Filipino Christians are overflowing their country’s borders to reach the world for Christ. Philippine Challenge (the name of the OC team in the Philippines) has been there working with church leaders for 60 years. According to a study by cultureright.com, the Philippines has the largest diaspora network in the world, with more than 11 million Filipinos living overseas. Rich Henderson, OC-U.S. field director for the Philippines team, shares an exciting statistic from Operation World. He says: “4,500 Filipino full-time missionaries and another 50,000 tentmaking missionaries are working outside of the Philippines sharing the gospel, planting churches and making disciples. Also an estimated 500,000 evangelical Filipino Christians are working outside the country.”
Roots in church planting
One Challenge’s history in the Philippines is beginning its 60th year. The growth of evangelical Christianity has been an exciting movement in the Philippines. Early on pastors caught the vision to plant churches within each barangay (town) of the Philippines. In 1980, OC partnered with World Vision, and hosted a conference where the DAWN 2000 initiative was finalized – planting a church is every barangay by the year 2000, increasing the number of evangelical churches in the Philippines to 50,000.
Today, the Philippines has over 50,000 churches; however, every barangay has not been reached yet. For the past seven years, Manuel Movido, a volunteer with Philippine Challenge, has been researching which barangays are without churches. It is estimated that there are still 23,000 barangays without an evangelical church. Manuel has no doubt that Filipino pastors can accomplish this goal. He says: “You cannot compete with Filipino pastors in church planting. We are the best, bar none.” This history of church planting and evangelical growth is a rich foundation for the out powering of Filipinos missionaries beyond the waters of the Philippine Sea.
Global Alliance – mobilizing Filipinos
Philippine Challenge has been sending missionaries to other countries since 2003. The Philippines officially became a mobilization center in 2010, with the formation of the OC Global Alliance. Currently, PC has 10 missionaries in three countries, with another six interns raising support and continuing training. “Our missionaries have been evangelists, teachers, professors, engineers, athletes and pastors,” says Rich. The success of the Philippines as a sending country, and as church planters within the country, centers on one key aspect – the Filipino people. “Filipinos are successful missionaries because they are friendly, easy going in their nature and fun loving people as a nation,” says Rich. “They are willing to adapt to different cultures and changes and are skilled in many different fields. Filipino people have easily adapted to different cultures around the world and have been able to take and share the gospel in places where Westerners are not able to go.”
God has brought about amazing things through the Filipinos living around the world. Filipino missionaries face many challenges as they continue to partner with other nations in seeing the Great Commission fulfilled. Similar to Western missionaries, Filipinos struggle with leaving homes and families in order to adapt to another culture. An added struggle is the nature of the Filipino church and its outlook on supporting missionaries. Rich says: “Many Filipino churches are not used to supporting missionaries because sending missionaries has not been a part of the DNA of the church. So changing the culture of the church in regards to supporting Filipino missionaries is sometimes a slow process.”
The evangelical world in the Philippines is continuing to grow, and with that growth comes the desire to go, serve and be Christ among the nations of the world.