Influencing the influencers

Tags: Philippines, Story

When Benigno Aquino III, president of the Philippines from 2010-2016, was sworn into office, Pastor Jonel Milan stood behind him on the platform. Pastor Jonel, the spiritual adviser to the president, later offered the prayer during the ceremony. When people ask him how he got into that position, he answers, “I didn’t. God opened the door.” 

Pastor Jonel is an unassuming man with a ready smile. And he is excited to share the incredible opportunities God has given him.

He leads a church of 1,500 people that has several daughter churches. The president calls on him regularly for advice and prayer. Many people seeking political office also come to Pastor Jonel for endorsement. Instead, he involves them in Bible study and prayer to get to know them. Then, if the opportunity presents itself, he will mention them to the right people. But with Pastor Jonel, the gospel always comes first.

Once he texted all the justices to invite them to a Bible study. Seven of them showed up. When they commented on what a surprise it was that so many came, Pastor Jonel told them it’s because they all need prayer. He then presented the gospel.

On another occassion, president gave him a personal tour of the presidential palace. A security guard commented on how lucky Pastor Jonel was to see every corner of the palace guided by the president himself. But Pastor Jonel responded with what he found to be more amazing: “But I am a son of God.”

For two years, Pastor Jonel and his wife, Tess, have been invited to the National Prayer breakfast at the White House. Once Pastor Jonel declined because he didn’t want to experience winter! But, with his 25th wedding anniversary approaching, his wife convinced him to come.

On that trip, in the humble offices of SEND USA, they shared their incredible experiences with the office staff. They thanked SEND for the missions work started in the Philippines seven decades ago, including the churches they grew up in and the schools they attended. Next to them sat their good friends, Jake and Lillian Leyanaar, SEND missionaries from Canada who had discipled the Milans as teenagers. Lillian had even advised Tess to wait a while before dating Jonel when he first asked her out! Who would have thought, all those years ago, that this couple would be in a position to spiritually influence the most powerful people in their country.

As we listened to their amazing journey, Pastor Jonel reminded us of Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Pastor Jonel didn’t seek out this position of influence. He said, “When we seek God first, he gives us the whole package.”

It just goes to show, you never know the influence you will have.