We feel like one of our primary roles is to cast vision to the people we work with. You see, from the very beginning, we want to be working ourselves out of a job. We do this in two steps (though each step has various components).
The first step is to cast vision for others to have a heart to reach the Agta; the second is to empower those who catch the vision to be effective. This past term, our focus has been on casting vision and empowering the Bugkalot tribe to effectively reach the Agta tribe. But one of the things that we believe will help them to be effective is if they are also trying to work themselves out of a job. The first group of Bugkalot partners that came down here to work with the Agta are now seeing the first fruits of their ministry; many have come to faith and several baby churches have been planted.
This past weekend we gathered together with our Bugkalot partners AND the new leaders of these baby Agta churches. We cast vision for Agta men and women reaching the Agta and gave them some practical tools for how to do this. While we are so very thankful for all that's happening through our Bugkalot tribal partners, we know that they are not just our partners in reaching the Agta - they are our partners in empowering the Agta to reach their own people. We want to make sure that the Agta believers do not depend on the Bugkalot to reach their people. We want them to catch the vision for Agta reaching Agta.
...At the end of the time, each leader/group of leaders developed a plan to implement what they felt God is calling them to do that that time. For some, that meant stepping up and taking more leadership in their new church. For others, that meant new outreaches in new areas. [There was] this guy from an area several hours away where some of our Bugkalot partners have been doing an itinerant outreach off and on the last couple of months... that came up for this training. It was encouraging to hear how he is not only faithfully leading his baby church, but that church has already started another outreach group! He said he came up in order to get some tools on how to teach more effectively. This guy has caught the vision! (S+J)
Studies have shown that apostles who are sent out to new areas are more effective and have greater longevity on the field when they have regular conferences for the purpose of fellowship, training, and spiritual refreshment. We have had a dream for a long time now of having a conference like this for our Bugkalot tribal partners, and this past month it became a reality!
...For most of the Bugkalot, this was their first time at a "fancy" resort like this (though for many of you, it would probably seem fairly rustic with no air conditioning, 6 bunk beds per room, thin mattresses, and sketchy plumbing - it's all a matter of perspective!) But the grounds were absolutely gorgeous, and we all had a blast together. The adults spent the mornings in sessions consisting of strategy training; other sessions provided much needed spiritual refreshment. We brought in some guest speakers as well to encourage them from the Word.
...Part of the afternoons and evenings were spent in small group discussion time where they discussed what they had learned in the sessions, as well as struggles and victories in their families and ministries. Everyone agreed that these times were very encouraging.
...While it blessed my heart to see them in meaningful discussions about the truths of the Word and how it applies to their lives, I think my favorite part of the time was seeing them have FUN. Laughing together, playing games together... they are living in some very difficult places, behind enemy lines where the darkness often seems all consuming. It was wonderful for them to be able to come out of that situation for a couple days and be refreshed and renewed in this way.
On the last night, we enjoyed a bonfire where Steve shared a challenge for all of us, then everyone shared either a testimony or song of encouragement with the group. The Bugkalot wrote a thank you note to all who have been praying for them and partnering with them to reach the Agta. Here is an excerpt, translated from Tagalog:
We cannot measure how full our thankfulness for you is, hopefully our Lord Jesus will bless you greatly. Thank you for the beautiful
insides (heart) you have shown us. If it wasn't for you, I would not have been able to experience this joy. Thank you and this has done
something very big for my spiritual life. Thank you all for your goodness to us. Thank you for everything and we pray that God will
bless you. Thank you for the help that you have given us .We are thanking God for you..."
We are so incredibly thankful for these men, women, and families who have partnered with us to reach the Agta. Serving alongside them is such a privilege. Thank you for the way that you stand behind us and them to make this possible. (S+J)
Last month, I was blessed to accompany a group of 8 Bugkalot tribal church leaders down to Bicol to visit the ones whom their churches have sent out. We met first at the training center in Bicol that the volunteer team this past summer helped to build.
We had a wonderful time of fellowship together for a couple days. Our time included some business-type meetings, ministry reports, and a time of training as well. Just a few weeks previously, the Bugkalot church leadership thought through their vision statement and strategy for how they want to function so I was especially encouraged when the chairman of the Bugkalot church leadership shared their vision and passion for the Bugkalot churches. We are so excited to partner with these churches and the ones they are sending out!
In addition to time spent at the training center, the guys headed out to the local Agta tribal villages to see exactly where our Bugkalot partners are working and to meet the people to whom they are ministering.
Even though both the Bugkalot and Agta are tribal people, their cultures are VERY different, and this difference is even evident in the kinds of homes in which they live. It is so good for the Bugkalot to see the Agta situation for themselves so that they better understand the situation in Bicol and know how to pray more specifically for the ones they have sent out.
Towards the end of the trip, we climbed up to the top of a mountain that overlooks several different Agta areas. There at the top of the mountain, overlooking the vast area where some of the 100,000 Agta live, we stopped to pray for the Agta tribe and for the workers who are ministering here in this place. Some of the Bugkalot church leaders were in tears several times during this trip as they realized the magnitude of the work in Bicol and how much we need GOD to work. They said that this trip helped them understand the situation down here so much better; now they know how to pray more specifically for the ones they have sent out, and they are excited to share that passion with their churches back home. (S+J)
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Casting Vision | 2013, May 26
Bugkalot Conference | 2013, April 6
Partners in the Work | 2013, March 28