Passing the baton: how local Christians are taking the gospel to the Philippines and beyond

Albert Catua’s father was one of the first Christians – and first pastors – among the approximately 200,000 strong Manobo people.

Living in the remote forests of central Mindanao in the Philippines, there were very few opportunities for the Manobo to hear about Jesus Christ until the late 1970s, when the first OMF workers moved into the area.

Today Albert is a pastor in his hometown and has been president of the Manobo Bible Church Association of Mindanao since 2009. The association was started with support from OMF in 1986, and brings together more than 70 Manobo churches. OMF has had a key role in the church association, but in 2020 the last OMF worker living among the Manobo full-time moved out. While OMF continues to have a mentoring role, local Christians are taking the lead. We chatted to Albert to find out more about the past and future of the Manobo church.

How did you become a Christian?

I became a Christian when I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour, and gave my life to him. After that I continue to serve the Lord as long as I have life. This happened in 1980s, as my father preached and taught me about the love of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I am happy to serve God together with my family. 

How has working with OMF blessed your local church ministry and community?

Working with OMF in the local church and community is such a blessing. They opened our eyes to the truth about God, salvation, and his love. OMF nurtures us and teaches us how to live a life that is peaceful, joyful and very near to God. 

OMF is helping us to be strong in our faith to God. They taught us through the word of God until the time that we could stand on our own as a tribe of Mindanao.

I am very thankful to all OMF missionaries, and their commitment to God, for continuing to serve him despite difficulties. There are many obstacles and circumstances that they encountered in the time that they ministered to us, but they continued because God is in their hearts. ‘We salute you’ missionaries, I know that God will bless you continually.

Where have you been encouraged recently?

Seeing how my parents’ lives changed when they believed in Jesus, how our lives change as believers, for me it is the fruit of the ministry of OMF missionaries. If it wasn’t for their knowledge and wisdom that God has given, we would not be able to know about God and his love and grace, we would not become who we are now as Christians. As we continue to serve God, the Manobo Bible Church Association of Mindanao now has 75 churches and 10 outreach communities. This is also an encouragement for me to continue to serve God.

What challenges are you facing?

First of all, what’s challenging for the future is: how will we achieve our goal that by 2030, all the tribal/Manobo people in Mindanao will have the opportunity to become a follower of Jesus Christ?

A second challenge for us as leaders, is how to motivate other members of the church to voluntarily serve in mission.

Thirdly, how will we be able to assist our workers financially? This is really a big challenge for me as a leader of the church and organisation that OMF started in the 1980s.

What opportunities are there in the next few years that excite you?

Personally, what makes me excited for the coming years, if God allows us to have the opportunity to do ministry to tribal people in Visayas and Luzon areas. It’s in my heart, my vision and mission to preach the good news to all tribal people in the Philippines, and beyond. I am looking forward to seeing a Manobo pastor become a missionary beyond Mindanao and outside the Philippines.

How have you learned from OMF and other partners?

I have learnt from them about mission, church planting, strengthening leaders and members, different styles of leadership and a life of missionaries and their ministries, how to work through good communication, nurturing leaders and guiding us how to look after church finances.

What do you think they may have learned from you?

Our culture, tradition, Manobo lifestyle, our own style and ways of doing ministry, and maybe our life in ministry – although there is no financial support for pastors and workers, we continue to serve.

Find out more

We also interviewed Lando Sama, president of the Mangyan Tribal Church Association, about his journey to faith, experience working with OMF and future plans. Read it at