In 2013, I went to sleep one night and I had a dream. In the dream I saw a large tribe of people and they were all reaching their hands out to me and calling my name. As I looked at them, I asked them what tribe they are and they said, “We are the Tinananon tribe.”
I’ve never heard that word before. After that I saw the chief to this tribe and he walked up to the front of all the people and he was carrying an instrument. The instrument with shaped like a bowl and it was made out of metal. It had a wooden ring wrapping around the bowl. Connected to the wooden ring were 30 strings that stretch from the outside of the bowl to the middle. It was so fascinating to me. I leaned in, looking closely at the instrument and then I received a full download of all the dimensions of the instrument. After that the chief put it down on a table and began to play it. Heavenly music filled the air.
After that I woke up. I immediately grabbed my journal and I wrote everything I saw in the dream. I drew pictures of the instrument that I saw and I wrote down that word, Tinananon, which I had never heard of before.
I was so interested in the instrument that I got into my workshop and I began to try to create it. I tried and tried but I just could not figure out how to do it. I eventually gave up because I kept breaking and snapping things and I could not get what I was trying to do. I also researched everywhere I could about that word Tinananon. I searched all of the archives from mission’s organizations to governments but could not find anything with this name. After months of asking around and searching, I ended up giving up on it. I just figured that it might be one of those wild dreams that people have sometimes.
About six months later I was traveling on a public transportation in the Philippines. With people jam packed in this truck, there was a man sitting on the other side of me. I noticed in the corner of my eye that he was staring at me. I looked at him and began talking to him. As we talked I began to realize that he is a believer of Jesus Christ. Him and I shared hearts as we talked about our mutual love for Jesus. As we were talking, the Holy Spirit began to speak to me saying, “Ask this man about the Tinananon tribe.” I was quite shocked and told the Lord, “No! I’m not asking a man about some random word that I heard in a random dream!” But the Lord insisted and said, “I want you to ask this man about the Tinananon.” So I built up the courage and asked the man, “Umm sir, do you happen to know Tinananon?” When I said that, his eyes brightened up and he paused and stared at me. After a few seconds, he leaned in and asked me, “How do you know my tribe?”
I didn’t know what to say, except, “I need to show you something.” I looked in my bag and I grabbed my journal from 6 months before when I had that dream and wrote down every detail about it. I showed him my journal where I wrote the word, Tinananon, which was the first time I ever heard that word. He started shaking his head. He looked at me and said, “You would not believe what I’m about to tell you. Remember earlier when I kept staring at you in the bus?” I said, “Yeah, what was that about?” “Well,” he said, “The reason I was staring at you is because I’ve seen you before! And just now I realize where I saw you. It was also in a dream! 3 years ago God gave me a dream and I saw you come to our people bringing the gospel to the Tinananon tribe!
The man continued telling me about his tribe. “We are a scattered tribe of 100,000 people located in a mountain range that is cut off from the rest of society because it is surrounded by Islamic war camps for training warriors. This is one of the most dangerous places in the world. We are the native people of the land but it is nearly impossible to go in and out of this area safely.”
At this point I was convinced that all of this was from God. I told the man that before I go visit his tribe, I need to get back into the shop and try to make the instrument one more time. So I went back and I got into the shop and worked another 3 months. I put all of my blood, sweat, tears and money into making the instrument. I ask the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom and insight. With his help and the help of my precious wife, we successfully created the instrument exactly as I saw it in the dream. I put the strings on the instrument and tuned it up. As I struck it for the first time, tears flowed down my face because I heard the exact sound from the dream. I looked up and knew I was ready to go.
I bought my ticket to fly to the island where the tribe is located. I flew the next day and travel 10 and a half hours just to get to the border of the mountain range where the tribe is located. My friend and ministry partner, Ansulao, traveled with me. We met the man at the foothills of the mountain range and covered up for safety. All three of us hopped on a motorbike and started off along a beaten path into the mountain.
The path that we took was immediately difficult to negotiate. Ansulao, the driver, had to put all of his focus and strength into keeping us from flying off the motorbike. Looking into the sky, my heart sunk as I saw a huge dark cloud coming toward us. Before long, a storm swept through and flooded the whole mountain. It was as if a river was flowing down the whole mountain side. Our motorbike was flooded. We fought ourselves through the mountain and got to a point where there was a drop off cliff. We stopped and looked down the edge of the mountain.
A small hanging bridge, two ropes with wooden planks, connected the two mountains. That was our only way across. We thought about it. Should we risk our lives by crossing the shaky bridge or just turn around and go home? We had to think quickly because another storm was coming.
We decided to go for it. Getting back on, we gently enter onto the bridge but then realized that we couldn’t stay on for long or else the rope would snap. So Ansulao hit the throttle and we tried getting across quickly. As the bridge swung to the right, we leaned to the left and as it swung to the left, we leaned to the right. Thankfully, we finally got to the other side of the cliff. But as soon as we got to the earth, Ansulao lost control of the motorbike. He tried to keep a hold of it but before we knew it, we hit a large stone and went flying. As we were mid-air, I thought about my pregnant wife and baby to come. I thought about what would happen if I weren’t there.
Suddenly we hit. I looked down and we were laying in a bed of soft, green grass! How did we get here? I have no clue. But God saved us from falling off the cliff and that’s all I know. We got back onto the motorbike and started entering the tribe.
I looked at the people and saw their faces were the same faces that I saw in the dream. This was the place! As we entered into the tribe, the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. He said, “I want you to take the instrument to the chief.”
“The chief?” I thought for a second and wondered if there even was a chief to the Tinananon tribe. But at this point, I had already gone so far, so I might as well just keep going. We asked people if they had a chief to their tribe and they knew that we were foreigners so they told us where the chief was located. Pointing, they said, “He is on the other side of the mountain, three and a half hours that way.”
We got back onto the motorbike and went that direction. We got to an old wooden house where they said the chief was located. We walked up and knocked on a nearly rotted, wooden door. A few seconds later the door open. An elderly man was standing there and I politely asked him, “Are you the chief?” He, quietly and slowly, said, “Yes I am.” I said we are traveling to your tribe for the first time and before I go to different places in your tribe, I just want to give this to you.”
I handed the instrument to him.
His eyes widened as he alarmingly took the instrument and placed it on a table. He stared at it as if he was frightened. He intently observed every detail and dimension of the instrument. He looked at me and said, “Where did you get this from?” I told him, “Well I just made it.” He looked at me and asked again, “Where did you get this from?” I replied, “Seriously, I just had some ideas about making it and I just made it.” He shook his head, looking down and said for the third time, “I’m serious, where did you get this instrument from?”
I said, “Okay, months ago I had a dream where I heard for the first time the name of your tribe, the Tinananon. And I also got the full design of this instrument. I believe my God gave me this dream.
He looked at me, curiously and said, “Do you know what this is?” And I said, “Truthfully, no I don’t.”
He said, “I have something to show you.” He took me around back to another small house. Opening another wooden door, I peeked into this room and saw many objects which were ancient articles from his tribe. He had old clay and metal bowls, pottery work and clothing from hundreds of years ago. Looking in the room, I could tell that this was tangible evidence that this tribe has been existing for centuries.
Then there was a whole wall of ancient instruments. There were drums, stringed instruments and bells. Curiously there was one section on the wall that was empty. He pointed at that section and said, “Over a century ago, our most sacred instrument was taken away from us. It was called the Salimbaa. We believe that the enemy took the instrument away from us but one day the God of all gods will restore the instrument back to us. We also believe that the time the Creator restores the Salimbaa back to us, it also means that God is coming back to the Earth to restore His people.”
He paused for a few seconds and then looked back at me with fire in his eyes, “The instrument that you brought today is the Salimbaa! We believe that God brought you, a messenger, to us to let us know that God is coming back soon!”
They immediately brought the leaders of the tribe together to dedicate the Salimbaa back to God. They set the instrument back in its place. Then, praying, they said, “God, today we ordain your servant Caleb as one of our leaders”. They came to me and placed a headpiece of a chief on my shoulders and said, “Here is the key to our tribe. Whatever you decide, we will follow.”
In humility I asked them, “If there’s anything that I can do for you, what would it be?” The chief looked at me and replied, “If there’s anything that you can do, I want you to do this for us. Help us translate your book into our language.” Excitedly, I leaned in and said, “Are you talking about the Bible?” He said yes!
Since that time, the Lord has allowed me to stand in front of the CEOs of Wycliffe Bible translators and other Bible-translation organizations around the world. I’ve been able to present the Tinananon tribe to them and they have agreed on starting a Bible-translation project! In 2015 the Bible translation project was initiated and it is continuing until the complete Bible is finished in their language!
© 2014 Caleb Byerly
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