Missions in the Time of a Pandemic

Missions in the Time of a Pandemic

Missions is the very heartbeat of God. He is revealing Himself to a world that needs to hear about His love. Here is the story of missionaries who responded to God’s call and saw Him open doors of ministry in the midst of the pandemic. 

 

Even as a college student, I (Ana) knew that God wanted me to go to the nations to share about His love. I prayed about it and waited for His perfect time. Since I could not go to the nations at that time, I participated in missions work by giving. After I graduated, I worked as a graphic designer, but the call to go to the nations kept brewing in my heart. In 2014, after 8 years of working, I knew that it was time to be trained to fulfill God’s call in my life. I resigned from my job and enrolled in the School of World Missions of Every Nation Leadership Institute. It was during our first training when I met Fosty. He was my seatmate, and he was sent by Every Nation Macau to be trained as well.

We both took a step of faith to answer God’s call to the nations, not knowing that God was taking steps to fulfill one of His promises in our lives. Fosty and I got married in 2017. Shortly after our wedding, we went to Macau as missionaries. It has been three years since we first came here as a couple, and it has been a faith-stretching journey. We experienced how God turned things around for us. The more we did God’s work through missions, the more we sought Him and experienced His reality. We saw God’s power move not only in our personal lives, but in how He revealed Himself to people who have never heard of Jesus.

When the pandemic started early this year and movement all over the world slowed down, it felt like God pushed the “accelerate” button for the church here in Macau. Before the pandemic, most people seemed uninterested whenever we talked to them about Jesus. There were times when people would tell us no when we asked if we could pray for them. But now, it appears that more people are starting to realize that they are not in control of their lives and they cannot rely on their wealth or the wealth of their nation for peace and stability in life. Since the pandemic, no one has refused our request to pray for them. God is definitely preparing the hearts of people for Him and He Is opening new doors for us to minister.

 

God opened a door for us in one of the universities in Macau. Three weeks ago, one of the professors in that university asked us if we were willing to gather volunteers from the church for their English program. Since we partnered with them, we have been meeting with 50 to 60 college students weekly. These are students from Macau and mainland China. Since each volunteer will meet with the same students every week, we maximized this opportunity to build relationships.

We are also experiencing breakthroughs in the students we’ve been reaching for some time now. We have several students who overcame their fear and declared their new faith to their families. There are no words to explain the joy we feel whenever students tell us that giving their lives to Jesus is the best decision they’ve ever made!

Being a missionary has its set of challenges, but knowing that what you are doing is bringing people closer to God is worth it. This sense of joy and fulfillment can be experienced not just by those who go to other nations. All of us should realize that we’ve been called to be missionaries. There are people around us to whom we can reach out, wherever God has placed us. We really just have to be willing to let God use us and know that He will provide the grace and power to fulfill this call.

 

““Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19,20

Ana and Fosty are planting a new church in Taipa, Macau, and they are believing that it will be launched by the end of the year. Indeed, in spite of everything going on in the world, the mission continues. Join us at our online services this weekend as we continue our series. 

Fulfilling God’s Purpose

Fulfilling God’s Purpose

God is reaching out to people with His love, and nothing, not even a pandemic, can stop Him from using anyone to accomplish His will. Here is a story of a man whom God used to share the hope found in His word while he himself was battling with COVID-19. 

 

I was 42 when I retired from government service. Shortly after my retirement, I encountered God’s love. When you come face to face with the magnitude of God’s love for you and the richness of His grace and forgiveness, you know that the only proper response is to surrender and serve Him. Since then, I have been serving God in whatever way He calls me to serve. 

Last year, one of the pastors in our church challenged me to lead my own Victory group. I prayed about it and asked God to open doors for me. God answered my prayer in the most unexpected way. Sometime in October, I attended a high school reunion in one of the bars in Makati. That night, in front of the doors of the bar, I and four other men prayed for each other. One of the men suggested that we call our group MFJ (Men for Jesus) and that name has stuck with us to this day. For four months we met once a week to study God’s word and pray for one another. Then we started meeting more often. 

Sometime in March, I tested positive for COVID-19. I was one of the early cases in the country. Out of my six-week battle with the virus, the most difficult was the first ten days. While I was in isolation, struggling for every breath, I kept praying. It was a very painful and difficult time, but I had peace knowing that God was with me. He kept reminding me of how much He loves me and the truth that no hardship nor pain will ever separate me from His love. Seeing who I am in God’s eyes gave me the strength to endure. That season of pain brought me closer to God and made me experience His reality in a new way.  

By God’s sovereign will, this experience also opened doors for me to share His love to people. It was during this time when our MFJ group started growing. Ever since the lockdown, we started meeting online three times a week. Since I was in quarantine, I had time to prepare and share the word of God. Friends from all over the world started joining our group. We grew from five to more than 50. When the lockdown eased a little, I was expecting that we would meet less often. But the group wanted to keep meeting three times a week. They said that God’s word sustained them during the lockdown. It brought them peace and hope. It gave them the faith to believe for better days ahead.

I realized that in this time of pandemic, we really need to see what God is personally showing each one of us. He is reaching out to us individually and we need to listen to Him. He wants us to know Him and find joy and peace in Him in the midst of the uncertainties that are happening. Yes, we see the agony, the horror that this pandemic has brought to people’s lives. We see businesses closing and people losing their jobs and their loved ones. I personally have experienced the pain that this disease brings and the fear that comes from knowing that the breath you just took might be your last. If we are not careful, we will get persuaded by all the negativity we see and experience around us and be disheartened.

As Christians, we need to see what God is doing. We should look at everything that’s happening with eyes of faith. God has a purpose for allowing this pandemic. He is recalibrating everyone’s lives. People are looking for answers and we have to be willing and ready to share the hope we have in Him. If we allow God, nothing, not even a pandemic, can stop Him from using us to accomplish His will.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you 

that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide . . .”

John 15:16

Tony served in government for fourteen years before he retired. He and his wife are Victory group leaders in Victory Fort.

No One to Please but Him

No One to Please but Him

No one is too young to have a deep relationship with God; no one is too young to be changed by His Word. In this article, 14-year-old Faith Avila shares how knowing God and His Word changed her heart and showed her where her identity and purpose truly lie.

 

I grew up in a Christian family. I would consistently go to church and attend Kids Church but still questioned my worth. People’s opinions and perceptions of me held more weight for me than God’s Word. My parents would always tell me that I’m different, special, and set apart, but I never fully understood what that meant.

As a young girl seeking to find a sense of belonging in my friends, I would make many efforts in the past to change myself or aspects of my personality. I didn’t want to be different; I wanted to be like everyone else. Pleasing people became really important to me, even though the satisfaction was temporary.

Then God used someone to preach the gospel to me. I went through ONE 2 ONE (a seven-lesson discipleship guide) with that person and finally understood the weight of my sins—and the weight of what God did for me on the cross. I began to know Him more and found a sense of belonging in Him. I also slowly grew in my faith with the help of my family and the church community who guided me in my walk with God. They encouraged me and surrounded me with His love every single day.

Knowing the real message of the gospel did not just give me a deeper understanding of Christ; it also changed me. I became more aware of God’s overflowing love and saw Him in every blessing I received in my life. His word influenced my habits, decisions, and actions and made me realize that I shouldn’t work hard to please other people. I should just fix my eyes on God and seek Him in everything.

Seeking Jesus has made my life easier. Distractions come and get in the way of my relationship with the Lord, but His grace always enables me to stay focused on Him alone. No matter what difficulty I face, I know I should keep running with my eyes fixed on Jesus. He is not just my source of identity and purpose, He is also my source of peace, love, and comfort.

Now, instead of seeking approval, I speak blessings to the people I meet. Even in school, I always find a way to share the gospel and God’s love with my classmates and friends. I pray for opportunities to share with them how God changed my heart because it is always worth sharing. His love is always worth telling people about.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12:2, NLT

No matter how young or old we are, the gospel can minister to us. It changes us from the inside out and reminds us that though the world might tell us lies about who and what we should be, our identity and purpose lie in God alone. We have no one to please but Him.

Beyond the Series: Finding Purpose and Identity in God

Beyond the Series: Finding Purpose and Identity in God

Knowing that we were made in the image of God changes a lot about how we live our lives. In this article, Pastor Paolo Punzalan shares his thoughts on what it means to be created in God’s image and how we can find our real identity and purpose in the Lord.

 

What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

We were told in Genesis that we were created in His image and likeness. Human life has intrinsic value right from the beginning because we were created not in the image of the angels or any other created beings, but of God Himself.

God created everything else by His Word. But with man, He fashioned them with His very hands. He took mud from the ground with His bare hands and breathed life into man’s nostrils. That, in itself, shows how precious and valuable we are in His eyes.

 

How did the knowledge of God’s design change the way you live your life?

I was raised in a single-parent home. My parents separated before I turned one year old. I grew up without a father, and the first time I saw him was when I was sixteen years old. Because of this, I grew up with a lot of accusations, insecurities, and negative thoughts. I wondered if it was because of me that my parents separated; I questioned my value and worth. Wanting to make up for those feelings, I tried to gain people’s approval by performing well and excelling in athletics and academics. I had feared rejection so much that I became a people pleaser. I lived a life of performance.

But everything changed when I came to know Christ.

I was 17 when I encountered Him, but the understanding of His image in me was something that I had to learn over time. It was actually the growing knowledge of my salvation that helped me understand more who God created me to be. It was through Christ that I got to know God’s intent, purpose, and design for my life.

As God was redeeming and restoring me, I was also starting to find a greater sense of worth, value, and purpose—a greater sense of intentionality in living my life. I realized that I was called to demonstrate and express the glory of God because I was created in His image and likeness. As I live my life now, I make sure that I do it according to His design, purpose, and intent every single day.

 

How did you find God’s purpose for your life?

It all started with me wanting to get a sense of worth and value. When I was in college, my aim was to get a job that would give me a sense of significance in life, so I took up premedical studies. I wanted to be a neurosurgeon not because I wanted to help people, but because I wanted to get a greater sense of purpose. My identity was attached to that.

Since my late mother was in broadcast media, I grew up being referred to as “the son of Helen Vela.” Hoping to get away from that, I initially endeavored to find a job that would help me find my own niche—I wanted to make a name for myself.

But that wasn’t God’s plan; He was calling me to something else.

When my mom passed away, my sister and I had to take over our family’s production business. I could not go to medicine proper anymore. Somehow, I already knew at that time that I was being called to the ministry, but I still continued to help my sister run our business. I thought I would be happy and content to just serve and volunteer in church.

In 1997, however, I went to Russia as a volunteer missionary. God spoke to me during that trip and told me that my identity is not based on anything here on earth. Surprisingly, when I came back from Russia, I was asked to work full-time as a pastor. I could not say yes right away. There was a struggle because I was placing my purpose and identity in the wrong places. I then prayed to God and told myself that I would just try it for three months. Now, I have been a pastor for 11 years.

It has been more than a decade, but every day I make an effort to remind myself of the call and purpose that God has placed in my life—of my identity in the Lord.

We were all made in the image of God, by His design, and for a specific purpose. There is no need for us to look for our worth and value in other places. We can be secure in the knowledge that He fashioned us in His likeness and that we are His. Our identity can only be found in Him.

 

Pastor Paolo Punzalan serves as the senior pastor of Victory Fort. He is a former missionary to Russia and has been serving in full-time ministry as a Kids’ Church pastor and lead pastor for over a decade. He has been married to Jenn for 23 years. They have four children—Nathan, Janina, Ryan, and Joaquin.

Beyond the Series is a set of interviews with Victory pastors on topics related to our sermon series.

Renewed with a Purpose

Renewed with a Purpose

When you find yourself plagued with anxious thoughts, will you keep them all to yourself and retreat to a dark, lonely pit? Or will you turn to God and ask Him to silence all your fears? In this article, Franz shares how he accepted Christ in his life and allowed Him to replace his negative thoughts with overflowing joy, peace, and a renewed purpose.

 

Before I met Christ, I thought I was living a good life. I was an average student, but I managed to land a good career. I had the means to go to different places and live a life of adventure. I should be happy—I should be okay, at the very least.

But I wasn’t.

For years, there had been a big hole in my heart. I tried to fill it with so many things, but each time I did, the hole just grew bigger. It engulfed me and brought me to a dark, lonely place.

Feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy kept creeping up inside me in spite of everything I had. It seemed as if something was terribly wrong with me. I kept comparing myself to others, feeling completely helpless over something even I could not understand. Before I realized it, I was already isolating myself and allowing the lies in my head to steal the remaining joy and peace in my heart.

After four months of constant battle and struggle, I consulted a psychiatrist who told me that I had clinical depression. I took several medicines that were supposed to make me feel better. But along the way, I just felt more sad. I could no longer sleep the way I used to, and more anxious thoughts filled my mind.

Just when I was about to lose hope and give up, my sister reached out to me. She, along with other relatives, encouraged me to step out of my isolation shell and helped me find another doctor who gave me the psychotherapy and medication I truly needed. After months of praying for and with me, she also convinced me to go to church with her and join a Victory group.

At first, I just listened to the preaching without taking everything to heart. I even raised my hand to acknowledge that I receive Christ as my Lord and Savior without meaning it at all. But as I continued to hear God’s Word, something different happened. I did not know that God was gently planting seeds in my heart. He was, bit by bit, taking away the clutter, removing the things that were blocking His light. Soon, I realized that I was not alone in that dark, lonely, chaotic pit. He was there all along, trying to reach my hand.

All my anxious thoughts were slowly replaced with His overflowing joy, peace, and love. Despite all my insecurities and self-doubt, God accepted me just the way I was. He had accepted me wholeheartedly even before I made a decision to receive Him in my life. There was nothing more humbling than that.

God’s love allowed me to see how precious I am in His eyes. It must have crushed His heart to see me give my negative thoughts the power to dictate my value and purpose. That was never His plan. His mercy and grace revealed to me that I am more than my fears and anxious thoughts. I am more than my insecurities. I am more than my depression. I am His.

With the help of continuous medication and psychotherapy, I am now close to full recovery. I am thankful to my family who helped me get the medical attention I needed, but I am more grateful that I got to know Christ. Now, I have a renewed passion to live—with a greater purpose—and serve my God.

I am currently serving in Victory Alabang as an usher. God’s grace has changed me from someone who spent days and nights wallowing in unhappy thoughts into someone who is ready to give out smiles to people. Every day, He continues to fill me with so much joy and peace.

There are days when I feel lonely and all the negative thoughts resurface, but God always silences my fears and assures me of His love—of my identity in Him. He also surrounded me with a church community that never fails to encourage me and point me to the Lord. He is my safe place and my true refuge.

I will say to the Lord, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Psalm 91:2

Indeed, only God can fill the emptiness in our hearts. Only He can quiet our restless thoughts. Our purpose does not lie in how we feel or what we think about ourselves. Our purpose lies in how God sees us. We are His, and He values and loves us more than we or other people do.

Discover Why

Discover Why

“The day you were born, God has already ordained a dream for you to fulfill.” In this blog post, Victory Greenhills senior pastor Dennis Sy challenges us to rediscover our God-given purpose to restore the joy and passion that fuels us to do what we do.