“Can you sing us a praise song in your language?” After introducing ourselves to each other, all in Tagalog, this was the next question from one of the high school girls in the dorm. I’m not a singer, so singing for this group of students (or anyone else!) wasn’t appealing, but there wasn’t any other option. I choose the shortest, easiest song I could think of on the spot, and sang it. They then sang the same song too – in English, then in Tagalog, and finally in their tribal language. This was followed by maybe half an hour of these six or seven girls singing praise songs in a mixture of English, Tagalog, and Cebuano (the trade language of the Southern Philippines) until I asked them to sing songs written in their own tribal language. Part way through, they pulled out a song book that missionaries in the hills had put together for them. It was a mutual joy to discover that I knew those missionaries too!
The students come to this dorm and others like it from the tribal communities where there is no high school. Until recently, some tribal communities had to send their children to dorms like this even for elementary education, but now most communities have access to a primary school, even if it is a couple of hour’s walk across hills to get there.
This dorm was one of five that we visited on our tour of the tribal communities, and it was the only one where we got to spend time with the students. One of the girls swapped her kitchen duties so that she could talk to us, and two of the girls even gave up their beds for us to sleep in! At one other dorm we met some of the students, but they were too shy to speak with us for long. The other dorms were visited in the daytime, so of course the students were at school.
At each dorm, we also spent time with the dorm parents. Each had their own story to tell of how God gave them a heart for helping these tribal students get through school, and what they had sacrificed for the joy of serving in this way.
These dorms are a part of the legacy left by missionaries who have long since left the Philippines. When the missionaries first went to those villages, there was no church, and often no opportunity for education. Now, the dorms are managed by the local church association, and for the most part the dorm parents come from either the tribal communities, or local lowland believers who have a heart for this ministry.
We praise God for what He has done to build His church in these communities, and what He is continuing to do through the believers there. But there are still many communities waiting to hear the good news.
By Ruth, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for the Philippines?
- Thank God for the opportunity to reach out to the children from tribal communities through dormitories, opening access to education they might not get otherwise.
- Praise God too for the legacy left by missionaries who have long since left the Philippines, and the current dorm parents carrying on the work.
- Pray for the children as they learn to live out the Biblical values, even after they graduate.