From vision to reality: Why missionaries aren’t forever

OMF aims to see locally led, biblical churches reaching out to their own people and beyond with the good news of Jesus Christ. Our workers, however, are not supposed to be a permanent fixture of the East Asian Church. Rather they are like scaffolding, ready to be taken away at a certain point in the building project, with local Christians taking the work forward.

The 2016 Billions edition, Education for the Kingdom, featured the OMF Philippines education programme among the Manobo tribe. Today, through this programme, the Manobo now have two Doctors of Medicine, and soon a lawyer and a nurse, a number of teachers, midwives, social workers, and theologians ministering as pastors, missionaries and Bible teachers, each serving their local communities. In 2019 OMF handed over the ministry among the Manobo to the Manobo Bible Churches Association of Mindanao of Upper Langilan. Such amazing work of God is made possible because of individuals willing to obey God’s call on their lives.

Bible stories and literacy programmes

Carisse* has served with OMF for over 15 years. It was during a time of career transition that her involvement in God’s global plan began. Carisse had been a senior planner in a multinational company. Recession and a sense of lack of accomplishment led her to apply to become a care worker in the UK.  While waiting for an employment visa she joined a one-month mission trip among the Ata Manobo tribe. During the trip God gave her a passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the Manobo, who were animists, worshipping many gods and spirits and not knowing what awaits after death.

Convinced that God was calling her to a full-time commitment, Carisse decided not to pursue a job in the UK. Instead she joined the OMF ministry as a partner, sent by her local church through a local mission agency. Together with the OMF team, Carisse developed a literacy program that integrates chronological Bible storytelling. Churches were planted as tribal communities came to know the Lord, the literacy rate increased, and the younger generation of Ata Manobo attained higher education. They returned as professionals serving their communities as God provided scholarship grants in partnership with local and international churches.

With churches being established and local pastors leading the ministries, Carisse and the OMF team, together with the local pastors and leaders, planned and executed a 5-year exit-strategy; empowering and preparing them to take over the ministry of making disciples among their own people and beyond.

Moving beyond the Philippines

After passing on the baton to the local Christians, Carisse became a full-time OMF worker as God led her to ministry elsewhere in Southeast Asia. She left the Philippines in January 2020 and started her language and culture learning while teaching English at an international school. 

A few months after her arrival, Carisse had the opportunity at a local church to preach with an interpreter and teach God’s word to the “B” people.

Amid the pandemic and the political situation in the country this ministry has been put on hold.

Currently, Carisse is based at the OMF Centre in Mindoro, Philippines and waits for the borders to open. She continues to learn the language and culture online. While in the OMF centre, Carisse is steadfast in proclaiming God’s love to the least fortunate neighbours. Her encounter with the community deepened her desire to go back to where she was a year ago: ‘With all these experiences in Mindoro, God placed a desire in my heart to be in a “B” community so I can be exposed to the sounds of the language as well as their life contexts. I have so much hope of doing ministry; I believe God equipped me to do so. But I cannot do it effectively if I cannot enter their realm of verbal (and even non-verbal) expressions. I covet your prayers for increased skills with my online language classes. Currently I am exploring ways of remembering, study habits that will help me think in “B” and practising with listening skills. Please also pray for God’s leading and guidance as I, together with my field leadership, consider possibilities of re-entering the country.’

Meanwhile, due to her ministry experience in the Philippines, Carisse was asked to join the Vision-Mission Team. This team interviews OMF workers, partnering churches, mission organisations serving in the Philippines and like-minded individuals on the role of expatriate missionaries in the Philippines. This team will help the collaborative effort of the OMF Philippines Field as a team of cross-cultural workers serving in the Philippines and OMF Philippines Home Council as we seek to send Filipinos overseas. Together we want to develop God-glorifying ministries that fit the changing landscape of worldwide missions and remain relevant to the Philippines today.

As the OMF Philippines Home Council continues to inspire churches to send cross-cultural workers overseas, we are indebted to both the local churches and the Filipino-Chinese churches here in the Philippines for such collaboration in sending workers through OMF International.

Grace Moron
OMF Philippines Home Council Executive Director

*name changed for security