On one of the blog aggregators (or portals) this blog is on there is a popular blog called “Basta Love Life: Love and Relationships” authored by Kuya Kevin. An American, Kevin Sanders is a missionary to youth in Manila, The Philippines.
“There’s a story here;” I said to myself several months ago, “And sometime soon I’ve got to find out what it is.” Kevin was good enough to play along as I asked him a number of questions…
How does a guy from Alabama end up spending the last eight years in The Philippines?
I felt God was calling me into ministry back in my teen years. I was very involved in student ministry throughout high school and college. I remember several missions conferences back in my college days — these made a real impression on me. These “student years” gave me a passion for two things: missions and college ministry.
I decided to pursue college ministry after I finished seminary. To make a long story short, it was a process of sending out resumes and seeing where God opened doors. I eventually applied to become a missionary here. It’s been the best of both worlds–missions and college ministry. I was originally planning to be here for one year. God obviously had other plans.
What does a typical week look like for you?
The most important thing I do is campus evangelism and discipleship. I approach students, share the gospel, do Bible study with those who respond positively, and train student leaders to do the same. I usually spend 3-4 days a week doing this.
The rest of my time is divided among different ministry activities: 1. Speaking engagements at schools and churches. 2. Recording our radio show. 3. Writing, which includes blogging, responding to email, and books (if I happen to be working on a book project).
It’s kind of a juggling act and I’m always praying for discernment in the best use of time. Speaking engagements are a big deal this month because of Valentine’s Day, so I’m willing to spend more time than usual doing seminars. It’s all about making the best use of the time God gives us. I haven’t mastered this by any means, so I always pray for grace and wisdom.
What would you say are the cultural distinctives among youth there versus in the States? What things did you have to adjust to?
Filipinos are naturally fun-loving and gregarious people. I feel in love with them almost instantly. Cultural adjustments haven’t been terribly difficult for me.
I’d say one significant difference is the group mentality. Filipinos tend to be more comfortable acting in groups (a group of friends is called a barkada here, and almost everyone belongs to such a group). I rarely approach just one individual–there’s usually at least four or five of them hanging out together.
For many youth workers, the issues of sexuality and dating are part of a larger ministry portfolio, but you’ve chosen to specialize in this area ; do you find there’s a great need for this among the kids you work with?
I never really planned to get involved with purity advocacy when I first arrived here. It’s something that just happened through a series of events–events I believe God orchestrated.
It started around 2003. A Filipino version of True Love Waits was produced and we decided to try doing seminars on campuses. The response was so overwhelming that I knew God wanted me to pursue it further. There’s definitely a need here. Filipino youth tend to be more conservative than their Western counterparts, but they are struggling with this x-rated world we live in.
The podcast is English. Do most of the kids you work with speak English? What is the main language in Manila? What does Kuya (as in Kuya Kevin) and Basta (as in Basta Love Life) mean?
Filipinos are excellent English speakers–they can usually understand it without any problem. Having said that, Tagalog is their first language here in Manila. Some students are not completely comfortable speaking English, so I learned to speak and understand Tagalog.
“Kuya” means older brother. “Basta” doesn’t translate very smoothly into English. But the simplest way to translate “Basta Love Life” would be “Just Love Life.”
You sometimes lapse into Tagalog in the middle of the podcast. Obviously, you’re very much at home there now. Do you get back to the U.S. at all?
The summer break here is in April/May. Usually I come home for a few weeks during those months. It’s an opportunity to visit my family, speak at churches, and do some bass fishing.
Your blog must get American as well as local readers… I see it also connects you to a youth group you work with… Is it hard speaking to two different cultures at the same time or are the issues the same everywhere?
I’d say the issues are essentially the same. Here’s an interesting thing about the show: I’m an American who has spent the past seven and a half years here. My co-host (Erwin) is a Filipino who grew up here but spent several years living in the States. This helps us see issues from more than one cultural angle.
I’ve considered publishing and American “version” of Basta LoveLife, my first book. But I’ll need to go back and Americanize it–make a few minor modifications.
What’s the core of what you want to say to young people about sex and purity?
I often summarize God’s instructions for singles in two commandments: be pure and be wise. “Be pure” means avoiding sexual intimacy outside of marriage. “Be wise” means using biblical wisdom in matters of the heart. I think at least 90% of problems are avoided if singles will just follow these two principles.
If you’re looking for a mission project that is worthy of your financial support, donations can be sent to Kevin Sanders Ministries, First Baptist Church Pinson, 4036 Spring Streeet, Pinson, AL 35126. For those of you in the U.S., tax receipts are available.
Kevin also wanted me to add that he has a strength and fitness blog; check out Strong and Fit.