Badjaos — I see them growing up all over the city selling pearls, shoes and clothes. But most of the time, they don’t just sell. They also do carolling for money and worse, beg. These so called sea gypsies look nomadic in their sun-dyed “blond” hair and dirty clothes. They rarely wear shoes and they “attack” everywhere in groups.
It was 10 years ago that I had this desire in my heart to help them. Take them out of the streets by educating them. First, with some simple literacy program then some life skills that will enable them to get jobs for their living.
But the more I got closer to them the more I see that it is almost impossible to bring change in the midst of this indigenous group. Most of them are satisfied with their lives living in stilt houses on water. Their homes are made of light materials about the size of one Filipino bedroom. Education is not important as eating 3 times a day. Thus they focus their energy in to finding food, eating, sleeping and doing the same the next day. There is a big percentage of teenage pregnancy, early marriage and illiteracy. They live with trash and its stench. Worst thing is, most of them don’t know other languages aside from their own.
They are definitely good-hearted people. Yes there are vices and sin in their community but they are also just like any other Filipino groups, always smiling and helpful.
But how can I help these people if first and foremost we have a language barrier? How can one even share the Gospel to these souls? These are the questions that have stopped me for years. Until we recently met Bong.
Bong showed Maricel (the girl with me in the picture above), my Husband and I that love makes everything possible. This guy has been working with the Badjaos for 23 years now. It started more than 2 decades ago when he spent his Bible School internship in the Badjao community in Zamboanga. A family was saved and then history unfolded in itself. Today, there is a church, literacy school and soon there will be a health centre in this Badjao community here in Davao City. The Gospel has been preached and nations all over the world have come to help because one man chose to embrace the Badjaos.
While listening to Bong, we were all dumbfounded. I mean, what will we share in comparison? Our mission trips? Our supernatural encounters with God? Healing, years in church and ministry? Our knowledge of the Bible and theology? THIS GUY LIVES with the Badjaos. Right in the middle of the filth, smell and toughest culture to ever minister to. Not just for a month now, nor a year but for 23 years!!! There was nothing else for us to say but pure appreciation to this man of God who selflessly gave his life for the Gospel. He daily face threats from the Muslims, his food is even sometimes taken from him by the kids around him, there are health concern issues, he did not even got to marry… and maybe even lack support and encouragement but he faithfully serves the Lord despite these challenges. We were humbled by this man’s life. Indeed, there is no amount of religion which can withstand a drop of service done in selfless love.
I am encouraged! There is hope for the Badjao people. One day, I will see these people group in work places and successful in the avenues they are passionate about in life. One day, I will see a community transformed because there are people like Bong who make sacrifices without expecting anything in return. One day…
But for today, we are boosted to help out. This is maybe the time I have been waiting for. Maybe it’s time to start helping in their literacy program? And maybe also some feeding after the class? He shared that there was a feeding program before but it stopped because no one supports it anymore. These are the thoughts we’re praying into. Because to be able to see that “One day…”, we need to do something, even a little… today!