Four young adults returned from their yearlong ventures in the Philippines. From preaching the Gospel to thousands of people to witnessing the death of a friend, each experienced missions in a way that will stay with them forever. Andy Escallier lived in Hinigaran the whole year, working with the youth in her church, as well as starting Bible studies. Andrew Earls lived in Toyum and Hinigaran, building relationships with Filipinos by sharing Bible stories and teaching a chess club. Franny Rau and Mark Krogstad both lived in Bacolod City, Franny mentoring with the youth and teaching English, while Mark worked with the men of his church. Here’s what three of the four Journeyers had to say about their experiences.
Missionaries often go to teach a different people group about Christianity. What are some of the things the Filipino culture taught you about God?
Franny: [Filipinos] are very hospitable and very generous. I think sometimes as an American, we have all these debts, we overspend on things we don’t need, we’re very budget-conscious and very money-conscious. So you give, but you don’t give in this luxurious way. It’s not to the extent that I saw in the Philippines, where people who don’t even have a lot will give what they have, even if they need it, because they feel like it’s better to bless someone else rather than keep it for themselves. I learned a lot about being generous even when it seems uncomfortable or doesn’t make sense. Because if that’s what the Lord’s calling you to do, He’s going to provide for whatever you need.
“If you leave things for Christ, you will get back so much more. My family is now huge because I have a Filipino family. I have a home church in the Philippines.”
Who was one person you met that you will never forget? How would you describe them and what did they teach you?
Mark: Eleanor Cordova. She displays God’s grace in so many ways. She was really a strength for a lot of us. And a mom–she was definitely a mom. She had that care and that passion to see us strive in every kind of way. She gave me that freedom to do whatever ministry I wanted and I was very touched by her. There’s no pride in her at all.
What insights do you have into missions since you lived with a Filipino family? Did it make it easier or harder?
Andy: I had a lot of cultural help. They helped me understand the culture. They told me that if you’re going to a funeral, you don’t wear red. Red is a sign of happiness. They would help me with language and with cultural experiences. But then, it was also difficult because if you’re living with a family, not everyone can speak or understand English very well. You can’t communicate to some family members. But you always end up loving them, and leaving them was hard.
What kind of challenges did you face while serving in the Philippines, and how did WorldVenture’s member care help you?
Mark: In October, I started feeling really sick, so I had an MRI, and it said I had a mild stroke on the right side of my brain. I got a second MRI and everything came up normal; on paper, nothing was wrong with my body. When the doctor got the MRI he said there was no stroke ever. Either God healed my body or it was just a bad picture. They just labeled it stress and possibly allergies.
When I had that health scare, I felt like WorldVenture did a really good job. They were on it very quickly once I made it vocal and shared it; everything was taken care of so quickly and so efficiently. Everybody made it a lot easier and so I’m very thankful for their help because I didn’t have to worry. That experience with them was very positive and I’m very thankful.
What were some of the highlights from your year, things you couldn’t believe God was doing through you?
Mark:”At this event in the south of the country, I got to share the Gospel and my story to thousands of people.”
“At this event in the south of the country, I got to share the Gospel and my story to thousands of people.”
Franny: This year was all about realizing my potential as a quiet person. I don’t desire to be in the front speaking, giving teaching to mass amounts of people. I’m okay with just being in the background. This year I was really pushed out of that. We have a youth program at our church. The youth pastor really gave me the freedom to try running the program, so I gave the teachings. I always felt like I was really bad at it. Toward the end of my stay in the Philippines, a lot of them can remember things I taught on. It really showed me that even when I’m afraid and uncomfortable and I doubt, the Lord was still able to use me and these kids are understanding their Bibles, they’re understanding how to live out God’s word because of how the Lord used me and it was really encouraging. I was working with a student who was struggling with same-sex attraction and the youth pastor wanted me to walk alongside him through that. I didn’t know how to walk him through that and give him healing from that. Somehow, the Lord used me, and this kid is feeling really inspired to be a missionary now.
Andy: I had met one of my host sisters’ classmates who had stage 4 colon and liver cancer. Through that time, I had been praying for her and praying for her family, and she ended up passing away. Because I had already built a relationship with her family and continued to visit them every week, God opened up an opportunity for me to do a Bible study with her sister. It’s one of my more sad points because she passed away, but God still opened up an opportunity to continue to get to know their family.
Obviously there must have been challenges during this time, whether this was with ministry, culture, and uncertainty. Was there a specific moment where you felt incredibly sure of God’s calling on your life?
Franny: I was only supposed to stay for six months originally. Part of me really wanted to go home because I was having a really hard time. I felt lonely and frustrated and the language was really difficult for me to pick up. However, somebody that I randomly met once donated $10,000 into my account. I guess that was a sign that I would stay [another six months], and I’m really grateful that I did. I think that was my big eye-opening moment. The Lord was definitely giving me the resources to be there.
How are you going to live differently after this experience?
Mark: I’m definitely going to take all the things I learned, from understanding spiritual warfare to understanding myself and where my strengths lie, and how I can use that in future ministry. Being a missionary is really, really hard. There were many times when I said, “I don’t want to be a missionary anymore.” Wherever I go, there is always a call for missions, even if it’s in your house. If God calls me to stay in America, I know that my own backyard and my community are a mission field. I’ve always desired to do overseas missions. Knowing how hard it is, it’s encouraging to know it happened, and God did it.
What would you tell someone interested in Journey Corps?
Andy: It’s challenging, you’ll miss your family, but it’ll shape you into a new person.
Franny: It is going to be hard. You’re leaving your family, your friends, your comfort zone, you’re leaving everything you know to go to a place that’s unknown, where you don’t fit in. I love the Philippines and I want to fit in so much and I want to be a Filipino, but I never fully will be. It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, it’s hard, but the Lord promises you in his word: If you leave things for Christ, you will get back so much more. My family is now huge because I have a Filipino family. I have a home church in the Philippines.
Journey Corps sends teams of young adults to Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, and the Philippines to serve in cross-cultural mission contexts. WorldVenture has covered the devastation typhoon Haiyan caused in the Philippines, and how WorldVenture helped bring hope to the country.