Dr. Tom & Linda Clinton
Our Story –
After forty years of ministry and over twenty years as the president of First Love International Ministries, Tom Clinton passed the baton to Phil Smith on March 1, 2023.
Phil and his wife, Jessica, have had a heart for global missions from early on. They were both raised in missionary families in Southeast Asia. Phil served as a pastor in Alaska for 10 years and then in global missions leadership for another 10 years before receiving an invitation to lead First Love into its next chapter. Having a son with Down syndrome has also opened Phil and Jessica’s eyes to the widespread need for ministry to vulnerable people groups. Phil and Jessica have four children and live in the Chicago area.
First Love from the start
Testimony from Dr. Tom Clinton,
Founder of First Love International Ministries
This is our story. I, like many in the church today, have been a very active follower of Christ and faithful church attender most of my life. I’ve read and studied my Bible for years, earned divinity and theology degrees, and served as a Sunday School teacher and on many church boards. I’ve been a Youth for Christ director, local church pastor, and overseas mission leader and yet, over the years, I felt that something was missing. I had an anxiousness in my heart that could only be relieved by busyness and change. I sensed that there had to be something more to the Christian life, but I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
Several years ago after I had just returned from an overseas trip to India, I began meditating on the Lord’s words which He gave to the Apostle John to write to the church at Ephesus, as recorded in Revelation chapter 2. I remember feeling burdened by the reproof these believers had received. Because even though they worked hard, did many good deeds, were very ministry minded, had their theology straight, and persevered under tribulation, the Lord told them they still lacked one thing…They had forsaken their first love.
This caused me to ask myself, “What was it that caused the loss of this group of believer’s initial passion for Christ?” My search for answers lead me to the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s gospel chapter 24 verse 12: Because of the increase of evil, the love of most will grow cold.
This verse challenged me, because I immediately knew that evil…and its by-products of wickedness and worldliness in my own life, were serving as a barricade to my intimacy with the Savior.
I began to realize that the something more that I had been looking for wasn’t something that I needed to “get” but something that I needed to “give”. I needed to give Jesus all of my heart, soul, mind and strength and seek to make Him the #1 object of my attention and affection in all facets of my life.
A.W. Tozer once said: The difference between believers today and the saints of old, is that when they felt the upward nudge of God, they did something about it.
In my response to a sensed call of God on my life and in my desire to “Do something” with my love for the Savior, I determined that if I ever founded a mission agency I would call it First Love. Seven years later the time was right and First Love International Ministries was born in February 2001 as a ministry of Exhortation…calling believers back to their First Love, Evangelization…introducing the lost to the One who loved them first, and Education…teaching them all that Christ has commanded.
And now, over 20 years later, God has allowed us to grow from a two person “ma and pa” organization, to a staff of over 350 full-time missionaries and national staff members serving in 14 countries around the world. But we don’t want to stop there…many doors are opening before us and it is our prayer that like-minded people would sense that tug of God to join with us as together we seek to reach out in love to those Jesus called…The least of these.
At First Love we seek to “flesh out” the passion of Christ before a lost and dying world. In our ministries we have deliberately chosen to major on those whom the world might consider to be the minors. And in that regard… our priority is to invest our greatest resources and energies on the least, because we recognize that whenever we reach out to the least of these, we do it for Jesus.
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me…Jesus.
First Love International
We are a non-denominational mission agency founded for the purpose of bringing love and hope to un-reached people residing in impoverished regions of the world.
At First Love we seek to “flesh out” the passion of Christ before a lost and dying world. In our ministries we have deliberately chosen to major on those whom the world might consider to be the minors. And in that regard... our priority is to invest our greatest resources and energies on the least, because we recognize that whenever we reach out to the least of these, we do it for Jesus.
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me...Jesus.