'Some of them would have died without our help'
Janice’s story | Jesus at work in the jungle of central Luzon
“I was born in Pennsylvania, US, and I came to faith at a young age, but it’s been my involvement in Christian missions that has shaped my faith the most.
My dad was a sergeant in the army in WW2. One day he was in a dangerous place and he made a vow to God, “If you get me out of here, I’ll serve you the rest of my life.” He survived and forgot his vow. But years later he became a Christian and remembered. He and my mum went to serve the Lord in remote PNG. I was a teenager at the time and it greatly influenced my faith, growing up amongst wonderful missionaries.
I met my husband through missions and we married and felt called to serve in a remote tribal group in Central Luzon, Philippines. We left in 1968. At the time, none of the people in that area had access to the Gospel. I was all of 22, and my husband was 24. It was just amazing. Initially, I was struck by the darkness in their faces. It looked like hopelessness. Their lives, as animists, revolved around sacrificing to dead ancestors. Whenever they became sick, or had an accident, they sacrificed a pig or a buffalo to appease their ancestor. It was expensive and hopeless. They would often go into debt.
We depended on the Lord for everything and it was amazing how he provided.
We spent the next ten years with them. The first year we solidly studied language and then we taught the Bible chronologically. The people didn’t even know who God was, so we began at the beginning. And the Lord worked! Many people’s hearts were changed and churches were planted, with local elders. More and more people came to know and trust the Lord Jesus.
The thing that threw me on the Lord the most was their need for medical help. We were in a remote, mountainous area and the people were scattered. Thousands of them had no access to medical help, so they came to our door. We had no formal training either but we had to help. My husband would often be away and I’d be home schooling our children, and there would be people at our door, with kidney infections, tuberculosis, pneumonia, babies with terrible chest infections, everything. Some of them would have died without our help. I really prayed a lot, in fear and trembling. But we learned. We became like a chemist shop for the people. We depended on the Lord for everything and it was amazing how he provided.
Moving to Perth was harder than moving to the jungle of Central Luzon.
In 1983 we returned to Australia for 15 years, and then we went back to the Philippines in 1998 for another 12 years, serving with the same people group. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how the Lord worked! Nowadays, they have the whole Bible in their language and the churches have really grown. They run their own children’s programmes and women’s ministry. They run vacation clubs and a travelling music ministry. It’s amazing. They don’t need us anymore!
In 2012, my husband was diagnosed with renal cancer and he died four years later. I nursed him for those years and it was a traumatic time. Afterwards, I decided to move to Perth to be near my son and his family. In some ways, that move was harder than moving to the jungle of Central Luzon. It was difficult to begin all over again on my own. But I’m amazed at how the Lord has looked after me. He is growing my faith. And I choose joy today, regardless of my circumstances. I think my faith in God has been running deeper these last few years. Perhaps I’m less distracted. I certainly look back on the medical work over all those years and I know that, as hard as it was, there are countless people alive today, trusting in God, because we were there.
One of my favourite verses is Psalm 139:9, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
God had his hand on us in the jungle, and he has his hand on me in Perth. I’m 76. Whenever the weather is fine, I ride my electric bicycle to church and I do what I can. I trust in the Lord!”
Janice’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.