An Interview with Phil Manning
Letourneau University is blessed to have Phil and Mari Manning, and their daughter Anna, serving as the Missionaries in Residence this year. Because the Mannings are completely used to new places (having served in four different African countries), we want to give them a warm welcome, and help students get to know them a little better.
Mr. Manning’s story starts in Michigan, where he was born and raised by Christian parents. He had an enduring interest in aviation from his father, a multi-talented man who could pilot a plane, work as an electrician, and still manage the farm his family lived on. Manning pursued his interests by applying to Moody Bible Institute and enrolling in the aviations department. He majored in Missions Aviation, and graduated in 1987, ready and eager to begin work with a mission board.
Before she married Phil, Mari chose Moody both for its Christian focus and for her parents desire that she have some sort of training in the Bible. The year both Mannings graduated from Moody was big for more than one reason: they married shortly after graduating, and then joined Mission Aviation Fellowship. MAF had offered Mr. Manning a job even before he graduated, one that he accepted. He didn’t know it yet, but besides gaining valuable experience in the MAF hangers, he was preparing for his future vocation.
“We really got to know and love the staff there”, Manning remembered.
The newly-weds traveled to California, and after three short years, boarded a plane to Africa. Mrs. Manning says that one of the biggest challenges early on was raising support. The Mannings at first had only intended to go on a short-term trip, for two years, but by the end of their fund-raising, they found they were close to the amount needed regularly. “We were basically fully supported for the whole twenty-five years…” Mr. Manning recalled, “…the Lord showed us it wasn’t about finances.”
Ever since MAF was started in 1945, it has helped missionaries serve God in the neediest of places. The Mannings traveled first to a location where God was desperately needed: the Republic of Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of Congo. There, Phil made good use of his aviation major, helping fly supplies to and from villages. After evacuating Zaire in 1991, the Mannings moved to Mali, in West Africa, then to Mauritania. Over the course of their next fourteen years, the Mannings served the Lord in many ways. They served in management positions, taught French, educated students on how to use computers, set up networks for villages, and did whatever else was needed. All of their work was extremely beneficial, and often was vital to the country itself. Manning personally helped set up and manage the only communications villages in Mauritania had! “We were doing things the government should have been doing, and wasn’t,” he acknowledged.
After a full fifteen years of serving in Africa, the Mannings returned to California, where Mr. Manning worked to get his Masters in counseling. Both he and Mari spent time working at MAF headquarters. They then made a decision not many people could, or would ever make. They traveled back to Africa, choosing this time to travel to the war-torn country of Kenya.
Rift Valley Academy is located in Kenya, and is among the top-ranked schools on the African continent, with over 500 students. Mari Manning took on the challenge of working in a management position there, coordinating and directing the financial aspects of the academy. Manning says that while life in Africa is challenging, the Lord is always with them. He recounts a miraculous story where he prayed for a couple that couldn’t have kids. Mr. Manning knew the prayer was strange at the time, but he had faith in God, and a year later he heard the miraculous news. The man and his wife had a child!
In closing, Manning answered a question about his greatest accomplishment: “I think it was returning stronger [from the mission field] than we came in. Not getting burned out, fizzling out, rusting out, being drained, whatever; being able to maintain our testimony through hardships and unsafe times. We also know that there are people who are closer to God now because of us.”
Mr. Manning will be teaching courses here at Letourneau, and will be coordinating the mission’s emphasis week, as well as helping out with Mu Kappa and counseling. When you see the Mannings, make sure to say “Hi!” They both have some incredible stories from Africa, and would love to share with anyone interested.
Written by Ben McDonnel.