God’s Perfect Timing and Wisdom

September 16, 2016

Levi Velasco, Author

“We don’t send Filipinos to the Philippines as missionaries,” was the common mantra of mission leaders when Diane and I were applying to a number of agencies in the late 1980s.

Several reasons were expressed, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was really being said. Because in my mind I reasoned, what could be better than sending people who already knew the language, well-versed in the culture and possessed a long list of contacts, both in ministry and the target audience?

Recalling a decades-old exchange with a mission leader, I once again posed this question: “Would you consider Diane and me to apply to your missions agency for the Philippines?”

I heard the oft-repeated reply: “We don’t send Filipinos to the Philippines as missionaries.”

So I asked why. The response was predictable: it’s not really missions if you don’t have to learn the language, how would the local pastor react to you, we can send you to Colombia but not to the Philippines, etcetera, etcetera.

I pried more deeply, “But didn’t you deploy a Filipino to be a missionary in the Philippines with your agency?”

He answered, “Oh, he’s married to an American.”

I responded, “But so am I.”

The quick retort was, “Oh, a natural-born American.”

To which I quickly countered with “Diane was born and raised in New York; does that count?”

He bobbed and weaved, back-pedaled like a cornered pugilist. His countenance changed colors in a matter of seconds, and in my heart, I knew right there and then that the real reason why I couldn’t be considered to become an American missionary to my native land, was that I didn’t have the right shade of skin.

After receiving my degree from the Moody Bible Institute (1988), and realizing our missions dreams had to be put on hold, I sent 30 ministry resumés east of Chicago (where Diane’s extended family lived) and one to the West Coast. Yup, you guessed it right; we landed in the Pacific Northwest. The irony of this church assignment in Western Washington was that during the interview process, the district missions consultant of the denomination asked me, “Young man, do you have a burden for your home country?” I was floored. I didn’t even have to initiate inquiring about missions to the Philippines. Surrendering our dreams to God, He made it abundantly clear that this was His purview, and that we only needed to trust His sovereignty over our lives. He knew we needed to learn more of Him and life lessons to prepare us for the rigors of being missionaries.

In God’s timing and wisdom He paved the way for us to return to the Philippines as missionaries. Our time, though only a four-year term (1994-1998), was fruitful as we envisioned and implemented a plan to plant a church in Manila society. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

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