A Pen-Pal in the Philippines

It was a Sunday night in high school. And even though I was sitting in the back pew with my buddies, it was a day that would change my life forever. We had chosen these seats, the farthest possible away from the action because there was a guest speaker from out of town. A missionary who had asked if he could come preach in Chicago because they happened to be in town, even though most of his supporters were out West. My dad had offered his pulpit. I knew the missionary sermon all too well. Matthew 28… Great Commission… pictures of the mission field… challenge to pray, give, or go. I probably could have stepped in if he’d gotten a sore throat and needed me to.

But then, I saw it – the picture of his family – and heard him talking about his daughter, Sara. I had just returned from a mission trip to Honduras the week before and perked up. (She was cute.) As her dad talked about some of the dangers they had faced as a family – including hiding her in a hidden compartment when soldiers came through the neighborhood – my buddies and I all talked about writing letters to her to encourage her “in the Lord.” I joked, “You guys can write to her, but she’ll pick me in the end. After all, I’m a PK” (Pastor’s Kid). I got a few rolled eyes and perhaps a punch in the arm, but it worked. They gave up the idea and I was the only one to write her a letter. I even wrote her a poem about trusting God in challenging times.

And… she wrote back. The letters continued to go back and forth for the next two years. By the time I neared graduating high school, I began to feel a deep calling to visit the Philippines and to minister to the lost in Manila. What a coincidence that Sara was in the same city! I wrote to her father requesting if I could come to minister at his church and to be mentored and discipled in the ways of missionary work at his church.

His reply was to get a year of Bible School first. (Perhaps he was on to my ulterior motive?) I did as he asked. The letters continued to go back and forth for the next year, but after completing my first year at Moody Bible Institute I wrote and asked Pastor David Yount again if I might come and serve as a summer intern at Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Manila, and this time he enthusiastically agreed.

Finally, after years of being pen-pals, Sara and I met. I was kept busy that summer doing evangelistic programs, discipling, training, and teaching – but we found time to date. A year later, Sara joined me at Moody and a few years later… you can guess it… we were married. Sara has been my partner in ministry ever since.

Today, as we celebrate her birthday, I just want to say THANK YOU for returning that first letter from a silly boy who dared to write a letter to a girl on the other side of the world on the slim chance she might write him back. It’s been fun serving God together ever since.

The best is yet to come! I love you, Sara. Happy Birthday!

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