While in Korea, I flew to the Philippines (just 3.5 hours away) to visit my friend Paul Yadao and see the country, particularly the island of Palawan (seriously beautiful). Paul is an apostle and a founder of Destiny Ministries headquartered in Los Banos, Philippines. Destiny is an expanding network of churches within the Philippines and Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and more.
Paul, his wife Ahlmira, and Destiny truly live out biblical covenant and exemplify the family dynamic of ministry. It was special to see firsthand. I visited during the weekend of their leadership retreat, a semi-annual event for their pastors and families to worship, pray, strategize, and just spend time with each other. I could really see how much their lives were intertwined, even in the busyness of ministry. Part of their family dynamic has to do with Destiny’s origins at the University of Philippines, Los Banos. As students, Paul and his friends gathered on the steps of the library to worship and pray nearly every day around 5:00 a.m. They joked that their worship was the alarm clock for the rest of the campus! This apostolic network was birthed on the steps of a college library from the hunger and passion of a few students. Over the years they’ve seen countless conversions and miracles, planted churches, and perhaps most touching–have stayed together over the past decades to now serve together as pastors within Destiny. They have truly walked, cried, laughed, and lived together all these years. A few of the things that stood out to me:
Soaking – Much of Destiny’s relationships are forged in prayer and worship. Someone once told me that people who pray together stay together. One of the things imparted to me was their practice of soaking, which is prayer, meditation, waiting, and worship all rolled into one. Paul “soaks” upwards of several hours a day, and I can see why. Ministry in places like the Philippines, a culture that has deep spiritual roots (Christian or not), is a different spiritual climate. Big churches are nowhere to be found in the countryside. Smaller congregations need to be planted to reach the communities because transportation is not viable. Morever, people aren’t coming for the good donuts and an inspiring message. They come because of the reality of God’s presence. Filipinos are a passionate and expressive people, and it shows in worship.
Grace – According to Ariel, one of the founding pastors of Destiny, everything changed when they discovered grace. In charismatic church culture, things tend to get legalistic or formulaic in a well-intended effort to “keep the flame.” The equation usually comes down to doing more “spiritual” things and doing less “carnal” things. Ariel said that when they discovered grace, duty and performance went out the window. It unlocked the door to truly walking and living as children of God, a Father who doesn’t judge us on personal merit or performance but on rather the acceptance of the gift of salvation. Awesome.
Pesos – a large part of the Philippines’ population lives on something like $1 USD per day, so it’s difficult to fund ministries dependent on the donations of people that don’t have much to give. All of Destiny’s pastors are bi-vocational. They have full-time jobs and spend their nights and weekends ministering. They are true heroes. When Verge, one of Destiny’s worship leaders, told me his little old Korg 61-note keyboard cost $2000 USD I couldn’t believe it. That thing would have cost $300 here on eBay. I wanted to send him all the music equipment I own. The shipping alone would wipe out the savings, but the point is they make the most of what they have. I understand wealth is relative to culture, but I was really touched by the fact that these families minister out of calling and not vocation.
If you want to know more about Destiny, visit destiny.org.ph. Their site is still being constructed but should be up shortly. If you want to support them and get some resources while you’re at it, visit destiny.bandcamp.com. This is their soaking worship series. Makes for great devotional music, and Verge and his team are terrific. It’s powerfully anointed and has been on repeat since my visit.
Finally, Destiny is hosting a mission trip through Global Mission Awareness, the ministry of Leif Hetland this coming November. Having been to Destiny firsthand, I’d definitely recommend it. You can find out more information about the trip at Leif’s website, globalmissionawareness.com!