Much like the hard work required to bring vitality to dry, nutrient-lacking soil, it has taken many years of dedicated teaching and patient labouring to see fruit among the graduates of the Mangyan Agricultural School in the Philippines.
For 25 years, Gemma de Guito has worked tirelessly among six Mangyan tribes in the mountainous regions of Mindoro island. Investing time to cultivate relationships, she first gained trust and respect within Mangyan communities and then at the school, where she has been teaching Mangyan young people sustainable agriculture and important principles in stewardship since it opened in 2005. The students spend at least eight months on the school’s sloping land above the Mangyan Bible School. They care for an assortment of fruit trees including bananas, durian and papaya as well as growing rows of local vegetables, all using only organic fertilisers.
As well as gaining practical skills, students gain a deeper understanding of the value of caring for God’s creation. Even though many youth come from Christian villages, some do not yet have a personal relationship with Christ; they encounter God for the first time as Creator and Redeemer at the agricultural school as they learn to farm
Reflecting on her experiences, Gemma De Guito says she’s found great joy in seeing many of the 100-plus graduates ‘go on to apply what they’ve learnt back in their respective communities in a practical way along with spiritual and moral integrity.’
In communities where graduates have helped their communities shift away from traditional slash and burn farming, the Mangyan testify to a healthier relationship with the land and a desire to cultivate a more dynamic relationship with God. This fruit is just a small taste of God’s desire to reconcile all things to himself: his people and his land.
OMF Creation Care Advocate