HONESTLY, there were times we looked back at how easy and comfortable our lives were in the Philippines. During our first year here, Cherrylene and I just sat down on the stairs of our house talking about our difficulties living here. Things such as a 90% pay cut (compared to working for different countries while staying home in Davao with the lower cost of living), smaller house, the chores, long commutes, the weather and others. In that conversation we actually considered going back home and start again. But both of us were also convinced we wanted to stay where the Lord wants us. We echoed what Moses said to God: “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place” (Exodus 33:15). In fact, we never experienced God’s presence so manifested until we obeyed.
Serving the Lord wasn’t easy and not natural for me, being an introvert. I had been avoiding it and tried to influence my wife to think the same and reasoned we would rather give 100% of our time to our family. In the Philippines, our small group leader encouraged us to serve in a discipleship group and my response was always a polite but firm “No”. Here, my excuses were that we have 2 kids and were still settling down in a foreign country. However, the calling to serve Him was so clear that we obeyed despite our reasons. Our weekends now are mostly spent in cleaning the house and serving God in the church. On Wednesdays I meet our men’s discipleship group and Cherrylene meets the women’s discipleship group on Fridays. On other days, we spend whatever time left for our kids where we became intentional and enjoy every bit of it.
Our house here is much smaller but we have gained so much friendship that we had to look for a new one because we were bursting at the seams. We lost 90% of our earnings but we learned the principle of surrender and trust the Lord for our daily provision. In fact, we have received so many gifts from people compared to when we were self-sufficient. And best of all, the presence of Jesus has become more real in our lives as we continue to follow His will.
Just before our 4th year here, we were blessed with our 3rd child. When we discovered my wife was pregnant, we set our plan to give birth in the Philippines so we could get lots of help from family. But once again my reading plan pointed me in Isaiah 2:22 “Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. What good are they?” so we decided to stay. Although we were scared, God gave us peace and so we named our child Shiloh (means rest or peace). Three months after, COVID-19 became a pandemic. Worried that the virus will affect how we give birth, God reminded us in Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” So we fixed our eyes on Jesus and trusted Him. In June 2020, New Zealand became COVID-19 free, everything went back to normal. God has given us Shiloh – rest and peace indeed.
Cherrylene and I can’t help but look back and be grateful on how God aligned each of our steps. Although we encounter seemingly uncertain paths we choose to trust in Him. And with the help of His word we were able to discern which paths to take. In our experience, we learned not to trust our own guts because our human limitation doesn’t allow us to know what the future holds but we know the One who holds our future. We have no regrets of following God, if any, our only regret was not following Him earlier in our lives.
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