A pastor and Child Champion’s vision led to a OneChild partnership with an impoverished indigenous community in the Philippines. Where there once was distrust, there is now hope.
The Tinananon tribe is one of the poorest indigenous groups in the Philippines. They live in Arakan, in a remote, rugged valley in the heart of Mindanao province. Only about 1% of children here finish school, and many children do not live with their parents because parents leave to find farming jobs in other communities. OneChild is helping kids here, like 11-year-old Riza, and giving them hope for the future.
Riza lives with her parents, but they work long hours as farmers, so she and her sister Rosa, 12, often fetch water, cook, and wash clothes and dishes by themselves. Riza’s calloused and wrinkled hands show that she has been doing a lot for her age. And even though her parents work hard to provide for her and her sister, they don’t always have enough. Child hunger is common.
“Sometimes we go to school with an empty stomach because we have no rice,” Riza says.
A Pastor’s Vision
Pastor Yves Magdamo of Family of Faith Church International had a vision to help the Tinananon people and kids in poverty like Riza. The vision was inspired by his hobby as an off-road truck enthusiast. The Child Champion often went to remote places in Mindanao to offer help to tribal groups living in poverty, including the Tinananon tribe whose chief was Datu Timbol Egaan.
“I had a clear vision, and it was confirmed when I talked to Datu,” Pastor Yves says.
The vision included the map to where the community is located and what kind of people he was told to serve. The province where the Tinananon tribe live is rugged, hard to access, and has been known for having armed conflict.
“It was scary that time since we did not exactly know where this place is,” Pastor Yves says. “And the fact that this area was a hot spot for rebels, we did not even think we would come out alive. We just trusted God.”
A Chief’s Vision
Being a tribal leader means keeping the tribe safe and protected while preserving its culture and traditions. According to Datu, the Tinananon tribe had an unsuccessful history of working with other people outside of their community.
“I do not want that to happen again to our people,” Datu says. But when he heard that a pastor wanted to talk to him about a vision, he agreed to meet because he believed that the vision was God-given. During the meeting, Datu agreed to let Pastor Yves and his ministry into the community to offer relief on many fronts, particularly regarding education.
After the meeting, Datu planted two coconut trees to symbolize the start of their partnership. To Datu, as long as these trees are growing well, the partnership continues.
As of today, these trees are still standing tall, even though coconut trees do not usually grow well in the mountains.
Partnership Built on Trust
LUMAD Ministries (Leaders United for Missions and Development) was founded by Pastor Yves in 2006. Through this ministry they are able to fulfill the vision he had. His team has been helping the Tinananon tribe by teaching about God’s love, providing food and education to children, and organizing medical missions for the community.
“Sometimes you need to sacrifice and go out of your comfort zone to reach out to these people,” Pastor Yves says.
Through this ministry, they have also raised leaders in the tribe to pastor small churches in different communities. These changes in the community encouraged Datu, now 50, to go back to school.
“I studied first grade in 2010, and now I am in ninth grade,” he says, “I want our children to finish school.”
OneChild recently started partnering with Pastor Yves’s church to help children in the Tinananon tribe. Pastor Yves believes that this partnership will increase his capacity to help as children benefit from OneChild’s development programs and connect to loving and supportive sponsors.
Datu is also thankful that tribal children registered with OneChild will be able to go to school and graduate. Through sponsors’ support, Child Champions provide kids with school supplies, school uniforms, food, vitamins, Bibles, and events like Christmas parties.
“I hope that OneChild will not give up on us because I want the children to go to school and be able to preserve our culture,” Datu says.
Riza dreams of being a teacher someday. With the help of Child Champions like Pastor Yves and Datu Timbol, she is on the right path to fulfilling her dream.
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