though we had received a very detailed schedule in Korea, the way it played out in the field was never fixed. Many of the places where we ministered did not have regular electricity, or even electricity at all. This affected communication between pastors and with their congregations. Sometimes our ministry schedule was not confirmed until the night before, the morning of, or sometimes until lunch time. But some of our most powerful ministry moments were ones that were not planned, but ones that just happened on-the-spot through God’s leading.

Though the focus of our trip was on Isabel City, we were told to also spend a day Tacloban. This assignment was given by Samonim (the international overseer of NPWM- the missions organization through which we went to the Philippines). Without a specific contact in the city, we were unsure how this was going to happen. But God gave us the answer on our first day. On a boat ride from our flight destination of Cebu to our mission field in Leyte, we met a lady named Bess. She approached our native contact, Pastor Daniel, and asked him about our team. And she asked if we had any plans to visit Tacloban! Though a nonbeliever with no real grid for missions teams, she really wanted us to visit her home. She and Pastor Daniel exchanged contact information and our Tacloban plan was set! It was supernatural.

A few days later we arrived at this center of the Typhoon devastation. There was absolute physical destruction all around, but the people were still smiling. They had a joy that not even the worst storm ever recorded could take away. Bess invited us into her home and shared her testimony of surviving the Typhoon. She lived on the bottom floor of an apartment. As the water level kept on rising, she ended up on the roof of the 3-story building with her two little girls tied to her with an electrical extension cord! For 6 hours they clung onto the roof, not knowing when help would come, or if the water level would increase over their heads. After she shared her testimony of survival, our sister Sharon Lo from Living Hope shared her testimony of salvation. We learned that Bess grew up Catholic, but that she didn’t believe in all the rules that people were made to follow. Pastor David then shared the Gospel with her. He stressed that salvation is based not on following rules, but on a relationship between with Jesus Christ! After hearing this, Bess’ heart was so open and she wanted to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Her life has been forever changed!

After each encounter I had with the people of Isabel City and Tacloban, after every service I was reminded of Paul’s words in Philippines 4:12-13: “ I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Through the Typhoon, God is equipping key leaders in the Philippines rebuild not only His cities, but His church with Jesus being the chief cornerstone! On the behalf of team Isabel I just wanted to say a big thank you to our awesome New Philly Family! Your prayers and word of encouragement brought us so much team unity and power to roll with the punches for His glory!

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