First Love International

About Us

We compassionately surround the most vulnerable with wholistic, Jesus-saturated love.
First Love International T-Shirt Image

Together, we can see the most vulnerable around the world, thrive.

First Love is passionate in our pursuit of one ambitious goal: surrounding the most vulnerable with Jesus’ love, and while we know we aren’t perfect and the need is huge, we’re hopeful. We know that wholistic, Jesus-saturated love is the way forward for the most vulnerable to experience healing and hope, and to thrive.

Every day, thanks to the support of local partners and generous friends, we link arms to see the most vulnerable become thriving disciples of Jesus, immersed in community and using their gifts for the benefit of others.

First Love International was founded by Tom and Linda Clinton in 2001 along with a small group of supporters who served as the first Board of Directors. At that time, initiatives began in Kenya, the Himalayas, and the Philippines. Now First Love’s ministry partners and missionaries span the globe in over a dozen countries on 5 continents.

Why

"First Love?"

Long before founding First Love International, Tom Clinton was convicted by Jesus’ warning in Revelation 2. To Christians who had accurate beliefs and great endurance, Jesus identified something critical that was missing: they had abandoned their first love (Rev. 2:4). Gone was the joy they had in Jesus when they initially trusted in Him. Genuine love for those around them had faded away. Tom realized, as he put it: “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.” From that point on, he determined that if he ever founded a mission agency, he would call it First Love. And in 2001 that’s exactly what happened.

We continue to cherish this name because it guides our ultimate purpose: to respond to God’s love for us by growing in our love for Him along with our care for others. Plus, it expresses our approach to ministry: we first seek to genuinely love the most vulnerable. We then introduce them to the One who has inspired and empowered our love: Jesus.

Who

We’re Called To Love

At First Love International, we focus on the most vulnerable. People who are considered ‘the least of these’ in their society, often hidden away, voiceless, abused, and outcast. Whether orphaned children, women with unexpected pregnancies, widows or ostracized people groups, people with disabilities or girls who have been rescued from trafficking, we are intentionally not prescriptive. So while we are narrowly focused on the “most vulnerable,” we are extremely open as to “who” each culture may define the most vulnerable to be. Our singular desire is to see the most vulnerable become thriving disciples of Jesus all over the world.

How

We’re Called To Love

Wholistic Care:

We achieve this through wholistic care and support, ensuring that all needs, not just the basic ones, are met. We address the needs of the whole person, whether emotional, educational, vocational, physical, social, or judicial, and especially spiritual. Special attention is given toward ensuring that this is all saturated in love that points to Jesus in word and deed. We believe this is where hope and healing are possible.

Mutual Partnerships:

We partner with local, compassionate partners to provide wholistic care, connecting experts in the field with the local church and global believers.  We want to see God’s people activated into God’s work all around the world. 

Within our partnerships, we all have the same desire to compassionately surround the most vulnerable, so they can thrive. We need one another to this end; therefore, we seek partnerships that are mutualistic, benefiting all involved, to eliminate the concern of power imbalance and safeguard against doing more harm than good. 

Our Values

We operate with the following values and beliefs:

We believe God has revealed himself and His ways in the Bible, therefore, we value the Gospel and biblical wisdom permeating everything we do.

We believe God’s Spirit is the one who ultimately produces fruit in and through us, therefore, we value prayerfully depending on the Holy Spirit for direction and for true transformation.

We believe our world and every person in it is deeply and profoundly broken, therefore, we value gentleness in our interactions with one another and intentionality in addressing the unending complexities of healing within ourselves and those around us.

We believe that God has created every person in His image with multifaceted beauty, dignity and purpose, therefore, we value wholistic ministry that intentionally cares for each person’s unique needs, such as their spiritual, social, emotional, intellectual, judicial, vocational, educational, economic and physical needs.

We believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross both saves and guides us, therefore, we value loving others with courage, compassion and grace.

We believe God’s Kingdom will thrive only as His children humbly and generously work together, therefore, we value carefully learning and receiving from believers of other cultures and backgrounds so that our collaboration is genuinely mutual.

We believe this ministry belongs to God and only by His kindness are we invited into it, therefore, we value integrity, humility, and the praise that God deserves for all accomplished.

Phil Smith and Family

Our President

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 in early 2023. Phil earned his Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Divinity Evangelical School in 2020 and enjoys engaging in thought-conversations about leadership. 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.

Our Team

Located in over a dozen countries, our team has the unique opportunity to connect with some of the most vulnerable people around the world and wholistically surround them with Jesus-saturated love.

The Founders Tom and Linda Clinton

Our Founders

After many years of pastoral and missions experience, Tom and Linda Clinton founded First Love International Ministries in 2001. With the encouragement of supporters around them, they sensed a clear call to start a mission agency that focused on “the least of these.”

After 22 years of fruitful leadership, Tom passed the President/CEO baton to Phil Smith in 2023.

Tom & Linda remain on staff with FLI continuing to do what they love best: share the love and hope of Jesus with the marginalized, abused and downtrodden. They are currently focusing their energies on the countries of Kenya, the Philippines, and the USA, but are open to God’s call whenever and wherever. In their free time you can usually find Tom and Linda working in their flower gardens, interacting with their kids and grandkids, or playing golf. Tom also spends an inordinate amount of time in silence and solitude while exercising on jogging paths around the world.

Our Board

Our Board of Directors serves to protect First Love’s mission.

  • Mike Lentini
  • Angela Killian
  • Brandon Ramazzina
  • Bob Kopp
  • Jerry Winslow
  • Mike Addis

Ready to give some love?

Your donation will provide wholistic care and Jesus-saturated love to the most vulnerable, so they can thrive.

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