By Kelsey McFaul
Rhoda Lyn Dayo on God’s timing and ownership at Frontline Christian Academy, Philippines
“In the first several years of my leadership role, I remember I felt like a football player running around the field, just running and running and running. The coach is standing on the sidelines saying, ‘Hey, what are you doing? You don’t even know the game plan. Stop running around.’”
As the new director of Frontline Christian Academy in 2009, Rhoda Lyn Dayo was full of audacious dreams and big plans for the small school in San Pablo City, Philippines, including a $500,000 land acquisition and building project.
FCA is a Kindergarten-12th grade Christian education academy operating under the umbrella of Rhoda’s father’s founding ministry Philippine Frontline Ministries (PFM). The school began in a doublewide, air-conditioned trailer to serve the children of PFM staff, but its scope expanded when PFM reached out to abandoned and abused street youth through its Face the Children initiative. Today, the academy serves approximately 155 children including local community and pastors’ and missionaries’ families; about a third of its students are former street children.
“I made this big push for a new school project. I was doing the footwork and pushing, pushing, pushing, but it was more my efforts than me relying on God’s guidance and decision. And it didn’t work. It didn’t happen.
“When you’re young and kind of naive and maybe a bit too passionate, you just push and push. The older people around here are like, ‘Hey, slow down. You got big audacious dreams, but you’ve got to slow down.’”
For Rhoda, slowing down meant surrendering the timeline and control of the school project to God. As a steward leader, Rhoda realized she wasn’t the owner of her dreams for a new school site but merely the manager of the dream God had for FCA.
“Again and again in my prayer time, in my devotional time, I experienced God telling me, ‘Hey, settle down. It’s not your project; it’s Mine.’”
Several years later, in 2015, Rhoda attended a one-week stewardship course through Asian Theological Seminary in Manila. She studied under Dr. Scott Rodin and read his book The Steward Leader, where she learned about the surrender that occurs in four aspects of a steward’s life: their relationships with God, with self, with others, and with creation.
Learning about stewardship was transformative and began to impact the way Rhoda envisioned her work at FCA.
“[Scott’s] course and the book is really changing lives. After the class, we did a strategic planning meeting with our board and re-wrote the vision of our school. The vision now is to see Frontline Christian Academy impacting the nation through the development of Godly steward leaders.”
The impact of stewardship permeates the lives not only of Rhoda, her board, and her students, but the relationships she cultivates with those she manages as well.
“I’m in the mindset of, I’m not in control….It’s affected the way I manage and lead my people because I want them to be successful. I don’t want to be the head honcho giving orders and giving commands. I want them to rise up as leaders of themselves, as the leaders of their families, professionally and spiritually, mentally and physically sound and healthy.
“We’re all on the same journey. We’re in different places in different levels but we’re all fellow stewards on a journey. I look at the people in my office, my admin staff, my teachers, and I see them like that.”
Viewing her employees as fellow stewards also impacts the ways Rhoda allocates time and measures success.
“It’s changed the way I look at scheduling. I let my people out really early, 3:30 every day. I don’t want you spending overtime here; go home. I spend a lot of time with my staff talking about their relationships with others, crying about their kids or their brothers…their family problems.
“I view that as success because I’ve seen several of the staff we’ve hired who did not know the Lord come to Christ because of their work at our school. We don’t look at money or profits as the only bottom line, but we look at how healthy and how happy our people are, and if they are being good stewards of their lives.”
But Rhoda, like every steward leader, has strengths and weaknesses in terms of the range of relationships she stewards and surrenders.
“The greatest challenge, to be honest, is the relationship with myself and the way I personally manage my time, the way I carry out my daily tasks–the way I care take of myself.”
As FCA began to consider the school building project again, Rhoda felt her stewardship of self slipping away. At the same time, her desire to own also reemerged.
“I really wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t living a balanced life. I wasn’t eating well, sleeping well. For me, half a million dollars is a lot of money, and that’s what our group had to raise. There have been times where I couldn’t sleep. I get palpitations, my heart starts racing. My mind just won’t shut off.”
Again and again, Rhoda claimed the promise and freedom of the faithful steward, reminding herself that the job was not hers, but God’s. This allowed her to be her relational, happy self, and she was able to build a close relationship with a landowner approached by FCA.
“I feel like God has called me to just steward a relationship with her because she strikes me as lonely. She’s 85. She lives in a huge mansion with her husband and one unmarried child. I don’t feel like I have to be bound by this strategic relationship where I have to close a business deal. No. I’m called to love her. There’s been times that we’ll just talk over the phone about family, and she’ll be crying, and I’ll be able to pray with her.”
Seeing herself as the manager of God’s school building project frees Rhoda to pursue and steward relationships without worrying about or calculating their value. In surrendering ownership, she opens herself up to the freedom and joy of the steward leader.
“I have this mentality where I don’t have to stress out because it’s not my project. I can literally relax in my mind and my spirit knowing that God’s going to be in control.”
And as so often happens, provision follows. In September 2017, a few days before her interview with Steward Leader Stories, Rhoda and FCA received the title to the land they’d raised $500,000 and waited 5 years for.
“When we got it, I wasn’t surprised. I was like, I knew this was going to happen. I wasn’t thrilled because of my performance or my dad’s performance, because it wasn’t mine to perform anyways. I knew this was going to happen because I gave it [back] to God, and I knew He was going to provide.”
Five years after Rhoda’s audacious and hurried dreams, FCA is embarking on a new era of building and expansion to meet the educational, physical, and spiritual needs of the children in the Philippines. The journey of stewardship has transformed her sense of time and leadership, and with them, her role in God’s audacious and unhurried dreams.
“I’ve learned to slow down. There’s so much to be learned by being still and waiting patiently on the Lord and allowing Him to move instead of you….If it isn’t by God’s hand then it isn’t going to be truly successful.
“We often say, ‘Lord bless our work.’ But for me, it’s always, ‘Lord, it’s not my work, it’s Your work. Thank you for letting me be a little bitty part of your work.’”