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Band of Brothers: Ryan Tan

This is the second blog in a series of coworkers who have since become like brothers in ministry. You can read the introduction here and the first entry here.

Did you ever think you knew someone only to really get to know them and realize you had a completely wrong idea? That was my experience with Ryan.

When Ryan and I started working together, he was the campus director of Victory U-Belt and I was in the National Office.

Side Note: Ryan actually took my job. In 2005, Pastor Gilbert Foliente, as U-Belt’s new senior pastor, offered me that role. I was honored to be considered. And I said I would gladly start after my two month international trip, which had already been booked. Pastor Gilbert said that was fine.

When I got back, Ryan was already in U-Belt as the campus director. It was never really explained to me, but Pastor Gilbert and I had a good laugh. Looking back, he was the perfect guy for the job, and it was the best decision for everyone.

I knew Ryan from a distance. And the facts were pretty general things:

  • Great young leader from Lucena
  • Amazing preacher
  • Growing campus ministry, maybe from anointing, maybe coz he was supposedly a heartthrob
  • Liked to dance

But in 2008, Ryan and I were sent to the U.S. to study in the Every Nation School of Campus Ministry in Nashville. This would be the model for us to build a similar school in Manila.

For two months we were housemates and schoolmates. And I realized I didn’t know him at all.

I expected some kind of high energy, popular kid, life of the party, social butterfly. (I mean, dancer + preacher + hearthrob = what do you expect?)

Instead, he was the most socially boring housemate ever. Never wanting to leave the house except to work. Even a short coffee break with our classmates wore him out quickly.

But while I was wrong about him, what I learned was even better. He had a very sharp mind for strategy and leadership in campus ministry. On top of that, he seemed to have limitless energy for work stuff. He’d protest over spending more than an hour socializing, but we’d often be awake at three in the morning making plans for discipling Filipino students.

US Pics: Ryan amazed at snow
Nashville 2008: Ryan amazed at snow
Nashville 2008: Find the sleeping Filipino
Nashville 2008: Find the sleeping Filipino
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Nashville 2008: Naturally he couldn’t wait to get back at me.

By the end of the two months, we’d studied together, prayed for our future wives, and planned the future of our campus ministry a hundred times over. I didn’t realize how much we’d need that foundation of trust.

When we got back to Manila, Ryan and I had to work together, but from totally different poles. I was in the central office, trying to get everyone to move as one. Ryan had our strongest local center, with a lot of innovation but a tendency to leave the rest behind.

If we didn’t have our shared experiences, our years of working together could have been chaotic. Local versus National. Fragmentation versus Unity. Innovation versus Bureaucracy. But because we knew each other better we were able to manage those tensions.

I did my best to help Ryan see things from a regional, national, and international perspective. When that light switched on for him, he became even more formidable. And he helped with my blindspots, giving valuable insight on how our decisions and communication were perceived on the ground.

People who gravitated to my line of thinking talked to me. While more people agreed with him and followed him. But what they all eventually realized was that, Ryan and I were leading from the same playbook.

Soon, this new generation of our campus directors – including Patrick Mercado, Dan Monterde, and Robert Gonzalez – helped transition in a brighter time for our campus ministry.

Things I learned from working with Ryan:

1. If you wanna know someone, share your life with them.
Almost ten years of shallow greetings in big events taught me nothing about Ryan. But those two months in the same house laid the foundation for our friendship that grows today. Don’t settle for across-the-hall pleasantries, get to know each other.

2. Be open to learning.
Learn from one another. Learn about one another. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with Ryan without learning about the last book he read, podcast he listened to, or what God was teaching him.

3. Make allowances for one another’s differences.
Too many of us want to remove differences from our teams. It makes us uncomfortable for someone to have a different perspective. But if you can make them work, you’ll have a powerful team.

 

2011: Both married now, traveling with our wives to represent Every Nation at an international meeting of campus ministries.
2011: Both married now, traveling with our wives to represent Every Nation at an international meeting of campus ministries.
Presenting Together: Both our perspectives gave a more complete picture of the organization.
Presenting Together: Both our perspectives gave a more complete picture of the organization.
Suffering Together: Waiting for our wives to finish shopping.
Suffering Together: Waiting for our wives to finish shopping.
Can't blog about him without using this picture. Ryan preaching a powerful message at our 2008 campus conference.
Can’t blog about him without using this picture. Ryan preaching a powerful message at our 2008 campus conference.
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