This year McDaniel Phillips is celebrating 35 years as a TWR Canada missionary. For McDaniel and his wife Blossom, these years hold many stories of adventure, struggle and boldness that point to God’s power and faithfulness in their lives. Today McDaniel is serving in the TWR Canada office in London, Ontario as the ministry director for Discipleship Essentials, a project that truly is a culmination of the lessons God has been teaching him throughout his life.
McDaniel was working as a radio personality at a small station in Ontario when he became a believer. He says he knew from the beginning of his Christian walk that the Lord was calling him to ministry, he just wasn’t sure where. What he was sure of, however, was that he had absolutely no interest in working in missions.
In 1982 a friend encouraged McDaniel to consider working with Trans World Radio. It was the first time he had heard of the ministry; he was intrigued by the idea of Christian broadcasting. When he found out TWR was a missions organization he immediately lost interest.
“I just shut down at that moment, I didn’t hear anything else he said,” says McDaniel.
McDaniel was told to take time to pray about it, but he says he didn’t feel he needed to. He tried to run away from the whole enterprise, but everywhere he turned people were talking about Trans World Radio.
By God’s providence, McDaniel and Blossom ended up at a TWR banquet where Dr. Paul Freed, the founder of TWR, was speaking. “I listened, and as Dr. Freed spoke, it sounded like an adventure, and that got me excited.”
Eventually, working with TWR became the only thing McDaniel wanted to do. After deciding they were all-in, McDaniel and Blossom raised all their support in six short months. On May 4th, 1983, they were officially accepted as missionaries by TWR, and before they knew it, they, along with their two kids, were on a plane to Bonaire.
Bonaire is a Caribbean island that is home to TWR’s superpower broadcasting site. When the sun came up the morning after the Phillips’ landed on Bonaire, they quickly became disenchanted by the island’s rustic and primitive nature. McDaniel says if he and Blossom had known what Bonaire was going be like, they never would’ve gone.
After a year into the mission McDaniel became known in the region from his work on the air; he got to know many pastors and churches there. He came alongside church leaders and eventually held a conference on Bonaire where people from diverse evangelical denominations gathered to learn and grow together. The diversity of denominations represented at the conference made some people nervous, but McDaniel called it a “watershed moment” that he is confident was of the Lord.
During their second term on Bonaire, McDaniel played a key role in bringing awareness to the importance of using both media and on-the-ground relationships in TWR’s ministry. With TWR’s mission statement to assist the Church in making disciples, there was a shift towards evangelism through broadcasting coupled with on-the-ground discipleship in the regions where TWR broadcasts. McDaniel says that in order to assist the Church, we needed to know the Church. We needed to know what was happening on the ground, what struggles churches were facing and how to best minister to them.
“I think it was then that the Lord gave me a specific mission, which was to facilitate unity within the body, so that the gospel is revealed. The revelation of the gospel, I think, has become more the theme of my life, as opposed to the telling of the gospel.”
Over the last 35 years, God has placed McDaniel in positions where he was able to bring leaders from different denominations and backgrounds together, and he gives glory to God for all of it. “I know that it has absolutely nothing to do with my skills or talents, but I was able to bring people together.”
After his time on Bonaire, McDaniel and Blossom spent a number of years in Cary, North Carolina, where McDaniel served at the TWR International head office before the couple would again follow God’s call – this time, to Singapore. Here, Blossom would serve with TWR in children’s ministry while McDaniel would serve as the ministry development director for Southeast Asia.
After some time in Singapore he was seconded from TWR to another organization: The Bible Society of Singapore. For four years he served with this organization working with people from diverse backgrounds while learning about the history, distribution and impact of the Bible.
After those four years, McDaniel says he concluded that his work in ministry was over and it was finally time for something else, but he received a prophetic word from a minister that convinced him he was wrong.
“You’re just at the beginning of what God wants you to do, and everything that’s come before this has been preparation for it,” the minister said. That’s when Ray Alary, the current president of TWR Canada and long-time friend of McDaniel’s, asked McDaniel to oversee a new TWR Canada project—a project now known as Discipleship Essentials.
“When I saw the overall vision of DE, I saw all the different threads, activities and projects that I had been involved in over the years come to fruition in this project. And I knew again that this was of God.” This project excited McDaniel because through it he was able see the use of media and on-the-ground discipleship come together to help the church.
“I’d like to think that after 35 years God has allowed me to have some impact in his mission, even though I may not be aware of it. I have never really been concerned about having credit for anything because I fully believe that God accomplishes more when you don’t know what you’re involved in, as long as you remain obedient and do what you believe he’s asking you to do.”
Since the formation of Discipleship Essentials, McDaniel has been able to travel the world to bring church leaders together, teaching them to use media effectively to build up believers in their countries.
At the end of this year, McDaniel will semi-retire. Next year, he’ll continue to serve in the Discipleship Essentials ministry part-time, coordinating training conferences, and working with some of our local ministry leaders who are using DE in very intentional ways. Please pray for McDaniel and Blossom as they begin this transition, and continue to follow God’s call.