The Philippines, known as the Pearl of the Orient, is an archipelagic country comprising over 7,000 islands and a total population of nearly 90 million people, all living together on a landmass approximately equal in size to the state of Arizona. It’s a nation of extreme contrasts—lush mountains, island beach resorts and crowded metropolitan cities.
Bryant and Patty Sabandal, missionaries to the Philippines for Foursquare Missions International (FMI), live in the national capital region of Metropolitan Manila, a dense, sprawling, urban area that represents the country’s financial and business center.
The Philippines is also known as the only Christian country in Asia. The majority of the population—between 80 percent and 85 percent—declare themselves to be Roman Catholic. The Sabandals note, however, that many people in the Philippines name themselves Catholic by birth; in reality, the population is vastly unchurched.
There are 1,827 Foursquare churches in the Philippines, and Foursquare church membership makes up about one percent of the country’s total population. The country is considered a “stage four” nation in the denomination’s Four-Stage Development Model—meaning that the Philippines has its own national church leadership and is a “sending nation,” one that sends missionaries to other countries.
How were you led to become missionaries to the Philippines?
Patty: We are members of Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell, Wash. Before coming to the Philippines as missionaries, I was an educator for over 20 years and a pastor at Eastside Foursquare in children’s ministries. Bryant was an employee of the Boeing Company and worked with youth and men’s ministries. He attended Seattle Ministry Institute in preparation for missions service.
In 2003, Eastside Foursquare Church and Foursquare Philippines began a collaborative, rapid, church multiplication project in Metropolitan Manila called the Urban Church Planting Project. The objective was to plant new churches accompanied by community development projects.
In the course of a few years, our commitment to the project and to the people of the Philippines grew. In 2009, our comfortable life was interrupted when God called us, and we knew we had received a mandate from the Lord to come and serve the Filipinos. We chose to be obedient, and we love God enough to leave everything we hold dear behind and serve where He sends us.
How do you describe living in Manila?
Patty: Many parts of the Philippines are exotic. We sometimes have the opportunity to visit the countryside and enjoy the beautiful turquoise water and white beaches.
But with more than 20 million people, Manila is a difficult place to live. Forty percent of the Philippines’ 90 million people live in Manila in very crowded conditions. As overwhelming as that number sounds—trust me, it’s worse.
The traffic is terrible and chaotic; it takes hours to travel just 20 miles. Every time we travel by car, it’s an adventure! The pollution from factories and vehicle emissions is one of the highest in the world.
But Bryant and I love the people God has placed us among, and we love God’s children. So, in spite of those inconveniences, we are excited living here. When someone is saved and discipled, loved by the church community and encouraged to serve—it’s worth every inconvenience.
What is your primary role and responsibility for ministry?
Bryant: We moved to Metropolitan Manila as the onsite directors for the Children of Hope Project in the Philippines. Children of Hope (COH) works in Metro Manila, the capital city; Mindanao, an island to the south of Manila; and Palawan, located southwest of Manila. COH plants preschools in Foursquare churches as a way to evangelize, create church sustainability, and provide professional enrichment for teachers and pastors while providing children a quality education that many could never afford.
Our vision is that, as pastors and teachers are encouraged by COH and well-equipped, their churches would become “community changing,” sustainable even in the poorest areas. With over 12,000 salvations in COH churches in two years—God is doing it.
So far it looks like we will soon open 18 new preschools in Foursquare churches in Metro Manila, Palawan and Mindanao in 2011. That makes a total of 24 COH churches this year.
We are also happy to announce that 19 churches have completed the two-year COH training. These churches have experienced an evangelistic yield and substantial growth in their churches, and will continue applying what they have learned, hopefully for many years to come!
Describe some recent highlights of the ministry with Children of Hope.
Patty: We recently hosted a medical and prayer outreach team from Eastside Foursquare Church. The dedicated team, led by Van and Lolly Elander, worked tirelessly.
We chose two strategic churches that we determined would benefit from the team’s ministry. During that week, we prayed for and attended to more than 500 sick and hurting people. The team also visited many residents in their homes to pray and extend invitations to church. Already, attendance in both churches has reflected growth.
One little girl, around 11 years old, came to the mission clinic, complaining of a cough and cold for which she was treated. The medical team also noticed that she was limping. The girl had fallen and scraped her knee, which was already scabbed over so that it appeared to be healed.
One of the team members followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to examine the girl’s knee more carefully. She noted red lines running up the girl’s thigh—a dangerous indication of bacterial toxins in the blood. The team gave medical treatment and prayed urgently.
The next day, as we walked through the village, God placed the young girl right in our path. We found that the red streaks were gone, and the wound was healing. I truly believe that a young life was saved through the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
How is Children of Hope changing lives?
Patty: I can share one quick story. Children of Hope gives scholarships to poor and non-believing families who normally cannot afford school. We have one particular parent of a young scholarship recipient who ended up giving her life to Jesus. She began to help out in the classroom, and the following year applied to the church to be a teacher.
She became a Children of Hope teacher, received free training, and is now blessing her family by providing income for them. This is a walking miracle of how God works when we are people of action.
Are there short-term missions opportunities in the Philippines?
Bryant and Patty: There are many short-term missions opportunities available if people want come and support Children of Hope. Most of the teams that come are coordinated through Eastside Foursquare Church.
For example, we receive short-term teams who participate in the delivery of “Bags of Joy,” which contain gifts of toiletries and small toys or games. We host teams of experienced teachers who help train and equip Children of Hope preschool teachers.
There are even opportunities to join medical or musical teams. Anyone interested in short-term teams can contact Pastor Brandon Brazee, head of the Eastside Foursquare Missions Department, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How You Can Pray for the Sabandals
The Sabandals emphasize the value of prayer partners: “We could not do what we do, or run this project, without all our prayer partners! That’s our real support!”
They ask people to pray for pastors and teachers of Children of Hope, who are taking action and making real a difference in their communities. From January 2010 to January 2011, they report over 8,000 salvations and 50 percent average growth in attendance at Children of Hope churches.
“Of course, we ask for prayer for our daughters and their families, and our grandson,” they add. “We all miss one another very much.”
How You Can Bless the Sabandals
Our Foursquare missionaries are always encouraged by and grateful for any correspondence they receive. Whether it’s a donation to the Sabandals or Children of Hope churches, a gift sent on a holiday, or simply a letter or note of encouragement, you can make a difference by expressing your support in a practical way.
To send correspondence to Bryant and Patty, e-mail email@example.com or write to:
Bryant and Patty Sabandal
c/o Rachel Sabandal Day
14014 NE 181st Place, #D302
Woodinville, WA 98072
By: Amy Swanson, a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministry at New Life Church in Santa Barbara, Calif.