Today I went to one our Antioch Institute training sites in the Philippines in a typically remote area. The location of the school was absolutely beautiful. We drove for many miles through tribal lands which were sold to Dole to grow pineapples after World War Two. There are pineapples as far as the eye can see. Pineapples are one of my favorite fruits and seeing these lush pineapple fields made my hungry! The fields circle Mt. Matutum which is an active volcano and clearly the land is fertile volcanic ash mixed with soil.
Water is also abundant with numerous large springs coming from the volcano’s slopes. Upon crossing one stream, we drove about one kilometer up the simple dirt path passing small homes of Blaan tribal people. At an unlikely spot, my guide told us to pull over as we had arrived. At first I didn’t see any buildings, then I saw a simple bamboo bridge crossing the river. We had arrived.
There were no permanent structures, but the “campus” was made entirely from bamboo. It was in stark contrast to the elaborate facilities of Dole. After the bamboo bridge, was a cute fish pond with a small island in the center with a bamboo hut. This was the main classroom. In another building was a dormitory and another meeting area. On top of the nearby hill they built another bamboo shelter which is used for their 5am prayer meetings. Surveying the beauty of the surroundings and eco-friendly buildings I recommend they call the school “Garden of Eden Bible School”, but they said they wanted to call it Mt. Gilead Bible School.
Later, I enquired as to the reason for that name and the pastor responded that Mt. Gilead was a place where people worshiped the Lord to soothe their pain. I then asked the pastor if he wouldn’t mind telling me what was his pain?
He didn’t have to think about it. He quickly responded by saying as a tribal Blaan man he worked hard to be approved by the lowlanders. He learned their language, left his village and moved to a city and he even pastured their churches. He helped teach in a Bible school which had both majority people and a few tribal students, but at one point all the directors (who were lowlanders-majority peoples) didn’t care about the tribal people and shut the school down. I felt great pain in heart for my people and wanted to help them, so that is why I have started the Mt Gilead Bible School to soothe my pain for my people. His little school has five students who have committed for 3 years of study. Three are from the Blaan tribe and two more from the neighboring T’boli tribe. On Saturdays and Sundays they each walk up to three hours to tribal churches they have started as part of their assignments. These students are also the ones who have built the entire school.
Unfortunately, across the world minority peoples have often been pushed aside and ignored. Mt. Gilead Bible School hopes to change that for some of their people. They certainly do not lack in passion.
Oh yea, one more thing. They have the best Pineapple I have ever tasted!