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Abraham's Seed Blesses Another Nation

April 21, 2016

A teacher guides villagers through the Bible in Mindanao Province, Philippines.

To a people in the Philippines who had no knowledge of the God of the Hebrews, a native ministry followed the Apostle Paul's example at the Aeropagus and began with the creation (Acts 17:22-31) — then continued chronologically through the narratives of the Hebrew scriptures to the New Testament.

It may have taken eight months to get to the suffering of Jesus, but by then an entire village was on the edge of its collective seat waiting to see what would happen next. The indigenous ministry had built such strong relationships with one of the Manobo tribal peoples in northern Mindanao that all villagers, including children, were attending teachings on the Bible.

In sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they listened to teaching on the biblical narratives. The powerful stories of Abraham's offspring began to reveal the promise of Genesis 22:18, "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." The indigenous missionaries who presented the Bible chronologically were near-culture natives who spoke the tribal people's language and understood their culture as they laid the foundation for God's redemptive work, the ministry director said.

"The week before presenting the gospel lesson was a week of suspense," said the director, whose name is withheld for security reasons. "Everyone was in anticipation as to what would happen to Jesus after He was arrested by the Jewish leaders. To make the teaching of the gospel that night more vivid, the teacher inserted a brief video clip of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus from the movie, 'The Passion of Christ.'"

In a country that is 92 percent Christian, the majority Catholics often mix native animistic beliefs into their practice and are unaware of salvation by faith. In the undisclosed village in Mindanao, the largely animistic people had no knowledge of the resurrection of Christ or its significance. The director said they reacted viscerally to the film, with some expressing anger at the mistreatment of Jesus by Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers.

"One of the old men emotionally said, 'How I wish I could be by Jesus' side and help Him!'" he said. "But after the truth had been explained concerning the death and resurrection of Christ as God's only provision for man's salvation, a feeling of awe and amazement was felt."

Villagers expressed understanding of the lesson and professed faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, he said.

"Finally, after consistently teaching over the past eight months from Genesis onward, we were able to present the gospel, and nearly the whole village responded and trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior," he said. "It was a great joy for us to see them understand the saving grace of Jesus for salvation; some cried as they shared their testimony of faith."

The following day, a Sunday, every adult in the village was willing to speak of their response to the teaching, he said. One elderly man who said he had put his trust in Jesus as the promised Messiah concluded, "He suffered so much for me. I'm glad He rose again from the dead."

An 84-year-old woman said that she was grateful to hear what Jesus had done on the cross for her, and that although she had little time remaining in this world, she knew that heaven was her sure home because of what Christ did for her. Her husband also put his faith in Christ.

Children in northern Mindanao Province follow the chronological flow of biblical stories in pictures.

A shy man who was usually uncomfortable being around many people, much less addressing them, said that he was in awe of the greatness of God's love for him that He gave His Son to die for his sins.

"He said that he now trusted Jesus as his Savior," the director said. "Many more Manobo, both children and adult, expressed faith in Jesus. Truly, God is at work in the lives of these people, moving them from darkness to light, into His eternal kingdom.'

The ministry won such an audience for the teaching by developing relationships cultivated through community improvement projects, overseen by the director's wife. The overall strategy of the ministry is to send native missionaries to live in tribal communities where they set up social and community projects, translate the Bible into local dialects, teach the Bible chronologically, plant churches, raise up leaders and train them.

In areas where it is not practical for leaders to travel to the ministry's bases for training, the ministry also conducts specialized training seminars in two phases, a basic Bible course and a missionary training course. A 10-month internship follows under the leadership of a senior missionary.

"Statistically, it would appear that the majority of Filipinos are Christians," the director said. "However, while many people may consider themselves Christian, their beliefs are often mixed with former animistic rituals and superstitions. Secondly, as is true everywhere in Asia, Islam is on the rise and a constant threat to evangelization. Lastly, there are tribes that have never heard the gospel message."

The native beliefs of the various Manobo peoples involve many unseen and intrusive spirits, both good and evil, but each tribe holds to a "great spirit" that is usually viewed as a creator — a potential bridge figure for introducing the creator God of the Bible. At the same time, ancient Manobo legend tells of how man was created to live forever, but a bird traded man's "life breath" for a piece of kemp string, eliminating immortality.

"From that time on, the Manobo were taught that no one has been raised to heaven," the ministry director said. "Yet they still yearned to leave this world of poverty, sickness, hunger and death to a place of eternal bliss. Today, many of these villages have heard the gospel message and know they have a place in the eternal kingdom through Jesus Christ, their Savior."

To help indigenous missionaries meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 801NTMP. Thank you!

Send workers to unreached tribal people; Philippines
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