By Jonathan Chichioco
U.S. Fulltime Pastoral Worker
Being a missionary for the past year or so has helped me to identify myself more closely with the mission that God has placed on this earth. It’s a mission that as the CFCFFL community we embrace, a mission that changes lives, but more so than that it’s the mission of Jesus, to go and be with those that are poor. The poor may be those brothers and sisters that are without food, drink and shelter or those that are poor spiritually. After being in the Philippines for our immersion with the CFCFFL community there, it has helped redefine that mission and also helped me to stand strong and convicted in the way that God has called me to be part of this mission.
When first arriving in the Philippines in January, I felt a weight in my heart and soul because I knew that the following 2 months would be very trying for me in many ways. I knew that I would have to adjust to the physical conditions of a new country, to a new schedule, and also adjust to being away from everything I’ve ever known for my entire life. Although the Filipino culture is one that I know quite well, I still felt a hole when I first arrived because the moment I stepped on the plane I was already homesick. I can’t lie and say that I was ready to go out and do exciting things for the Lord in a new country. At first I wasn’t. In fact I even cried out to God during my prayer time for peace during my moments of feeling homesick.
What added to the weight of the cross I was called to bear while living there was not knowing the language and not knowing many people around me. Yet one thing remained true and was affirmed for me. It was during a worship at our missionary conference. We were singing the song “Shout to the Lord”, and the line that rang in my heart was “My comfort, my shelter, tower of refuge and strength”. When I sang this line it brought me to tears because it reminded me of my prayer to God telling Him how uncomfortable I felt in a new place, new environment. But God affirmed me by saying that I would have to remind myself that my home will ALWAYS be Christ, no matter where I go or who I meet as a missionary. Therefore, the ache of discomfort I felt I lifted to God every single day and to let any moment of discomfort be a way to glorify God even more.
Immersing with all the different ministries posed a very challenging and demanding schedule. Every day there was always somewhere to go and something to do. We many not have had to always be the one speaking at events but God’s spirit was moving us to be in many places in a short amount of time. Recalling our immersion with Work with the Poor, physically, it seemed the most demanding of all of our immersion. However, with many places to go and many people to meet, it opened my heart and my eyes to the demands of the mission that is out there. So many families’ lives changed for the better. The ministry of Work with the Poor exists not just to establish a physical home for families with enough food to eat, but to help rebuild their livelihood and spirituality.
What I admired about meeting the families in the WWP Restoration Villages is that there was a sense of contentment with all of them. With WWP proclaiming the vision of “No One In Need”, the ministry is also claiming subtly “No One In Want”. One look at any of the families in these restoration villages and you can sense a peace about them where they feel as God has blessed them with all they could possibly ask for. Of course there are moments where you will notice how conditions could be improved. However, there is still a spirituality and faith about them that speaks to how God satisfies us physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
What is powerful about doing ministry in the Philippines is that God manifests His graces and greatness in such a physical way. With so many of the country’s population in poverty, you are able to physically see the transformation that the Holy Spirit brings forth to His people. I feel that this is what brings such strong faith to such a small country. The evidence of God’s faithfulness to His people is so apparent and bears so many fruits. God is truly establishing hope for the country through so many, especially our fellow CFCFFL brothers and sisters serving for the good of the mission of Jesus.
As the weeks continued, my willingness to give my all was always tested. Whether it was trying to get to know the people more or even adjusting to changes within all the ministries, I knew that God was always requesting for more. But how fitting that with this year being the year of faith and the battle cry of our community this year being “Faith Works Wonders” , God was always prompting me to have faith. God holds His promise true with all that He asks us to do, and he roots these promises in our hearts. I recall during a reflection for the missionaries, we were told to recall our friendship with Jesus and how He has always been our great provider. This moment showed me that when we choose to live in fear or doubt and not choose faith, we choose to forget how faithful our God has been to us in the past. And now, even weeks after my training and immersion, God reminds me to remember who He is in my life. Our God is not one who shifts His identity to be so mysterious or hidden. He shows Himself and has always shown Himself in plain view. Our friendship with Him remains constant throughout all the years of our lives. Because of this, it should encourage us to remain steadfast in our faith, most especially in trying and difficult moments.
I know that as a missionary, the demands of the Lord become more and more, both in my mind, heart and soul. But what keeps me grounded and peaceful is remembering the gentleness, faithfulness and understanding of the Lord. He knows all things and is with us through all things. And as I experienced my share of struggles in serving in a different country, He asked me to stop, pause and reflect on Him as my creator, my provider and great comforter. This process I bring back to my work here in the US, to always take time to acknowledge the greatness of God.
With the inspiring stories of all of the full time pastoral workers that God blessed me to be around, I feel a sense of renewal and rejuvenated spirit to continue the work that God has established in this point of my life. I think there will always come a time during our service that we forget to go into our service with a missionary heart. But I know and believe that God has reinstated the sense of urgency to bring forth His love and truth to all that I come across. It’s a process that should continue each day to strengthen this missionary spirit, but I know that God places us and holds us in the very palm of His hands. And as my shelter and comfort, I won’t forget that.
I won’t forget my time in the Philippines, for it has brought many fruits that are slowly unraveling and showing themselves to me each day. I know that through the prompting of God’s spirit speaking to me, after a time of learning, observing and receiving, God will always call for us to come back home. When Jesus took Peter James and John to Mt. Sinai during his transfiguration, He didn’t stay on the mountain but went back down to continue His mission. This is how God calls us, to receive His blessings and His glories and come back down the mountain to practice what we’ve learned. As I stood there in adoration on Sunday of the WSC in Subic, what God revealed to me is that I will not know the fullness of all the graces and lessons I’ve been blessed with in the Philippines until I go back home and live them out virtuously.
Now being back, the challenge is presented to me to live out the mission of Jesus in my life as a missionary. I must take all of the blessings I’ve received and use them fruitfully to glorify our creator. As grateful as I was to be in another country, I’m grateful to be home. Besides, as the saying goes, “there’s no place like home”. But when I really think about it, I’ve always been home since God, my home and my shelter, has always been with me.
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