Arielle (23) and Nicolette (21) Benoit grew up in Midwestern USA in a loving home with parents they both consider “awesome.” They had everything they needed, got a college degree, and then fresh out of college, they left their cozy comfort zone and came to the Philippines to become missionaries here.
What in the world were they thinking? That’s what I wanted to know.
They came to the shop last Saturday for a tea party hosted by Josephine Salonga for missionaries with Action International which has several outreaches to share God’s love with those in need.
Among others, their ministries consist of Shalom Birthing Clinic, Brand New Day Street Children Ministry, Faith Academy teaching, Kids Home Street Kids Ministry, Face to Face Iloilo Prison Outreach Ministry, Relief and Operation (Emergency Disaster Relief), Feeding Programs, Pastoral Training, Medical and First Aid Training for people in the military, Scuba Diving Training for former street kids as Livelihood.Here is the chat we had:
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): Why did you move to the Philippines?
ARIELLE BENOIT (AB): God put in our hearts since we were little to reach out to other people whether in the States or internationally. We had experiences throughout High School and College doing ministry and the Lord confirmed in our hearts that we were going internationally. Nicolette and I are really passionate about people living in poverty and in need of restoration and the only hope that they have is to know the Lord. That’s for everyone whether you’re really rich or really poor, the only hope is to really know the Lord. My sister joined after four months because the Lord placed it in her heart as well. I’ve been here a year and Nicolette has been here close to a year, too.
NICOLETTE BENOIT (NB): I got a teaching degree in the States. I really wanted to help teach street kids but I needed to know the language first so I decided to teach at Faith so I could start learning language and still teach English while I get used to the area. Next year I’m going to work in a ministry that helps the refugees of Typhoon Yolanda. I will be tutoring kids and I will be working with a local school district for a literacy program and teach literacy camps for the smaller communities.
BITS: When you say that the Lord put being a missionary in your hearts, what do you mean by that?
AB: I remember being in our Wednesday night church program and the lady who had been directing it had been to Mexico a handful of times. She decided to make a curriculum for the year on God’s Love for the World. So each month we “went” to a different place and we learned about God’s love for those people in that part of the world. I remember specifically she showed a video about a missionary and I was SO interested in what that would be like to share God’s love not just in the community I’m from. That’s when the spark was started but as I grew up and got to really know the Lord deeply as my personal Savior that I learned more about what His heart really is… for the world and for people who need His love and that’s everywhere.
NB: It was similar for me. This same lady put in my head what a missionary was like and I felt like that would be my dream, it would be incredible to share God’s love and learn another culture. But I thought,” that’s everyone’s passion,” so I didn’t know if I’m exactly called to it… until I realized after talking to a lot of people that not everyone wants to share God’s love in another country. So I thought, “Oh, maybe this is a special calling God’s given me that I have this passion to do that!” Then in college, I went to Ghana for the summer and I just loved every minute of being in a foreign country where you learn so much every day; you never know what’s happening next but you get to share God’s love in a new way with super awesome people. I really wanted to do this full time after I graduate but then I didn’t know where at all. My sister went to the Philippines and I prayed about that a bunch until someone who didn’t know me much at all told me she had a vision of me and asked me to pray about it and see if this is what God wants me to do. She had a dream about me “teaching kids of different nationalities in a remote place with lots of mountains in the background and it’s tropical and there’s a dirt road and I’m teaching adults as well.” I was thinking of teaching at Faith Academy in the Philippines and I am supposed to be working with Katie (another missionary) next year in remote places. So I thought, “that’s wild!”
BITS: When you say you love working with “awesome people,” what made them awesome to you?
NB: I love working with people who aren’t necessarily rich in the world’s eyes… people who don’t have much as much materially but the Lord sees as being really rich and really blessed… those who are poor and who’ve had a lot of broken things in the past… It’s hard because I didn’t have a childhood like that but God’s given me the passion to share how He can complete their life and how He can turn all their past things that weren’t as great into something that’s a lot more beautiful because it’s His work… Just working with people the Lord has a huge plan for but they don’t quite see that yet, so helping them catch that vision and their ability to see that.
BITS: For both of you, you had a childhood that was good, loving; you felt God’s love and it was complete?
A and N: Yeah!
AB: We’ve been really blessed with a really awesome family. We had the opportunity to be homeschooled growing up and we got to know the Lord in all of our studies. I asked God why He blessed us so much and one of the things He showed me is that He surrounded me with a family that loves me so that I could go out now and do the same thing for others— show them God’s love and teach them what it’s like to have a real family. With Brand New Day, there are a lot of street kids from all over, it’s not just a shelter for boys and a shelter for girls but it’s like a family in each setting. I feel like I’m really like an Ate (big sister) to them. We really interact and have fun. It’s ultimately God’s family. We’ve been really blessed in that it’s really cool to carry that out. We could just stay with our own families but the Lord tells us, “No. You’ve grown up being blessed but if you could carry that and share it with other people.” That’s really where the bigger blessing comes in because God didn’t just bless us for ourselves.
BITS: I thought that families or nations that are prosperous who seem to have everything with no perceived need would find that a hindrance to come to know the Lord. What would make you leave that comfort zone (to a strange place with so many uncertain factors, even dangers) to share this love?
NB: Our parents are so awesome. They instilled in us that it’s not really about what you have or how your needs are being met or what you’ve accomplished but it’s really about the love of the Lord. Each of our siblings just came to know that in a different way. For me, it was noticing that God has called us to be something more than just in our comfort zone because when I look at the life of Jesus, He basically was homeless. He didn’t have a place to sleep. He just poured into His twelve disciples. He preached in places. People didn’t like Him sometimes. He didn’t live a life of comfort at all. And we are called to live like Jesus. And to live that life. To deeply fall in love with Jesus, I needed to take myself out of that comfort zone so I could tell others about Him but ultimately know more about Jesus as a result and grow more in my relationship with Him and grow in God’s heart to know what He has for me to do.
AB: Our family always had enough but no matter how much you have, there’s always a void. You never can fill everything just by having things. It’s only through following the Lord where the greatest rewards are found. The moments with Brand New Day, playing basketball or having a great time, getting to encourage one kid and seeing their face light up. Those are the moments, I call it a golden moment, I know I’m living in where the Lord has me. Whether or not I ate my favorite meal before that or I slept in the most comfortable bed makes absolutely no difference when you know you’re living in the heart of God’s plan. Any of those moments, I go, “God, You’re so real. This is really where You had me.” Those worldly desires feel nothing compared to what God really fills when you’re following in His plan. Makes me excited thinking about it because it’s so great.
BITS: Don’t you think about danger or not having something to eat?
NB: If something is dangerous, it makes us super excited to do it. We have a different view on things. If we don’t know where we’re eating next or what’s happening at all, that makes us more excited because that leaves more opportunity for God to work when it’s not our plan getting in the way of God’s plan. It’s being open and seeing how God’s gonna work in our lives.
AB: There hasn’t been a moment (that I’ve been here or anywhere else when I know I’m serving the Lord where He wants me) where I have been scared or too far out of my comfort zone because He provides people who are there, community. I know if there’s any specific need in any moment, we’d have a ton of people to call who’ll be right there to help us or encourage us when we have no idea what we’re doing. The Lord provides along the way so there’s no need to have fear.
AB: The very first time I came to the Philippines and I just left my family…It’s hard to leave your family. I know the Lord wanted me here. I had never met a Filipino before and I didn’t know about the culture or anything. I got this big hug from Ate Christa Laroza (their missionary home host) and she said, “Welcome to the Philippines!!!” And I said, “I already have family!!!” The family and community has never left me. They’re the best. Wherever you go and the Lord’s with you, He provides for all those little needs, even the smallest of the smallest needs. It’s really cool to see how God richly blessed back. I’m so much more blessed here just by following His plan. The little that I get to serve, God just pours so much back to me, I’m like, “What?!! How can it be so good?”
BITS: What would you say to someone who is considering being a missionary?
AB: Be in the Word and learning what it really looks like to follow the Lord. See what opportunities you have in your community right where you are right now to be serving Him. It’s not just going overseas and explore and experience things and have an adventure. It’s also hard. There are difficult parts to it. For us, when we were in the States, we were involved in ministry right in our area until the Lord continued to confirm for us where to go. Really seek your mentors. Find people who know you best who can tell you where you should be going. Spend a lot of time in prayer. Take this step in the way the Lord is leading you, He will make the doors open just beautifully in the right timing in the right places.
NB: For me, a ton of trust in the Lord. We’ve had to raise support.. talking to a lot of people to see if they want to join your team. It’s like, “Okay Lord, if you want me there, You’ll raise up the money we need first.” It’s crazy to see the way God provides in ways you never imagined. Day by day, learning to trust in the Lord with any little thing in any moment. It’s learning to really surrender and not get yourself in the way or let pride get in the way and say, “I’m more holy now because I’m a missionary because that’s not true at all.”
AB: Not at all. A lot of times, set aside yourself and be humble. There are so many things I’m not good at at all here, specially from the beginning and until now, things I’m not understanding. It can be tricky so you have to be really teachable and flexible. Wherever the Lord takes you or whatever happens within a day, just count it as enough for the day.
NB: Specially being overseas, you have to be willing to set aside your own way of doing things in your own culture, and be teachable and take on what they teach you as part of what they are. I’ve seen some people as missionaries and they keep everything on their culture and say, “I’m going to teach you my culture.” but that’s not coming in a teachable way. If you want to really reach the people where they’re at, you need to come in a way to meet them where they’re at and not be like, “I’m above you.”
BITS: Arielle recalls how she couldn’t figure out how to do the dishes and called it one of the best experiences she had an awesome thing. I asked her why she thought it was awesome.
AB: It was when I could set aside myself and my own plans, culture and let them teach me. For them it was really empowering. It was like, “Oh, we don’t have to do what she tells us to do. We can teach her; she has an open heart to learn about us and how to do things our way.” It really made a cool bond right away. We still laugh about that first day all the time. If I had really held on to myself and be like, “I’m going to wash the dishes how I want to,” it would just set a really big distance between us and it would be harder to love them where they’re at.
BITS: Is it 100% you just want to learn how to do things in the culture you’re in?
NB: It’s a give and take. It depends upon the moment. Right away, I came with just wanting to learn because then I get a better grip of understanding things but eventually you come to a point where you understand why they do things and understand the culture better. And then you look at the biblical way. From that stance, you decide if there’s a better way to teach. Washing dishes… there isn’t a biblical way of washing dishes. So you decide, it’s way better how Filipinos wash dishes because you use less water and doesn’t spread germs so it makes more sense.
BITS: Does that make them more receptive to God’s love? Is that your goal?
A: Yes. In every interaction is to build a relationship so we could share God’s love with them. Every little thing—learning the culture, doing things with them or if something’s trickier, you’re trying to do it their way— it helps build that trust relationship. Sometimes the little kids ask me, “Why did you leave your family?” So I say, “My goal is to share with you guys and show you how much God loves you. My goal is to extend God’s family with you guys, too.” … It’s the coolest thing ever!
BITS: Can you give an example of how God showed His awesome provision?
BITS: What are examples of the hard things?
BITS: What solidified your decision to go out as a missionary?
BITS: What message do you have for your mom now that you’ve been here in the Philippines for some time?
It was humbling to hear the insights of these two amazing women after God’s own heart. Away from their comfort zone, their passion for the Lord and enthusiasm to share the love of Jesus with others who can’t pay them back is remarkable. Jesus has skin on today through people like Arielle and Nicolette.
If you would like to reach them,with their permission, I am posting their email addresses:
Thank You for the lives of these two wonderful ladies, their family, their mentors, hosts (Ate Christa and others), church, influencers. Thank You for their grounding in Your Word that enables them to laugh at their discomforts and mishaps and their decision to choose joy (and humor where necessary) in every circumstance as they serve others and impact the world for Your greater glory. Thank You for their work which they have courageously accepted as part of being in the center of Your will. Thank You for their example of a teachable attitude. May their lives continue to teach me Your ways and Your love.