by Roger Thomas
Maravilla is a community of about 650 families on a small, isolated island in the Philippines. An AMG International church planter had attempted for a year and a half to minister there, but had received a "cold shoulder." The people of Maravilla are culturally Roman Catholic, with a strong layer of superstition, and were resistant to the gospel message.
The church planter then moved to the next largest community on another island. His reception there was just the opposite. The people welcomed him, opened their homes to Bible studies, eagerly read the Word, accepted the Lord, formed a church, and began a childcare center. At the childcare center, within a few months, bored, sickly, underweight, undisciplined, dirty, lethargic children were transformed. The children now are clean, healthy, disciplined, well fed, and eager to attend the center where they learn from God's Word, receive nutritious food, get love and attention, and have fun.
Word of what was going on in this second community spread back to Maravilla, and a few families began boating over to the second village to check out the church services. Some began coming regularly. Some began reading the Bible. Some put their trust in Christ as Savior. To avoid dangerous travel through rough seas, they wanted to begin a church in their own community, Maravilla, and did so, in spite of much opposition.
I visited Maravilla a year ago. Ten families were holding their very first service. One young father brought his 3-year-old son, Ogie, to me. The great love this father had for his little son was obvious, as was his hope that I could help his son. Ogie had a cleft palate and cleft lip. The chance of his receiving any help for his problem way out here in this isolated, poverty-stricken village was slim to none. I took a picture of this young father and his son. I didn't know what else to do.
When I returned to the U.S., I couldn't forget this hopeful father, and his son, Ogie. After much prayer, many inquiries and disappointments, Ogie was accepted for surgery by an organization in Manila. A U.S. sponsor provided funds for the family's transportation to Manila and their food and lodging there. After many weeks to clear up a mild case of TB and stabilize an irregular heartbeat, Ogie had the first surgery.
Back in Maravilla, everybody knew that the "Evangelicals" had taken Ogie to Manila for surgery, but were convinced that Ogie's face would never be "fixed." It was broadly believed that the Evangelicals were just making promises to entice Ogie's family to accept their religion. The people of Maravilla, including Ogie's relatives, were praying that Ogie would NOT get fixed.
But Ogie did get fixed. It's been a year since Ogie's father first brought him to me, and I have just returned from another trip to Maravilla. Ogie is doing great. He is no longer rejected by the other children and is just a normal looking kid. Ogie talks now and you can understand him. Ogie's parents are so thankful-and they are praising the Lord for His help for their son. Everybody in Maravilla knows about Ogie.
Two-year-old Jenille-another child in Maravilla-is also looking forward to help for her cleft palate and lip. Jenille was malnourished because she had difficulty eating, and at 2 years of age was not yet walking. Her family was very discouraged, but when the family saw Ogie's improvement, they took hope. Soon, she will go to Manila with Ogie-Jenille for her first surgery, and Ogie for his second.
God has used these two children to change a lot of attitudes in Maravilla. As we walked through this community just a few weeks ago, everybody was very friendly, came out to shake our hands, and offered us refreshments. Many people are now in Bible studies and attending church services. The church is growing now, and AMG and the community are praying that God will soon send a church planter to minister in Maravilla.
Roger Thomas is AMG International's coordinator of outreach projects & sponsorship programs.