Several weeks ago I made a trip to Hungary. I stayed with WGMs Country Director and his family and had a great time seeing the ways WGM is engaged in ministry there. It was great to talk about 'leadership stuff' too! Mark and Eszti have 2 active little boys and it was fun to get to know them better. One of their son's favorite places is also one of my favorite places - the Jersey shore! Mark's family, from Ohio, have a tradition of vacationing in Ocean City, NJ. Now that's a tradition I can get behind:) Someday I hope to be able to make sand castles in O.C. with these 2 little boys. As I shared life with this family for a few days one question came up again and again. "But why?"
Put your coat on. . . buy why? We're going to get in the car now. . . . but why? You know the drill. There are never enough answers for a child's inquisitive mind!
And as I've been back in Tirana, Albania after my Hungary visit I keep asking myself, "but why?" I'm working with the Country Directors in my region on their Annual Ministry Plans. We've talked about knowing our "why". And as they sit with their teams they're looking at the question, Why is WGM in Hungary, Japan, Papua New Guinea, etc?
Which leads me to me and the why question. Why do I do what I do? Usually this stuff comes fairly easily to me - I love developing mission and vision statements. I love thinking about what motivates me and what I'm good at and how God is leading in my life.
But this time it's coming a little slower than it has in the past. So here's my attempt at defining my why, how and what. See Simon Sinek's short summary if you're not already familiar with these!
Why? I do what I do in order to see individuals experience new life through a relationship with Jesus Christ who then engage their talents and resources throughout all sectors of society and replace the lies of culture with truth which ushers in the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. That's my why and that is why I get up in the morning!
"How?" is the next question. How do I address my why? My hope is that I am challenging WGM missionaries in my region to dream big, pray, and do life and ministry with excellence and accountability. Measuring our success not on busyness and activity but on the impact being made by God in people's lives due to our availability.
Which leads to the question, What am I doing? I direct WGM's ministry in Europe, Asia and Oceania. I do that by: making field visits, mentoring leaders, promoting and implementing WGMs Strategic Initiatives, looking for new ministry opportunties - especially for medical and community health/development initiatives, holding bi-weekly accountability meetings with those I supervise and enforcing policy. One thing I love about my role is that every day looks a little bit different. Today I might be visiting a hospital in the hopes of sending doctors to work there and the next week I am sitting at my desk on a video call praying with people throughout our region.
What follows is a glimpse of my WHAT over the last 5 months.
After my spring update I made my first trip to Papua New Guinea. I was reminded of Kenya as there were so many similarities and to be honest I got a little homesick. One of the visits we made was to a mission hospital - I can't stay away! During our visit it was confirmed that Kudjip Hospital, which is run by the Nazarene Church, is willing to have WGM Doctors work with them. Medical Missions is an incredibly effective ministry tool and I'm excited for this opportunity!
Dan and Pam Schafer, WGM's President and his wife, on a tour of Kudjip Hospital, PNG.
This is the crew that hosted me in Mt Hagen while I visited PNG minus Jim whose vehicle broke down while he was towing another vehicle back to the workshop at the Pastor's Training School. Like I said, so many similarities to Kenya:)
The Porters live in the highlands of PNG near this spot where you can see one hundred mountain tops. They are helping Churches recover from the severe earthquake they had in February.
Coffee usually gets me pretty excited too so I was thrilled to find coffee-to-go in the middle of the PNG highlands. It wasn't a bad cup of coffee either!
My next international trip was to Japan where the trains are fast! We experienced the bullet train as we traveled south from Tokyo to visit one of our missionaries who is married to a Japanese pastor. If you think the WGM missionary is on the right in the photo below, guess again! Brandon and Izumi minister together in the port city of Shimonoseki which is famous for puffer fish. Although poisonious if not prepared properly we gathered our courage to try a bite and have lived to tell about it!
Our group also met with the leaders of the IGM - a Church denomination that WGM partners with. According to Japanese tradition gifts were exchanged. Luckily our Country Director was able to guide us in proper cultural protocol!
We left with a burden for the Japanese Church. It's growth is not keeping pace with the aging population as 82% of their churches have less than 50 attendees. Japan is an easy country to live in - but a difficult place for ministry. Join me in lifting up our team of four in this modern, yet spiritally dry country.
I was able to attend several meetings at WGM's HQ in Indiana this past summer. This included an organizational-wide Family Retreat, our week long Orientation Camp where I taught several lessons, and a 2 day seminar where we learned about measuring our ministry impact.
Then I moved! I moved to Tirana, Albania where I'll be based half of the year. One benefit of living in my region is that it makes meeting with people in my region a lot easier. Rather than a 14 - 15 hour time spread it's only 8 hours between me and my furthest field, in PNG.
Early August found me at SIBS - a seminary that WGM founded 81 years ago. Although we don't have full-time personnel at this South-Asian school WGM stays involved. I attended the Annual General Meeting as well as spent time with students and faculty.
Students participated in a World Cafe event led by my WGM colleague, Shelley.
SIBS plays a key role in preparing leaders for transformational ministry. I'm excited to be a small part of God's Kingdom work at SIBS whose motto is "Saved to Serve".
At the end of August the Albania field hosted the Hungary team for our first Europe Regional Retreat. We enjoyed times of learning, worship, prayer and fun together.
After the marathon of spring and summer I was thrilled for four weeks to spend at home in Tirana getting caught up. Unfortunately I didn't quite get there before it was time for the next trip on my calendar.
As September drew to a close, WGM's President, Dan, and his wife, Pam, Schafer made a visit to Albania and Hungary. I joined them on their visits with our missionaries. Here my brother, Len Phillips, is giving a tour of GDQ - the International Christian School where he and Betsy are ministering here in Albania.
The Hungary team enjoyed a time of fellowship at a Christian run Ranch where WGM is involved in ministry.
I'm excited to see and hear expressions of transformed lives in my region but at times the pure scope of my responsibilities overwhelms me. I look at the statistics and see how many have never heard about Jesus and who currently have no one to tell them. I see the spiritual darkness and poverty of others. And my heart yearns for His Kingdom to come, to come fully to those whose hearts are hardened, who believe cultural lies over truth. But I realize I'm not responsible to bring about transformation, Jesus is. As I meet with folks around the world from my computer here in Tirana I was reminded just this week as I looked at my computer screen that this is His work and He is with me!
To those of you who partner with me through prayer, giving and encouragement I appreciate you much more than I can tell you. Even when you do not hear from me I am blessed by your support. In the near future I will be sharing more frequent updates, prayer requests and praises on facebook. Look for your invitation if we're already friends. If we're not facebook friends and you'd like an invitation email me.
In the grip of His grace,