Jonah always had plans and ideas on how she would serve the Lord and show the love of God to the people around her, but Jesus directed her path to serve in ways she never could have imagined.
Jonah Bohol, from the Philippines, spent her childhood years learning about Jesus from her parents. She remembers how committed her parents were to serving each other and the community, and this inspired her to become a follower of Jesus as well.
Although Jonah made the decision to follow Jesus at a young age, her journey has not been without its challenges. Being the oldest of three children, Jonah often felt that she had to be a good example, following the rules, and reading her Bible. After some time this gave her a sense of superiority, especially in her school and towards her classmates. Jonah explains her struggle, “I was self-righteous and judgmental. I wanted to be the perfect daughter. And even in my faith, I was very religious, even like with my classmates. I always compare myself to them thinking, 'I'm better than you because I am a Christian.' This was my way of thinking growing up.”
It was only in college, whilst studying Education that she started to learn a deeper truth of being a follower of Jesus. She realised that to show the love of Jesus to people she would have to change her attitude towards them. “God's word really helped me to understand that I'm not perfect, only God is perfect,” she said. “This realisation helped me to be able to reach out to people. I shouldn't judge them but instead in a loving way tell them about Jesus.” This new understanding motivated Jonah to look for ways in which she could show the love of Jesus to others.
Jonah wanted to go to seminary, but this was not possible at the time. She decided to study Elementary Education instead. She helped to establish a ministry with street kids in the Philippines following a visit to the Philippines from OM’s ship, Doulos. Jonah served as a port volunteer working on board the ship for a couple of weeks. The crew members’ attitude and servanthood towards the street children inspired a bunch of students to continue the work long after the ship had left. Jonah remembers this time with fondness: “After Doulos left, all the volunteers gathered together and we were like 'Wow, these foreigners they really loved the children, and we should do the same.' So, we continued reaching out to the children even though we come from the different churches, and we are all students.” Jonah knew that while her plan to go to seminary did not work out, God was using her to reach out to these street children, using the skills she was learning at university to make a difference in her community.
Jonah went on to serve in a different country in Southeast Asia. Her experience in this Buddhist country was very different to the ministry she was part of in the Philippines. Seeing a lot of violence and prejudice towards local Jesus followers caused her to think about her own journey with God: why would these people risk their lives to share the love of Jesus with others? She felt the desire to live her life in the same way, taking risks and making sacrifices to share the love of Jesus with others, even if it might cost her life. Besides this struggle there was also the knowledge that other people may be treated badly for their association with her as a Jesus follower. This got easier with time and Jonah learnt how to share her faith with others in a sensitive way. Another challenge that she constantly had to face was the ideas that local people had of her because she came from a different country, “Especially in the countryside people were worried that I was brainwashing them in accepting a “western religion” making them disloyal to their country,” Jonah said. All of these challenges aside, she loved the peace-loving culture and hospitality of the Buddhist people. Although she had to face many difficulties during her time in Southeast Asia, Jonah found strength and comfort in Jesus each day. After seven years she had to return to the Philippines when her father became sick.
After returning home she started preparing to go to Japan to serve there, but this was not a possibility at the time. Instead she was asked to serve as the Prayer Coordinator for East Asia, facilitating prayer for and in this region. This role is very different to what she imagined, and it has taught her a lot. “I believe God is teaching me in my prayer life as well. So not only growing in my responsibility but also growing in my prayer life. I think what I learned is sometimes, you know, like God chose you, even though you're not the perfect fit. when you are willing then God will teach you and will allow you to know more about that responsibility,” Jonah says.
Throughout Jonah’s life she has learnt to look for what God is doing and join Him there, trusting God’s plan for her life even though it is different to what she imagined. “We should not get ahead of what God is doing. Sometimes, especially when we go to a different country or ministry, we want to do it our own way. But actually, God is already doing something there. We will just join him in what He is doing,” Jonah said.
Jonah is still planning on going to Japan and is thankful for how the Lord has already provided for her. She is waiting for the right opportunity and trusting God in the meanwhile that she would continue to learn and serve in whichever opportunity He gives to her.