Local Missionaries in Philippines
Local Missionaries in Philippines
A vast archipelago with 22,549 miles of coastline, the Philippines is comprised of more than 7,000 islands bordered by the Philippine Sea, South China Sea, Celebes Sea, and Taiwan—directly north of the country. Approximately 700 of the islands are inhabited, with 11 containing the vast majority of the population. Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south are the two largest islands.
Prone to devastating typhoons, the Philippine islands are covered in mountains and tropical rainforests. Around 132 people groups live in the more remote mountainous areas. Philippine culture is a mix of Eastern and Western cultures, including Spanish surnames, towns, and streets; and the widespread use of the English language.
An officially secular state, the Philippines has a democratic government with freedom of religion. The Catholic Church is highly influential, with more than 80 percent of the population identifying as Catholic. A large number of Catholics, however, practice a syncretistic blend of Catholicism, animism, and witchcraft.
The Protestant population is rapidly growing, creating a huge need for trained church leaders. Thousands of rural congregations languish without adequate leadership, falling into unbiblical teaching and moral failure. Thousands of pastors struggle to survive on the meager offerings of their congregations, and many view formal training as an unaffordable luxury.
Approximately 5 percent of the population is Islamic, as Muslims from the southern island of Mindanao, a hotbed of radicalism, move throughout the country. Muslims succeeded in obtaining an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, where Christians have long faced hostilities from Islamic militants and Muslim family members. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), comprised of five provinces, is free from the national government. BARMM is ruled under sharia law that separatist terrorists such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have long sought, with drastic reduction of rights for non-Muslims, regarded as second-class citizens.
Mindanao’s population is more than 20 percent Muslim, with most centered in the BARMM provinces, where Islamic missionaries arrived nearly 200 years before Spanish Catholic colonization began in 1565. The U.S. State Department has warned against travel to Mindanao since January 2009.
Despite the danger, a Christian Aid Mission-assisted ministry has led people to Christ among nearly all of the Muslim-majority people groups in Mindanao. Other ministries who work in dangerous regions report that some of their missionaries were martyred for the sake of the gospel. Financial support strengthens them and helps the gospel spread in the most difficult circumstances. Other needs include Bibles, motorcycles for missionary transportation, projectors to show gospel films, and funding for training, children’s programs, radio programs, free medical and dental outreaches in poor villages, and livelihood projects.
Sources: Joshua Project, CIA World Factbook, Operation World, U.S. State Department
How to Pray for the
- Pray that there would be witnesses for Christ soon among every people group in the Philippines
- Pray for courage, protection, and provision for indigenous missionaries working on the frontlines in some of the most dangerous areas of the Philippines.
- Pray that God would bring His growing Church to maturity, providing necessary resources, opportunities, and trainers to root them in the foundations of God’s Word.
More stories from the Philippines
The year began with the death under suspicious circumstances of a local missionary.
Before that, the director of a native ministry in the Philippines was stunned by the sudden death of a 43-year-old pastor he had known since childhood.
In March he and his wife lost their adult daughter to cancer. The challenges of COVID-19 lay before him as he learned to press onward in faith.
For local missionaries in remote areas of Southeast Asia, use of social media and Zoom as solutions to COVID-19 restrictions is not always possible and can sometimes be dangerous.
Ministry through social media posts in Indonesia or the Philippines can trigger hostilities from Islamic extremists or rebel militants, local ministry leaders said.
“We have to communicate with social media, but that can be a very big risk and dangerous for us as ministers, because there can be many sensitive things on it,” the leader of a local ministry in Indonesia said. “This is a very hard situation.”
Even as their own resources dwindle amid the global coronavirus crisis, local missionaries in the Philippines are taking extraordinary measures to get aid to needy people hit by the pandemic.
One volunteer missionary purchased goods to be distributed to the needy, but the next day he fell ill and self-quarantined, a ministry leader said.
As the symptoms of the novel coronavirus mimic those of the flu, the worker, like hundreds of thousands of people around the world, did not know if he had contracted the potentially deadly virus.
Local missionaries in the Philippines are facing steep challenges to help people afflicted by the coronavirus even as the pandemic threatens their own lives and families.
Doing dangerous drugs with her boyfriend by night and earning a decent wage by day, Sarah dismissed a male friend’s talk of eternal life in Christ.
In their native Philippines, they were too busy climbing the economic ladder in their urban metropolis to pay much attention to ancient things.
Things changed, though, when Sarah ran into her friend – and the gospel – in a place that seemed like another planet.
A law passed last year providing health care for all people in the Philippines takes effect this month, but that will not matter to remote villagers where there are no doctors or medical facilities.
Impoverished villagers have long suffered from lack of access to health care in the Southeast Asian country.
Against this backdrop, a 4-year-old boy in Mindanao whose hernia made it too painful to play with other children didn’t realize how lucky he was.