WEEK OF PRAYER: 'Shadow' missionaries disciple young leaders in Philippines

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Nov. 29-Dec. 6 is this year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention. The Week of Prayer, with the theme "Because of Who He Is" from Psalm 96:3 (HCSB), undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year's goal is $175 million.

PHILIPPINES (BP) -- When someone shouted, "Your uncle is coming," everyone in the Philippine village knew the code meant "run and hide." Neighbors disappeared into small concrete homes until International Mission Board missionaries Dave and Ivette Daggett had come and gone.

A few, however, including 13-year-old Berlyn Familaran, stuck around to hear what the foreigners had to say.

The curious teenager planned only to sit in and listen during the Saturday Bible studies, nothing more. But even that angered her parents and the host of other family members living in her poor community.

That's because they are among an unreached Filipino people group considered predominantly Catholic, but as Dave explained, steeped in idol worship and animism, insular and fearful of anything new that threatens religious traditions.

"We felt like that was such a difficult community, if we could ever see anything prosper there, surely it would prosper anywhere in the city. So we just kept going back," he said.

Berlyn kept going back, too. Something about this husband and wife team from Florida was different. Berlyn couldn't believe they had learned her language and wanted to teach her worship songs in her language.

These foreigners knew about the drugs and violence in her community and about her dad, who was in and out of jail. Yet they encouraged her, Berlyn said, and they kept praying for her family.

Berlyn was baptized just a little more than a year after meeting the Daggetts.

"The joy was really in my heart," Berlyn said. "I can feel the presence of the Lord, even when we have problems in our family. I want to be the testimony to my community."

As Berlyn continued sharing the Gospel with her family and inviting them to Bible studies with the Daggetts, the walls of resistance appeared to crumble.

Before they knew it, Dave, Ivette and Berlyn were starting a church.

"Some of the parents have come to Christ and been baptized, but most don't take the leadership challenge," Dave said. "It's the younger ones who have stepped up in leadership. They share the Gospel with their friends and are going with us to evangelize in other areas."

Eleven years ago when he and Ivette hosted a Vacation Bible School and met Berlyn, Dave had no idea that God would use the teenager who said she came to Vacation Bible School only for free snacks. Or that other children and teenagers from her family would trust in Jesus, become leaders in the village church, help start a church in another village and help disciple young leaders in that church, which they're praying will start a third-generation church.

"We're just doing what we believe is the heart of God. Somehow you sense His heart and when you go that direction, He just provides in supernatural ways," Dave said.

Equipping local believers for ministry was always the plan, so Dave and Ivette disciple those who step up, despite their youth. They even disciple Deaf youth and adults, and God has used them to start several Deaf churches.

Working primarily with leaders who are young and energetic could easily become a tiring task for a couple in their 60s. Yet for the Daggetts, it's like getting their "second wind."

Financial gifts through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and Cooperative Program help make it possible for the Daggetts to serve in the Philippines and host weekly training sessions and Bible studies that equip youth to lead their churches and to train others to lead.

"Berlyn, you want to come up now?" Dave said as he handed over the microphone so she could lead worship during a Saturday evening training session with leaders from her church and the second-generation church.

That's how it usually goes for these self-proclaimed "shadow missionaries" who push forward their young Filipino leaders.

"If we want to reach Filipinos, what better way than with other Filipinos? We can't do it all," Dave said.

Serving with the Daggetts in ministries such as medical and dental clinics, anti-smoking and dental hygiene seminars, and True Love Waits seminars is a perfect opportunity for "on-the-job training," as Berlyn likes to call it.

"Berlyn, what's your favorite story from the Bible?" Dave asked once while traveling with her and several of her cousins to an outreach event.

The story of Adam and Eve, she told him.

"OK, you will tell the story today in front of these people," Berlyn recalled Dave's response.

"He's always telling us, 'Don't forget the two Ps.' Passion and practice. Always be passionate and always practice [sharing testimony and Bible stories] so people will be amazed that the Lord is working in your life."

Passion to see the Gospel change lives is what drives this couple who rarely seem to take a breather as they go from one training, outreach event or discipleship meeting to the next.

"We rarely travel alone," Dave said as he headed out the door and Filipinos squished into the back of his car so they could help lead a True Love Waits seminar.

The Daggetts didn't expect children and teenagers like Berlyn to be the catalysts in helping move ministry from zero to church multiplication, but they've learned to embrace every opportunity God gives.

"It's a surprise a minute," Dave said. "This can only happen because of God."

Find resources for churches at imb.org to learn more about and promote the Lottie Moon offering. While Southern Baptists are encouraged to give to the offering through their churches, a "Give Now" option is available for individual online gifts.

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Cancer patient, medical clinic

help start second-generation church

By Paige Turner

PHILIPPINES (BP) -- One evening Mercy Librada led in singing a worship song that's special to her not just because she penned its words but because she clings to them every day.

"Gone are the days of fear," she sang, "gone are the days of doubts, gone are the days of tears, [be]cause I am new born now."

About 10 years after a leukemia diagnosis, Librada still receives treatment to fight the disease that threatens her life.

But when she sings, as she did this night with Filipino teenagers and young adults gathered in an open garage for worship and discipleship, there's no trace of a disheartened spirit -- only a sweet, pure joy in Jesus.

"I don't mind about it, I don't mind about it," she will say over and over. "Let it happen. Let cancer happen. I'm never hopeless. God gave His life for me."

Librada, a petite Filipino woman in her mid-50s, is a regular at discipleship sessions led by International Mission Board missionaries Dave and Ivette Daggett, who have served 15 years in the Philippines.

She's been instrumental in helping the Daggetts disciple local believers, mainly Filipino teenagers and young adults, who have stepped up and want to be church leaders.

For a number of years Librada ministered with the Daggetts despite her husband's opposition.

"He was my first persecutor. He used to lock the door when I was at Bible study," Librada said. "The food for me, he gave it to the dogs. If I asked for food, he would ask me, 'Why don't you eat your Bible?'"

But Librada never stopped praying for him. Her plentiful smiles, hugs and laughter expressed an inner strength that she used to keeping pointing people to Jesus.

She continued serving with the Daggetts. After several people from the same community came to a free medical and dental clinic and expressed interest in learning more about the Gospel, Librada helped start a Bible study.

These clinics are just one way the Daggetts share the Gospel and build relationships with community leaders. They also host anti-smoking and dental hygiene seminars and True Love Waits seminars.

When Dave encouraged Librada to take the lead with the Bible study, she didn't hesitate.

"Mercy is a special person. She was born in this city. There's something about the people here -- if they were born and raised here there's almost an instant bond, a camaraderie," Dave said. "She was able to build long-term relationships."

At 6 years old Joel was perhaps an unlikely candidate to become one of Librada's most faithful Bible study participants and friends, yet week after week he came to hear her tell Bible stories.

A year later Joel trusted in Jesus and was baptized. By the age of 9, he was attending Saturday discipleship sessions with Librada and the Daggetts.

The now 16-year-old is soft-spoken and a little shy, but he's not hesitant about assuming leadership.

"I'm so thankful to God for youth who will stand for the Lord," Librada said. "I am training them and helping drive their fears away. I always tell them, 'When you speak, speak with power. Speak like everybody will believe what you say.'"

During a medical and dental clinic earlier this year, Librada shared the Gospel with a group of adults, teenagers and children gathered on benches inside the bahay kubo, a small bamboo hut traditional in the Philippines. Meanwhile, just a few feet away, the boy who once came to Librada's Bible studies was indeed speaking up, leading another group in a Gospel presentation before they met with the doctor or dentist.

The Bible study in Joel's community is now a church, and it's not Librada or Dave and Ivette who lead on Sunday mornings -- it's Joel and other young adults whom they equipped to lead worship services and other outreach events.

That's because the young adults are burdened, Dave said, and that compels them to take ownership of reaching their own people with the Gospel.

This is the second church the Daggetts have seen God use them to help start. With help from the Daggetts and Librada, young leaders from their first-generation church in another community in the city are helping disciple Joel and other leaders in the second-generation church and praying for a third-generation church.

"Mercy's really been a key player. She's a great resource for them. It's like an older sister or aunt," Dave said. "They really think a lot of her."

Librada's life has transformed since first meeting the Daggetts.

When Dave and Ivette began a Bible study in her community she heard their singing and conversation because she lived nearby. Curious, she asked to sit in one night.

"I felt the thirst," Librada explained. "I loved their songs and what they were doing. I continued with the group and was baptized. Since then I have a joy I cannot explain."

Librada's husband could only ignore the change in her life for so long. He is now a Christian.

"I was so shocked when he asked me this: 'Can you please introduce me to the Lord who makes you happy and keeps you smiling and keeps you at peace always?'"

Librada responded by doing the only thing she knew to do. It's what she's done even while suffering with cancer. It's what she's done ever since the Daggetts told her about Jesus and invited her to join them to start churches and make disciples of young Filipinos who want to serve God.

She praised God.

Find resources for churches at imb.org to learn more about and promote the Lottie Moon offering. While Southern Baptists are encouraged to give to the offering through their churches, a "Give Now" option is available for individual online gifts.

Paige Turner is a writer living in Southeast Asia.
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