Philippines Church Planting
I am Russell Cunning. My vision is to do Philippines Church Planting and to start a school in the Philippines. The school will offer free English lessons to the children who can attend. Having lived in the Ukraine, China and India, and having visited Poland, Turkey, Thailand and the Philippines, I can testify that people who speak English well will get better jobs than those with higher qualifications but poorer English skills.
As a child I attended a Protestant Sunday School and Church, and as a young adult a Protestant Church. When I was 24, I heard a man speaking about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and salvation in a way that was completely new to me. My heart was opened and I quickly came forward for prayer and made my first real commitment to God. Soon afterward I was baptized in an above-ground swimming pool! That was many years ago. For a long time I attended an Assemblies of God church in four different locations. After a personal crisis, which I was unable to handle well, I backslid for many years. While never losing my core beliefs, I did lose my faith. I had no faith to believe that God was seeing me through my trials, and chose to believe that I alone was ‘working through my problems’. It is only now where I am living in a predominantly Hindu culture, that I have begun to long for the Lord once again.
My step-mother is from the Philippines, and I have visited there on three occasions. My heart was deeply wounded each time when I saw the children on the street begging for food, even scampering past restaurant employees, to grab gnawed bones from the rubbish. I gave some cooked rice sometimes, but it was like trying to empty the Pacific with a thimble, the need was so great. I want to build a church and a school to offer free English lessons. I believe that giving a child some cooked rice will feed him or her for a day, but teaching them English will provide the opportunity to get a better job and to earn enough, so that their children will not need to beg.
Of the titles mentioned, I prefer pastor because it means ‘shepherd’. A shepherd is a guide, not a ruler. A shepherd helps and looks after the flock. It is through gentle and loving guidance, advice and counseling, as well as God driven prayer and teaching, that I see myself overseeing the church and the school.
During my years of doubt, I became a teacher of English, and soon realized that I was a natural teacher. I loved helping people to learn. I felt my lessons were the most effective when my students thought we didn’t study so much as enjoy our time together.
The Philippines presents some personal challenges for me, I am very overweight and if I didn’t feel led here, I would have chosen somewhere less humid and perhaps a bit cooler! Then there is the annual typhoon season which destroys buildings and crops, and kills many people. Another challenge is the presence of militant separatists seeking to create an independent Islamic state, and who target foreigners.
Being a properly qualified pastor is important to me, even though I know that this is a calling from the Lord. While it is God’s earth, he has put earthly rulers in place and they will want to see evidence of qualifications. I also want to ensure that during my time in the wilderness, I did not pick up any incorrect beliefs.
Though I feel like I have gained many strengths over the years, I have also become weak in other areas, so I would greatly value prayer to support my personal walk with the Lord. In teaching we have a saying: “To teach is to learn twice.” So often I have found greater understanding of something when I am teaching – and in my pastoral duties it is the same – as I explain aspects of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, I gain a deeper understanding myself.