God’s Faithfulness Through the Years: Ron and June MacKinnon

May 13, 2024 | 16 minute read
The Alliance Canada


During the first two years of our ministry in the Philippines, we did not have a vehicle, so we depended on other means of transportation. Our home in Kablon was up Mount Matutum three km from the main road. Public jeepneys only came through on Tuesdays, the market day in Tupi. One day our house helper, Mary, and I hitched a ride on a logging truck that regularly chewed up the road in front of our home on the village’s edge. It was going down the mountain with a full load of logs, each about three feet in diameter. The cab was an example of Filipino ingenuity, a wooden structure built on the flatbed with room for four or five people.

As we approached the main road, I expected the truck to stop. Instead, the driver tried to make the right hand turn without slowing down. I do not know if this was a brake malfunction or a choice, but he lost control of the truck and hurtled toward a steep ravine, well to the right of the bridge which crossed it. In my mind’s eye, I could see us ending up as grease spots, crushed by several tons of logs as the truck hit the bottom of the ravine.

When we passed the point where the truck had time to stop or turn towards the bridge, I was sure our ministry in the Philippines was over before it even began.

Suddenly the truck pivoted on its rear wheels and headed for the bridge, crossing right at the edge and continuing safely along the highway. With eyes as big as saucers, Mary looked at me in wonder, and all she said was, “Sir?”

God’s Faithfulness and Love in Bringing Us to Himself

I was born in Toronto, Ontario. When I was about five, my parents moved to Lakeview, which is now part of Mississauga. The family began attending the Lakeview Alliance Tabernacle under Pastor Edwin Holt’s ministry and became deeply involved with the church. This was the beginning of my lifelong relationship with The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Both my mom and dad were very active in the church. I attended Sunday school, along with my brother, Bill, and sister, Nessie Jo, having perfect attendance for several years.

One fond memory of my childhood was when missionaries came to the church, which they did often, it seemed; we usually had them in our home for a meal. Early on, I met some great missionaries and got to know them as real people. 

I always wanted to be a missionary. Sure, I wanted to be a sports star, a fireman, and any number of other intriguing things, but I always came back to wanting to be a missionary. I do not remember when it started, but it was reinforced during high school years through Rev. and Mrs. Irwin coming to our church along with their son, George, and his wife, Harriette. During George’s ministry, I was convinced God wanted me to serve among an ethnic minority people somewhere in the world. 

At thirteen years of age, I remember being in a basement room of our partially constructed church, making a commitment to Christ, receiving Him as my Saviour. While my mom said I had come to Christ much earlier, this was the experience I remember, which remains meaningful. When I was fourteen, my dad died, and I knew it was time to be serious about my relationship with God. 

Eventually, I headed off to Canadian Bible College (CBC). It was a good thing I did. On the train trip from Toronto to Regina, Saskatchewan, about fourteen students were travelling together, including June Whittaker, my future wife! After travelling for two or three days, I am not sure she knew who I was or cared, but the rest, as they say, is history. 

June received Jesus as her Saviour when she was eight or nine years of age during a Vacation Bible School at the Alliance church in Belleville, Ontario. Earlier on, neighbours had invited her younger brother and June to attend Sunday school, and shortly after, her mother came to the Lord. Even later, during a deeper life campaign, June went forward and received Christ as her Sanctifier. Her family went to church every week, earning awards for perfect attendance year after year. June continued to be a part of that church throughout her teen years and was involved mostly in children’s ministry. 

Missions was emphasized at the church, and June felt God might be calling her to be a missionary. She had a lot of encouragement from various people in the church. So, after working as a secretary for two years following high school, June went to Canadian Bible College (CBC). During her time there, God confirmed that He did indeed want her to be a missionary. 

June and I were married in Belleville on September 7, 1957. In 1958, after graduation from CBC, we served in two pastorates—Thorold (1958-59) and Sudbury (1960-64), both in Ontario.

God’s Faithfulness in Giving a Harvest Among the Blaan 

June and I arrived in the Philippines during February 1965 along with our two children, Ron (5) and Debbie (3). We had no idea what would follow, only knowing we would be involved in ministry among a tribal or ethnic minority people group. 

After orientation in Zamboanga City, we moved to South Cotabato for ministry among the Blaan people group, eventually living in the small village of Kablon. Our house was a bamboo structure situated two thousand feet up on Mount Matutum. The scenery was delightful, and the climate was a little cooler than elsewhere in the country. We learned the Blaan language, one of eighty-seven different languages in the Philippines. 1 There were no medical facilities up in the mountains, so June was often called to minister to the sick even though she was not a nurse. Stephen (1966) and Kevin (1968) were added to our family during that term. 

After our first home assignment, we returned to Kablon, where we continued ministering to the Blaan during the first year. God enabled us to introduce several new villages to the Gospel, like Lam Fitak (meaning “in the mud”) during that year. 

Life took an unexpected turn when I was elected field director, and we moved to the Mission office in Zamboanga City. Over the next three years, our understanding of the church’s field-wide ministry and mission grew substantially. 

One major accomplishment during this tenure was a first working agreement between the Mission and the National Church. It created a clear picture of our working relationship. As part of that, I signed many, many pages of legal documents turning over all our mission-owned properties to The Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines (CAMACOP). 

During these years, CAMACOP began to pick up momentum, as evidenced by the first church growth program of 1974, called Target 400 ‘79. From 1975 through 1979, our goal was reached, and four hundred and fifteen new congregations were planted, almost doubling the number of churches in CAMACOP, bringing it to nine hundred and fifteen. 

Diane (1971) was born while we lived in Zamboanga, and her arrival completed the MacKinnon family. June taught at the missionary kid’s school in Zamboanga and managed the mission guest home. 

During our second home assignment (1975-76), we lived in Glendale, California, where I studied at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission in Pasadena. I took training in Theological Education by Extension (TEE) and writing programmed instructional material. My studies prepared me for my work in this area for much of my remaining missionary career. 

At the beginning of our third term, we returned to the Blaan ministry, combined with starting the Alliance Theological Education by Extension program (ALL-TEE) for the CAMACOP. We had chosen to move to General Santos City for the TEE program because we also wanted to keep working among the Blaan who lived in the nearby mountains. 

If it was our plan to major in TEE and minor in Blaan ministry, God quickly turned us around. Between 1976 and 1978, God broke through among the Blaan people. In less than two years, we planted churches in thirteen villages previously untouched by the Gospel, baptizing seven hundred and fifty-one new believers. I cannot think of anything more exciting than sharing the Gospel with people who have never heard the good news of salvation. We had this privilege! 

It all started in 1976 when God led us to some Blaan students studying in General Santos City. They wanted us to go with them to their nearby village, Subeng Makar. We started teaching the people there, and as the work progressed, Edwin Ansang, a Blaan pastor, joined us along with his wife. Some of the people were from Blagan; they invited us to visit their village, about sixteen kilometres up in the mountains. Our first meeting place was under some mango trees, and then we went to Blianek (“chicken leg”), where we met in the shade of a house. 

We then started services in San Jose. The leader, or barrio captain, of the nearby village of Maan was in San Jose the day of the first service, and he invited us to his village. A service was held in Maan that same day, meeting under a house built on stilts. And so it went. We were invited to village after village as those who received Christ also wanted their families to hear the Good News. 

There was something different about this rapid spread of the Gospel; it was a genuine people movement. For approximately three months, we would go to the same village on a specific day each week. Edwin Ansang and I taught them the Word of God starting with the creation of the world, the beginning of man and of sin, the results of sin, and God’s remedy for sin, the coming of a Saviour. There were four lessons on the Old Testament ending with Moses and the Ten Commandments. We then taught about the life of Christ, His miracles and then what Christ taught about Himself, the “I Am’s.” How thrilling to tell them about the works of Jesus, the feeding of the five thousand, other miracles, and healings! They sat in amazement as they listened. 

Often June would teach the children, and some older women liked to join her because she used pictures when she taught. The people were so excited when we told them Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We saw many people healed when, in simple faith, they trusted Jesus. 

After three months of teaching in a village, when we felt the people were ready to decide for the Lord, we had decision day. Decision day simply involved all those who were sincere standing to indicate they chose Christ and repeating a prayer of confession of faith, led by Edwin. They were then instructed to share their testimony, and they gladly confessed Jesus as their Saviour. 

After decision day, there were six more lessons, one each week, in preparation for baptism. Each person was personally interviewed before being baptized. What a thrill these baptisms were! The first baptismal service was held at the seashore, with one hundred and three baptized from two different villages. And so it went. They were baptized in groups of about twenty-five to fifty-nine, ultimately leading to seven hundred and fifty-one baptisms and thirteen new churches, with others in progress. After being baptized, each group of Christians would select four leaders for their new church. 

We also started a lay pastors’ training program. The four leaders chosen from each church would come to the Lay Preachers’ Institute (LPI) three days each month. Some of these men took what they learned at LPI and taught it in their own churches, and some of them started new congregations. They used the same method Edwin and I had used. There was no one else available to teach these new believers, so we went to their villages for an occasional Sunday service or Bible conferences lasting two or three days to augment the lay preachers’ ministry. 

God has given abundant blessings. There are now well over one hundred and eighty churches among the Blaan in this area; they have their own district and Blaan district superintendent. Edwin is now with the Lord. The LPI continues as the Pastors’ Bible School. A few of the first lay pastors are still preaching and planting churches. Some of their children and other Blaan young people have gone to Bible college and have come back to pastor churches. God continues to build His Church among the Blaan over more than forty years since we left. 

In 1978, with one year remaining in our third term, we left the Blaan work and moved back to Zamboanga because our son, Kevin, was not adjusting to school well. Following consultations with the teachers and a doctor, it was agreed that he needed his parents. 

At first, we were dismayed at the thought of moving away from the work God was doing among the Blaan, but after praying, we received assurance that God was leading us and would be with us to bless us wherever we went. Like Joshua in Joshua 1:9, we were not to be dismayed but were to trust God, who had already prepared David and Helen Douglas to continue our work. They were almost through their two years of Blaan language study when we left. 

We planned to concentrate on the TEE ministry working out of Zamboanga City so Kevin could live at home with us. However, within a few days Met Castillo, a classmate at the School of World Mission, submitted an official request to the Mission asking that I be assigned to teach at the graduate school of which he was president. 

I taught at the Alliance Graduate School of Theology and Mission as well as at Ebenezer Bible College. June taught at the missionary children’s school once again. Through all of this, the ALL-TEE ministry continued and snowballed with many centres and students. 

God’s Faithfulness in Protecting and Caring for Us 

I started this chapter by sharing one example of God’s protection. This was indeed a miracle! Trucks do not pivot on their rear wheels, but God made it happen, and we survived. That was not the only time God protected us. 

Blaan villages are usually up in the mountains. We had to travel by jeep over very rough roads, up narrow gorges, and through rivers. At least we hoped we would get through the rivers, but sometimes we got stuck, so we had to be pulled out by a carabao (water buffalo). These large but generally docile creatures are powerful. 

Some of these roads were on the side of a mountain, and it was scary experiencing how far the jeep would lean over! It was really muddy during the rainy season, making travel difficult, and in the dry season, it was very dusty. 

One time our daughter, Debbie, and June had to be rescued from our jeep, which was at risk of being carried away due to the heavy rains in the mountains causing the flooding of the road. 

We often had to leave the jeep and walk the rest of the way either because the road was not passable or was absent altogether. As you can imagine, it is sweltering walking in the tropics! We would walk along a path or road and sometimes through long grass, making us uneasy due to the Philippines’ many poisonous snakes. 

One day we were walking along a trail after leaving our jeep behind, and Edwin stopped us. He pointed back to where we had been walking, and in the paw print of a carabao was a curled-up snake. Edwin said June had stepped right over it and went on to tell us the name of the snake was “ltudo.” We knew the word meant noon and so were puzzled until Edwin explained, if the snake bit a person in the morning, they would be dead by noon. 

For one year, 1976-77, we used another missionary’s jeep while he was on home assignment. As we approached Blagan the first time, we could not see men pointing guns at us from behind banana plants along the road. It was good we had the barrio captain with us in the jeep! We found out later the rebel leader in that area had a jeep just like the one we were driving. 

This was a time of much rebel activity as Muslim and Communist armies fought against the government; sometimes, when we set out, the military would have roadblocks in place, and we were turned back. However, we had the freedom to travel for the most part, even though it was sometimes dangerous. We really sensed the Lord’s protection and care throughout the years, and we were not afraid. The Lord had given us the command to go, and in Matthew 28:19-20, He promises, “And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 

God’s Faithfulness in Church Planting in Metro Manila 

In 1978, I began teaching at the Alliance Graduate School (AGS) in Zamboanga City and following home assignment in 1979-1980, we returned to teach there. In 1982, the graduate school transferred to Metro Manila and became the Alliance Biblical Seminary (ABS). We moved with the school. 

June was not too happy about the move. She was quite content to keep teaching at the missionary kids’ school for grades one to six. Ebenezer Bible College and AGS were both situated on a beautiful campus right on the South China Sea, a contrast to congested, dirty Manila! 

June and I, along with senior ABS student Jun Aguilar, began a church-planting ministry in an area of Quezon City called Project 8. We started with Bible studies, film showings, visitation from October to March and then began services on Easter Sunday 1983. For one whole year, the attendance each Sunday either held its own or increased, but it never decreased. What a rewarding and fulfilling way to begin a church! Jun became the pastor of the Project 8 church after graduating. While planting this church, I worked on my Ph.D. at the University of the Philippines (Diliman) and taught full-time in the seminary. 

When we returned from home assignment in 1985 for our fifth term, we were asked to start a church in Makati City, Metro Manila. From 1985-1989 we worked first with Edwin Fernandez and then with Dave Cometa in establishing this church. I continued to teach at ABS as well. In 1986, I graduated from the University of the Philippines with a Ph.D. in education. A couple of months later, our son, Kevin, graduated from Dalat High School. The Alliance Church of Makati was established, but it was a long and difficult road, much more challenging than our Project 8 experience. 

We worked hard in the Alliance Church of Makati (ACM), continuing to pray and trust the Lord, but it was tough. Pastor Ed decided to take a vacation after about a year and never came back. He was so discouraged he just gave up. We were pretty discouraged ourselves. June remembers one day doing some visiting, talking to the Lord while she walked. He brought to mind the verse in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not be weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.” This was a turning point for her; we did not give up. We thank the Lord for His grace to persevere in this ministry, and eventually, we were able to purchase a church lot with a grant from the C&MA in Canada. 

We continued to work in the ACM for our sixth term, along with our TEE teaching. June had many TEE classes and was encouraged as her students grew in the Lord and took on responsibilities in the church. 

For several years, we also had memory verse programs at ACM. In 1987, to celebrate the C&MA centennial, there was a program in Canada to memorize one hundred verses on Jesus Christ our Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. The program encouraged us to do the same at ACM. Afterwards, we decided to continue the memorization program for the next year. We learned various parts of the Bible, one each month, such as the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, I Corinthians 13, Philippians 2:5-11, and portions of the birth and resurrection of Jesus, twelve portions in all. 

Then we memorized twelve portions from Psalms, another year, it was the book of Philippians (104 verses), and one year it was the Sermon on the Mount (111 verses). Men, women, and children were all involved; of course, we learned them as well. 

God’s Faithfulness in the TEE Ministry 

After teaching at the seminary from 1978 to 1989, I was asked to return to Alliance Theological Education by Extension (ALL-TEE) ministries as the national director. The program was still operating but seemed to lack direction and purpose. 

Returning in 1990 for our sixth term, I worked with the division of Theological Education of CAMACOP to create a new ALL-TEE national committee and re-establish the program. Agreements were signed with the six Alliance Bible colleges to give credit for the extension studies. Two full-time workers, Ed Cajes and Ferdie Pabrua, were hired to provide oversight in different regions of Mindanao and workshops were conducted to train centre leaders. 2 I did a lot of travelling during those days, and many were equipped for ministry as enrollment reached fifteen hundred students in more than seventy congregations. 

We were also involved in textbook production. We wrote Alliance History & Beliefs in 1993; what a thrill to see this book published! After spending months adapting Paul’s Life and Letters Book 1, it was a delight to finally see it in print. Just before we left the Philippines, we had Paul’s Life and Letters Book 2 ready to go to press. This had been a significant undertaking. We also worked on adapting a textbook on Genesis, which was being field-tested as we departed. 

Paul wrote to Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul taught Timothy expecting him to teach others. As TEE classes are conducted in the churches, local leaders are developed through learning and applying biblical lessons. TEE students are involved as pastors, lay leaders, and in teaching others. 

God’s Faithfulness in Enabling Us to Finish Well 

When we returned after home assignment for our seventh term in 1995, a new challenge greeted us. We were asked to pastor a congregation to reach out to the middle class and business people of Metro Manila. The Community of Christ Alliance Fellowship (COC) was a congregation with a few business people and many young professionals. For just over a year, Jack and Joy Herman held Sunday services, and they were leaving for home assignment. For one year, I was the senior pastor, doing most of the preaching. Afterwards, I continued to serve as an associate pastor alongside Jack and CAMACOP worker Rolman Lumapas. Benjie DeJesus, a 1996 graduate of Alliance Biblical Seminary, had interned with us during this time and became the senior pastor upon graduation. 

As the older member of the church staff serving with a pastor who was not yet ordained, it was my privilege and joy to often be asked to perform weddings and to dedicate babies. To become part of these families’ growth and development in the Lord has been a real pleasure and a lot of fun! It was a truly enjoyable ministry; June and I have many wonderful memories and friends from this congregation. 

The ministry at COC was not my only role. For example, I continued as ALL-TEE director until the end of 1998, when Reniel Nebab became the program director. 3 June and I also continued to concentrate on textbook production. 

From 1997 to 1999, our last two years on the field, I once again served as field director of the Philippine Mission of the C&MA. During my earlier tenure as field director, June had not been able to travel with me due to the birth of our youngest daughter. This time it was a real delight for June to travel throughout the Philippines with me, visiting missionaries in their homes and their areas of ministry. Overseeing and encouraging our missionaries gave us a renewed chance to have input into the total ministry of the Alliance missionary family. 

During our final year on the field, in my second year on the board, I served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Faith Academy, the world’s largest missionary children’s school. 

From time to time, we could make some visits back to see and minister to the Blaan. What a delight that was even though our Blaan-speaking became rustier. Just before we left the field, our daughter, Debbie, brought her daughter, Janet, on a visit to show her the places of her childhood. We went back to Kablon, where we first lived. We were all warmly welcomed by many friends and believers. 

As you can see, God has indeed been faithful to us in our varied ministries from the beginning and has enabled us to finish well. We are grateful to Him. 

We are also thankful for God’s faithfulness in giving us the grace to let go of our children. If we were to follow God’s call to be missionaries, we had to deal with being willing to send our children away to boarding school. This was the most challenging part of being a missionary. After just five months in the Philippines, we had to leave Ron, our oldest, at the missionary children’s school in Zamboanga for first grade when we moved to begin Blaan ministry. 

Upon retirement, it was difficult to leave the Philippines, our home for most of thirty-five years. It was difficult leaving Filipino friends and co-workers, brothers and sisters in the Lord who had become very close to us. We retired in 2001 and remain busy serving the Lord. We were delighted to return to the Philippines in 2001 for the centennial celebration of the C&MA there.

The Lord had promised, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother, or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). The Lord has fulfilled this promise. 

We think of Daddy Bulnes, Ron’s Ilongo daddy, and Mommy Pada, who was like a mother to us. Edwin Ansang was as close as any brother could be; the list goes on. We have many children and grandchildren in the Lord and are thankful for Facebook helping us keep in touch with some of them. 

During our missionary journey, thousands of folks have crossed our paths. From those who prayed for us, or supported us with missionary giving, to those who encouraged and challenged us, we have been incredibly blessed. Our journey has been amazingly enriched by those who taught, formed, and corrected us, as well as those we served with or ministered to. Our children have never complained about being missionary kids, our parents freely let us go, and all our family has been a wonderfully supportive treasure. From “A” [Abbot, mission office staff and friend] to “Zed” [Ruth Ziemer, missionary extraordinaire], we have been blessed. No one ever deserved such a journey, but God is gracious. 

This is an excerpt from the book, On Mission Volume 1. Download your free copy today.

  1. The people group and their language is pronounced with both ‘a’s sounded as in the word “blah” with a glottal stop in between. Bla’an. 
  2. As this is edited in 2021, Ed Cajes is the president of the CAMACOP which now has more than 3,300 congregations.
  3. When this was initially written in 2013, Reniel had become the CAMACOP president.



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