The mission of the 12-City Initiative is to reach the world’s unreached people groups with the life-changing news of Jesus Christ. Saddleback is planting 12 campuses around the world through the PEACE Plan, and each city was selected because of its proximity to these unreached groups. The first campus will be launched this December in Manila, Philippines. Roland Navarro and his wife Rachelle recently returned from a PEACE trip to Manila. This is his story.
"Two and half years ago, my wife and I moved to Orange County. I’m a tech entrepreneur and had just sold my internet company. We were looking for a community to get plugged into and Saddleback looked like a great place. When we came across the PEACE Plan, I was super inspired about the work Saddleback was doing to fight HIV&AIDS in Africa, and my heart broke for the orphan and clean water initiatives. The poverty work in the Philippines rocked me to my core.
When we finally made the choice to go on a PEACE trip to Manila, we did this out of faith. We had never been to a mission trip before, and Cabo San Lucas was the only place outside of the U.S. that we had ever been to. We did not speak the local language of the Philippines and we honestly had no idea what kind of work we would be doing while in the country. To prepare for the trip, all we did was set up meetings with some pastors in Manila, and prayed that we would fulfill God’s purpose.
In Manila, we met with a wide range of pastors. Some churches were so small, everyone could fit into a small hut, while other churches had thousands in attendance in facilities that were actually bigger than Saddleback's Lake Forest Worship Center. It was amazing to see all the different looks, shapes, and sizes through which Jesus Christ’s love and truth could be expressed.
One particular part of our trip that sticks out was our time in the Tondo section of Manila. We spent time in a densely-populated slum that lacked clean water, electricity, and sanitation. People were living amidst trash, and the smell of feces just permeated the air. My team was shocked and saddened, but we were hopeful - after meeting with the pastor in this community, I was immediately moved by his passion for his people. I learned that you can’t throw millions of dollars at the problem of poverty. You need to change the mindset of the people before a community can change.
There is something life-empowering when you give to other people despite personal barriers and circumstances. After returning from our trip, I knew God found a long-hidden seed planted deep within my heart. My wife and I now live much more simply and joyfully. We have made friends on both sides of the Pacific. I was so moved by my experience, that I walked away from the business world, quit my job, and decided to work at Saddleback Church full-time. Knowing that we are part of a much bigger global plan is one of the most satisfying developments in our life right now."
To learn more about the PEACE Plan and how you can get involved, visit saddleback.com/12cities.