Every year Medical Ambassadors Philippines Inc. is conducting a medical mission exposure trip that aims to mobilize leaders from medical and non-medical professionals and students. The goal of Operation Samaria (OS) is to immerse volunteers in cross-cultural missions and bless the community through health services, health education, and vacation bible school for children.
This year’s theme was Cross Over with a key verse from John 5:24, “…they have already crossed over from death to life.” Operation Samaria was held in Sitio Mungos, Bgy. Hagan, Bongabong Oriental Mindoro and Sitio Safa, Bgy. Sabang, Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro.
We are graced by more than 20 team members- Chela Mequila, Marisa Castro, Andrea Castro, Doc Aaron Cheng, Doc Precious Melad, Doc Aikit de Leon, Doc Stephanie Sy, Doc Francis Daytec, Nataniel Rotap, Ervin Pascual, Noriel Montemayor, Esther Perez, Victoria Anne de Bruce, Heidi Kloser, Becca Zook, Doc Jun Garcia, Doc Elisa Basco, Doc Anna Miclat, Ptr. James Pablo, Ptr. Giovanni Afuang, Ptr. Alex Pantua with his family and Ptr. Iting Samuel and family.
The team arrived May 16 and spent 2 nights in Conservative Baptist Christian Fellowship (CBCF) in Bongabong. We were hosted by Ptr. Nepthali Famadico and wife Cielo Famadico. We did our briefing and spiritual retreat along the river banks of the town. We also spent time packing our medicines, gifts, and other materials in preparation for a long week of ministry.
Before anything else, we paid courtesy to Mayor Elgin Malaluan of Bongabong Oriental Mindoro. He welcomed us with some refreshments. He shared his agenda for the town and cited some Bible passages to encourage and strengthen us. Before we left his office he told us that he will visit the team during our medical mission. He also allowed us to use some of the bunk beds from the disaster risk management when he found out that were staying in a school.
Our first stop was Sitio Balite where we conducted our medical mission among the Bangon and Buhid tribe and other villagers from the mountains and along Binagao River. Every Friday the Mangyans are trekking down the mountains and drifting down the river to trade their products with the Luktanons or the Tagalogs as they call them. The whole place was filled with people from all ages and they were having fun with sorts of entertainment and foods some merchants were selling. While everyone was busy trading and having fun, those who are ailing came to us.
We were able to see 270 patients that day. 70% of them were really sick. Our doctors diagnosed children with Pulmonary Tuberculosis, Pneumonia, Diarrhea, Skin Diseases, and many other illnesses. Free medicines were given and prayers for those who want to be prayed for but a lot of people from the tribe resisted the prayers. They have a belief that if they receive prayer from Luktanons or low-landers, their powers will get weak and will cause them to be sicker. We assured them that prayer does not cause people to get sick but asking God for healing.
When we’re about to leave Sitio Balite, Mayor Malaluan showed up. Everyone was surprised. He roamed around the village buying local products to give away to those who were hungry. He is a very compassionate man who loves the people especially the indigenous peoples. Before he left, he invited the team for breakfast in their house before we set out to Pinamalayan.
After we’re done packing our bags and boxes of medicines we transferred to Sitio Mungos where the bulk of the ministry work will be done for the next 5 days of our mission trip.
OS team decided to conduct our ministries in Sitio Mungos as it was a strategic place to start a church planting movement among the Bangon Tribe. The village is inhabited by Tagalogs, Bisayas, Buhids and some Bangon tribe who inter married with the Buhid. We met Yagno the tribal leader of Sitio Mungos and we praise God for he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ with the help of Ptr. Iting wayback 2003. He welcomed us and assured the safety of the whole team.
We divided the team into 4 groups who will minister to children, adults, patients and prayer/ counselling team. Each group did an excellent job and we saw people even children starting to thirst for the Word of God. The Children’s group focused on the Creation, Sin and Redemption or Salvation. They made art works, moulded some clay and designed their own work using available materials within the school vicinity. It was remarkable when we saw children reciting Bible verses and proclaiming that they love Jesus with all their hearts, mind, and soul!
The medical team focused on doing health check-ups and every afternoon they are doing informal health education classes. We checked almost 100 patients that week in the village. Most of them are complaining difficulty of breathing, wounds, skin diseases and flu. The Bangon and Buhid tribe is known by their use of Kwako, its pipe made out of clay that they’re using for tobacco smoking. I myself saw teenagers using it, especially among the “Mailap na Bangons”. I believe that is one of the major causes of their acquiring respiratory tract infections.
The counselling team walked around the village praying for the sick. They did follow-ups and home visitation reminding them that medicines can help them to be cured but the real healing comes from trusting and having faith in Jesus Christ. Becca, Nates, James, Ptr. Giov and I formed an intercessors group within OS team and we are interceding for the whole ministry every 3 hours for 5 days. We felt that the Holy Spirit is moving in all areas of our ministry and we praise God for showing His power to soften the hearts of the villagers for His Word.
It is true that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities of this world (Ephesians 6:12). Ptr. Iting and his family witnessed the villagers offering a piglet to the spirits. The Bangon tribe believes that the spirit of the dead needs to be appeased so they will not be disturbed or get ill. Another experience that they felt was the extreme coldness during their first night no matter how many blankets or clothes they wear, a cold that is not ordinary in a very hot environment. He also told me about the people doing “Danyu” or singing to the spirits. They heard some of their neighbour doing it but instead of being afraid they just sang hymns and songs of praise and worship to our Lord Jesus Christ. God gave them peace as they rest for the night.
Finally our last destination was Sitio Safa in Barangay Sabang, Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro. The church that hosted us is Iglesia Ebanghelika ng Safa (Safa Evangelical Church). They are considered the largest Mangyan church in Mindoro, the believers there belong to the Tawbuhid tribe. They have nearly 300 members and conduct their worship service twice a day, 7 days a week. What a remarkable display of commitment! They have been doing that devotion to the Lord for many decades now something that other Christian churches cannot do. We handled all of their services as we stayed with them. Their first service is at 6am and the afternoon service is at 4 or 5pm. Ptr. Alex Pantua, Ptr. James and I did the preaching for all the services.
We conducted a medical-surgical-dental mission among their members. With the help of Ptr. Alex, his wife Pastora Ruth, their kids, and the young people of Foursqure Church in Parola we were able to minister to the children. We served 200 patients, 20 circumcisions, 5 minor surgeries and 40 dental patients.
It’s our heart’s desire to see this mega church be mobilized for God’s mission. They can provide a massive mission force to go to the mission field and finish Mangyan least-reached people groups-the Bangon and Ratagnon tribes.
After our mission to several Mangyan villages we went to Lush Green Camp to have our rest and recreation. We spent our time bonding together, sharing, and reflecting on God’s goodness ad His call to to finish the great commission. All of us were challenged and were empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue to become witnesses to the nations.
This mission is just the starting point of a great work ahead. Reaching the unreached is a big task that it takes the whole body of Christ to stand and work together as one.
Operation Samaria 2018: CROSSOVER signing off.
by:Paul Bañas, OS18 Director