Have you ever considered participating in a Work and Witness ministry? For many, the answer is a tentative yes with a big question tagged onto the end. But what if something goes wrong? Recently, the Philippines/Micronesia Communications Team (PMCT) interviewed Janet Wilkins regarding that exact question. Janet and her husband Kevin currently serve as the Work and Witness Coordinators for the Philippine/Micronesia Field. For the Wilkins, 2020 started off with a bang. Back to back Work and Witness teams traveled to the field, but one of the events went unexpectedly awry from a human perspective. From God’s perspective, however, what seemed like a disaster in the making turned out to be a multiplied blessing for three different churches on three different Pacific islands. We asked Janet to tell the story from her perspective as the Work and Witness coordinator for the event.
PMCT: Janet, could you give us a brief overview of Work and Witness. What exactly is it?
JW: There are two sides to Work and Witness, the sending side and the receiving side. Individual churches, districts or multiple churches in multiple countries can unite to send a Work and Witness team to a local church, school, child development center etc. on a short-term mission assignment to do ministry. Sometimes this looks like constructing a building or renovations or repairs, and sometimes it looks like evangelism and children’s ministry such as running a VBS or special church services. On the field side you have the Work and Witness Coordinator who pairs sending churches with receiving churches to work out the timetable and the work and ministry for the receiving church.
PMCT: You and Kevin have been on both sides of this, haven’t you?
JW: Yes. Our home church is Glendora Community Church, (GCC) in California, where going on Work and Witness trips is just part of their DNA. I was the church secretary at GCC before God called Kevin and me in 2018 to be the Work and Witness Coordinators for the Philippines/Micronesia Field. We have worked on both sides of the fence both being sent from our church and being coordinators on the receiving end in the field. I love Work & Witness and the opportunities it gives to form partnerships in ministry and change people’s lives on both sides forever.
PMCT: You had a disaster on one of your projects, is that right? Tell us what happened.
JW: It definitely wasn’t a disaster! But it was a surprise. Our home church, GCC, plus two doctors from Michigan joined forces to send a team out to Chuuk, a small state of islands in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in early 2020. (Think small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean). Now all flights to FSM must travel through Guam. So, after a day layover in Guam, on Monday February 3, we took the team to the airport and got them checked in. At this point, the only question was “have you traveled through China?” As they were waiting to get on the plane an announcement came over the PA system. Effective immediately, Chuuk banned all flights from any country having Covid-19 cases including the United States of America. We could not believe it. Their luggage was on the plane! After retrieving their luggage, we regrouped at Guam Nazarene and came up with four alternate plans for the team. GCC so wanted to work! They had taken 2 weeks off work to serve. They had planned for so long! Many of their families wanted them to abandon the project and come back home immediately, but the team wasn’t ready for that. This was the very beginning of the Covid-19 illness and there were very few cases outside of China. We had a meeting and an idea emerged. Three of the team members had served in Maui in the past at Kahului Nazarene. Would they happen to have a spot for the team to serve on such short notice? They did! Kahului Nazarene Pastor Tim Cruz organized housing for the team and found needed jobs for them to do along with ways to serve in the community. It was decided. They would go to Hawaii. While they waited a day and a half for the Flight, they did not waste a moment of time, GCC funded and finished several projects for Guam Nazarene. They did things like installed whiteboards, fixing leaky roofs, waterproofing a storage container, building cabinets etc.
PMCT: How long did it take GCC to prepare for the trip?
JW: Two years. As they began to look at options, they felt the Lord was leading them to serve in the Federated States of Micronesia
(FSM). We gave them many warnings about the cost of the ground fees, and the length and number of the flights. It took a lot to put the trip together to Chuuk FSM. Through their passion to come, Kevin and I began to see that God was doing new and exciting things in this remote place. They were the second team to come to Micronesia in January. They raised all the money to build the Chuuk church, $10,000, which they sent out to the field months before they were due to arrive. They also collected educational supplies, chalkboards, hair clippers, hand sewn dresses, plus 16 pounds of candy to give to the Chuuk community during their Work and Witness time on Chuuk Island.
PMCT: They made all these preparations, sent money ahead, packed supplies and arrived loaded and ready to serve. It sounds like the GCC group was riding high when they arrived.
JW: Not just them, but us too. Because GCC was our home church, Kevin and I were so excited to see what God had planned for them and for the Chuuk church during the ten days of their Work and Witness project. We were so excited to see how this partnership would build up and encourage this little church in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as well as what the team from GCC would learn about ministry.
PMCT: What happened to the money and all the supplies that had been raised for the Chuuk church?
JW: Kevin and I were cleared for travel because we had already been on Guam for two weeks with the South Korean team who had partnered with Guam Nazarene, so on Wednesday, February 5, we put the GCC team on a plane for Hawaii and hopped a flight ourselves to Chuuk taking all the supplies GCC had gathered with us including the finances to support us for ten days. Pastor Richard Sulatra of Chuuk Nazarene raised the funds to hire construction workers along with the funds GCC had sent for the project ahead of time. Kevin and I were blessed to work with these hired construction workers, and we are praying that God would reveal himself through the local church. We were blessed by the local church, mostly Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s), who desired to reach out with compassion to their local community. Pastor Richard Sulatra is so hardworking. He willingly poured concrete, trimmed back the jungle and then preached a great sermon! I was super excited to see his passion and how God is working through this ministry. Kevin and I were in Chuuk for about 10 days. We laid block, and Kevin poured concrete and worked with the men. I shared the three 50# bags of children’s materials that GCC had donated with several who were interested in the children’s ministry at the church. We delighted the children with dresses and skirts made by the GCC church sewing team. There was excitement in the air. When we left, the building was nearly ready for the roof. Work is planned to be ongoing to finish the first floor including the roof and make it usable before the rainy season through Alabaster funds.
PMCT: And GCC? How did their time in Hawaii go?
JW: That’s the best part of the whole story! They funded and worked hard at Kahului Nazarene in Maui. Interestingly, Kahului’s outreach is to people groups from the islands around Chuuk who have moved to Hawaii. The GCC team reached out to kids and youth from the poor part of town who are 80% Micronesian. Three of the islands, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap were represented within the circle of Kahului Nazarene’s influence. GCC got to hang out with island kids and tell stories about their trip. As Matt Bolt of GCC told me, “Our trip did not go as planned. It went better than planned! We helped two churches with manual labor, spent a lot more than $10,000, got to love on and sing worship in Micronesian languages. Yes, we might have missed physically being on Chuuk Island, but God gave us the people.”
PMCT: What a great story! Janet, do you have any last thoughts?
JW: I do. God taught all of us a lesson. We can plan all the details and dream of what it might look like, but our Lord is sovereign and good in His plans. He turned this trip from being a Covid-19 disaster into a way to minister to Micronesians in three separate locations. Kevin and I celebrated another anniversary recently and I told him, “Thank you for taking me on this adventure with you.” Watching how God oversees His work makes being a Work and Witness Coordinator one of the top adventures of my entire life! But do you know what else? It also has given me a new appreciation for my local church in California. I appreciate, so much, the GCC team and their flexibility and willingness to look for what God is doing in every situation! I appreciate the local churches on Guam and Chuuk and Maui and their willingness to partner and share their ministries with this church from the states. Without the local church, there would be no ministry. I have learned so much about God’s faithfulness when things turn upside down. I am so blessed by the generosity of our GCC team and all of the “local churches” and how God makes all things beautiful in His time.
In 2019, there were 6,409 Work & Witness volunteers, 429 teams, and 484,040 labor hours served for the Church of the Nazarene. We have over 900 Work & Witness sites across the 6 regions. Each project is unique. Some examples of our projects include medical teams, VBS, sports ministry, Jesus Film, construction and compassionate ministry projects. As Janet often says, “Great opportunities are waiting to happen when you say yes!” Is your church interested in participating in a Work & Witness event? Are you interested in becoming a Work and Witness Coordinator? Opportunities abound.
by Philippines/Micronesia Communications Team