June 27, 2020
To our Every Nation family in the Philippines,
This year has been challenging and faith-building for us all. We started the year trusting God's Amazing Grace for us and, shortly after the prayer and fasting week, we've been bombarded with one challenge after another: the Taal Volcano eruption in January, the COVID-19 health crisis, and now an economic crisis and mounting social unrest. Since March, our worship services and discipleship meetings have been online, and we're longing and preparing for the day when we can meet with you again face-to-face. We are all in a faith journey like Abraham, who faced the brutal facts while not giving in to unbelief. We remain convinced that God is faithful and able to do what He has promised (Romans 4:19–21). This crisis will surely cause our faith to grow like Abraham. His journey lasted twenty-five years, and I sure hope ours won't be as long.
While our ministry landscape has changed, I assure you that our mission remains the same. God's kingdom continues to advance, even in a pandemic.
The Mission Continues
Our churches and ministries continue to declare and demonstrate the gospel. We are seeing people saved, discipled, and growing deeper in their relationship with Jesus.
Relational discipleship is alive and well even online. Across the nation, people are meeting their Victory groups online, starting new Victory groups with friends and family members, going through ONE 2 ONE together, worshipping God and hearing His word every week, praying for one another, interceding for our nation, getting connected to a church community, hanging out after the service in smaller online groups, participating in Victory Weekend and Purple Book classes, and being equipped to minister. Even discipleship among kids is growing online!
Through #GoodNews2020, our churches across the Philippines have served affected communities, stranded students and Overseas Filipino Workers, and frontline workers in forty provinces to demonstrate the gospel.
We continue to support and offer scholarships to over 600 bright and deserving underprivileged youth through the Real LIFE Foundation. The scholars and their families are well taken care of by Victory churches across the nation, with monetary support, relief goods, and coaching. This year, we also opened 10 new centers and will be accepting 350 new scholars.
No matter what happens around us, we remain committed to church planting, campus ministry, and world missions. It is truly an extraordinary time for the church to be salt and light in the Philippines and every nation.
However, in the midst of this, the ministry has not been exempt from the global financial challenges of the crisis. In the Philippines alone, over 100,000 companies were temporarily closed or implemented a reduction in workdays, and so many are on a “no work, no pay” policy. Over 3,000 institutions filed for permanent closure, redundancy, or retrenchment. The financial forecast is long-drawn, and the projection of recovery from recession is uncertain.
To continue to steward our mission faithfully, we have had to make painful but necessary decisions. From the start of the pandemic, while we exercised faith and trusted God to intervene, we realized the need to take immediate action. Every step of the way, we considered how best to look out for our pastors, missionaries, and staff. These decisions in the last four months have been some of the hardest we have ever had to make.
- In March, we readjusted budgets and brought expenses down to the bare minimum.
- In April, we reduced work days across the board, resulting in salary cuts.
- In May, we offered early retirement to eligible pastors and staff.
- This month, we made the painful decision to reduce our workforce by 30% as a response to the changing ministry landscape. We have seen the need to reorganize and streamline operations.
Throughout these decisions, we are working with our pastors and staff to help them prepare for new jobs and build new sources of income. Training, coaching, and connections to possible employers are being made available.
Moving Forward Together
Personally, I have wrestled with and grieved over these decisions, and yet I have also been amazed at the faith-filled response of our pastors and staff. I want to honor and commend their posture of gratitude, sacrifice, and commitment to the mission, evident in their years of fruitful service. I am incredibly grateful and humbled to walk and work with such godly men and women. And while the situation may necessitate a change of employment for some, I believe their calling and commitment to honor God and make disciples continues—wherever they go and however they serve. In fact, the pastors who have taken the early retirement will continue to serve as pastors in Victory. Though their official employment with us is coming to an end, their calling to shepherd God's people remains, and they'll continue to serve with us. Like the apostle Paul, even though he was a tentmaker, he was a pastor and apostle, planting churches, and advancing God’s kingdom.
None of us started the year thinking this would happen. We never thought we’d face a global crisis in our lifetime of this magnitude. This has been an extremely difficult journey for everyone, but I also believe this crisis has presented an opportunity for us to go back to the core of our movement. We have thrived through the years largely because of the faithful and dedicated service of our volunteers and Victory group leaders. As members of Christ's body, we each have a part to play in making disciples and serving the church. This is true whether we are in business, at home, in school, or in any industry or field, and most of us do this as willing and sacrificial volunteers. In fact, most of our pastors, missionaries, and staff members started out as volunteers before we came on board full-time. Therefore, while the crisis may cause some of us to work outside the ministry, we are all still very much part of the mission—as pastors, missionaries, full-time staff, or volunteers.
To those who’ve served with us on staff and are taking early retirement or are part of the workforce reduction program, we want to thank you for your service, sacrifice, and heart for God. May God bless you with His favor, provision, and amazing grace. May He open doors for you that no one can shut, and may we continue to walk and serve together in the years to come.
To those staying on as full-time staff, we are grateful for your service and willingness to go the extra mile. As we streamline and reorganize, we will all have to be flexible in our roles and work assignments. We are looking forward to seeing how we will continue to fulfill our mission together in this new landscape.
To our ministry partners, thank you for faithfully and generously holding the ropes with us so we can bring the gospel to every campus and every nation.
To our Victory church family across the Philippines and in Every Nation, we long for the day when we can see you again and worship God with you. We are who we are largely because of your dedication, commitment, and service. Thank you for remaining committed to God and for declaring and demonstrating the gospel. May God continue to bless you and keep you, may you remain steadfast in Him, and may you continue to honor God and make disciples.
A lot of things might remain uncertain, yet God surely has a plan and purpose for His people: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). This promise was given to God’s people at a time when they were exiled in Babylon and experiencing uncertainty and difficulties. God spoke this through the prophet Jeremiah as an assurance that His promise to them still stands. As we go through this crisis together and are pruned in the process, God’s promise brings comfort and hope for a bright future.
Let us remain faithful to Him and continue to do our part in advancing God’s kingdom together!
Pastor Gilbert Foliente
President, Every Nation Philippines