“We don’t worship a god who cannot hear and see. We worship a GREAT, LIVING GOD in heaven who can hear and answer our prayers. He also is the only one who provides for our needs.”

Philippine Rice Terrace


The *SULADS have spent four years facing big challenges in this animistic village of Victory. When our director and his team surveyed the place four years ago, they were surprised the people fled as the visitors approached their village. In the village stood a small church where an image of Santo Niño (Holy Child) was gathering dust. Inside this church the team prayed, “Lord, we came to bring the Light of truth to these people. Help us to be victorious in this village of Victory. Help us to replace this heathen church with your church of light and truth. The people practice witchcraft. Big beads of amulets hang around their necks to drive away bad spirits and give them luck. White chickens and pigs are precious commodities used as sacrifices for rituals of many kinds. Whenever somebody is sick, a chicken or a pig is offered to the spirits to bring healing. Please give them the victory over these things.”
When the children enroll in school, a sacrifice of a white chicken is made before they are allowed by their parents to attend. The same also is true when there is a death, marriage, planting, harvest, or other big occasions. They honor their gods by sacrificing their chickens and pigs in a colorful ritual.
Last year, a strong wind destroyed their church. We were happy to feel that we were gaining ground. But they built a sturdier building with logs and a galvanized iron roof. This time they placed a bigger Santo Niño in the church. This was a bigger challenge for us as missionaries. But we noticed that their new church was only used once. This was because their church leader came only once a year to lead out in their annual feast.
“May we use your church, Chief?” I asked him one day. “We have our worship every Saturday and we don’t have a church here. You don’t use your church anyway. May we use it?”
“Of course! Why not?” he approved. “It is good that our children will be attending church as we parents hunt for food in the forest.” And so it was that we gathered every Sabbath in that church together with the many children from the village. During the first Sabbath, we covered the Santo Niño with a thick cloth so that the children could not see it.
Lando wanted to be baptized, even if it meant his life.
“Why did you cover Santo Niño, Ma’am?” the children chorused.
We answered, “We don’t worship a god who cannot hear and see. We worship a GREAT, LIVING GOD in heaven who can hear and answer our prayers. He also is the only one who provides for our needs.”
The children were worried. They couldn’t understand at first. The parents were angry. They told their children not to attend our Sabbath School anymore. But the children loved the stories from the picture rolls. They enjoyed the songs and memory verses. They loved to come to Sabbath School every Sabbath. No matter how much the parents tried to prevent their children from coming to Sabbath School, they came just the same. Every morning they came to our cottage for worship.
Lando and his family were interested in receiving Bible studies. Every Sabbath afternoon we went to their house for that purpose. They were so happy for the new light of truth they discovered every time we studied with them.
The Ultimatum
Then a problem arose. When the whole village learned that Lando and his family was receiving Bible studies, they scolded them. The chief was especially angry. “Enough of this foolishness you are doing with these SULADS teachers. You stop your studies with them or else we will cast you out of our village and you will have no more rights to the land that our gods have given us. You, your children, and your children’s children will lose their inheritance.”
This was too much for the family. They would surely be cast out of the tribe and would never be given the right to be heir to the land of their fathers. With this big blow, the family was discouraged. “We had better stop it, Ma’am,” they suggested. As much as we wanted to continue the studies, we did not want to make trouble with the people.
We prayed to the Lord that He would remind the family of the truth they had learned about the Sabbath. The family also, convicted of the truth, prayed for the Lord’s guidance. They planned to go to their farm that Sabbath to work. But when Sabbath came, it rained heavily all day and they were not able to go to their farm. Sunday came and the sun shone brightly until Friday. They had a good time working on their farm. Another Sabbath came and that morning the sun shone brightly just like the rest of the days that week. “We can go to the farm today,” the father said.
The rest of the family agreed. “Maybe we can go today without any problem. Maybe it is all right to work on this Sabbath the SULADS missionaries are talking about.”
A Mysterious Fever
As they were preparing their things and food to take to the farm that Sabbath morning, they suddenly all got so sick that they could not walk.
That Sabbath afternoon, both my partner and I were inspired to visit the family. We were hesitant at first because they had already told us not to continue the studies. But we had no intention of studying with them. We just wanted to pay a visit.
We were surprised to find them all sick with very high fevers.
“Thank you, Ma’am for coming to our rescue,” the mother said. “I was praying that you would come today to help us and God answered my prayer. Your God really is the true God!”
We gave them each a sponge bath and they felt better. By sunset, they were all well.
Then they told us that they were testing God and the truth about the Sabbath. Then the father spoke. “Now, whatever happens, I want all of us to be baptized into your church. I now believe that the God of the SULADS missionaries is the true God.”
“What about the chief?” I inquired. “This will mean a bigger problem in the village.”
“We will take care of that, Ma’am,” the father said. “This will be another big event where a pig will be sacrificed to release us from the tribe. They will never consider us their brothers anymore. They will never count us as members of our tribe’s family.”
“And how is that with you?” I asked.
“When this ritual is done we will no longer be animists worshipping the false gods but we will be one of your church’s family worshipping the only one true God in heaven.”
A few months later, about three hundred Mission School children and adults gathered in Mountain View College for the ALL SULADS Mission School Pathfinder Jamboree. Twenty-eight delegates came from Victory Mission School. The DATU (chief) himself led the group to make sure that no member of his tribe was baptized. In fact the missionary teachers had a hard time convincing the parents to let their children come to the Jamboree. Their big fear was that the teachers might baptize the children and that would be a disgrace to their animistic religion. "No, that will never happen," the missionary teachers promised. And so it was that the parents consented that their children attend the Jamboree.
It’s always a joy for the delegates to the Jamboree is to see it culminate in a baptism. A jamboree is never complete without it. The missionary teachers always prepare candidates for baptism but the Victory people did not come for that. Only twenty-three year old Lando, who had been studying with his family, had come to the Jamboree with that purpose in mind. He did not tell his chief or his teachers about it. His family had made up their minds to be baptized no matter what after they had proven for themselves that the Sabbath is really the true day of rest, sanctified and hallowed by God. We had already planned to have the family released by the tribe through a ritual of sacrificing chickens and pigs before they were baptized, but Lando did not want to wait for that. That Sabbath afternoon 28 candidates from other villages lined up before the minister beside the stream. We did not tell the Victory delegates what was happening in case the chief might not allow the children to attend any more Jamborees. Lando was upset when he learned that he had missed the baptism and asked to be baptized.
“Brother Lando, do you really want to be baptized?” “ Yes!,” he said. “Are you aware of the consequences if the chief discovers that you have been baptized?” “Yes!,” was his bold answer. “Are you ready to be cast out by your family, tribe and people?” “Yes sir!” “And now, Lando,” said the minister. “I’m happy for your bold decision. I have learned that to disobey or betray the culture and tradition of your people could mean death. Are you ready for this?” With tears in his voice he said, “If I perish, I perish!”
And so we went down again to the stream for the special baptism of Lando. “Brother Lando,” Pastor Baragona prayed, “because you have chosen Jesus rather than your people and have made this dangerous decision to accept Jesus through baptism, as a minister of the gospel of the Seventh-day Adventist church, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Together with the SULADS missionaries, we knelt in prayer around Lando as the pastor prayed again in dedication of Lando’s life. There were warm and teary hugs and handshakes in welcoming Lando to the worldwide church. Please keep Lando and his family in your prayers.

By Daryl Famisaran and Virgie Amora

*Socio-economic Uplift Leading to Anthropological and Developmental Services (also means ‘brothers’ in the mountain dialect)

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