SLS In Mindoro Bible College
Mindoro Bible College, The Philippines
Servant Leadership School Report
April 3-May 2, 2008
The goal of Christian literacy of the word should be to equip everyday disciples to overcome their sense of disempowerment and denial in order to engage in the work of mercy and service, advocacy, community-building and social reconstruction.”
Ched Meyer, The Clergy Journal
Context: Participants consisted of current students and faculty of Mindoro Bible College, a small rural college in walking distance of the Pacific Ocean, on Mindoro Island, south of Manila. Also attending was Dr. Rev. Wilson Dumelod, Theological Minister of Education for the Associate of Bible Christian Communities of Philippines, of which MBC is a member. And, Dr. Dan Ballast and Rev. Bob Christensen represented the Marshall Christensen Foundation (located in Portland, Oregon), who partnered with the Center For Sharing to put on the seminar.
The mission of CFS’s servant leadership school is to provide an opportunity for spiritual formation as a balance to academic training for leadership development. Spiritual formation work is about developing the inner person. It nurtures the building of depth relationships with self, God and others. It addresses questions such as: What is my passion? What are my strengths and weaknesses? How can I use them in the service of God and neighbor to help repair and heal some part of the world? To whom am I being sent? What is my purpose? The mission of MCF is to train international servant leaders through institutions of higher learning. They invited CFS to present our intensive course as a pilot project, to explore whether it might be useful as a curriculum guide for the training of local pastors in Asia, to expand their current focus on college and university students.
At 27 participants, this was the largest group we had worked with since our first school in 1995, which also had 27 participants, and was held over a 9 month period. The 2008 intensive was held daily over a four week period. This group was quite diverse in age, which ranged from 17 years to age 63.
All participants stayed on-site, in dorms and staff housing. We were able to use the dining hall as our meeting room as well as for eating. The climate was very hot and humid: 34/93 degrees average. It was made quite bearable by staying close to blowing fans, day and night.
We found this people group to be extremely sweet-natured, warm, fun loving and so eager to learn something new. Because of its remoteness, students spend much of their free time either singing and playing praise and worship music together in small groups, or text messaging family and friends on their cell phones, the one luxury we see prevalent among otherwise extremely poor people in developing countries.
One Philippine custom became very precious to observe. Children are taught, while still babies, to ask for a blessing from their parents and elders, which is given by placing the back of your hand lightly against the forehead of the child. We were so often asked for a blessing, but seldom asked for anything else, unless on the street when encountering beggars. The West is not a blessing giving or receiving culture. We are more like the son who just wanted his share of the father’s stuff, and the freedom to spend it somewhere out of the father’s presence. Are we so different from the beggar? It is painful to experience a sense of impoverishment in the presence of a smiling child who knows he/she is blessed by the love of others throughout the day.
The Seminar format:
6 am Breakfast
7 am Devotion and Session 1
9 am Break
9:30 Session 2
11 am Work on assignments
12-2 Lunch and rest time
2-4 Session 3
The spiritual autobiographies were shared each day, one in the morning, and a 2nd in the afternoon. These proved to be deeply inspiring as well as instructional in the art of loving…that is, how to love better now and in the future, than most were in the past. Many had experienced physical abandonment and begging for food as a result. Many others experienced abuse and alienation from their fathers especially, as young people. Robbed of their blessing, many went clear down to the bottom of human degradation before being found by someone who reached out to them in the name of Jesus. Today all are in an environment of teaching or preparing for Christian leadership. They love their churches and sacrifice so much to serve them. The MBC Principal commented to us that they had not started out to be a ‘reform school’!
One of the major issues that surfaced early in this course was the realization that their local churches are doing very little or more often, absolutely nothing to reach out to hurting families beyond their church membership. Being very sensitive spirits, they were really quite in pain upon discovering that trait in themselves!
The whole class was able to take 2 ‘exposure’ field trips in their neighboring communities, which turned out to be great action/reflection experiences as they considered how they could build deeper relationships with residents.
WaWa community surrounds one of their churches. In this community, the children do not attend school. These are squatter families along the seashore, who watch for small fishing boats coming in, in hopes of receiving a fish or two for lending a helping hand. Gambling is the main play/work otherwise, and we observed groups from age 4 on up to adults, playing everywhere. Angie, whose family suffered terribly at the hands of her father while growing up, always wanted to become a policeman, and get her revenge. Sometimes no neighbor’s door would open to them when they fled their house. She was surprised to meet some children at Wa Wa that also wanted to become policemen. She immediately sensed why, and asked the group why the church couldn’t provide a safe house for families. Most people here live on U.S $1/day or less.
- This group was able to transcend age, position, educational level, background, race and nationality to touch a deep sense of community during our time together.
- Many commented on the non-lecture style of learning. The participants themselves provided most of the learning material for each other. Our role was more that of asking the right questions in English, and letting small groups assist each other in digging out the answers in Tagalog language.
- This group excelled at drama and music! It was a new thought for them when we suggested that they could be putting on bible dramas for the greater community. (Ling and Lazarus)
- Like other countries that have been colonized (by both civil and religious powers) Filipinos are very obedient to authorities. It is difficult for many to truly know in their depths that the creative energy of God lies within them too!
- There were a number of health issues prevalent in the group. No one has insurance or cash. Goiters are one problem. Not enough iodine. A person seeking employment must first have a medical exam, and can be failed for having a goiter! Mental health issues are a huge need in the greater community. Counseling is virtually non-existent. During the course, one of the faculty members told us about her brother, who lived in the only mental institution that existed at that time. She overheard a nurse one day remarking that these people were the living dead. It really broke her heart. You can guess that the mission statement she came away from the course with, was about creating safe, caring communities for the mentally ill.
Owen is a new student at MBC. He developed palsy in his face as a baby, leaving one side of his face paralyzed. He was too ashamed and embarrassed at first to speak or make eye contact. However, the group took him as he was, and discovered in week 3 that he could sing! He finally agreed to sing “The Warrior Is a Child” for the group, and it was so beautifully done that we all cried through it. He sang for our graduation as well.
The last day of our stay, we four Americans visited Metro Ministries, in Manila. Broetje Orchards is a supporter of their ministry, so we took the opportunity to say hello in person. This ministry grew out of Bill Wilson’s, (he wrote: Whose Child Is This) work in Brooklyn, New York, reaching out to unchurched kids in the inner city, by the tens of thousands, with a mobile Sunday school program. There are now chapters in Philippines and African nations as well as Latin America. It was interesting to see this ministry on the far other end of MBC as far as focus. MM spends its time in dangerous neighborhoods, and refers kids to local churches for follow up. Wendy Dawson, a native Canadian is country director. She is passionate about their work.
It was a privilege to partner with The MCF to do this course. It is too soon to guess whether any further involvement will be needed from us, but we fully expect for lives, churches and institutions to be changed as a result of the 2008 SLS in Mindoro. Thanks be to God.