Philippines: Poverty and Terrorism Combine

One third of Manila's inhabitants live in poverty, the heart of which is the infamous Smoky Mountain. The nauseating stench of methane gas emitted from this 100-foot trash heap resembles a cloud of smoke, thus earning its name. The toxic environment offers these destitute dwellers a spectrum of maladies, including malnutrition, tuberculosis, dysentery, hepatitis, measles and skin rashes.

Children living at Smoky Mountain, Manila's oversized garbage dump, spend most of their young lives scavenging through filth to find a few items to sell in the markets in exchange for food.

Each day, 1,500 tons of garbage is piled atop Smoky Mountain. Men, women and children dig through this huge trash heap, desperately trying to eke out a living by scavenging for salvageable scraps of recyclable material or bits of food. The average family living at Smoky Mountain earns $1 a day.

The garbage heroine

One ministry leader lives in the midst of the filth of Smoky Mountain to run a preschool for children. The school not only prepares children with the basics they need to progress to a public elementary school, but also teaches them about Christ's love and sacrifice for them.

The small schoolhouse, crowded between larger government-built housing, is a safe haven for 200 children. But the leader's vision for the preschool is much larger. She is praying for the means to buy a piece of land for a building that can accommodate several thousand children.

Obstacles abound in this quest. She and her family have contracted many of the illnesses that fester in the repugnant location, and she consistently struggles to hold her ground against the government, which has targeted her preschool building as a site for additional assisted housing. Muslim terrorist organizations have also threatened to attack the school.

Reaching rebel groups

Young children at the Smoky Mountain preschool.

The southern Philippines is home to four Muslim rebel groups, the most extreme of which has engaged in abduction, kidnapping, bombing, assassination and extortion. The members of many Muslim tribes in the southern Philippines work for this extremist group to acquire a portion of the lucrative ransom payments demanded for the abductions.

Several years ago, a ministry in the southern Philippines was born with the goal of reaching these Muslim tribes with the gospel of Christ. In an attempt to share the gospel as well as improve their livelihood, this Philippine ministry launched a two-fold church planting and community development plan, which includes health care, literacy, Bible translation, gospel film presentations, preschool and student sponsorship programs.

The number of believers and house churches has rapidly increased, and ministry leaders are now being trained to administer community programs and open new mission fields.