Philippine Profiles (5) Teaching Filipino Children

By Jim McDonald

The Filipino child with his large brown eyes and usually small stature is a lovely child. He is reticent and shy, often afraid of foreigners and strangers. But he quickly “warms up” to Americans who come to preach in his village. One of my most unforgettable pictures (etched forever into my mind) is that of a long line of these beautiful children frantically waving goodbye to us after we had spent two to three hours in their midst. In that particularly poverty stricken area where even the children are aware of how hard life is, our hearts were wrenched within us when several of these begged us to carry them home with us to America.

Still there are happier, cheerier thoughts. On one of our journeys Ken Marrs brought large bags of candy, and in these remote villages with all the children gathered around him, he threw the contents of the bag into the air and all those present laughed with delight to see the children (and sometimes their mothers!) scrambling to snatch the coveted candy. From personal experience I learned that dozens of children can materialize from nowhere. Once when I paused to purchase a soft drink from a “side-store,” I also bought a few pieces of candy to give to the two or three children standing there. Almost instantly, two or three dozen other children were ready for their piece of candy too!

The wise man wrote: “Lo, children are an inheritance from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” He also said, “Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart there from.” Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” As parents we are commanded to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Children are our heritage; the future of the church lies in their hands and in ours who either teach or fail to about the unsearchable riches of Christ.

The teaching of children is neglected in some of the places we visited in the Philippines. The children could be seen playing about, even when we were in the period called “class.” Still, most Filipino churches do have classes although few buildings have separate rooms for these classes. I can remember only two different buildings where separate rooms were provided for children’s classes. The usual “classroom” will be under a nearby shade tree or perhaps a porch of a dwelling close at hand.

Classes are not as “sophisticated” as are ours. Besides the adult class, there will likely be two others, one for the young people; the other for the children. This means that the teacher will have to cope with several different ages in either of these latter two classes. When we preached at Escoda, Marcos, Ilocos Norte (one of the largest of the Filipino churches we saw upwards to 175 worship there each Lord’s Day), we arrived late and classes were in progress. We could hear the happy voices of children in a nearby building, and out of curiosity walked over to survey the class in progress. There were nearly 100 children in that class room that day!

We were impressed with the knowledge and effectiveness of the women who teach these classes. Nieves Sibayan (wife of Materno Sibayan, Sr.) is a very quiet woman who is excellently trained in music and her students sing with enthusiasm and gusto. These children learn far more than “songs,” however. This past September about twelve of sister Sibayan’s students were baptized into Christ.

Another effective teacher is Magdalena (?) who was a Pentecostal preacher before her conversion to Christ some years ago. Her desire to teach the word was not frustrated, however. She simply changed her role in teaching and began training children. Today there are a dozen or more young preachers in Ilocos Norte whose faith in God and in the Bible was planted and nourished by Magdalena. An-other teacher worthy of mention is Conchita Yoro. Her love for the word and for children make her a very effective teacher. The list could be expanded to include dozens of worthy Filipino women.

These women need help in their efforts to instill faith in God and respect for the Scriptures in the hearts of these children. Since class procedures and methods are unlike those in the States, the most practical help to be rendered is providing good Bible story books. Flannel graph material also is helpful. And, since these women frequently travel along with the men that they might teach the children, financial help for transportation is in order. How good it would be for American sisters to write Filipino counterparts, for these women long to hear from American sisters with whom they may share not only ideas of their mutual interest in teaching children, but forge friendships and become a living link across the sea. Benefit from such correspondence would not be one sided: sisters here would gain an invaluable insight of our Lord’s people in the Philippines they did not previously possess. They also would be enriched by the unashamed declaration of faith and hope these sisters express. Names and addresses of some of these women will be supplied upon request to interested sisters here who wish such.

Guardian of Truth XL: 2 p. 8-9
January 18, 1996