Missionaries to Philippines keep sharing
Brewsters tell of God’s
greatness during stop
at Baptist Building
JEFFERSON CITY – In a country where a former communist regime has a stronghold on the people and Roman Catholicism keeps tight theological reins on the population, the Philippines is a region in need of Jesus Christ, said two International Misson Board (IMB) missionaries who recently visited the Baptist Building.
Considering the Catholic religion has such a strong influence over the culture, and it is more influenced by animism and witchcraft than by Christianity, Filipinos need exposure to biblical Christianity, said Phil and Oretha Brewster, who have been Cooperative Program-supported Southern Baptist missionaries for more than 29 years. As of 2000, the Filipino population was about 76 million; according to the IMB, it is estimated to expand to more than 108 million by the year 2025.
“The population in the Philippines doubles about every 27 years,” Phil Brewster said. “Up north where 25 churches have been started in about 14 years, the population has increased by one million people.”
Those of the Filipino culture are very artistic in nature. By contrast, Americans are a literate people. That makes reaching them a challenge.
“As literate people we are very handicapped,” said Phil Brewster. “Oral people are extremely better at remembering. They don’t understand why we have such a hard time.”
An example of this oral and artistic nature would be a group of women telling their daughters of the history of their tribe through song, which is commonly practiced.
“Two things you’ll always find in a barrio (village) are a basketball and a guitar,” said Oretha Brewster. Being the IMB strategy coordinators for the Philippines, the Brewsters must develop strategies to reach unreached people groups.
The emphasis of their ministry is to find “persons of peace,” which is supported by Scripture in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10. In praying that God would provide these “persons of peace,” the Brewsters said God performed a miracle by sending one such person — a former captain of the New Peoples Army (NPA) which is the guerrilla-military wing of the Communist party formed in 1969. One day as they were holding services in Batanguenos, this communist leader of the village snuck in to hear what was being said. He ultimately gave his life to Jesus Christ.
He made dramatic changes in his life. He stopped smoking because, in his own words, “it didn’t honor God,” nailed up 19 new rules for the village to follow, and became a man with a giving heart. He once gave the Brewsters 10 new watermelons.
“This warrior was becoming a man of peace,” the Brewsters said. By the end of that week 68 people had been baptized.
Most of the people in Batanguenos are animists, the belief in personalized, supernatural beings or souls that often inhabit ordinary animals and objects that govern their existence. They think that the Creator God is far away so they go to the local witch doctor for things such as healing. This is the reason for the existence of so many idols in the Philippines.
A way that the Brewsters have tried to conquer this belief is by telling stories, like the creation of Adam and Eve.
After 3½ years of team effort there, a total of 45 new house churches are going—all led by Filipinos. Twenty-five years ago nuns would burn Bibles and priests would tell the people that the Christian missionaries would cut off their kids’ ears. But in the power of the Holy Spirit and the willing hearts of the missionaries such as the Brewsters, the salvation of our Lord Jesus is being proclaimed in ways that will reach this diverse and artistic group of people.