“They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” – 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 (ESV)
The Philippines is a majority Roman Catholic country. Yet life away from Manila or the other major cities can be very different – across its 7000 islands, many people groups have yet to hear the gospel. Rough terrain and mountains have made it difficult to access some villages, making preaching and discipleship harder than in a sprawling, chaotic city.
But I was encouraged to see a church in a lot of the villages we went through. During a day’s drive through the mountains, with four Swiss short-term workers and a full-time missionary in the region, I was told that there are now 60 churches amongst one indigenous people group in the mountains, where many worship God regularly. While the others left to continue their journey to other places, I stayed with 11 students in a student dormitory. We had a good roof over our head, and I experienced having buckets of water for a shower and a basin in the floor for a toilet!
There is a real openness to talking about Christian things here. In the local public school, I sensed a real Christian ethos as they would pray and sing Christian songs in their morning flag ceremony, and pray before some lessons. I was asked to teach English that week – this was a real answer to prayer as to how I could serve here. Many of the teachers are Roman Catholic or evangelical Christians, and I saw how God had taken care of and grown his people, despite the seeming challenges in the region.
While God may have chosen many of the people here, many who profess the name of the Lord also seek other gods. Though many of the students are from Christian homes or have a Christian parent, others live amongst non-believing families. I became friends with Tina*, a 16 year old student, who shared that she started going to the Catholic Church with some family members when she was young. While her parents believed in the reality of the Christian God, her mother continued to practice animistic rituals, and make sacrifices to other gods that created the land that they worshipped.
The importance of perseverance
Tina will witness and serve in this culture and community. Standing firm in the gospel will mean criticism or loneliness. Let us pray for Tina and other Christians from this indigenous people group, that the gospel will go to them not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. As they grow in their faith and actions, they will in time become a model to all the believers in the area. (1 Thessalonians 1:4:5-7, ESV).
Megan is 22 years old and served for two months with an indigenous people group in the Philippines. A speech therapist by training, she taught English, played games and held devotionals with the local students.
Some names have been changed for privacy.