[Photo Courtesy of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division]
Philippines | Orathai Chureson, PhD Adventist Children's Ministries Directors and Ministerial Spouses Association Coordinator

Mindoro is the seventh-largest island in the Philippines and is located very close to Manila. The land area is 10,571 square kilometers and, as of 2015, the population is over 1.3 million. The island is located off the southwestern coast of Luzon and northeast of Palawan. Mindoro is divided into two provinces: Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro. The entire island of Mindoro is considered a huge missionary field that needs to be worked. A large portion of the island’s population in Mindoro is made up of over ten indigenous tribes who have been collectively identified as “Mangyans.” 

Due to the arrival of settlers on the island decades ago, the Mangyans’ ways of life have been affected and endangered tremendously. With their peaceful disposition toward the new settlers, they had moved up to the highlands and ever since have been living on the mountain ranges of Mindoro. For decades, the Mangyans barred themselves from any contact with the outside world completely. Some, however, created a few unrestful situations, signaling their marking of territory and fearlessly defending what is left of their ancestral domains. Even under impoverished conditions, and with their resilient spirit, they have contentedly lived within their means, having very little communication with the outside world. Over the recent years, Mangyan tribes located on the highlands are considered “unreached people groups.” As a church tasked with the gospel commission, we understand fully that, regardless of the tribal label, every Mangyan deserves to hear the gospel truth and the message of salvation. 

Without our strong intent in reaching those challenging places, they would continue to be excluded from the gospel truth. With the missional focus on Mindoro, the Southern Asia-Pacific Division and Adventist World Radio join hands in preparing for one of the most anticipated events of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division this year – the island-wide evangelism and reaping campaign to be led by Elder Ted Wilson together with Adventist World Radio in November. This plan has been set up under the theme: Total Mindoro Involvement for Christ.

The combined effort and partnership of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) and Adventist World Radio (AWR) has made it possible for the indigenous people of Mindoro to hear the gospel. The gospel truth given through Adventist World Radio programs, in combination with extensive effort by local pastors’, Bible workers’, and volunteers, has made the outreach effort among the Mangyan very fruitful. The radio waves shorten the distance between places and bridges the hearts of the Mangyans to God’s love and His saving grace. Adopting God’s directive in Matthew 21:14, “For this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come,” our evangelistic effort has been intensified through Total Member Involvement (TMI). 

In addition to our efforts preparing Mindoro for the evangelism campaign in November this year, SSD financially partnered with the North Philippines Union Conference, Hope Channel Philippines, kind donors abroad, and Adventist World Radio in installing 100 satellite dishes in target areas around the island. Hope Channel programs are now made accessible daily to the Mangyans and other island inhabitants.

Early in June, our small team, being guided by the AWR team, set out to Mindoro in two vans that were heavily loaded with 100 satellite dishes and equipment. Although the entire journey took us over six hours by car and ferry boat, it was a smooth and easy trip, given we had the required documents and abided by some travel restrictions facilitated by AWR-CDE Director, Pastor Robert Dulay. 

God led us to the first destination, a hotel where some of us would be for days during the period of working on this project. The hotel owner was aware of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and she had seen some of Hope Channel programs online. When we shared the reason for coming to Mindoro and identified ourselves as members of the Seventh-day Adventist community, we were immediately well-received. As a result of our interaction and friendship, the first installation of a satellite dish took place at the hotel where some of us stayed.

The following days were busy with meetings with pastors and installing more satellite dishes. Pastor Samuel, SSD President, was requested to baptize a former rebel who was reached by one of the family members who had previously been baptized. It is only the message of hope and salvation that could change a rebel’s heart and transform his resisting spirit into a spirit of peace and love. We were touched by the humility of one of the most brutal killers who never once thought of giving up on fighting for his clan’s rights. He, however, has surrendered to Christ and decided to live with an adopted Christian perspective. He has placed his hope in the Lord for the eternal home He is preparing for him.

More days were dedicated to satellite dish installations and distribution. Our team visited some homes located in the middle of a very dense community. As we were installing a dish, some of the people in the same neighborhood were drinking nearby. The team was offered alcoholic drinks and beers. Pastor Nelson refused politely and spoke to them in a friendly but intentional manner, “We are also offering you all something that comes through this satellite dish that tastes even better than beer and alcohol. Please join our members here and be blessed by the Hope Channel programs!” 

The 100 satellite dishes we left in each willing home and church will continually speak about the truth of God and His redemptive plan for His people in those communities. Under the pandemic, many lives have been lost and their families placed in difficult situations. There is little hope everywhere. Those who have been living in poverty and marginalized conditions, such as the Mangyans, will face even greater challenges in life. Mrs. Ellen White admitted saying, “I cannot write unless the Holy Spirit helps me,” (Letter 11, 1903; 3SM 39.1); similarly, without the gift of the Holy Spirit, we cannot relate, lead, and preach the gospel to people of varying beliefs, customs, and backgrounds. God can prepare the hearts of those who are seeking and waiting to be reached. The Bible says, “...as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him,” (1 Corinthians 2:9). 

As the satellite dishes have been installed in different houses, we are beginning to see fruitful results in the increased number of newly baptized members among the Mangyan people. We will continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to impress all seekers and hearers while we are serving as channels of God’s blessings and hope. Let’s continue to become instruments in leading people to the foot of the cross and to accept His sacrificial plan of redemption for them. Together we will answer the divine calling and participate in Total Member Involvement, continually leading people to Christ. I Will Go!

This article was originally published on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division’s news site.