The Philippine islands are predominately of the Catholic faith, with approximately 85 percent of the population strongly aligned to the Virgin Mary. Virtually all holidays are centered on the Virgin and there is hardly a Catholic home without a shrine to the Virgin. But equally devoted are these people to superstitions and taboos. Often associated with the religious observances, their way of life is filled with a sense of fatalism and fear of the unknown. While many modern Filipinos may not truly believe in the folk lore of their ancestors, concern for the possibility of these as truths keeps them biding with the odd traditions to not tempt fate. Many people continue to offer sacrifices to idols to appease the spirits.
Love Gifts Ministries International focuses ministry to the Island of Mindanao, the second largest of the Philippine Islands, among isolated groups of Christians found among the tribal people. Deep in the Mindanao interior highlands, more than 10 tribes live in relative isolation in the jungles and mountains. With a team of Filipino national pastors, Pastor Carole has been reaching the people of Mindanao with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are over 16 million people on this island comprised of various ethnic and cultural origins. Although considered a “Christian” nation, the Philippine people have a varied mix of evangelical, catholic and pagan beliefs and traditions. A very religious and devout people, the native customs and heritage play a big part in their search for God. The Spanish explorer Magellan converted the Rajah (King) and his followers to Catholicism. The people were then forced to the religion, which was often combined with Chinese and Muslim ceremonies. Being a very gentle and hospitable people they often found it easier to intertwine their new beliefs with their old, than to risk insulting a missionary. Tradition includes worship to the souls of departed ancestors and to the spirits of nature while incorporating Christian belief. To these devoted family-oriented people, God is often seen as a tough, authoritive father, the various saints are perceived as doting aunts and uncles and the Virgin Mary is held in high honor as the kind and tender mother of all and her baby child Jesus, is loved as the darling of the Christian family. Jesus portrayed as a helpless baby or in His crucified state hanging on the cross are more prevalent views to these people than Jesus as a risen, victorious, conquering Savior.
Mindanao is claimed by the Muslims as their own holy land. Fierce attacks by militant Muslims, independent and combative toward their own Filipino government, are often directed toward Christians and continue to be a threat even now. Among this persecution, the work of God’s Kingdom is growing, with bible schools graduating devoted and courageous men and women willing to lay down their lives so that their fellow islanders may hear the good news of the gospel. Bringing light to the darkness, setting those held captive to the past traditions and beliefs, free to live in the liberty of salvation by Jesus.
“Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of Your Name; deliver us and forgive our sins for Your Name’s sake. Why should the nations say, “Where is your God”? Before our eyes, make known among the nations that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants. May the groans of the prisoners come before You; by the strength of Your arm preserve those condemned to die.” Ps 79 9-11
Although many living in the northern Philippine Islands enjoy a modern, democratic lifestyle, for most in this southern-most island, away from the cities, they continue to live in thatched huts without modern conveniences. Poverty is deeply imbedded in both their past and present. Tribal people have little hope of change and little opportunity to escape their lifestyle of poverty. Pastors struggle to reach their congregations, often 10 or twenty miles from each other, via foot paths and bike trails. Pastors and church leaders often leave their family for days at a time to preach in a remote area. The Filipino pastors usually work a secular job in addition to their ministry work, as the congregations are rarely able to support them. Although deeply in love with Jesus and zealous in service to Him, they live with a knowledge of better ways but without any real expectancy to escape their impoverished circumstances. Many pastors have left the ministry in disappointment and fatigue as they perceive a world making progress while they themselves seemed doomed to the stranglehold of the past.
Pastor Carole brings the good news to the poor, distributing gifts of God’s abundant love, in teaching and encouraging the Filipino people from God’s Word of love, to bring truth of God’s love gifts of healing, restoration, hope and freedom. Prophetic teaching that changes these lives and impacts this nation for the Kingdom of God. The scriptures say “Ask of Me and I will make the nations your inheritance.” The nation of the Philippines has been given to Pastor Carole, that the glory of God may cover this island, as the deep and vast as the waters that surround it. “Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”