During the more than 20 years that Dan and Tori Beaver traveled throughout Southeast Asia with students from Manila’s Faith Academy, they saw people from their adopted homeland of the Philippines.
“These (Filipino) people are able to adapt to other cultures with their unique personalities, their compassion, and their spirit,” says Dan, who taught physical education and directed the athletic program at Faith Academy, a Christian school for missionary kids, from 1989 until recently. (Tori taught art at an international school until 2000.) Noting that the Filipinos often leave their homeland in search of employment, he says that they frequently relocate to the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East.
Dan, who grew up in a missionary home in the Central African Republic, saw a natural outreach team. “They are people who could be trained and empowered for Christ,” he says.
“They can get into countries we (as Americans) can’t get into.”
Feeling led of the Lord to develop a Bible school especially for the Filipinos, the couple began looking for a location. They wanted an attractive spot that would be enjoyed by visiting professors from the U.S. It also needed to be centrally located – where north meets the south.
They found just that on Boracay Island, a bone-shaped piece of land located about 200 miles south of Manila in the western region of the Philippines. It has three miles of white sandy beaches and is surrounded by aqua-blue water.
Partnering with a Filipino pastor, Rolando Atienza, they have begun to build a training center of reinforced concrete on a sloped site.
Eventually, its 700 square meters of space will reach four floors and be capped with a rooftop gymatorium that will host Sunday services. It will also be used for basketball because “basketball is so big in the Philippines,” says Beaver. The facility will house a medical and dental clinic and a tuition-free Christian school for children, in addition to providing dormitory space for Bible school students.
Already the footers have been laid and the first and second floors constructed.
“We’re trusting the Lord,” he notes. “We’ve seen it in our experience at Faith Academy that ministry centers can be built by volunteers over time until the Lord provides a large donor.”
They’ve partnered with Grace Brethren churches, both in the Philippines and in the U.S. to begin work on the facility. Last summer, teams from churches in Ripon, Calif., and Ashland, Ohio, traveled to the island to help.
The curriculum for the school has been developed by Dan’s dad, veteran Grace Brethren missionary Wayne Beaver, who was instrumental in beginning the Grace Brethren seminary in the Central African Republic. It’s a familiar task for Dr. Beaver, who wrote the first curriculum for the school in Africa.
“In the Philippines, as was true in Africa, animism is prevalent,” Wayne stresses. “They look to the ‘spirits’ for help and direction.”
“Filipinos grow up with Catholicism,” adds Dan. “But they still have a host of animistic beliefs.”
Believing the students there need to be introduced to God, the creator, the power behind all activity, Wayne has begun the curriculum in Genesis. “Their attention is directed to God, rather than the ‘spirits,'” he says. He’s also written a syllabus, The Local Church, Its Origin and Development from the Gospels and Acts, to teach the students how to begin a biblical church.
In addition to planning a Bible school, Dan and Tori are working with the local church to reach the community for Christ. “On this island, there is a tremendous outreach going to all of the Filipinos who come looking for jobs in the tourism industry,” adds Dan. He notes that more than half a million people visit the area each year.
A beautiful tourist destination, it is also home to thousands of impoverished families. Each week, the local church hosts sites where children may eat. Sometimes it is the only meal they will have that week. As many as 50 children come to each location.
The local congregation, Church on the Rock, hosts the feeding, which always includes a spiritual lesson, much like a good news club or vacation Bible school.
“While that is going on, the parents are having a Bible study nearby,” he adds.
“The poor Filipinos are feeding the poorer Filipinos,” Dan observes. “The Filipino church members are giving of their own means,” he adds. “Because we have been able to get behind them with extra help, the feeding ministry has grown to 21 sites and 1,400 children fed each week. These extra funds come from loving supporters who have seen the tremendous efforts of the Filipino believers on the island and the impact this ministry is having on the people.”
An Island of Contrasts
Glen Shirk, pastor of the Ripon, Calif., Grace Brethren Church, led a short-term team to the island in the summer of 2009, the second such trip in as many years. He calls Boracay “an island of contrasts.”
“As you walk along the beach, you see many tourists, fine hotels, and restaurants. However, not far from this area are the poor who barely make a living on the island,” he adds. He says that during an evening walk along the shore, it is not uncommon to see homeless families sleeping on the beach.
The church is having an influence on the island, Beaver notes.
Shirk echoes that observation following his second trip to the island. “We could see a great improvement at some of the feeding sites,” he says. “The church is doing a great work – and is reaching parents as they minister to children.”
The California pastor also notes the great lengths the Filipino people have gone to reach their community, to the point of almost being over-extended. “It is gratifying to see their willingness to sacrifice themselves in order to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of others.”
For that reason, the Beavers welcome shortterm teams to come alongside the local residents.
Dan lists some of the needs – construction, helping with feedings, medical assistance, or teaching in a program like True Love Waits. (CE National’s Operation Barnabas International will send a team to Boracay in the summer 2010. See A Summer on Boracay.)
It’s an effort that Shirk applauds. “(Dan and Tori) are working very hard to make a difference for the Kingdom,” he says. “When they seek to enlist short-term teams, they say that to come to Boracay is to have a vacation with a purpose.”
“They gave us the privilege of being an extension of their ministry and representing them to the Filipino people,” he concludes.