Famines and wars are common references in the Bible, as they are in the course of human history. Man-made disasters can be time-markers, as well. These events take place all over the globe, but the ones we remember are those that intersect our life.
Our family moved to the Philippines in the summer of 1990. Several major events took place within our first year as missionaries.
Our first year time markers
Not long after our arrival in the Philippines, a crushing earthquake hit the beautiful mountain city of Baguio, in northern Luzon. A super typhoon (Ruping) hit and devastated our region (Visayas) towards the end of 1990. The winds were so powerful it stripped trees of their leaves and made it look like Cebu City was hit by a nuclear blast.
Another powerful typhoon hit a year later in Ormoc City, Letye, which triggered a huge flash flood killing thousands. The deaths were attributed more to illegal logging and slash and burn harvesting than the typhoon itself.
The powerful eruption of Mt Pinatubo came at the end of our first year on the mission field. It closed two US military bases and shut down the international airport in Manila, where my wife and oldest son were stranded for a couple of days. The ash flow caused major problems for the main island of Luzon for many months.
One full year
Along with all of these natural disasters, major power outages hit all over the Philippines. It crippled the economy and hobbled the daily life of Filipinos. Power barges were set up offshore of some cities to supply them with a basic level of electrical power.
I came as a rookie missionary to the ministry, but by the end of the year i was promoted to field director. I call it promotion by default. Three of the four missionary families with our ministry returned to the US nine months after our arrival. I was the only one left.
This was our introductory year on the mission field. One full of change and time markers, including the high school graduation of our oldest son in the US.
Life and ministry between time markers
We endured this first year on the field and began fifteen years of fruitful ministry. I was privileged to train and teach pastors and leaders, we began what became Rainbow Village Ministries (1991), and established a Bible college and training center (1995).
Another change-point in time
Our ministries and lives were overflowing when 2005 arrived.
Our year began in Thailand visiting our missionary team sent out from the training center in the Philippines. We arrived a month after the devastating tsunami that hit the Phuket area to visit our team.
Because our missionaries were nearby in Phang Nga, they were drafted into action as interpreters for the first responders overwhelmed by the thousands of victims. Our time was spent encouraging them and surveying the devastation, which was beyond description.
But 2005 turned out to be a major change-point in our life. A few months after returning from Thailand, we received a call from my mom in the US. She needed help caring for my dad
An abrupt change
My mom's call came during our annual pastor's conference. We finished out the week, began to pack up, turn the ministries over to others, and moved back to a new home and different life in Florida. I went back and forth between the Philippines three times that year, along with a flight out to Seattle to bring my dad back home with us.
This was the summer of hurricane Katrina, and it was also one of the busiest hurricane seasons in Florida in a long time. Once again, a natural disaster marked a time of change.
Susan and I went from fully engaged and high-level immersion directing two ministries, to caring for my dad. We went from high intensity ministry life to what seemed like slow motion. It was an abrupt and major change for us.
Something was missing
As we went through the usual adjustments of reentry into our home culture, we started to get involved in a local church body. We had over three decades of experience in ministry, including planting a church and cross-cultural missions.
I had some opportunities to travel and speak, and began to do some local discipleship, but I realized something was missing.
This time allowed me an opportunity to write and reflect, as we prayed for God's direction and provision. We still were engaged as directors with one ministry, but it was difficult being so far removed.
I self-published a book in 2012 that addressed one concern I had, but long before that I realized something else was missing. Something major.
At first I wondered, "What happened?" Then I began to see that the issue was about what didn't happen.
I plan to follow this post up next week, but I'd like to hear from you. You can comment on this post, or on Facebook or other social media (Twitter, Google+, etc.)
How about you?
Which years have been turning points in your life?
What historical markers serve as reference points to this change in your life?
What do you think is missing within the church, either nationwide or globally?