By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, MN St. John’s Lutheran Church in Howard Lake members Gloria Bobrowske and Jerry Paetow took a leap of faith recently, joining fellow church member Tom Petersen on a mission trip to the Philippines.
“We slept on hard beds and took cold showers, and it was well worth it when we got to meet the people there and see their smiling faces,” said Paetow, who lives in Waverly.
Petersen, a resident of Howard Lake, took his first mission trip to the Philippines in 2005, and keeps going back year after year.
He’s been working with Vernacular Video Mission International (VVMI), an organization that produces evangelistic videos in the indigenous languages of the Philippines.
“English is very common in the Philippines, but anything is more understandable in the language you grew up using,” Petersen said. “People walk for hours to see these videos.”
“It’s exciting to see how God is using videos as a tool to change people’s lives,” Petersen continued. “The videos show people how, through Jesus Christ, they can be released from the bondage in their lives.”
After the video presentations, Petersen, Paetow, and Bobrowske had the opportunity to talk with people about Christianity and distribute Bibles.
“The mission has planted a lot of seeds,” Paetow said. “It’s starting to blossom.”
One of the teenagers who they gave a Bible to asked for their autographs.
“He told us we were his heroes,” Paetow said.
During the trip, the group met up with doctors, nurses, and dentists who were also doing mission work in the Philippines.
The medical day was a perfect opportunity for Bobrowske, who is a dental assistant at Winsted Gentle Dental, to provide dental services while sharing her faith.
Meanwhile, Paetow and Petersen helped people choose glasses with the correct prescriptions.
“The medical day was pretty rewarding,” Paetow said.
“For me, it’s so close to my heart to see the gospel being spread,” Petersen added.
Petersen said it is uplifting to see people who have chosen to use their medical skills for mission work.
“That’s what happens when God gives you a call,” he said. “It’s topsy-turvy, but it’s never a dull moment.”
The volunteers traveled to various parts of the Philippines from March 19-29, sleeping in churches, schools, and guest houses.
“It’s not a vacation by any means, but it’s very rewarding to see how God is working in people’s lives,” Petersen said.
On a previous mission trip, Petersen’s son, David, met a Philippine woman named Ailyn, who later became his wife.
David and Ailyn had their wedding in the Philippines, and the couple is now living in Howard Lake.
Ailyn’s family is very involved in church work in the Philippines, Petersen said. Sometimes he is able to visit them during his mission trips.
“I’ve been kind of grafted into the family,” he said.
Peterson’s past mission trips have made him very familiar with the southeast Asian country, but this was Bobrowske’s and Paetow’s first overseas mission experience.
Paetow said he decided to take the trip after hearing a presentation at St. John’s last summer.
“God told me to take the first step, so I took an application,” he said.
When Paetow suggested that Bobrowske also go on the mission, Bobrowske was hesitant at first.
“I told him I was too old to go,” said Bobrowske, a resident of Howard Lake.
Then, during a Christian women’s conference, a prayer leader came up to Bobrowske and said, “You’re not too old.”
“She knew nothing about my trip,” Bobrowske said.
That pushed her to sign up, and Bobrowske said she’s glad she did.
The group of three had the opportunity to meet people from urban and rural areas in the Philippines.
The farmers there have a hard life, Paetow said, but as a former farmer himself, he understood what they were going through.
“I didn’t have a problem relating to anyone,” he said.
Sometime this spring, St. John’s is planning an event for people to learn more about the recent mission trip, complete with a Philippine-style dinner.
To learn more about St. John’s Lutheran Church, go to www.hlchurch.org.