Tribal factions in an area of the Philippines were hostile toward each other until native missionaries brought banana, corn and gospel seeds.
Members of the tribe, unidentified for security reasons, lived in tense isolation from each other due to decades of conflict that at times flared into war. At first, native missionaries arrived not with a message of eternal life but with the suggestion of community farming.
For the local missionaries, the suggestion was based on the biblical tenets of inter-dependent community, fruitfulness and creativity as people made in the image of a triune, fruitful and creative God. For the tribal villagers, it was just a necessary evil; persuading the factions to work common lands was not easy, but the villagers knew they were in desperate need for income.
As they began to work toward the common goal of providing food that could be marketed with enough left over to feed themselves, they began to live together more closely and formed new hubs of community, the leader of the native ministry said.
“With the missionaries facilitating, they planted corn and bananas for sources of livelihood,” the leader said. “But coupled with this was the missionaries’ promise that they had a more important matter to share with them besides the development of their community.”
Having already experienced a measure of reconciliation, the villagers were primed to learn of the one God who reconciles wrongdoers to Himself by sacrificing the Holy One.
“As the missionaries were able to speak the tribal language, people then became interested to learn from them,” the ministry leader said.
The workers began teaching villagers about Christ, and within a year most of them had put their faith in Him. A local church emerged, he said, and the community has also flourished; harvest profits have enabled people to meet the costs of the education for their children.
“The corn and bananas were sold in the town, producing resources for the people – they have been doing this up to now, being able to help the community a lot as well as the church,” the leader said. “Changes in the community took place as they learned more about the Lord and by faith trusted the Lord Jesus for their salvation, and also how the Lord continues to bless them. Big changes take place among the tribe as they continue to plant corn and bananas as their source of income.”
Power of Transformation
People in other villages have taken note of the success of the bananas/corn project, and local missionaries are replicating the program in those areas as well.
“Other villages are also inviting the missionaries, and so outreach is growing,” the leader said. “We are now going to assign more missionaries this month in the area to address the growing need.”
The power of God to transform entire communities includes multiple stories of individual transformation. A woman of the same tribe in another area – who is a local chieftain, a rare example of a female taking that role among her ethnicity – recently came to faith in Christ and reflects the kind of teaching the local ministry practices. Local workers offer a lengthy, whole-Bible approach that starts with Genesis and progresses toward the life and death of Christ.
“It is a long series, preparing people for the eventual presentation of the gospel,” the ministry leader said. “It is part of the effort to inculcate a worldview change from animistic, them being tribal, to the biblical worldview.”
The chieftain was deeply grounded in the teaching, and it helped her become a stellar example to her village, he said.
“She was part of a batch that was baptized, and in her testimony, she expressed that since trusting in Christ, her life then became easier – not that the world changed, but because there was a change in her heart,” the leader said. “When she started to trust the Lord, the change came because there was a change in perspective: Now she knew that Jesus cares, and He holds the future.”
A tribal man who was baptized at the same time also found peace in a biblical worldview. Under teaching that first lays a foundation of the holiness and greatness of God, the sinfulness of humanity and the need for a redeemer, he received an opportunity to think deeply about issues and discuss them with local missionaries, the leader said.
When he put his faith in Christ, he saw to it that his family also received the same foundational teaching on which to decide whether to receive His grace. The leader said, “In his testimony, he said, ‘We are now one in our worship of God. Before we feared the spirits, but now it is no longer the case because we have the Holy Spirit in us, and we pray to Him. He is more powerful than the spirits that we always feared.’”
Local missionaries are providing solid foundations for deeply rooted Christians throughout the Philippines. Please consider a donation today to equip and encourage them to expand God’s kingdom.