If I asked you to name a Christian country, the Philippines probably wouldn’t be the first one that came to mind, but it’s actually the only Christian nation in Asia. First colonized by Spain, and then the USA for a short time, the majority of the population is Catholic with various Protestant denominations represented as well.
While we have Filipino workers in North America working in a variety of areas, predominantly those who leave the Philippines to work choose the Middle East or Asian countries. At last count, there are 2.3million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) globally which means that over 4000 people leave every day. These workers send home most of the money they make. (source here)
A few months ago, I shared about my time in Dubai and worshipping with Filipino believers (pictured above). Many OFWs are Christians but few have been discipled in the faith. It’s not hard to imagine how difficult it is to grow in your faith when living in a place where Christianity is not just the minority religion, but sometimes a persecuted minority. As foreign workers, OFWs often have few legal and civil protections which makes them vulnerable.
There have been reports of horrific abuses to OFWs and over the years these cases have prompted the Philippines government to take action and ban their people from accepting positions in certain countries for a variety of reasons (and in some cases national conflict and unrest play a large factor):
McDaniel Phillips is a veteran TWR missionary and a good friend. He’s giving leadership to Discipleship Essentials (DE). He was in the Middle East recently and spoke with Filipino leaders there who are asking for our help. They need a tool they can use to disciple and train diaspora believers.
McDaniel shares about some of the conversations he had with leaders who felt ill-equipped to help believers in difficult situations.
While meeting with some leaders, there was an issue with the domestic workers. They had left their employers and fled to the Philippine embassy (breaking a work contract – for any reason, removes many legal protections from OFWs). There were 200 women living at the embassy seeking refuge because of physical or emotional abuse.
I shared that this was an opportunity for the Christian leaders to connect with the embassy and those workers to help with healing and offer encouragement through a difficult time. Many of those camped out at the embassy are believers.
McDaniel had that situation in the back of his mind when he continued his travels to Manila.
I explained what DE was and how it could be used, and the leader the Philippines Mission Association said, “This is just what we need. We need to disciple our people before they leave the Philippines.”
He invited me back to train 50 church lay leaders not just on how to use DE as a ministry tool – they can use DE in any way they like, we don’t prescribe how or in what way the tool is used – but teach them how to model good leadership and good moral character at the same time. Modelling these kinds of lessons is just as important in learning to live out your faith day by day.
The more we tell people about the DE program, the more ways we hear of how it will be used in different contexts with different people groups. Please pray for these OFWs as they try to live out their faith while working in a foreign country. Pray for those who have left family behind in order to help support them, and for the many in what we would call precarious employment.