2015 General Santos – Rose Balais

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me

Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

When I first learned that I was going to General Santos City for missions, I was ecstatic but anxious at the same time. I was ecstatic about the idea of going to my own country and ministering to my fellow Filipinos on my first ever missions trip. At the same time, I was anxious because it wasn’t on the Manila or Angeles City team that I was placed, but on Team General Santos. I would be going to the southern region of the Philippines called Mindanao.

To give you a little bit of context, the Philippines is divided into three regions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. As someone from Luzon, all we know and hear in the media about Mindanao is that it is dangerous, and populated with groups of violent Muslims who want their region to become a separate country from the Philippines. Our native pastors assured our team that General Santos itself is a safe place, and that the particular dangerous area was miles away from where we were. But this did not give me any comfort when my mother sent an emergency message while we were in the mission field. She told me to evacuate the area immediately, as there was apparently some chaotic activity happening at that time somewhere in Mindanao. Although I chose to ignore my mother’s message, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t distracted. However, despite the devil’s attempt to distract me from being fully present in the mission field, God was redeeming the enemy’s attack to challenge me not to fear, but to take up my cross and follow Him.

One specific way that God challenged me in this area was through the native pastors. Our ministry contacts in General Santos are anointed and powerful. But what really struck me is that they are fearless and really have a passion to expand God’s kingdom in the Philippines. One native pastor in particular, Pastor Ching, oversees hundreds of churches across Mindanao. He makes sure to visit these churches regularly, even when it means trekking 6 hours up a mountain to reach some of the villages.

As our team continued to fellowship with the native pastors, some of them shared with us the persecution and the dangers they’ve faced in Mindanao and how God’s sovereign hand has been upon them during those situations. One pastor shared that one time while he was preaching in the villages, a group of people came to attack him and cause commotion because they found out he was preaching the Gospel. But when the pastor approached them to mediate, God supernaturally shifted their hearts, and the pastor was able to lead them to Christ! There was another crazy story of a pastor who was travelling by foot across a particularly dangerous place in Mindanao in order to reach a remote village. Two bandits then started following him, wanting to kill him. The pastor simply prayed and continued travelling to the village until he was able to reach his destination safely. Later, he found out that the two bandits who were following him were found dead. God in His sovereignty was able to confuse the bandits into shooting each other instead of shooting the pastor!
As I listened to these stories, I was becoming very humbled. I had a lot of fears about staying in General Santos for seven days. But these pastors face persecution and real dangers every, single day for the sake of the Gospel. While I have the privilege of worshipping in a safe environment, these are the people who literally risk their lives to follow and obey the call of the Lord. My initial fears of going to General Santos suddenly sounded so foolish.

For the native pastors of General Santos, the consequences of “Take up your cross and follow Me” is a reality. The Lord asks them, “Are you willing to follow Me if it means losing some of your closest friends? Are you willing to follow Me if it means losing your job? Are you willing to follow Me if it means losing your life?” And all of the pastors answer yes. And as I was listening to these pastors tell their stories, I sensed God asking me the same question, “Rose, are you willing?”

I know that following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean that all the things that the native pastors have experienced will happen to me. But God was asking me, am I willing to take up my cross? If there comes a point in my life where I am faced with a choice- Jesus or the comforts of this life- which will I choose? That day, I decided to recommit my life to following Christ.

Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly, but our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers but one thing is for sure, based on the stories that the natives pastors have shared: the reward far surpasses the price.

I would like to take this time to thank YOU, my supporters, for covering me and the whole team with your prayers throughout this trip. I believe that it is through God’s grace and through your powerful prayers that we were able to see numerous people get healed and fall under the weight of God’s glory. I want to encourage you to continue praying for General Santos. God has amazing plans for this city and He is doing a mighty work there through His people. Please pray that God will continue to empower the native pastors of the churches we’ve visited. Pray that God will continually fill them up with fresh grace and anointing as they lead their churches with wisdom. Also pray for the people that the team ministered to. Pray that the enemy will not steal the work that has been planted, but that God will seal all the testimonies and continue to multiply them.

Through this trip, I was able to see and experience firsthand how deeply God loves my own country and my people. I am so excited to see what the Lord is doing in General Santos and in the Philippines. And I am excited to see how He will work in and through me as I lay down my own ideas, plans, and desires for His.

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