Left fatherless as a very young child, Junie lived with his mother deep in the mountainous rain forest. His mother eked out a living off the land. As a child, Junie could have been expected to stay home and help his mother, but because she wanted something better for him, his mother courageously went against cultural norms. For eight years, she allowed Junie the freedom to go to school and church. He would hike half an hour in rain or mist down the slippery, muddy trail each morning.
Junie courageously became the first from his village to go to school and was the first to come to know Jesus and be baptized. Because he was a shy young man and fatherless, Junie endured persecution during these eight years and yet he persevered. He wanted to make something of his life. He made it his habit to hike down the trail every Sabbath to join fellow believers to worship his heavenly Father. During these years, he also met a young girl who caught his fancy — our adopted daughter Jilin.
Jilin (who many of you have read about through the years) had been orphaned — she lost her mother when she was three months old and her estranged father when she was barely three years old. She knew what it was like to be without the protection of parents and also what it was like to be abused, ridiculed and enslaved. Yet even from a young age, though tortured because of her beliefs, she persisted in following what she knew to be true. After a chance meeting in a public market, her biological brother found where she was living, and a miraculous rescue ensued.
Eventually, Junie and Jilin grew up to be adults, married and had a family. They had their hands full with two rambunctious boys and a daughter with physical and developmental handicaps, but still, they sensed there was something more for them to do. They continued praying and talking together. When the doors opened for outreach in a very distant village, they sensed that this opportunity might be for them. They prayed about it until God convicted them that He was calling them specifically.
It is no small matter for a Palawano family to leave everything familiar to them — their farm, their land, their livelihood, even their extended family and home. It is tempting to think that it would be easy for a Palawano to move from one village to the next as the culture does not vary much, and the language is quite similar. But the reality is that it takes the same level of commitment for a Palawano to go to a new village as it does for an American to leave home for a completely new country. It is true that once the Palawano becomes committed, the adjustment is quicker and easier than for an American, but the dedication to the mission must be the same before the Palawano will even make the move.
Junie and Jilin have made the move. They are thriving as a family in their new village, and the people there are embracing them. There are 18 students enrolled in the school, many adults regularly attend literacy classes, and many more come to services on Sabbath. They are actively building relationships with the people, working with them to improve the quality of life in the area — piping in fresh water, digging out landing strips and giving first aid.
Junie knows what it is like to not know Christ, so he is eager to lay solid foundations for their faith as he teaches them. He knows that it is most challenging for the men to accept Christ and the lifestyle changes that come with following Him. So he comes alongside them, entering into their lives and living his faith.
Jilin, as a mother and lover of people, has a strong influence among the women. She is in a position to mentor them by teaching them better habits for their health and the health of their families, and by modeling discipline of children and her relationship with Junie as his wife. Because Junie and Jilin are both great storytellers, the young and old alike listen enraptured.
As parents and missionaries who have mentored and parented both of these young people, it is rewarding to see their spiritual growth and their commitment to the salvation of others. Words cannot express how proud and grateful we are that the orphaned daughter we adopted and the young man she married, grew up to become missionaries themselves.