A Glimpse of My Journey
It’s Sabbath afternoon, the time I often spend hiking in the beautiful mountains near my home at Sunshine Orchard Children’s Home and Learning Center in Mae Song, Thailand. At least 50 wild caves wait to be explored, and plenty of viewpoints offer spectacular vistas across the river into Burma. Today though, my husband, Erick, is taking an injured student to the hospital. With our little bamboo house unusually quiet, it’s a chance to reflect on my journey to this foreign land.
I grew up in a Wesleyan family in a small village in the Philippines. Ever since age 14, I wanted to be a missionary, although I did not see how it could happen. I had been born into a family of educators, and many people assumed I too would take up teaching. However, I decided to be different. Come college, I took accounting.
After graduation, I practiced accounting in the Philippines for nearly three years. Then God led me to work in Brunei for almost a year. Never did I think that giving me work outside my country would be God’s way to fulfill my heart’s desire for mission service. In Brunei my heart began to thirst to know more about God, and I delved into my Bible. Then, in that Muslim country, I met two Seventh-day Adventist missionaries, Davis and Riina Lim, who invited me to join their mission team.
After much prayer and counseling, I submitted my resignation to my employer and let my family know that I wouldn’t be able to send money home anytime soon. Although disappointed, my parents gave me their blessing. Giving my all to God, I joined the mission team and prepared for the worst. I had read about the journeys of the apostle Paul, so I knew that missionaries often face difficulties! My new venture would put God to the test. I had nothing except myself and a few hundred Brunei dollars I’d saved. Still, I was confident that as my boss, God would provide for my needs.
Our first mission destination took me to my homeland, the Philippines. The first week, I tagged along with Davis to learn literature evangelism and to get myself familiar with Seventh-day Adventist books. Though I hadn’t read them all the way through, I recognized some of them from my parents’ library, and I could tell that these books drew people close to Jesus. That was my goal as a missionary—so I gladly helped sell the books!
The next two weeks we went to the southern part of the country for a short training on Adventist-Muslim relations. Only the Holy Spirit could have kept me calm and safe in that place of terror—a place where gunshots are heard day and night. Thankfully, we enjoyed relative quiet during our stay. There God opened the way for me to learn more about Adventism when a pastor attending the training offered to study the Bible with me every afternoon. When I learned about the true Sabbath, it felt like cold water had poured over me. I felt troubled that I had not known and obeyed these truths before. Acts 17:30 comforted me as I prayed and repented for my ignorance and for not making time to study my Bible well enough to understand God’s Law.
After the training, our little team went back to Malaysia, crossing often into Brunei to renew our visas and to sell books. Both are Muslim countries, but Brunei is stricter—you can expect imprisonment if you are caught distributing Christian books. Although Malaysia is more liberated, outreach is still challenging.
In the first six months after quitting my job, I traveled more than I had in my whole life to that point! I visited mission schools, health centers, publishing houses and Seventh-day Adventist churches, making many new friends. During a short apprenticeship at a health clinic and vegetarian restaurant in Malaysia, I learned more about the health message. Soon I became convinced of the benefits of vegetarianism and adopted it as my own diet.
My third month of being a missionary, I attended an evangelistic series. December 14, 2013, on a beautiful day in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, I was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist. That day everything looked so pretty: the mountain behind the church, the green grass, the flowers, the drizzling rain covering everything with sparkling crystals. I wanted to hug everyone and tell them that Jesus loves them!
After almost six months of traveling, my mission teammates needed to settle down, as Riina was soon to have a baby. We started praying about where God would have us work. I prayed for a mission field where I could both serve and learn more about medical missionary work. In God’s providence, Davis Lim met Lena Adams at Aenon Health Care, a lifestyle center in Malaysia. From her, he learned about Sunshine Orchard Children’s Home and Learning Center, a school for Karen children on the Thailand/Burma border. After receiving an invitation to visit, we packed our bags for a short trip to see if God might be leading us to this ministry. It didn’t turn out to be a short visit for me. The moment I opened the door to the hut where we slept that first night, I saw how beautiful and peaceful the place was—far different from the busy cities we had been traveling for months. God had sent me here in His perfect time!
Although I longed to stay and volunteer, I had no income—only some books to sell. The trouble was they were written in English, which limited the market for them in Thailand. Yet, just before I had used up all my funds, I was able to sell some of my children’s books. When money ran low again, I thought maybe I should use my return ticket to the Philippines and join a missionary group that ministers to Muslims. Then some of the missionaries at Sunshine Orchard found out that I wanted to learn medical missionary skills, and they offered to pay my fees for a local training opportunity! Someone else committed to pay my living expenses for a year if I would stay and teach at the learning center. All I could say was, “Father, forgive me for having such small faith.”
It’s been over two years now since I arrived at Sunshine Orchard, and I love my job teaching high school math and science to the dear Karen students. I’ve even been able to hike into Burma for a medical mission trip! Living a simple life close to God and surrounded by people who put Jesus first has strengthened my faith and helped me unlearn things the world taught me. Here, too, I met a missionary nurse named Erick, and God led us to join our lives together in service.
Through it all, I have learned without a doubt that “my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19. I have never regretted giving God my all!
By Jonalyn Layos Reeve. For information on Sunshine Orchard Children’s Home and Learning Center, visit www.karenoutreach.org. For mission posts by Erick and Jonalyn Reeve and for information on supporting their ministry, visit www.erickrn.blogspot.com.