Life on a Mission Field

According to God’s good pleasure, he has placed each of his elect saints in different circumstances in life, and as the children of a missionary, we have been given the opportunity to experience living among another nationality in another country from which God also gathers his elect people. About 1,500 miles (2,500 km) from Singapore and 8,000 miles (13,000 km) from North America, in Southeast Asia, lies the archipelago of the Philippines. The Philippines consists of 7,641 islands, and the three missionaries live on the main island of Luzon in a province called Rizal. The three missionaries work with the churches of the PRCP, do mission work on another island with some contacts there, as well as teach at the seminary that has recently started in Manila.
As missionary children who have moved across the world a few times, we have found several physical differences among the countries we have lived in—mainly climate, language, culture, and daily life. Despite the differences that exist between life here and elsewhere, there is one beautiful thing that unites us as fellow believers in Christ: our Reformed faith.
One example of the differences between life in the Philippines and back in America is our schedule on Sundays. We are busy each Sunday with traveling to church, ranging between thirty minutes to an hour and a half each way, and we have two services back to back with a merienda (snack break) in between.
When we attend Maranatha PRC, Rev. Smit teaches a Belgic Confession class after the second service. Afterwards, we eat lunch there with some of the members. Sometimes Rev. Smit has a consistory meeting after lunch, and that can last four to five hours. During the consistory meetings, we pass the time by memorizing our catechism lessons and reading Reformed literature. We also spend time with an officebearer’s wife, who is also patiently waiting for the meeting to finish, discussing struggles we share as Reformed believers. Despite the long Sundays, we enjoy the time with our fellow saints and hearing the word of God preached.
When we attend Berean PRC, we arrive home earlier because it is closer to our home, and they start their services earlier. This leaves us with a lot of time on Sunday afternoons to learn our catechism, read spiritual books, talk with our siblings and parents, and visit with the other missionary families.
One of the hardships that we deal with is the language barrier between us and our fellow saints here in the Philippines. This presents us with some difficulties in communication, sometimes leading to misunderstandings between each other. Most of the members understand English, but because it is not their first language, they prefer speaking in Tagalog. To help with this difficulty, we have been learning Tagalog in school, which helps us to understand them and their culture better. Because of the language and culture barriers, close friendships are difficult to make. Nevertheless, Filipinos are very friendly and hospitable, so we enjoy having fellowship with them at church and other church gatherings.
The greatest blessing as missionary children is the opportunity to see firsthand the gathering of Christ’s sheep from the different nations of the earth. Throughout the years, we have seen the spread of the gospel through the growth of Protestant Reformed churches here. We were able to witness the formation of the Federation of the PR Churches in 2014, and then later, the addition of Provident PRC to the federation in 2019. We have also been able to see the work being done in Sipalay, an island farther south where Rev. Smit teaches doctrinal classes to a group of pastors. Things like these are very exciting to witness, because we are reminded of God’s irresistible grace by which he plants the word in the hearts of his children and causes it to grow and be fruitful.
There are also challenges in our daily lives. Living on the mission field means that we are far from our relatives and friends. This is hard in many ways, but we are thankful for the technology that God has given us, such as texting, Skype, and email. Thus, we are able to keep in touch on a regular basis with friends and family, especially with our three siblings who live in the United States.
The Philippines is in the tropics, so the climate is quite nice, especially during December and January, when there is not as much humidity and the temperatures get as low as 70F (21C) at night. From June to August is the rainy season, which brings high humidity, but also heavy monsoon rains and typhoons, which can be very exciting. On the other hand, the hot season, from March to May, is not as pleasant, with temperatures going above 100F (37C) during the day and rarely falling below 80F (27C) at night.
While living here, we have faced typhoons, earthquakes, ant and termite infestations, cockroaches that scurry across our toes and make us scream, house lizards that jump out at us from cupboards, electrical outages, and no running water due to water restrictions in the hot season. One time, we had no electricity for almost a week, which meant no internet, lights, or warm showers. Most recently, we experienced the eruption of Taal Volcano, which is about forty-four miles from our house. Through this, we are reminded of God’s power and greatness and Christ’s promise that he will come again to destroy the wicked and save his people from this world of darkness and bring them to eternal life and glory with him.
Those of us who are still in school are attending Faith Academy. It is an international school, so we have learned about many different cultures from around the world. Not attending a Protestant Reformed school comes with its own challenges, such as the doctrinal differences between us and our classmates and teachers. We are often asked questions about what we believe and why we do not participate in certain activities. It is only by the grace of God in Christ that we are able to be ready to answer their questions and to stand strong against the false doctrines we are presented with in class.
As permanent residents, we are permitted to get jobs in the Philippines. However, it does not make sense for us to get jobs here when it is already difficult for the Filipinos to get jobs. Here, they begin working around the age of eighteen while they are going to college, because when getting a job they need to have proof of further education. It is possible for us to go to college here, but it would be too long of a commute every day, and living on campus is not an option for us. That being said, we need to go to America in order to go to college and get a job.
While living here in the Philippines, we sometimes are tempted to question God and wonder why he has placed us here, what his purpose is with us being here, or what he has in store for us later in life. These are questions which young people often ask. These are also questions which we face as young people placed by God, according to his good pleasure, on the mission field in the Philippines.
We sometimes think about what it would be like to live in one house for our whole childhood, or what it would be like to grow up with our cousins and friends, and sometimes, discontentment tends to show up in these thoughts. It is not wrong to think about what it would be like growing up in a different situation, but when we become discontent, that is when it is wrong. Therefore, we must fight those thoughts and realize that we have been placed here in the Philippines for the sake of Christ and the gathering of his church.
We are grateful for the opportunities we have been given and are reminded that we must be content in all areas of life. In I Thessalonians 5:18, we are commanded to be thankful for whatever happens in our lives, and whatever circumstance we are in, because God has a purpose for it, and it serves our salvation. It is sometimes hard to be thankful for those difficult times that we face in life, but as Ephesians 5:20 says, we must be “[g]iving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So as we face the challenge of being far from family and friends, as well as all the other challenges in life, we must be thankful for these opportunities, realizing the purpose for which God has placed us here where we belong.