Gladys and I have been partnering with a tribe in Mindanao, the Tigwahanon Tribe, by helping them steward a movement of the Holy Spirit among the pastors and leaders in Bukidnon. The movement started when church leaders from different tribes dropped their “tribal fighting” and became a family, pursuing God’s heart together. Then God invaded their times together, unleashing His goodness over them.
One time, a few years ago, we held a gathering for some of the leaders and pastors among this group of people. There was a pastor from the Umayamnon Manobo tribe there who I met for the first time. From what we heard, he was one of the the only pastors among the whole tribe of 6,500 people. The Umayamnon tribe is still very much un-reached by the gospel and by looking at the pastor’s face, you could see years of exhaustion. He actually looked ready to give up on his tribe. After one of our services, he stood and began telling us his heart.
“I’m tired of being alone, the only pastor among thousands. I’m not seeing any results from my hard work. Our tribal chief has closed the door to people receiving Jesus, which has prevented people from truly experiencing God.”
The pastor asked us to have our next gathering in their place. We thought that would be a great idea. In my head, I could already see us going to this un-reached, un-touched people group and invading it with the goodness of God.
On September 27, pastors, church leaders, college students and government workers from different areas travelled to our gathering held at the pastor's place in the Umayamnon tribe. We could sense expectancy on all of the participant's faces. I stood on a hill and looked out at the stunning land; soaring mountains with banana, rice and corn plantations covering them.
Each service was filled with the presence of God. I’ve never felt His presence so strongly with Manobos before. We didn’t have to do much; Jesus would enter the room and glory would fill His temple. It was radiating and so tangible. We would stand there, receiving the glory, and then give it all back to Him.
I started my teaching. I was in a deep subject that went on for nearly seven hours. A couple of hours into the teaching, someone walked into the back of the room. Everyone looked around and sat up in their chairs like the president walked in. It was him, the tribal chief. This was the one who had closed off the flow of the gospel.
A million questions flew through my head as I saw him sitting down. Why is he here? What will he do? Will he try to stop what we are doing? I was in the middle of a teaching that I thought would be the most awkward moment for someone like him to walk into. I was deep in the subject of prophecy.
We politely greeted the chief then proceeded with the teaching. I explained about prophets and said that a good prophet and good prophecy will always be aligned with scripture. The Bible is the backup for good prophecy. They go hand in hand.
While teaching, I occasionally glanced at the chief, noticing a stern look on his face. I didn’t know what was going on. I wasn’t exactly sure why he was there. I thought maybe he just wanted to listen to what we were talking about. But then, he stood and raised his hand. The whole place fell silent as he talked.
“Teacher. You know, here in this place we also have prophets. They perform rituals and perform magic before our eyes. Many times we’ve seen that our prophets prophesy and it actually happens. My question to you is this; are our prophets true prophets or false prophets?”
All of the believers shook their heads because they knew we were stuck. This was a trick question. If I say they are true prophets then I’d be going against scripture. But if I say they are false prophets then we would be disrespecting their culture. It’s not my intention to disrespect a culture one day after I arrive in it.
There was mumbling in the room as people turned to each other discussing and debating.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, I asked the question, “How many rivers do you have here?”
People answered, “We have many rivers, some are clean rivers where we bathe and wash our clothes. But some are muddy.”
As respectfully as possible, I said, “Well, in the same way that you have different rivers here, prophets will also go to their respected rivers to get their prophecy. A good prophet will get his prophecy from the river of God where it’s clean and pure. False prophets get their prophecy from other rivers. False prophets may see what really happens in the spirit but their fruit remains dirty because of where they get their water.”
Without much reaction or response, the chief sat back down and we proceeded. Personally, I thought that I was getting ready to be punished for what I had said. But I came to the place where I realized that I needed to release truth over the place whether I would pay for it or not.
Later that evening, we had a great time of worship. Unbelievably, the chief and his wife came back. They still had a very stern face as they sat in the back. We poured out worship as God pour His wine out for us. We swam in His River.
Before the service ended, the pastors wanted to simply bless the chief and his wife. He accepted the invitation and came to the front and sat down. We prayed and prophesied over him. He still had a stern face. We weren’t pushing him at all, we were simply saying that we honor him and want to bless his village. As we prayed, God came strongly. One man saw a vision of a black tarp being taken by Jesus as He replaced it with a white tarp. It was a time for transformation.
I thought, “For sure, this chief is changed.”
As we were going to bed, Gladys and I prayed for the village and for the place. We wanted to see the place transformed. I’m sure all of the participants prayed that night because we felt a new expectancy in the air.
The next morning, Sunday morning, we had our final service. More people attended since it was open to everyone. People from the village came and the place was jam-packed. Sure enough, the chief and his wife came back for the third time. Their countenance was different though. Their stern faces were softer.
The speaker finished and the service was about to end. We heard someone shout from the back of the room. “Wait!”
It was the chief.
He rushed to the front and began speaking.
"There’s been a change in me. I have met the Jesus that everyone is talking about and I want to start to walk with him. I know that I have a high position as the tribal chief here and I know what this decision means. But I want to tell you all that from now on I will receive those who come in Jesus’ name and I’ll let everyone here know about His Kingdom. I’ll tell everyone in the mountains about Jesus and lift up everyone working for Him."
Everyone began cheering and worshipping. I looked around and could see the years of anguish just crumble at the feet of Jesus. His face came shining in and nothing could stop that. I could see the pastor’s weary body change. He had strength again. The chief and his wife had smiles on their faces and they were new beings.
Still to this day, we have strong connections with this tribe. We have put some Umayamnon students in our dorm and education program called Tagikul Education Program, so they can get a high education and bless their people. To learn more about our Tagikul Educational Program, Click Here
We will continue to stay connected with them and help them be trained and equipped in their walk with Christ.