John Coffey, an International Teams Canada missionary currently serving in the Philippines, recently shared an update on his experience as a long-term missionary and how it differs from his previous short-term trips to the same country. His main priority right now is to become fluent in Tagalog, which he says is a valuable task, although not an easy one. “Learning a new language comes with its own share of humbling frustrations along with the rewards. However, when I look back at how little Tagalog I knew when I started, I am amazed at how God has already used me to lead prayers, children’s activities, and discussions with youth – all in Tagalog! I know I can be a much more effective servant of God’s Kingdom in Metro Manila by whole-heartedly committing to learning the language and the culture.”
One key way in which this long-term trip has differed from his short-term trips is the challenge of maintaining a strong sense of self and of recognizing his own needs amidst the drastic life changes of settling into a new culture. “This includes intentionally recognizing your own culture and how it will always be a part of you (no matter how much you honourably strive to become like the locals), remembering your friends at home and their continued impact on who you are, and also acknowledging your simplest, everyday needs – which may now be harder to attain in your new environment. Over an extended period of time, this can result in ‘cultural fatigue’, which can in turn completely disable a missionary from being effective. At times, I’ve already found myself on the brink of cultural fatigue, and thankfully I’ve been able to then check myself and my needs before I immerse myself so far in the culture.” Things like sharing a sense of humour with Western friends, or watching a movie or eating comfort foods from home are small things, but John believes they have great importance if he hopes to maintain his energy and enthusiasm for mission.
John’s passion is for ministries focused on education and family life. After completing his language training in a few months, he plans to return full-time to the programs he was involved with during past mission trips, including a preschool for street kids that he helped establish in 2010 in partnership with some Filipino friends. As he makes this transition, he asks for prayer for himself and for the people of Manila. “Please pray for my relationship with God and for my continued trust and dependence on Him. Pray that I will humbly submit to His guiding in everything I do. Please also pray for the children and families that I am working with in Metro Manila. Pray that those imprisoned by abuse, violence, and hopelessness can experience God’s healing love and redemptive freedom. And finally, pray for my friends and family back home in Canada! May they too be blessed and comforted, and may they trust in God’s plan for their lives as well.”