(I wrote the following paragraphs in my journal while on a missions trip in the Philippines in April 2010. Only this evening decided to publish them.)
When is it time to realize you are defeated or you are needlessly fighting against an unbeatable foe? Is it not wise sometimes to stop hammering on a giant rock with a rubber mallet or move a mountain with only a teaspoon? Clearly there are times when this is the prudent course to take. On the other hand, how many times have enormous efforts been brought to a halt only inches or hours from a total victory.
Throughout history armies and organizations wisely saw that they were impossibly overwhelmed and retreated or surrendered in order to save lives and fight another day. Macarthur fled the Philippines in WWII with the famous “I shall return” and returned three years later as a conquering hero. Conversely, Churchill rallied the citizens of Great Britain with his stirring words; “…we’ll fight them on the beaches…on the streets…etc. and was known by his attitude of “never, never, never give up.”
While I think there is a time to retreat and regroup, I am more inclined to side with the sentiments of Churchill than I am with those expressed by Macarthur. More often than not those who win big are those who stay longest at the battle—even if they face seemingly impossible odds.
I was reminded of one of those occasions occurring not far from here. The ministries of the Clarkview Christian Center and their sister church, the Humphrey Center are doing a phenomenal job serving folks in Angeles City. Today I witnessed them serve over 500 indigent children a lot of love, a hot, nutritious meal AND the Gospel. Together they monthly serve over 2000 people in English and Tagalog—and they do it with passion and excellence. From the ranks of their membership have been hundreds of folks who not only found Christ but went on to productive lives in Christian ministry, education and public service.
In the decade after the devastation of Mt. Pinotubo we almost closed or abandoned this ministry several times. Fortunately God always had someone who would not give up on these people and on this ministry. Early on it was Dr. John Ray. He had been after me for 2 years telling me that God wanted him to go the Philippines and he was willing to go under the MTTM “flag.” When I relented he retired from his DODDs career as a teacher & administrator and shipped all of his personal goods in preparation for his life in the P.I. Before he arrived Clark airbase was evacuated, Pinutobo exploded and Clark with the surrounding areas were devasted. When I asked John if he still wanted to go to the P.I. he told me: “…it scares me to think about it but when I pray in the Spirit I KNOW I still must go.” He went and did much of our earliest relief work.
After my initial post-Pinatubo visit I was deeply touched by the suffering there but was convinced that the involvement of the MTTM was to be a short-lived one. We were to help with immediate humanitarian needs but then turn things over to the local national Church of God leadership that I reasoned would be better equipped to serve these people. Roy Humphrey, normally a military focused missionary, confronted me with a different perspective. Roy felt deeply that God had planted us in the P.I. and that we must stay there until God released us. He pointed out the plight of the thousands of Amerasian and street children that had no advocate. He also made clear that many of the people who were in our feeding lines were pastors and church members of the national church. How could they be expected to take over our humanitarian work-they needed help themselves? He became the tireless champion of the ministry to this area and still is to this day.
While in the midst of trying to extricate ourselves from this non-military ministry God used some retired military men who approached me after an MTTM retreat in NC. They had just heard the story of what was happening around the former Clarkview AFB and the Clark Center. They approached me with tears in their eyes and pleaded. “we can’t turn this ministry over to anyone else…this is our responsibility. We (the MTTM) must lead the effort to fund and restore this work until it can stand on it’s own.”
When I reflect on the fabulous ministry here today in Angeles City, I shudder to think what would have happened if we gave up. Can you make it just one more day?