A young Christian woman in the Philippines whose speech impediment kept her in the shadows was devastated when her baby died before his first birthday.
At any church service or gathering in an undisclosed town on the island of Mindanao, Maria Dominguez* stayed back in a corner, according to the native ministry leader whose group founded the church. Shy by nature, Dominguez’s inability to clearly pronounce words further kept her from participating in activities requiring any speaking, he said.
The mysterious death of her baby a little over a year ago drove her further into her shell. In the past year she tried recovering from the trauma by selling snacks in her neighborhood, the ministry leader said. With this effort she also sought to supplement the small income her husband earned from some rice farming, carpentry and other odd jobs.
“Unfortunately, she did not have enough capital to finance her business,” the ministry leader said. “By God’s timing, that was also the time the ministry introduced the livelihood projects, and she was chosen to receive assistance from the program.”
“During the times that I was depressed because of the death of my child, the Lord strengthened me, and I realized that God really does love me and is interested in my life.”
As one of the poorest members of the church, Dominguez received assistance that helped her produce and sell sweetened sticky rice called kakanin, a local delicacy.
“The help I received greatly contributed to meeting my family’s economic and physical needs,” she said. “Also, during the times that I was depressed because of the death of my child, the Lord strengthened me, and I realized that God really does love me and is interested in my life.”
Her improved outlook and income resulted in her becoming more active in church outreaches, the native ministry director said.
“In fact, she is following up with two families she met in one of the outreaches,” he said. “She is very happy with what she is doing and is not bothered by her disability in serving the Lord, especially seeing that the Lord, through the livelihood assistance, is interested in her welfare. Serving Him and other people through Bible study is her best response to the Lord’s faithfulness and love to them. She is actively involved in witnessing and following up with her contacts.”
The ministry’s approach mirrors goals set forth in a recent Brookings Institution study that found poor women need more than capital in order to succeed in microenterprise projects. The Brookings study found that women need not only capital but a changed mindset that opens them to find and seize new opportunities, as well as business skills training, to succeed.
Native missionaries helped Dominguez holistically, training her in best business practices as well as teaching her that she can improve her life through faithful obedience to Christ.
The ministry’s microenterprise program provides capital at very low interest rates, protecting the poor from cycles of poverty that loan sharks perpetuate, the ministry director said.
“Definitely the money lent to them for their livelihood projects freed them from money-lenders/loan sharks who exacted so much interest,” he said. “Now that they are given opportunity to use money with very minimal interest, they now have more income for their needs. People thank God for these opportunities and live a freer life, happy and grateful for God’s workings in their lives.”
A loan recipient in another town began cattle-raising and transportation businesses, freeing up and inspiring his family to become more involved in church Bible studies, the director added.
“They are also actively participating in the witnessing activities of the church,” he said. “The commitment of the family of the recipient then contributed to the recommitment of other church members, because they were able to take some rest from the church work.”
Such community engagement projects shine a light that draws people to the gospel, he said.
“Such joy and blessings became apparent to neighbors who do not yet have a relationship with Christ, and slowly but surely, these people also come to the knowledge of Christ,” he said. “Vices such as gambling and drinking, which used to be the pastime of non-Christians in the community, are becoming less and less as people come to know the truth.”
Another loan recipient told the director that because of her microenterpise project, her husband became open to the message of Christ’s saving sacrifice.
“He accepted the Lord Jesus into his life and joined the Bible study of his wife,” he said. “Learning from the Bible, and the Holy Spirit’s power, gradually changed his life. He was once easily angered, but recently he was challenged to a fight, and he was able to keep his cool and just left the person who challenged him alone. He also became generous, lending some of his income to others, and he was able to give his tithes and to share some of his blessings with others.”
Native missionaries are bringing hope and transformation to people throughout Southeast Asia with such community engagement projects. Please consider a donation today to make these opportunities possible.
*Name changed for security reasons