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Mindanao Ministry to Muslims

A ministry team travels by outrigger to an area along the coast of Mindanao that is best reached by boat.

Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines, has been the traditional homeland of Muslim Filipinos since the 15th century. The Muslim population is composed of many ethnic groups spread among the islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. These scattered islands can only be reached by pump boats. While the incidence of poverty is high, the lush, natural beauty of the place provides a clear picture of the Creator's handiwork.

Christian Aid helps 28 indigenous ministries in the Philippines that are working on islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago in areas where they are able to reach Muslims.

Introducing the Lord to these people is the prime goal of several indigenous ministries. Working within the framework of the culture, building friendships and helping in very practical ways, these native missionaries are making our Savior, Jesus Christ (Isa al-Masih, in Arabic) known.

In a country marked by conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, there are lingering wounds, and progress must be made in several different ways. Islam is not just a religion, but covers every aspect of life, including economics, politics and culture. Several of the native missionaries have themselves come from Muslim backgrounds, so they know what they are up against in reaching their own people.

Because of the danger involved in this mission field, specific details may not be given. Yet the people who are reaching out in the name of Christ have counted the cost and decided that the harvest will be well worth it. One Christian leader started a kindergarten, beginning with 52 children of a native tribe and one Christian child. With Christian Aid's help it has since expanded to include an elementary school, a high school and churches. The student population is now more than 75% Muslim. "Today we have a number of Muslim students who have fully devoted their lives to Christ," reports the school director, whose own life has been threatened. "They have gone on to Bible school to further serve Christ by spreading the gospel."

A church planted by an indigenous ministry in the Philippines.

One young Muslim boy who was reached with the gospel and desired to serve Christ became a church planter. Later he also set up an orphanage, a school and a church. It is easy to see that the Lord is working to bring people to Himself. As more Muslim students turn to Christ, they see the need to return to their home areas to tell their own people about Jesus. This is very dangerous work, sometimes requiring the gospel workers to move away to safer ground for periods of time. Yet the work goes on.

"Story-telling is the best avenue for discipleship and evangelism," says one native Filipino missionary. "Creating a hunger and thirst for God's Word," he continues, is his prayer for those he seeks to reach. The desire of his heart is that "leaders will soon be raised up to lead their own people." Realizing the challenges, the need is to approach people with the gospel in the context of their culture and in their local language.

Education is another important avenue for evangelism. In many areas orphanages have provided housing, food, schooling and Christian nurturing to poor and orphaned children. Some parents had been killed in tribal warfare, while others were out working long hours, often leaving the children neglected and malnourished. This outreach opened the doors for the community to see Christian love in action. Adult classes, as well as women's outreach programs, have been established and continue to operate with contributions from Christian Aid. Vocational training helped other Muslims to provide better for their families.

One indigenous ministry received funds from Christian Aid to build this well.

Some of the challenges these native missionaries face stem from extremist groups and fundamentalists. One particular island is a known training ground for Abu Sayyaf, known for brutal terrorist activity linked to Al Qaeda. Dangers are also inherent in travel by sea, as well as on land. Despite the hardships associated with this area, there are now over 100 house churches among one targeted unreached people group in Mindanao.

Clearly, hearts are being softened by God Himself and through much prayer. The gospel workers have clear goals: reaching out to Muslim tribes, establishing house churches, community development, and having "former Muslims reaching Muslims for Christ." They know that in the Muslim culture, the men are the ones in the leadership role both in the family and the community. Having access to heads of households is vital to accomplishing their aims. This is not an easy task, but nothing is impossible with God.

The people can see the love of God in very practical ways. It is made manifest through the provision of basic services offered to them through the native missionaries. Some of these are health care, sanitation services, well-drilling for fresh water, medical missions and literacy programs. Water-collecting cisterns provided to communities for safe water demonstrate the concern and love these Christians share. New believers appreciate the support, encouragement and kindness offered by their Christian brothers and sisters.


SC: WEBCAM