“You're moving to the Philippines? I bet you will go to the beach ALL the time!" That was a response I would occasionally get from people when I told them that I’d be moving to the Philippines to be a missionary. The sometimes-jealous look on their faces would usually go away once I told them that I was moving to Novaliches, a district in northeastern Metro Manila, and would have to travel quite far to get to the beaches that they were picturing.
I’ve been serving in Novaliches through Friends Network since September of 2022. My teammates and I are the first Friends Network team to serve in the Philippines. We have a localchurch that we partner with - Law and Gospel Lutheran church. The primary demographic of this congregation is youth and young adults. Part of what we get to do is build relationships not only with the young ones who attend church already, but also their parents and others throughout the community, and try to connect them to this ministry.
Here’s a confession - I remember after being in the Philippines for only one day, I was thinking, “Why have I not started outreach or led a Bible study yet?” Sounds crazy, right? I was struggling to take the necessary time to adjust to a new place, and I felt unaccomplished because I wasn’t hitting the ground running and doing any tangible, visible ministry
Throughout the last 7+ months, however, I’ve grown to appreciate the process of ministry and the time it can take.
I’ve seen our relationships with the young ones at church grow significantly. Some highlights we’ve experienced that we’re thankful for include meeting new friends, working on a partnership with our youth here in Novaliches with students at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, monthly “Family Sundays” and Worship Nights, recently celebrating Law and Gospel’s first Confirmation class in several years, and yes, traveling to a beach occasionally!
In a country where approximately 85% of the population is Catholic (at least in name), and living in a metro area with a population of around 15 million souls, there’s ample opportunity to meet new people and build eternal friendships with them. Upon arrival, I was so caught up in immediately planting seeds that I forgot about the importance of first working the soil. We’re not big enough to create faith in peoples’ hearts. That’s up to God. But still, how can he use imperfect people like us to carry out his perfect plan? How far can a smile or a simple “hello” go? Whether you live near a quiet beach, a crowded metro, or somewhere in between, how can God use you in His field today?