Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. It only took a couple weeks of working here in Pagudpud, Philippines to realize I wasn’t needed in the medical clinic and wouldn’t be fulfilled by assisting the already-adequate staff. I was left in a tough spot, realizing the mission I thought I came for would not suffice. I wasn’t at a school that needed me to teach or an orphanage that needed me to care for kids; I felt that I wasn’t really needed at all. I wondered why I was here and how I could make a difference.
God provided answers summed up in one word: intentionality. I didn’t have clear instructions to follow, so I intentionally prayed and looked for opportunities. As I asked Him to, God opened doors to out-of-the-box ministries where He would use me to bless the community. One of my favorite things about our awesome God is that He loves to use the things we enjoy for His glory.
I believe that when service is truly led by God, it’s not only fulfilling, but also fun. He led me to an elementary school needing someone crazy enough to climb trees, tie rope to branches and hack them off so they wouldn’t eventually fall on buildings or power lines.
He led some other student missionaries and myself to a nearby basketball court where we’ve played for six months, making friends and working to begin a basketball ministry. One of those friendships led to my adoption into a Filipino fraternity—seriously, I have two T-shirts and a jersey. It’s legit. Delta Sigma Xi for life!—None of these things were part of my job description here. Nobody told me how to get involved or start these relationships.
I intentionally prayed, asking for opportunities to be used, and God paved the way. More importantly than anything I’ve learned in the clinic, I’ve learned that we can be missionaries no matter where we are. You don’t need to fly across the globe.
There’s a difference between being willing to serve and seeking to serve. If you want to truly make a difference, serve intentionally. Ask God to show you where and how He wants you to serve where you are, and take time to think of tangible ways to serve and love.
I challenge you to put this paper down right now and go tell someone you appreciate them and that God loves them. Be intentional. Be a missionary.
Ryan Haakenson is a junior student missioning in Pagudpud, Philippines.