All Things - Philippines 2015
As many of you know, I've travelled out to the Philippines 7 times now and for a variety of reasons. Typhoon relief and rehab, reconnaissance & planning trips, a Christmas holiday & of course leading WildFire intergenerational mission teams. Our teams have always been a joy to lead and have always left a lasting impact on the lives of the people we’ve worked alongside, but there was something particularly beautiful about the team which I was part of this year; a beauty that led to the greatest impact we’ve seen so far on a short trip.
WildFire, where possible, always operates intergenerationally. The generations living and working together always achieve more than in isolation. Wisdom coupled with a naive gung-ho. Strategy coupled with vision. Releasing coupled with honouring. A solid, deeply ingrained, stubborn biblical worldview coupled with an appreciation of the need for nuance and critiqued post-modern entry points into that world view. The generations held together in loving tension create the best atmosphere for mission, for kingdom, for life. This year’s team had an added 20 years of diversity compared to any previous trip and this served to expand the beauty held within the above. It wasn’t only the age and generational wealth of the team which was expanded this year but the social make-up all looked very different. The higher echelons of the continent-hopping middle class were present in a way they had not been before, but also the less travelled working class were represented in a way not so often found in the world of ‘western missionaries’. It’s easy to make the assumption that a ‘high-flying’ team of intellectuals and people with doctorates in mechanical engineering and international development would make for the best missions team. The truth is however that a rag-tag bunch of people with varied specialist skills - ranging from international development to being able to give a good hug (one very underrated and rare skill) - all filled with a desire to love God and to love people makes for a wonderful, weird looking, cocktail that pleases God and tastes great to the people who have the pleasure of sharing in it.
This weirdly wonderful cocktail is made exponentially more effective when you combine it with a sold out bunch of Filipinos ranging from teenagers who grew up in a shanty town, some police officers, accountants, football coaches and a pastor who was once the 9th most wanted man in Asia, due to him being the kingpin drug-lord of all Mindanao, makes for a seriously explosive Molotov! Kingdom partnerships that span across the generations and the nations bring great joy to the fathers heart and are a prophetic demonstration of all things being reconciled to him. But this new kingdom demography isn’t something hyper spiritual or merely symbolic but it is actually very practical and strategic. The apostle Paul talks about being ‘all things to all people’, that is, relating to different people by stepping into where they are at, assuming their worldview as a starting point, coming alongside them and working with them rather than doing things to them or for them. This is quite the task, especially if you’re trying to go it alone. Paul was an incredible guy with a varied and broad cultural heritage but he had a lot of other incredible people round him who became partners in the Gospel with him. These people, collectively, had a breath of cultural and life experience which would have further expanded Paul’s worldview, cultural understanding and actually facilitated him being able to become ‘all things to all people’. Paul had family, a big, wacky, weird, church family. Our diverse team out in the Philippines very quickly became family & in family you learn quickly from each other because you are together all day every day in some tight spaces, metaphorically and very literally (if you’ve ever been on a Jeepney ride in the Philippines you’ll know what I mean). This takes a lot of grace and love and it was an immense privilege to be part of a team so embodied with these sacrificial traits. Our varied social make up meant there was lots of learning to be done. New mindsets, new experiences, new entry points into the story of the kingdom, new ways of engaging with people different to ourselves & new ways of understanding God. Our diversity plus our unity led to us being able to unleash kingdom in new, organic and yet strategic ways which were relevant to the locals we would be working with.
Sewing Co-operative As many of you will know, I’ve spent a lot of time in the communities around where Rudy & Nits, our YWAM partners in Cagayan de Oro live and have gotten to know some people very well. It emerged that there are many mothers who are unemployed and have time on their hands with most of their children being a little older and husbands, generally, out working all day on no longer being in the picture. There are a few with high level seamstress training and others who would love to learn. They have often talked of operating their own business but have lacked the capital needed to kickstart anything resembling a viable business. This year, as a team, we were able to invest a significant amount of money into this vision to see the kickstart realised, but we were able to invest much more than money. Between us, we had experience of kickstarting over 5, ‘from-scratch’, businesses, all of which have or are still running successfully, a degree in sourcing/distribution/supply chain… stuff, an expert on delivering improved public services and a good dose of understanding in the biblical principles of business. This investment of time and expertise plus ongoing relationship had the mothers fired up and feeling equipped to get going with the right ingredients to create a quality product, with an understanding of both local and international markets and plans to reproduce the model, equip more people and the next generation for ethically minded businesses that carry discipling values. Of course we also had all of the mothers and their families over for a massive commissioning party! Stay tuned over the coming months for news on how the business develops - you may even be able to buy some of what is being made! There is also the new youth co-operative but I’ll post about this separately as there is an opportunity for you to get on board with this directly in the coming weeks.
Planting Church One of our greatest pleasures as a team was working with Glorious Hope United, a football team/church community who live mission, the whole way they operate is geared towards exposing people to the kingdom (Missiology informing Ecclesiology, not the other way round, Yes yes yes!!! … sorry, got excited there). We were able to partner with them in their football outreaches into various communities and add some house to house visits and some #RaiseTheJoyLevel type activities. One of the communities we were able to visit several times is called Indahag, a relocation village for people affected by Typhoon Tsen Dong in 2011. Glorious Hope have been visiting Indahag over the past year and have seen some people come to know the Lord but were believing that having the WildFire team there would be a real catalyst and it turns out, that’s just what we were. The team kicked off by raising the joy level with some games, face paining, balloon modelling and organising a football tournament along with some kids from another village that we had been working in. As this was happening another part of the team were able to play to their strengths in visiting house to house, hear some stories, pray for the sick and have some time to dream about some long term kingdom projects that would benefit this isolated community, now removed from the city proper.
The evening culminated with games, dramas, songs all presented in the middle of the village. Once we were done and needing to start making our way home we realised that the various different detachments of the team visiting various people earlier in the evening had led to many of those people being present in the evening. Youth had gathered around the buzz and our youth work experts were able to interact with them and share life giving stories which led to many of them giving their lives to Jesus. People who had been prayed for in their homes had turned up to thank us for the healing that had/was taking place and some even to thank us simply for praying despite seeing no immediate effect. On top of this, anyone within 100 metres of the evening gathering had come out to see what was going on and stuck around to hang out with us. It became apparent that we would be leaving no time soon. We had a great time interacting and sharing with all the people of the village and we were all well aware that we would need to return and have more time with these wonderful people. We returned the following week with an incredibly warm welcome and were bustled into peoples houses. Many desperate to know God more, to study scripture and to know how they could ‘be church’ in the way that we had modelled being church/family and for it to be something that they could invite their friends and family to. We left them with a simple model of eating together, praying, studying scripture and living live intertwined. Currently there are two houses hosting these meetings. Glorious Hope are looking into buying some property nearby to allow for bigger meetings and to be a space where community services can be developed and offered. I’m hoping to be able to continue the partnership with these wonderful people and the relationships in Indahag and continue to dream of how we can add value to what they are already doing over the coming years. “Bring out your dead (…or sick)” One of the beauties of having people from different backgrounds, traditions, church cultures all one one team is that you open each other up to kingdom experiences that are outside your normal box. Now there are many stories I could tell, but I’ll go with this one because it’s pretty cool and it’s stories like this one that leave the whole team coming back to England knowing that we have authority to heal the sick today - as well as operate in all the other gifts of Holy Spirit. A few of us ended up in the house of a little old lady in Villa Nueva, a large village out on the eastern side of the city’s outer limits. She wanted healing for her bad back. We prayed. She was healed. Another lady was passing by, she felt the need to come in, she wanted to know Holy Spirit. We prayed. She got filled with Holy Spirit and started crying and laughing and jumping and all sorts of craziness. During this time the first woman had been to find other people she knew was ill. Inflamed glands, swelling and dodgy circulation… Bad legs, preventing anything more than hobbling… and wind pain… whatever that is, some sort of stomach issue. Anyhow, as you can well imagine by now, we prayed, they were healed. The hobbling turned into the freedom to jump, the swelling disappeared, the inflamed glands got… de-flamed(?), and the stomach stopped being so painful… and windy!
On top of this there we’re also some stomach ulcers healed, deafness, heart palpitations but this instance struck me particularly. Usually I find people who are ill in order to pray for them but this time is was people being brought to us. Very quickly a reputation had built - “need healing, you go see these guys” seemed to be the thinking behind what was going on. Shouldn’t that be the status quo? We step out in obedience, lives are changed, people want in! Reminds me of the new testament, funny that. The flip side of this story is that there were people not healed. There were people on our team who taught me how to grieve with people, to have compassion as intense as the desire to see healing yet manifested in a different way in a different circumstance. Together, as family, we learned how to minister to the needs of people we found in front of us in Villa Nueva and it was beautiful. All Things I could go on and tell more stories, and I am happy to tell them, but I wouldn't stop writing for a long time and I don’t want to take your whole day. If you do want to know more, drop me a message and we can grab a coffee or Skype sometime.
“Living missionally” or living, as I like to call, it really is quite simple and this trip reminded me of that. We have to be family; Jesus commanded it of his mother and his friend, we must follow suit. It’s here we learn, we grow, we caringly confront each other with grace and truth, together we grow in love. Then, as we go, we see peoples needs and our love compels us to come alongside them, adopt their starting point and work together with them on solutions which help them live life more fully. That can be standing with them in faith for supernatural healing, it can be bandaging their wounds, it can be crying with them in their distress. Sometimes its stepping back and thinking about a strategy, a method by which they can be inspired, empowered and supported to work themselves out of poverty. Sometimes we use of specialist skills of predicting the market trend, identifying the richest soil, speeding up the embroidery process. Sometimes we use our skills of communicating with children and youth in a way that broadens their horizons and yet roots them in a solid foundation of identity. Sometimes we use our experience of planting the presence of God in communities and seeing how church can evolve around that. Sometimes we use our specialist skill of listening well and giving a good hug or the specialist skill of throwing a kick-ass party. As family, living the kingdom of God together, it really is quite easy to be All Things!