When Pain Led to Purpose: Reaching the Unreachable

In 2010, I received a vision of reaching unreached people groups in the Philippines. These people ended up becoming missionaries themselves to other unreached people groups.

We have experienced a level of this vision happening from the Manobo Tribe in Mindanao. Tribal members whose families were once animists are now helping church planting movements.  Yet, even this wasn’t the whole vision in 2010.

We started getting more partners with unreached church planters. But then the Coronavirus put the whole world on lockdown. In the Philippines, we began experiencing the longest lockdown in the world. 

During this time, I often asked God, “Did I miss the target? Was there something I was missing? Everything I lost, would I ever get back? Would I ever see the fullness of this vision in my lifetime? Was it even God?” For years this became a plague in my mind. Inside my heart, I knew there was some kind of hope and faith for it. But it was impossible for me to understand how it would even occur. I went back and forth between quitting and persevering, believing and doubting. My children were still not allowed to leave our home. My back kept getting a herniated disc. Finally, Claudia was on bed rest with more pregnancy problems. Focusing on God became very difficult for me. 

It’s so easy to think about good stuff when the good stuff is happening. When you are on a mountain top experience it’s easy to see everything from God’s perspective. Yet when you are in a ditch or a trench, it becomes very hard to see anything from God’s perspective. The visible world breeds nothing but doubt, pain, and more struggle. But this is when faith in the invisible God becomes so real and tested.  I had to start measuring life another way. Otherwise, all I saw in my life was a total failure. 

I started asking God, “What is success right now?” I know the general eternal answer would be keeping my faith in Jesus. But I didn’t want to only have salvation in my life. I wanted to steward the mission he had given me. God gave me a second chance from being a gang member to a missionary, and now a family man. I didn’t want to take this gracious opportunity for granted. How would I make progress happen when it seems progress is impossible? I began asking the Lord this question every day. Especially laying on my bed when I could move with my herniated disk. 

How would I make progress happen when it seems progress is impossible?

I had excruciating pain for months at a time. Often, even just moving my hip a centimeter caused me to yelp in shooting pain across my body. “How was I ever supposed to get anything done like this?” But that pain helped me focus. 

The pain became a motivation to one, never feel this pain again, and second, move forward when you can’t do anything. I had to start thinking outside of the box. I had to start thinking outside of my normal way of doing things to find light in the darkness.  I learned that I must disciple others in what I can do, and they had to be the indigenous locals. I couldn’t have a Plan B with foreigners anymore.  I could no longer rely on connecting the dots in a western mindset to an eastern world. My Plan A and the only plan had to become eastern people leading the movement in an eastern world. Then my mind started flowing in the same flow but a different stream like before the pandemic. Ideas and strategies started fostering inside my head and heart. My inner world became a greenhouse for this newfound way of living. I thought I was living before but wasn’t. The pain gave me motivation and clarity to solve my greatest obstacles.  

The pain gave me motivation and clarity to solve my greatest obstacles.  

I saw that this is even what Jesus did. Jesus found indigenous people to lead His movement. Until now, we are still living in and building. Executing this vision now became a struggle, but it became progress. 

I don’t mind the struggle. The struggle is part of growing. But the struggle with no progress in my mind and heart is vanity. But struggle with eternal Kingdom progress is the goal. That’s the lifestyle. Before I struggled but had no progress. Now I had a struggle, but I had the Kingdom progress. My life had purpose again. 

Now I had a struggle, but I had the Kingdom progress. My life had purpose again. 

Then towards the end of the lockdown of the latter part of 2022, things started making sense again. Not by my strength, but by His supernatural and sovereign hand. 

Out of nowhere, we were able to develop a connection with a medical foundation. Their underlying heart was reaching the unreached people groups of Mindanao. These are the hardest and most dangerous remaining people groups in the Philippines. Alongside that, we were able to develop a partnership with a church planter in Mindanao. He leads a movement of over 400 churches with Muslim and tribal populations. Now bringing these two major pieces together became the task at hand. 

Now the prophetic promises that God had been showing me for years started making sense. Not only generally but in a very specific practical manner. I often wondered, “Could I have gotten this revelation or connection earlier in life?” Then I ran into a quote from a famous missionary book. 

Toward the end of the summer of 1950, Jim’s “general direction” became specific. He met a former missionary from Ecuador who told him of the needs in that field, and mentioned the great challenge of the dread Aucas. This was the climax to several years of seeking direction from God. Jim devoted ten days largely to prayer to make sure that this was indeed what God intended for him. – Elliot, Elisabeth. Through Gates of Splendor (p. 13).  

Sometimes a key relationship is an unlocking point for the next season or move of God in our lives. How can this happen more often? I am not sure other than making sure our hearts are always remaining in faith for what God said He would do. If we close our hearts in general, then we will keep missing open doors because we are doubting they exist. Yet, if we are always keeping faith in what God told us he would do, then we are expectant for them to happen somewhere. 

I hope this story blesses someone out there reading this that may be in a similar situation as me. In pain or spiritual blindness, and trying to move forward in faith, but have no idea how to do so. Remember, if God can do it with me, a high school dropout,  ex-gang member, and addict, then God can do it with anyone.  

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