A course of study for new church leaders considering pastoral ministry. (Photo: Courtesy of A. Broncano)

You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it – not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives – and we publish it.

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (The Message)

SOUTHEAST ASIA – When I was called to become a deaconess of The United Methodist Church, I knew that God had given me new opportunities to help and lead young people to serve the church and the wider community through the ministry of teaching. When God called me to become a missionary, I knew that was also a Kairos time for me to participate in the missio Dei in another place where I see myself as an instrument of expressing God’s love to the world.

The mission work here in Southeast Asia poses challenges. The United Methodist Church has not been recognized by the government, making it difficult to conduct church activities in rural areas. Registration has been our hope since this mission began in 2009. It takes a lot of creativity among missionaries and the local leadership to engage in church work without compromising the security of our local pastors. In this situation, I see the faithfulness and the zealousness of our local pastors to witness and minister to their own people, despite difficulties and limitations.

I have joined them in many of their activities, such as visiting the sick in the hospital, praying at home, worshipping in different house churches and visiting their farms. As I join with other missionaries visiting villages, I see the need for a holistic development framework. Not only church planting but also meeting the basic needs of people. The promise of abundant life should be experienced in the here-and-now.

Some of the monks and novices who regularly attend the initiative school’s English classes. (Photo: Courtesy Southeast Mission Initiative)

Aside from food, water and shelter, education is a priority need. The Sunbeam Language and Vocational Training Center (SLVC) serves as our bridge to connect the government and the local people. This center is a venue for sharing God’s love through our educational and vocational-technical programs. From 2016 to 2019, we served around 300 students from primary to tertiary levels, reaching out to teach English to students of a government hospital and three other health-related offices under the Ministry of Health. Our students recognized the contribution of this Christian institution to their leadership development. They realized that religion is not a barrier to bringing about personal and social transformation, especially in the field of education.

Nonetheless, our community training in various provinces has exposed me to the stark realities of little access to education, economic scarcity and the vulnerabilities of people, especially the health needs of women and children. But these social realities make communities more resilient, while at the same time, they nurture community solidarity and concern for the welfare and well-being of all. 

But God is good all the time and faithful to sustain our ministry. Our water projects and English classes have provided us with good experiences that made collaboration with the village chief and local government officials possible. The community knows that we are a church that reaches out to serve the needs of the people. The church plants the seeds of hope, love and community transformation. The experiences liberate and empower our local pastors as they realize their need to be the salt and light in their own community.

Dr. A. Broncano, a deaconess of the UMC in the Philippines, is a missionary with the United Methodist mission initiative in this Southeast Asian country and coordinator of the Women, Youth and Children’s Ministry. She has a doctorate in Philippine Studies with a major in Society and Culture and minor in Women’s Studies and a Master of Arts in Social Development Studies. She is married to a high school teacher and they have two adult sons.

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