Bananas and Mushrooms at Work in Ministry:
The Church Encounters Economic Realities
by Rebecca C. Asedillo
Banana chips, guava jelly, mushrooms, and bags made of woven palm leaves do not usually conjure images of family or a community empowered, or of Christian ministry. They do in areas of the Philippines where a church-sponsored livelihood program is bringing spiritual and economic renewal.
Local products spell out hope for people living on the economic fringes, and that is empowerment. Livelihood projects are part of the National Innovative Ministries Partnership Program (NIMPP) of The United Methodist Church of the Philippines. The General Board of Global Ministries is a major funding partner.
In the small village of Acacia on the southern island of Mindanao, families rely on farming and 23 of them have discovered a way to maximize the fruits of their labor. They have learned how to process bananas, turning them into packs of delicious banana chips. The additional revenue benefits both the families and their church. The Simon Peter United Methodist Church supervises the program, along with the Mindanao South District.
North in Luzon, members of the Camachile United Methodist Church have turned to organic mushroom production. They have not only fully paid the loans they had taken out to get started but are expanding their enterprise to respond to increasing demands and a wider market. The project gives employment to community residents and also provides scholarships to 14 high school students. Members of the indigenous Aeta community, these United Methodists hope to become a self-sufficient congregation and a missionary church to the larger Aeta and other indigenous communities.
Ministry with indigenous people is one of the priorities of the livelihood program. The term "indigenous peoples" in the Philippines refers to those distinct communities that have retained their own cultural traditions, having avoided "Hispanisation" during more than 300 years of Spanish colonization. They have maintained a traditional philosophy of life and links to their land. Indigenous people constitute some 15 percent of the Philippine population. (See http://www.piplinks.org/culture/culture.htm ).
Often marginalized and neglected in Philippine society, more and more members of indigenous communities are accepting the welcome extended to them by The United Methodist Church. They participate in literacy classes and send their children to day care centers run by the church. Some have become pastors and deaconesses and are in ministry among their own people and in the larger arena of church and community work. In addition to the Aetas, other indigenous groups who have contributed clergy and deaconesses to the ministry of the church are the B’laans, Bagobos, Manobos, Subanens and Higaunons.
Another component of the National Innovative Ministries Partnership Program is its multi-media production of indigenous hymns and worship resources. Once the songs are compiled, they will be recorded on CDs, published in songbooks, and launched in a concert. This effort is part of a larger undertaking to develop Christian liturgical and musical expressions that draw from the inner recesses of the Filipino soul. Filipinos love music, love to sing, play musical instruments, and celebrate milestones in their lives with music.
Overseas Filipino Worker.
An estimated 3,000 Filipinos leave everyday for jobs overseas. They are hailed as "new heroes" because of the billions of dollars they remit annually to the economy, but there are high costs to this phenomenon. Marriages and families break up, children feel abandoned and "act out" their frustration in anti-social behavior, resorting to drugs, becoming depressed, and manifesting various emotional and psychological problems. National Innovative Ministries Partnership Program works with families of the overseas Filipino workers. These ministries include pastoral care, family-to-family link for mutual support, and advocacy for the legal and human rights of the workers abroad.
Still another objective of National Innovative Ministries Partnership Program is to help pastors, deaconesses, and other church workerss become better equipped to deal with challenges quite different from those experienced when they were young or studying for ministry. Today, the mission context is affected by the increasingly globalized economy, technological advances, a growing gap between the rich and the poor, the marginalization of indigenous populations and religious minorities, and civil society’s struggles to protect human rights.
The program was launched with five-day seminars on "Living the Gospel in Today’s World," designed to help church workers achieve relevant, effective ministries. A total of 179 persons took part in six different locations. The first part of the seminar included a one-day exposure in impoverished communities, followed by a reflection session and a review of The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church. Participants then were exposed to the tools of community organizing and development.
The program is in the process of providing the equipment and training needed to link all district offices of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines to the information highway, computerizing church records and storing them in a database.
Date posted: Nov 06, 2007