Taking the Gospel Into the Mountains of the Philippines

October 18, 2016 • Philippines
Girl in the Philippines with Operation Christmas Child shoebox

Operation Christmas Child delivers shoeboxes to mountainous tribes

Mel Cartera is the Operation Christmas Child church mobilization coordinator in the Philippines.

The Butbuts are one of the indigenous mountain tribes in the Philippines. They live mainly in Kalinga province and are known to be one of the fiercest tribes in the mountains. Until some years ago, they were still engaged in wars with the other tribes. The situation is improving, and along the highway in Kalinga can be seen some billboards that say “Love your children. Stop tribal war.”

But they are still notorious (and feared) for their fierceness. According to their laws, if you run over a pig or dog on the highway, you must pay up to the third or even fourth generation for the imagined descendants of that animal and what the owners could have gained from them—or else pay a more expensive price. Several witnesses have corroborated the account that a bus driver was shot and killed by the owner of a pig that the bus ran over because the driver didn’t stop and negotiate with the owner.

Operation Christmas Child Philippines

The tribe’s insistence on payment of debts, including payment with blood, actually makes it easy for them to appreciate Jesus Christ’s paying our debt with His own blood. This is the approach that missionaries have successfully used when sharing the Gospel with the Butbuts. Operation Christmas Child recently distributed 1,936 boxes to Butbut children in 11 villages in Kalinga.

Getting to one of the villages was an interesting experience. It started with a nine-hour bus ride. When the bus could go no farther, we had to travel another hour by hitch-hiking. Then we had to walk down a mountain the equivalent of 15 stories. We then crossed the Chico River on a hanging bridge and went up a mountain on the other side that was also 15 stories high.

We distributed more than 100 boxes in one elementary school in that village. I trained local missionaries and church people on how to present the Gospel, personally conducted an event in one village, and observed and supervised distribution in two venues. I couldn’t go to the other villages and venues because going there would entail more mountain treks, and they were widely separated from one another in various mountain locations.
One incident that was memorable to me was when I saw a Butbut grandfather engrossed in reading The Greatest Gift booklet that he took from his grandchild who had received a box. From the time that he took the booklet until we were all about to leave the village, this grandfather never took his eyes off the booklet. I was amazed at God’s grace. He used reading material meant for a child to let an old man know about Him before the man left this earth. God is so good!
I have invited the community to start a 12-week discipleship course called The Greatest Journey, which will teach the children more about Jesus. They have expressed eagerness to do so, but I’m still waiting for responses from the missionaries and tribal leaders. Please pray that Operation Christmas Child will have an opportunity to go back and conduct discipleship lessons with the children.