Beware of “Dangerous” Ministry
Jen Chrystman (far right ) and her “Filipino kids”– Mimi, Fred and their son Alab.
An interview with Jen Chrystman
What was your home and family life like growing up?
I was the youngest of four siblings in a home nurtured by Christian parents. Dad and Mom taught us wonderful life skills such as doing our best in school and playing outside as often as possible. My siblings taught me about sharing and forgiveness by modelling that on a very regular basis!
What inspired you to serve overseas?
I had no intention of being a missionary, but Hudson Taylor’s biography, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret – shared with me while I relaxed on the Turkish Riviera – changed all that. My friend, Jane, challenged me to stop travelling the beaches of the world in my summers and at least do a short-term mission trip. Beware of dangerous books!
What influenced you to serve in the Philippines?
While on that Serve Asia trip, God spoke very clearly that He wanted me to serve at Faith Academy, located in the Philippines. Although I was a reluctant applicant, it was a definite jump into “high school heaven” and my only regret is that I didn’t go when I was 10 or 12 years younger.
What was your actual role there and how did your ministry take shape?
Teaching and coaching at Faith Academy were a blast! For almost 15 years, I spent time with teens playing sports in the gym, on the field and on tennis courts. Inside, we learned Advanced Placement Psychology topics such as learning, memory and human development.
Along the way, my friends Pam and Patrick Hobbs invited me to Christmas parties and pre-school graduations for their urban poor friends. As I discovered how much fun those teens and young adults were as we played silly games and laughed, I began to sense God calling me to work full time with the poor. Beware of dangerous invitations!
Were there any surprises or unusual events during your ministry?
Life was full of surprises, but the ones that God seemed to delight in were the failures! The same day we forgot puppets for a puppet show, a Faith teen also discovered that the children had no stuffed toys to borrow and use as puppets. This turned into a series of multiple visits back and forth with hundreds of stuffed toys, library books, a worship band, hip-hop dance lessons and days of relationship-building. When another group of us arrived in Calapan City to lead kids’ ministry for a week, the organizer ignored us and left town! We prayed each day for God’s leading and learned so much about answered prayers of desperation (and faith!).
After praying for months with OMF colleagues for someone to manage one of our centres, I began to realize that God was calling me to that role. This led to four years of hospitality ministry which involved brilliant island hopping and glorious campfires woven into dark weeks of renovations, construction blunders and challenges. Beware of dangerous prayers!
What did you do when you returned to Canada?
Since returning to Toronto, I’ve had the joy of managing our OMF guest home. What a privilege to care for large groups of people plus individuals such as Nery (who smuggles food into Venezuela for prisoners); Boris (the Russian Jew who is now a Messianic Rabbi); and Shingo (the Japanese teacher). The list goes on! I’ve also had the opportunity to welcome people from Iran and help disciple several in their faith. Beware of dangerous opportunities to say, “Welcome!”