A letter from Cobbie Palm in the Philippines
A God Moment
I will set up my covenant with you and your descendants after you in every generation as an enduring covenant. I will be your God and your descendants’ God after you (Genesis 17:7).
We all have those days wondering when God is going to step in to turn things around. In mission the results are not always immediately visible and there are days when we look to God with impatience. Then, just before we throw in the towel, God intervenes with a surprise that suddenly renews and lifts the spirit and we celebrate once again that we are involved in God’s mission.
I travelled 10,000 miles from the Philippines and walked into the lobby of Law’s Lodge at Louisville Seminary last March to begin the Discernment Event for the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program of the PC(USA). This is a program that provides young adults the opportunity to spend one year as a mission volunteer in placements in the United States or somewhere in the world. I was there to invite and be in conversation with young adults about volunteering in the Philippines after a 10-year sabbatical from the program.
Walking through the lobby, I saw a familiar face towering above the others, a face that had aged a few years from the time when he had spent a year as a YAV in the Philippines. It was Jed Koball, now a seminary graduate and a PC(USA) mission co-worker in Peru. We caught each other’s eye and made our way to greet each other with the excitement of having shared a part of our lives together.
Several years ago Jed came to the Philippines to begin his year as a Young Adult Volunteer. I recall meeting Jed at the airport in Manila, and he suddenly seemed like a giant in the context of the Philippines. He arrived as a quiet, sensitive young college graduate open to exploring a new culture and people. Being the Philippine YAV site coordinator, it was my task to make the year meaningful for him. I could only hope that the year would mean something to his life.
Jed’s placement was not a perfect placement. He struggled with finding purpose and meaning where he was in the Philippines. I sent several messages in prayer asking God to please turn things around for this placement. When Jed completed his YAV year in the Philippines, I really wondered if this year in the Philippines had done more harm than good to his life. The gentle soul that he is, he would never speak a harsh word; it was hard to really know what was happening in his heart.
Meeting again after many years, I could sense that his familiar gentle, kind spirit had not been corrupted, and as was his way, he thanked me for our time together in the Philippines. But then the God moment came during the group introductions. The room was filled with site coordinators, and Jed began to introduce himself with reference to the Philippines. For a moment I panicked, wondering how this would turn out. But then what he said brought tears to my eyes. He spoke about the importance of the YAV program to his life. That he came to the Philippines unsure of his destination but left a year later seeing clearly the future he wanted to create in God’s mission.
Ten thousand miles away and 10 years later, God spoke and touched me with incredible inspiration. There was Jed and Richard and Monica and Rob and Kurt and Lauren and the list goes on, all gathered together, all YAVs once upon a time and now leaders in the church and the world today. God has a way of using us in unexpected ways and shows us our purpose at unexpected times and in unexpected places. I am overflowing with desire and excitement to bring the YAV program back to the Philippines, for God has shown me that lives are changed and leaders are made through the YAV experience.
The YAV experience will need all of us. You where you are and we here in the Philippines where our efforts are inspired and strengthened in knowing that your prayers and your financial support are all part of the success of this new beginning in the Philippines. Together we can change lives.
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 211
Read more about Cobbie and Dessa Palm's ministry