Phil Skellie served as president of CAMA Services from 1998 to 2013. On February 22, 2017, he died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. He was 68. You can now watch the full service of Phil’s memorial service here.

As stories about Phil flooded into our office last week, we continued to see the words he spoke made a lasting impact. People around the world lovingly refer to them as “Phil-isms.” We want to share a few with you.

1. “So how did I do it? Tread water vigorously and yelled ‘help!’ He answered in a timely fashion—in the nick of time and not a moment sooner.”

2. “A word of advice during your first year of cross-cultural service: treading water is a victory. The God of the Impossible can certainly magnify your impact in amazing ways, but I encourage you to lower expectations for yourself during this year. Cut yourselves some slack, because our Creator understands that we are clay-based, fallible beings who need time to get our feet on the ground and our tongues in gear as we integrate into a new culture and climate.”

3. “Local perspectives are key to ownership and sustainability pillars of developmental thinking.”

4. “To dwell above with those we love that’s our hope in glory. To work below with those we know now that’s a different story!”

5. “God’s work done in God’s way never lacks for God’s support.”


6. “Look for positive deviants when starting something new.”

7. “As John Wayne says, ‘A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do’ or was that Jesus?” (Luke 18:29-30)

8. “What you have to say, your perspective, is important to the work.”

9. “One rule of thumb we have followed is to never disparage either the country or the dominant religion in a country. Keep the focus on the joy of following Jesus.”

10. “God qualifies you. Don’t miss opportunities.”

11. “The word often on my lips during these days of world turmoil is ‘Maranatha.’ He delays His return because He does not want any to perish, so we keep serving while longing for His coming.”

12. “Organizational vision, mission, values, and policies should be able to be written on a 3×5 card.”

13. “What is your maximum impact for God?”

14. “Taking the gospel to the nations brings the reward of the return of Christ. So, let’s get busy; there’s work to do.”

15. “Do what God has called you to do, as Simpson did, and good things will happen.”


16. “If you put a bull in a boxcar in Houston, what do you have when it gets out in New York? A bull! Moving it didn’t make it something different. If you want to be a missionary, start being a missionary now, here at home. If you aren’t a missionary here, you won’t suddenly become one in another country.”

17. “Be sure of truth, speak it, and act on it with consistency.”

18. “Keep it simple. Less is more. Use common sense.”

19. “Don’t count the time, but make the time count.”

20. “When will I stop flying around the world? When He calls me home or the job gets done” (Mt. 24:14).

So, how do we use words to describe Phil?

At Phil’s memorial service, U.S. Alliance President John Stumbo finished with this poem about Phil’s life. The words come from stories and tributes mentioned during the service.

Phil in Guinean outfit Apr2013

Salty, Phil.
Compassionate, earnest,
Man of values, Phil.
Sugar-cane-chewing, book-ignoring,
Bible-memorizing, people-believing,
Out-on-a-limb-living, Phil.
Sacrificial-giving, family-loving,
Justice-defending, mercy-showing,
Multimillion-miler, toothy smile,
Twinkle-eyed, wisdom-sharing,
Global-legacy-leaving, Phil.
Water-buffalo-riding, Fourteener-climbing,
Others-serving, thousands-blessing,
Ministry-leading, team-recruiting,
Anything-eating, friend-insulting,
Risk-taking, moments-seizing,
Promise-believing, presence-of-Jesus-entering,
Example-leaving, God-glorifying, subversive,
Mad, Phil.

by John Stumbo