2015 General Santos – Hyejoo Lee

Pruning


One bad habit I have is to learn something about the nature of God and then immediately make a box out of it and try to stuff God into it. Unknowingly, I limit God and in turn believe that I have reached my full capacity of understanding who He is. I think that I have finished growing and am ready to do anything for Him. But ultimately, I am the one put in a box, not God. I step in, close the flaps over me, and then wonder why I cannot see God anymore. So, during my missions trip with New Philadelphia Church to General Santos, Philippines, the Lord took me out of the box I was in. He helped me see His bigger plan again. Throughout my week in Gen San I learned so much about myself- things I have to accept as true, and things I still have to work on. God gently brought them up, rather humorously, suggesting further consideration. It was so interesting how God would, out of all the times and places, would use a missions trip to unearth so many things about me.

Ministering with Faith Tribal Ministries (FTM) in the southern Mindanao region reopened my eyes to how big God is. FTM is a ministry headed by native Pastor Ching Tao, specifically to train up young pastors to spread the Gospel, and plant churches in the tribal villages throughout the southern regions of Mindanao Island. FTM has already planted 163 churches with various pastors overseeing their respective communities. And FTM is far from finished. On the maps that we were given earlier in the week, they have already marked out the next villages and tribes to reach and minister in. Our team preacher Pastor Marcus Corpening pointed out how FTM’s works are like the book of Acts. And indeed, I felt like I was witnessing the Bible in the 21st century. The green mountains I had seen from the airplane while flying down to General Santos were the areas in which God was already working, and there were people who have laid down their lives to facilitate His plans. I was so humbled to have an opportunity to minister alongside a group such as this, and again realized God’s omnipotence.

Secondly, getting to know the native pastors in General Santos challenged me and my heart for ministry. Gen San, the southernmost city in the southernmost island of Mindanao, is pretty much the countryside of the Philippines. There are no traffic lights, but a lot of farms and unreached tribes. While other cities like Manila are more developed, the Mindanao regions are still known for outright violence: Muslim extremist groups, killings, and persecuted churches. Although the violence is not as prevalent as before, the ministers and pastors I met through FTM are still willing to stay in this area for the sake of the Gospel. Pastora Aiza, a young 24 year-old woman in FTM, told me about how after graduating college, she had all these job offers with good pay and cosmopolitan experiences. As a smart student, she was definitely qualified enough to have taken such opportunities. Yet, she had laid them all down because she knew God was calling her to minister to the tribes. Like Aiza, the other pastors lead lives of sacrifice. They wholeheartedly lay down comforts and security for the sake of Christ. Since I was fourteen, I have always had a heart for ministry. But I couldn’t help but question myself for the first time in all honesty and seriousness: can I really do what these men and women are doing? Can I truly lay down all presuppositions of comfort and recognition for the sake of being God’s vessel?

On our last night in Gen San, the native pastors and our team held a thanksgiving service at Pastor Ching’s Christ Community Church (CCC). During a powerful time of praise led by the CCC praise team, I saw an image of a huge lion powerfully running through a field. It was a gigantic lion shaking the whole earth as it ran and stomped. Absolutely nothing could get in its way. With this image, God was saying to me, “Hyejoo, you know I don’t need you for me to do my will. You’ve already seen how much I’m doing in Gen San, right? Look how big I am. I’m unstoppable. With or without you, my will is going to be done.” God wasn’t angry or threatening to leave me—He was pulling me out of my box to see the context I was in. I remembered one afternoon earlier in the week at a village. It was raining, and our team prayed for it to stop, but God immediately responded as native Pastor Clar led the village kids to pray with us. As I was praying them, I had looked up to the sky and saw the clouds parting. Our team was in awe as we folded our umbrellas and the sky remained clear and blue throughout the whole afternoon. It was true—God doesn’t need me. But He continued: “That being said, I want to use you. So are you with me?”

That’s when I realized what God was doing. He was gently pointing out the things I still hold onto that hinder me from truly giving my all to the Lord. With God, it’s all or nothing. On this journey, God revealed the fears within me that I had never admitted to having: fear of failure, fear of disappointing my parents, or fear of being wrong. It’s always humbling when God points out things about your own self that He wants to prune, and I was reminded of John 15:1-2:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Through all my experiences in General Santos, God was simply showing me that He would start pruning me so that I will be “even more fruitful.” Pruning, of course, requires cutting, snipping, trimming. Growing pains are involved. But I know that I am already in my Father’s garden. Hence, I’m excited to see how God is going to continue to shape me and prepare me for my part in His story.

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