BY REV. MATT SAUDER
As I stepped out of the large Free Methodist Church van, I couldn’t see well in the darkness and pouring rain. I picked up my 3-year-old daughter, Chloe, closed the van door and started running to the church. When I stepped off the road and into the church yard – squish! First my shoe, then my sock, then my shin sank down into the mud. I almost dropped Chloe, nearly giving her whiplash as I tried to keep her from falling. As I made sure Chloe was safe, I thought to myself, “Welcome to the Philippines.” It was rainy season, and I was soaked.
On October 1, 2014, my wife, Christine, Chloe and I made the 26-hour trek to the Philippines where God called us for a new adventure. We spent our first week in a guesthouse at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila. Dr. Darin and Jill Land took care of us, and we met fellow missionaries Roger and Vangie Stone. It was comforting to know we are part of a team.
At our new home, in Butuan City, we were greeted warmly and introduced to our new church – where I am serving as English pastor – and Light and Life Bible College – where I am teaching a class. Everywhere we went we received love, warmth and respect. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Filipinos are wonderfully loving people.
Bishop Jim Tuan did a great job serving as the first bishop of the Filipino Free Methodist Church, and, on November 7, Bishop Alan P. Bacus was elected as bishop. That week Bishop Matt and Marlene Thomas, ICCM Director Linda Adams, and missionary David Clemente (serving in Taiwan) visited. As we hosted our friends from around the world, we realized this is our home. We feel perfectly at home here, which has made a huge difference for us. We’re grateful for friends and fellowship, and now we’re ready to serve.
Soon after we arrived in Butuan City, Christine realized she was pregnant. We hadn’t expected that to happen right away, but we’re excited to be able to expand our ministry and family in the Philippines. The Lord has provided for us over and over, and He immediately sent a gifted doctor in Butuan City to care for Christine. Chloe loves the Philippines and is making many friends. Christine is thriving and is teaching Chloe daily. We know the Lord has great plans for us. We are ready for this new journey – ready to dig down even deeper and get our feet wet. Things are different here and that’s OK. This is the Philippines, and God has called us. So here we are, and here we will serve.