TWO MONTHS TURNED INTO 30 YEARS
Steve and his wife, Deborah, watched as the 747 roared down the Manila runway in the Philippines and into the sky. On board the big jet was their short-term (two-month) summer mission team, bound for Seoul, South Korea.
They were newly married, and remaining in the Philippines was not part of their original trip plan. Yet, they felt a call to stay behind in Manila after the first month of their mission service. Steve and his wife were alone and had very little money. They both had fears, doubts and a sense of inadequacy.
Two months prior Steve’s telephone rang in his Starkville, Mississippi, office on the campus of Mississippi State University (MSU). Steve answered. His life was never to be the same. His friend Rice Broocks, asked him and Steve’s wife to be part of a short-term mission team, which would spend one month in the Philippines followed by a month in Seoul.
This is the story about how God changed Steve’s life. It tells how Manilla became his new home, mission, his life’s work. Steve has said, “Discipleship is not complicated, but can be difficult.”
Jesus said, “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 NIV
“Since we have not yet reached the end of the age”, Steve says, “I have always assumed that He still wants us to go to the nations and make disciples, and that He is still with us.” Steve didn’t hear a booming voice. Maybe he felt a gentle imperceptible tug. To go on the trip they would need to raise $5,000. That was a fortune to them in 1984. Yet God provided the way, and they joined the group to Manila.
When Steve and Deborah landed in Manila, the Philippines were in turmoil. The assassination of a former senator, Benigno Aquino, Jr., on the Manila International Airport tarmac sparked riots. The economy was collapsing. Interest rates were nearly 30% and investors were pulling money out of the country.
With that scenario the short-term mission team set up shop in a dilapidated movie theatre. It was windowless with no fresh air or air- conditioning. The theatre was stuffy and the leaking sewer stench was terrible. After beginning a church in those miserable conditions, things could only get better.
Steve said, “Despite the riots, the tear gas and and the conditions in our movie theatre, people poured in. Behind their anger were open hearts hungry for God and ready for a change.” The team had a supernatural compassion for the Filipino people. Though the rest of the group flew for the second month of mission to Seoul, Korea, Steve and his wife stayed on in the Philippines to complete unfinished mission work with the Manila project. When their second month ended they flew to Seoul to rejoin the rest of the mission team and for the flight back home.
They thought their mission service was over. But God didn’t leave it there. Steve and Deborah felt a return call back to the Philippines. Steve says, “Nothing has more potential to complicate your life than a clear calling from God.” They returned again and again over the years. Each time their stay was for a longer time. Finally, they moved there permanently. They stayed despite the many coups, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, floods, and typhoons.
Today the church they founded, VICTORY MANILA, has a total of more than eighty thousand members. They gather in fifteen locations across Metro Manila. They have planted churches in sixty Philippine cities and twenty nations. These missionaries have fanned out into Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Guam, India, Latvia, Malaysia, Russia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.
Steve is the co-founder and president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries. Since its start in 1994, it has become a global movement of churches and ministries whose goal is to honor God by creating Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, socially responsible church and campus ministries around the globe. Every Nation has planted churches and campus ministries on six continents and in over sixty nations.
Steve and Deborah went to the Philippines for a thirty-day mission trip that turned into more than thirty years of service to the Lord. Today they split their time between the Philippines and their family home in Nashville. They have many friends and memories in the Philippines, and God continues to bless their mission endeavors. God’s church is flourishing and continues to grow in one of GOD’S OTHER WAYS.©