Editor’s Note: In March we shared the story of one of our missionaries, Dan Haynes, and his response to God’s call to missions. This month we wanted to share a story from another one of our missionaries. Doug Phillips and his wife, Karen, live in Michigan. Doug works at Horizon Education Network which supports theological schools and organizations by developing and sharing resources and tools.
When I was six months old, I was in a car accident that left me paralyzed from the waist down. The doctors told my parents that I would likely stay paralyzed and never walk. However, the Lord, being the Great Physician, began to do a miracle. Slowly I started to regain feeling in my legs. A year later I was no longer paralyzed and after two years I began to walk. I continue to have neuropathy (meaning my nervous system is limited below my waist).
My parents never let me settle for less than what they knew was my best and always treated me like a “normal” child. When I was in middle school, I had a coach that was known as the tough PE teacher. My father had asked the coach to treat me like all the rest of the students and he made me do all the running and exercise like everyone else, it just took me a little longer. Because of this I didn’t realize how different I was physically from all the other kids. It wasn’t until I was in high school when I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection in a window as I was walking to class, that I suddenly realized that I walk funny. Walking has always been a lot of work. For me, there is no such thing as an easy stroll – everywhere I go, no matter how far, it takes a lot of energy to move my body.
When I was in tenth grade my father developed angina, so the doctor advised him to jog. My father instead decided on playing golf. I joined him in hopes that the walking would strengthen my legs. Despite my physical limitations, I became pretty good at golf and even played for my high school and college team. Golf also taught me some valuable life lessons – to know your strengths and weaknesses and to play within those limitations.
Though my physical ability was lacking, God gave me an interest and some modest ability in languages. As a teenager I taught myself how to write in Greek using my father’s New Testament Greek textbooks as my teacher. Later, God would use that interest and ability to lead me into missions.
I heard the story of two ladies who translated the Bible for two tribes in the mountains of Mexico over the period of 47 years. God saved thousands of people from those tribes using those two Bibles, even though the ladies only saw a handful come to Christ during their season of ministry. God used their testimony to change my direction in school from becoming a veterinarian to become a Bible translator. We were looking to be translators in one of two countries, Togo or Ukraine. Ultimately, God led us to Ukraine, and we would not actually translate the Bible, instead we would translate training materials to help church leaders in Ukraine to build up churches and send out missionaries.
When we went to Ukraine for our survey trip, I realized very quickly that there would be a lot of walking to just live life and do ministry. I was determined to not be a hindrance to my future team and resolved to build up my walking ability. I made a goal for myself during this time and by God’s grace, I walked at least 1,000 miles every year except that first year. I had finished walking the distance equal to the circumference of the earth at the equator (almost 25,000 miles). During this time, we were trying to raise support to go to Ukraine. It took us five years to raise our support. Like I said, it often takes me longer to do things, but the Lord grants me the perseverance to follow through to the end.
After 14 years of ministry in Ukraine, the Lord used the war with Russian to create the conditions that would ultimately force us to change ministry locations. The mental strain of the political climate started to manifest itself physically. We returned to the States for a specialist to diagnose the problems we were having, but the treatment would involve medication that would be difficult to obtain in Ukraine. We made the decision to stay in the states but wanted to continue to minister.
We were presented with two possibilities. We felt God leading us to join Horizon Education Network. I had become acquainted with the president of Horizon, Al Cuthbert, when he came to Ukraine to talk with our team about starting an online program for our Bible institute. When I called Al, he was excited because they had been praying for someone who could speak Russian to assist their team in working with schools in the former Soviet Union. We joined Horizon in 2016 and moved up to Grand Rapids, Michigan in June of 2017 to serve as the Translation Project Manager and Russian Language Coordinator.
Editor’s Note: We praise God that Doug has not let his physical challenges stop him from serving the Lord. His life is a powerful testimony to the truth that God can use anyone. What about you? Is there some excuse that you are using to keep you from surrendering to God’s call? Surrender your life to Him today and answer His call! It is always exciting and rewarding to be used by God