2020 Year-End Update
Dear PRMI Friends and Partners,
2020 has been a strange, crazy, and unique year for all of us. Most of you are still experiencing social distancing and lockdown measures to some degree and who knows how long it will last. The news has mostly been negative, depressing, and fearful so I hope this email is refreshing, hopeful, and encouraging as you read about and rejoice with us what God is doing in the Pacific Rim.
Let me start first of all by talking about the one constant this year and that is God. He has been, is, and will continue to be good. Despite the challenges the Lord has been our Rock, Fortress, and Refuge. The world has changed rapidly but our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We acknowledge that every circumstance in 2020 has been as James 1:17 affirms, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” This year is once again a testimony to the perfections of his nature and the generosity of his grace.
Like all ministries, we have had to change, adapt, and adjust course throughout the year. Some doors God closed. Other doors He opened. But, again, this is exactly who God is and how He operates (Rev. 3:7)—“the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” Opening and shutting is His prerogative and only God holds the key to each door in our lives, our ministries, and our future.
God’s goodness has been further evidenced through the faithful prayers and donations of our partners. Covid-19 has had devastating economic impact around the world and frankly we weren’t quite sure what to expect at the start. But, at the end of the year donations have not only stayed steady but we have picked up new donors who have made generous contributions. The generosity of God as expressed through his people is heart-warming. So, on behalf of myself and the board, thank you for your commitment to the gospel and kingdom work PRMI is doing in Asia. We are truly blessed.
Haven of Grace Camp and Seminary in the Philippines has been shut down since March and this is likely to extend into the middle of next year. This was truly disappointing because we had just finished our first-year, with great momentum—growing from 19 students to over 50 students in 2 locations. We were anticipating on starting year 2 with 3 teaching locations and over 70 students. However, COVID hit full force and God had us change course. The Valiante family returned home to Delaware and Dr. Valiante has been recording online video sessions to keep our students engaged and active in learning the Scriptures. This fall he recorded 10 sessions on “Grace: A Biblical and Practical Theology” which students can access on our seminary website at havenofgraceph.org. In early 2021 he will record 5 sessions on “A Practical Exposition of the Book of Philippians.” Distance learning is not optimal for the Philippines as many do not have personal computers or even adequate internet access. So, we are hoping and praying for in-person training to resume in July or August 2021.
Unfortunately, Haven of Grace Camp was also a casualty of COVID-19. This was discouraging for many churches because the summer camp season is their primary gospel outreach for youth in their communities. We’re still not sure about camps resuming in April/May of 2021 but we are hopeful. However, at this point it is not likely. Nevertheless, we are still collecting funds for our vision 2020 program which provides for unsaved, unchurched, and under-privileged Filipino youth to attend camp. $20 pays for 5 youth to attend camp for a week which is a great return on such a small amount. If camps are cancelled again for 2021 then our goal is to use these funds in a significant public school ministry outreach at the beginning of next school year. For all of those who have been giving to Vision 2020, thank you for helping us reach the next generation with the gospel.
One unanticipated blessing of the camp and seminary closing has been God opening a door for the gospel through humanitarian outreach. PRMI is not primarily humanitarian in scope but this is how God has directed our path this year. Thousands of poor Filipino families have become even more desperately poor due to the extended lockdowns and loss of income. In fact, a few days ago I received word from a pastor friend that many of the people in the mountain area of Himamaylan where he ministers are joining or giving their children over to the NPA (a godless, murderous, self-styled militia that operates in the mountain areas of Negros) because promise food and protection in return. This is so sad to hear and it shows the desperation of Filipinos just to eat. We hope to send funds to this pastor and to others who are trying to turn people to the light of the Lord and the hope of the gospel in this difficult time.
To date, we have been able to send $36,750 USD (1.78 million pesos) to help over 6500 families (25k-30k people) and partnering with almost 100 local church pastors throughout Negros Island. Many of these pastors are students at the seminary so it is a blessing to help them minister in compassionate ways to their communities. In fact, I have received numerous messages from pastors about the way God has used food relief to open doors for the gospel and to glorify the name of Christ in the community. Thank you to all who have given generously to help struggling families and if you would like to help further you can donate to our Special Projects Fund online or by sending a check to our mission address.
Another open door for PRMI this year was the starting of Doulos Theological Seminary (DTS) in Myanmar on July 12. We did not anticipate being able to open during COVID but due to the small size of our student body and the quarantining of our students on campus we have been able to hold classes. Thankfully, there have been no cases of COVID even though it is all around the city of Yangon. We started with 4 students and have grown to 11 full-time students plus 3 faculty. God has greatly blessed the opening of this school and I would like to encourage you to go to our website and read the testimonies of our students. We are featuring one student every few weeks so you can get to know them, pray for them, and hear of God’s amazing grace and leadership in their lives. DTS is now in its second term which ends in February/March. I was truly disappointed to miss my scheduled module in November but I hope to put these sessions online for the students in the new year. Please continue to pray for the great work God is doing in Myanmar.
Personally, this has been a challenging year ministry-wise due to the fact that so many domestic meetings and missions conferences were cancelled as well as many overseas teaching modules. However, God provided for some virtual teaching/preaching (which I admit is not a method I enjoy) and for some in-person fall meetings at 4 churches. 2 of those churches have since taken PRMI on for monthly support and we are so grateful for the gospel partnerships the Lord continues to forge.
One thing a world-wide pandemic has impressed upon us at PRMI is that our philosophy of training nationals is the future of missions. Many American missionaries have either been forced to leave the field or have not been able to return. However, the ministry of local pastors and missionaries not only continues but has greatly increased. We are committed more than ever to the training of Asian nationals to reach their own people.
In setting goals and asking for prayer in 2021 I would say as follows: 1) pray we can return to and continue to solidify our seminary training in the Philippines and Myanmar; 2) pray for new opportunities to present the philosophy and ministry of PRMI and for God to provide new gospel partnerships with churches and individuals; 3) pray that we will wait on the Lord’s timing for new gospel opportunities in Asia; 4) pray that we will be faithful to the work God has already given us to do.
Finally, let me encourage you to do several things as you are able: 1) visit our website at pacificrimmissions.org for more details and pictures on the various programs and aspects of our mission; 2) pray for PRMI regularly; 3) if God has blessed you to be able to do so, give a year-end donation to support one of our seminary students, the Philippines Food Relief Program, sponsor a camper with a Vision 2020 gift, or give for another gospel opportunity. All donations to PRMI are tax-deductible and if received by Dec. 31, 2020 will be included in your 2020 donation statement which will be mailed in Jan. 2021.
Thank you for letting God use you to make a difference for the gospel and the kingdom.
From my family to you and yours, may God bless you and give you a joyous Christmas season and a fruitful 2021.
J. Mark Kittrell